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Retford's Country Houses - Past and Present

Published: 22/07/2020 By Richard Bennett

Retford is rich in history and its country houses have a long a chequered history. Here's a round up of the local stately houses in our local area.

Ranby Hall near Barnby Moor

The Hall near Retford is a large Grade II listed country house sitting in landscaped parkland which dates back to the late 18th century (around 1775-1800) and is an excellent example of Georgian architecture. The east façade was remodelled in the early-19th century by Mr Hugh Blaydes Esq who had likely purchased the site shortly after his marriage in 1800. In 1828, Ranby Hall was bought by the Newcastle Estate, to act as the Dower House to Anna Maria Pelham-Clinton, Dowager Duchess of Newcastle under Lyne. By 1853, Ranby Hall was referred to as being the residence of the 'Ladies Clinton', the unmarried daughters of the 4th Duke of Newcastle under Lyne. Alterations were made in the early 19th century along with the addition of a series outbuildings, giving shape to what we see today. In the later-19th century, further land in the Ranby area was purchased by the 5th Duke of Newcastle. It was sold by the estate about 1912. Ranby Hall was bought by Mr J Harold Smith who sold it to Charles Francis Darley of the brewing family, remaining in the family until 1983. It was sold by his descendants by auction on 21th October 1983. The house and grounds sold for £110,000, the contents for £118,000. The buyer, a local businessman, planned to turn it into a country restaurant but on the evening of September 14th 1984, it was extensively damaged by fire caused by two Calor gas heaters, was fought by 40 firemen but three quarters of the building was gutted. The Hall is now owned privately and is currently in the stages of being renovated.

Babworth Hall, Babworth

Babworth Hall is situated 1mile west of Retford and is a Grade II listed country house and is a three storey building of red brick and ashlar construction that dates from the mid-18th century with later alterations by Humphry Repton (1752-1818), one of the last great English landscape designers. Babworth Hall was the seat of the Hon. John Bridgeman Simpson (brother to the late Earl of Bradford). The lake mentioned in the landscaping no longer exists having dried up in the 1960s. The Hall remained in the Bridgeman Simpson family until the late 19th Century when it was purchased by Colonel Whitaker. The Hall was a convalescent hospital in the First World War. The Hall and its grounds remain in private ownership.

Wiseton Hall near Clayworth

Wiseton Hall was built in 1771 and was the residence and property of the Ackloms family, whose representatives took pride in their estate and spent much time in making improvements. It then became the residence of Mr Robert Manners-Sutton, who like his predecessor was a clergyman.  Following that it became the home to the Laycock family but during the Second World War, the house became badly dilapidated and it was demolished in 1960.  A new neo-Georgian house was then built on the site for Maj-Gen. Sir Robert Laycock in 1962, on his return from the governorship of Malta.  It is a neat rectangular brick house of seven bays and two storeys, with a low-pitched tiled roof. Richard Budge, former owner of RJB Mining, lived at the Hall and was purchased by the current owner in 2014 and still remains in private ownership.

Grove Hall, Grove, Retford

Once considered one of the ‘best houses in north Nottinghamshire, the grandeur and extent of Grove Hall and the wider estate diminished with time. The Harcourt-Vernon family were the owners of the Grove estate from 1836 to 1946 when Granville Charles FitzHerbert Harcourt-Vernon sold Grove Hall and its contents, along with nearly 4,000 acres of the Grove estate in Grove, Little Gringley and Headon. By 1947 the upkeep of the walled gardens appears to have been abandoned and by 1973 had been redeveloped as a garden centre, Grove Hall Nursery. In recent years, this garden centre has given way to residential development, which now occupies the grounds of the former walled gardens.. The Hall itself disappeared from the landscape having been demolished in 1952 to make way for a poultry farm.