Bridgford Hall renovations
The last 12 months have been a significant period in the history of Bridgford Hall, the Grade II listed Georgian building in Bridgford Park.
After a year-long £2.3 million refurbishment, Bridgford Hall in West Bridgford will be reopening in June as an apart-hotel and civil wedding ceremony venue. Funding from Rushcliffe Borough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund has been provided to modernise the 250 year old Georgian building, creating seven short-stay apartments on the first and second floors, as well as enhancing accommodation for Nottinghamshire County Council’s registrars service on the ground floor. Works at the hall have been undertaken by a specialist team from Woodhead’s Heritage and include the creation of a new lift shaft and new entrance point for the aparthotel, with historic architectural assets such as fireplaces and window frames retained and restored.
Dating back to 1768, Bridgford hall was built by Mundy Musters, Lord of the estates of West Bridgford and Colwick and for around 100 year was home to a series of tenants. Notable lace manufacturer Albert Heymann occupied the hall from 1840 until his death in 1869, before his son Lewis bought it from the Musters family in 1883 setting about extending the hall including the creation of a new billiards room (now the ceremony room occupied by Nottinghamshire County Council). Lewis Heymann philanthropically sold the hall and surrounding land to West Bridgford Urban District Council for £14,000 in 1923 which led to the creation of Bridgford Park as a public parkland including provision of tennis courts, football pitches, children’s play corner, horticultural nurseries and aviary. West Bridgford UDC became Rushcliffe Borough Council in 1974 and in the early 1980s Nottinghamshire County Council moved in to the hall, eventually making it one of the busiest and most popular civil wedding ceremony venues in Nottinghamshire.
Over £1.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Enterprise Scheme has been secured to enable the renovations, an additional £800,000 from the Borough Council. The grant is the first awarded in Nottingham under HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme which is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration is not economically viable. Grants fund the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant buildings into new, usable commercial spaces
Through the building work there have been activities taking place for local residents to get involved in including:
• Hard hat tours of the construction site
• Work experience placements
• Heritage conservation workshop
• Community reminiscence sessions
• Schools history workshops
LATEST APPEAL - Performers wanted for community play
Rushcliffe Borough Council have commissioned a community theatre project that will take place this summer, and are looking for people to take part. The community event will involve up to 100 people from West Bridgford, Lady Bay, and from further afield celebrating the re-opening of Bridgford Hall following its current restoration. There will be three short plays that will be repeated during the afternoon of Sunday 25 June in Bridgford Park. One is being performed by West Bridgford Dramatic Society, and another by pupils from Lady Bay Primary School - and the idea is that the third will be performed by anyone that fancies ‘having a go’! The council have employed a professional theatre director/producer, Julian Hanby, who will work with the performers that sign up. The group will present a Reduced Shakespeare Company-style romp through the history of everything that has ever happened in West Bridgford, and will also be part of a finale event that will involve performing with other community members in a massed choir/flash mob. The event will take place outdoors and will go ahead whatever the weather.There’s no age limit for participation, but under 16s will need to be accompanied during the rehearsals. Previous plays by the producer have involved casts from 9 to 90! Rehearsals for the play will take place on Tuesday evenings, from 9th May onwards. There will be an initial meeting on Tuesday 25th April for people to come along and find out more, and to sign up. The sessions will all be at GRESHAM PAVILION – Gresham Sports Park, Gresham Park Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 7YF. The meeting will start at 7pm, as will the rehearsals.If you want to be a part of the project or if you’d like to find out more please come along to the meeting on Tuesday 25th April. If you would like to be involved but cannot make that time please contact Julian direct on 0115 911 6971. Feel free to contact Julian as well if you’d like any additional information.
Dates for your diary
Bridgford Hall Community Play
Sunday 25 June, 1.30pm - 6.30pm, Bridgford Park
Join us for a Reduced Shakespeare Company-style romp through the history of Bridgford Hall, featuring a cast of over 250 talented local amateur performers including West Bridgford Dramatic Society and pupils from Lady Bay Primary School. There’ll be three short plays to catch during the afternoon, leading up to a finale musical performance at 6pm. Admission is free
‘Aspects of Bridgford Hall’ Archive Research Day
Friday 30 June, 10.30am - 3.30pm, Rushcliffe Arena
Have you always wanted to research your family history and build a family tree but not known where to start? Do you wonder who used to live in your home or want to learn more about the history of your town or village? On Friday 30 June Rushcliffe Borough Council are hosting a research day led by local historian Peter Hammond. The session runs 10.30am until 3.30pm and using historic Bridgford Hall as a case study participants will be taught how to access the records that will help you unlock the past. Places are limited and can be booked online at www.archiveday.eventbrite.co.uk
Heritage Open Day
Saturday 9 September, 10am - 1pm, Bridgford Park
In celebration of Heritage Open day 2017 we’ll be throwing open the doors to Bridgford Hall and giving visitors a unique chance to see the hidden history of the this landmark local venue and learn about the important role previous owners played in shaping modern West Bridgford. There’ll also be lots of family friendly activities to try in the surrounding park including traditional Victorian games and sideshows. Admission is free.
Below you will find lots of useful information about the history of Bridgford Hall and its famous previous occupiers. You can also download a copy of the Historical interpretation boards for the project
To find out more about activities planned at Bridgford Hall telephone Rushcliffe Borough Council 0115 9819911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To enquire about booking apart-hotel accomodation at the hall visit www.thebirchoverresidences.com/bridgford-hall/
To enquire about booking a ceremony at the hall visit www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/celebrate/venues/bridgford-hall
The design of Bridgford Hall
Bridgford Hall was built between 1768 and 1771. Its original appearance consisted of the projecting central five-bay wide and 3-storey high brick building. Its original architect is not known (see below) but is a typical building of the period. The southwest wing (that lying left of the main block) is a later addition (a date of 1886 is recorded on a drainpipe) as is that wing lying on the right, which was originally built as a Billiards Room probably by the Heymann family in the mid-19th century. The lower two storey buildings to the left of the hall are the stable ranges and other outbuildings dating to the later 19th century.
Constructed of brick, the foundations rest on solid bedrock which in places also form the floor to the cellars. The brickwork is largely plain apart from the billiards room extension where there is a greater use of decorative features, particularly towards the top beneath the parapet.
The interior is much more elaborate with finely detailed plaster ceilings, decorative cornices and the principal staircase that has many of its original 18th century balusters.
Much of the interior details are hidden by partition walls placed within the hall when it was in use by the council, thus losing some of the original proportions of the historic layout.
Bridgford Hall was listed as a building of special architectural or historic interest in 1949. This makes it one of the earliest Listed Buildings in the country.
The Park and garden
The surrounding park and gardens are the remainder of the 19 acres of land Albert Heymann bought along with the hall in 1883. Its present appearance is somewhat municipal in character and was laid out in this fashion quite recently. The open park areas to the northwest and southeast retain some of the character that the Musters and Heymann families would recognise, though this was largely replaced when, after the Second World War, tennis courts and bowling greens were laid out close to the hall.
At the time Bridgford Hall was being constructed, the Musters family was employing the famous York architect, John Carr, at Colwick. John Carr undertook a number of commissions in Nottinghamshire including Welbeck Abbey, Thoresby Hall, Blyth Hall, Clifton Hall and Langford Hall as well as the now-demolished Nottingham racecourse grandstand (near The Forest) and Nottingham Assembly Rooms. The style of Carr’s work would suggest that Bridgford Hall was not one of his designs.
Though we may never know for sure, we are certain that Carr employed a local builder, Samuel Stretton of Lenton, to undertake the work at Colwick. His work at Colwick meant he was likely to have been introduced to the Musters family. His work can be seen at Wilford House, 1½ miles to the south-west, where some similarities to Bridgford Hall can be seen.
The Musters family and Bridgford Hall
Bridgford Hall was built by Mundy Musters Jnr, Lord of the Manor of West Bridgford in 1768.
Mundy was the great grandson of Millicent Musters who, legend goes, won the estate of West Bridgford (and therefore the land on which the hall sits) in a game of cards in 1679. Millicent Musters was the daughter in law of Sir John Musters of Hornsey, Middlesex who was Lord of the Manor of Colwick. On her death Millicent passed down both the West Bridgford and Colwick titles.
It is not known if the hall replaced an earlier manor house but there appears to be no evidence for such a building. The house was finished in 1774, after Mundy Junior had died, by his son John Musters (pictured below)
John Musters married Sophia Heywood in 1776, a marriage ill-matched at first as John favoured the country and Sophia, a society life. They had three children, the last of whom died a month old in 1779, and she ended up going to the fashionable spa town of Bath to recover. It was probably here that she attracted the attention of a number of societies eligible (and not so eligible) men, including they say the Prince of Wales and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted several pictures of Sophia including the one shown below (Hebe, 1785).
When John found out about his wife’s indiscretions, he had his wife painted out of a portrait of the pair horse riding at Colwick by the artist George Stubbs (the painting’s secret was only discovered in the 1980s and has since been restored to its original state). However, the pair reconciled and when Sophia died in 1819, John was said to be distraught.
John and Sophia’s son John George ‘Jack’ Musters married Mary Ann Chaworth, heiress of the Annesley Hall estate, in 1805. Mary Ann is renowned as the poet Byron’s first love. Byron’s mother wrote of his love for Mary as “love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies…” and wrote the poem “To Mary” in 1806.
RACK'D by the flames of jealous rage,
By all her torments deeply curst,
Of hell-born passions far the worst,
What hope my pangs can now assuage?
I tore me from thy circling arms,
To madness fir'd by doubts and fears,
Heedless of thy suspicious tears,
Nor feeling for thy feign'd alarms.
Resigning every thought of bliss,
Forever, from your love I go,
Reckless of all the tears that flow,
Disdaining thy polluted kiss.
No more that bosom heaves for me,
On it another seeks repose,
Another riot's on its snows,
Our bonds are broken, both are free.
No more with mutual love we burn,
No more the genial couch we bless,
Dissolving in the fond caress;
Our love o'erthrown will ne'er return.
Though love than ours could ne'er be truer,
Yet flames too fierce themselves destroy,
Embraces oft repeated cloy,
Ours came too frequent, to endure.
You quickly sought a second lover,
And I too proud to share a heart,
Where once I held the whole, not part,
Another mistress must discover.
Though not the first one, who hast blest me,
Yet I will own, you was the dearest,
The one, unto my bosom nearest;
So I conceiv'd, when I possest thee.
Even now I cannot well forget thee,
And though no more in folds of pleasure,
Kiss follows kiss in countless measure,
I hope you sometimes will regret me.
And smile to think how oft were done,
What prudes declare a sin to act is,
And never but in darkness practice,
Fearing to trust the tell-tale sun.
And wisely therefore night prefer,
Whose dusky mantle veils their fears,
Of this, and that, of eyes and ears,
Affording shades to those that err.
Now, by my foul, 'til most delight
To view each other panting, dying,
In love's extatic posture lying,
Grateful to feeling, as to sight.
And had the glaring God of Day,
( As formerly of Mars and Venus )
Divulg'd the joys which pass'd between us.
Regardless of his peeping ray.
Of love admiring such a sample,
The Gods and Goddesses descending,
Had never fancied us offending,
But wisely followed our example.
John Musters died in 1827 and the estates passed to Jack that year. The family maintained Colwick Hall as their primary residence, letting Bridgford Hall out to tenants. In 1831 the Musters family were caught in Reform Bill riots and Colwick Hall was attacked. Mary Ann was an invalid at the time and was carried out into the shrubbery while the house was ransacked. The stress of this encounter was such that she died three months later. Jack survived her until 1849. In 1840 Bridgford Hall was let to Lewis Heymann. Financial pressures in the later 19th century led to many estates being sold off, such as the Duke of Newcastle’s Park Estate in Nottingham. John Chaworth Musters, grandson of Jack, followed suit and started to sell off his Colwick and West Bridgford estates. Maps of the proposed suburbs were prepared and the first plots were put up for sale in 1880. The hall and 19 acres of land (equating to the park and bridge field) were sold to Albery Heymann in 1883 for the sum of £10,587. The remaining portions of the West Bridgford estate passed to John Patricius ‘Patrick’ Musters upon the death of John Chaworth Musters in 1887. He was living in Norway at this time and returned to England in 1888 to Annesley to manage the estates. He sold the last portions of West Bridgford in 1889 thus ending its association with the Musters.
The Heymann family and Bridgford Hall
From 1840 onwards Bridgford Hall was let to Lewis Heymann, a prominent Nottinghamshire lace manufacturer, credited as the inventor of the lace curtain. Lewis was of German Jewish origin who arrived in the city in the 1830s attracted by Nottingham's growing reputation across Europe for lace manufacturing. He set up a partnership with the Alexander Brothers of Hamburg designing and making lace curtains from his warehouse, which still stands within Nottingham Lace Market at the junction of Stoney Street and Plumptre Place. It is said that Lewis walked from West Bridgford to his offices every day. Lewis was certainly popular in Nottingham society, serving as an Alderman for the city council and was also elected Mayor in 1857.
Lewis died in 1869 and most of his wealth was shared between his two sons, William Henry and Albert. In 1883 Albert Heymann purchased Bridgford Hall from John Chaworth Musters for the sum of £10,587, along with 19 acres of land (equating to the park and bridge field). He extended the hall in 1886, principally the wing to the southwest, the date marked on the drainpipes, and is likely to have added the billiard room extension on the northeast side about the same time. Albert had many local philanthropic interests throughout his life and he became the first Chairman of West Bridgford Urban District Council in 1895, marking the occasion with grand bazaar in the grounds of the hall. In 1923 he sold the hall on generous terms to WBUDC to use as their offices and the surround gardens and grounds were opened up as a public park for the enjoyment of local residents.
A section of newspaper dated 19th February 1886 has been found under the floor boards in the Georgian part of the building. Unfortunately the title is not complete (possibly Hotel Courier) but the readable areas contain notices of tavern and hotel for sale as well as adverts for wine and spirit merchants.
An empty packet of Player’s Navy Cut medium cigarettes was also found under floor boards in the area of the Hall dating from the Victorian period. This design dates from the 1920’s in an era when illustrations of fit, young military men were often used to show that smoking cigarettes was manly, and even patriotic.
Another interesting and more recent find, is a ticket for a special performance at the Tudor cinema for the King’s Silver Jubilee. Issued by West Bridgford Urban District Council, celebrations for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary took place across the nation on Monday 6th May 1935.
Finds have also been unearthed outside the Hall as while digging drainage channels a horses tooth was uncovered in the stable block area and a Victorian well has also been uncovered.
No doubt as the project progresses more interesting artefacts will be found so keep posted to see what happens next.