Wattlefield Hall

Nestling deep within Wattlefield Woods lays the impressive Wattlefield Hall. This country house has a large 19th century hall of a Neo-Jacobean style and has highly ornamented chimneys, referred to by the officer that gave the listed building description as “clustered stacks, romantically placed”. Built primarily in red brick, it has a notable pantiled roof to the rear and a slate roof at the front. The main hall has a three-bay facade with two stepped gables, whilst the side walls offer similar gables and projecting bays. The outer bays are canted outwards.

From the central doorway you have an arrangement of casement windows containing 4 centered lights. Inside, you will find a strapwork (turned baluster) oak staircase with a moulded ramped and wreathed handrail, hall ceiling with a large plaster pendant and a number of stone fireplaces.

The principle room doors show linenfold panelling and the front left room has linenfold window screens with pierced and carved spandrels. This room contains a 4 centred stone chimney piece, whilst the right hand room contains a larger chimney piece carved with rosettes and fleuron’s in frieze.

Thought to be a design feature and not originally defensive this country house has a parapet with crenellations cut into the parapet wall.

Adjoining at the rear of the hall is a smaller 18th century farmhouse consisting of three bays and of two storeys. Adjacent to the main building is a 19th century stable block built by Buckler in 1856 which also includes an element of a much earlier 19th century stable. Buckler was also responsible for the addition of a large neo-Elizabethan front on the south east aspect of the main building.

In June 2008, the single story of the main building attaching to the main kitchen, that holding the boiler room, snooker room and scullery, was revised to create a first floor habitable accommodation. Then in May 2011, a planning application was sought to convert the attic rooms to habitable accommodation by way of inserting two new staircases

Wattlefield Hall – Ownership

The ownership history of the Hall gives an insight into the changes that have taken place, both to the house and the grounds.

John Mitchell, a solicitor from Wymondham employed in the partnership of Mitchell and Clarke, lived in Vicar Street Wymondham in the 1830’s.  A Quaker, he bought Wattlefield Hall (then a farmhouse belonging to a much larger estate) and set about updating the building by way of extensive works.  A whole new front, in the Elizabethan style, was added and he introduced the twisted chimneys that can be seen today.

John Mitchell married Miss Jackson, a fellow Quaker, who unfortunately died before him and is buried in Quaker House.  In 1865 Wattlefield Hall was noted as being the residence of John Mitchell Esq and the Hall was described as being “a modern mansion in the Elizabethan style standing in about 50 acres of pasture”.  John Mitchell died in 1870 and left the property to his business partner, Mr William R. Clarke, although it has been mentioned that William was his cousin.

One of the Clarke family married an illegitimate daughter of the Loom family and at one stage the hall passed to a brother, whether by Gift or sale is not clear.

That brother was William Robert Clarke. Born on 14th May 1800 William died 25th May 1880 and he is buried in the family vault located in Wymondham Abbey Church.  During his lifetime William was the Vice President of Norwich Union Life Office and a member of Doric Lodge (free masons).  William had a son Edward  William and two daughters Isabel Eva  (c1,1902) and Emmie Julia.

Mr Edward William Clarke, Williams son, later went on to marry Miss Routh, hence the name change.

In 1883 Wattlefield Hall is listed as being the seat of Edward Routh Clarke Esq and is described as having substantially more farmland, 1966 acres in all.  Also listed at the time is a Wesleyan Chapel, previously erected by John Mitchell for the convenience of the inhabitants of the parish with part of the money being raised by public subscription.  This is the first mention of the Methodist Chapel located on Chapel Road in Spooner Row.

Edward Francis Routh Clarke was born on 16th November 1881 and inherited Wattlefield Hall from his father Edward W. Routh Clarke in 1907.  Edward ran the farm and introduced the growing of fruit to what was already a significant arable operation.  Edward was known as a conscientious man who always spoke to his staff by their Christian names, which was not custom at the time given class concerns.  Edward died 1934, aged 52, and he is one of only 2 people buried in Spooner Row Churchyard.

With Mrs. Marion Routh Clarke now left with the estate she found that farming started to dramatically change.  In her tenure horses gave way to tractors and small fields gave way to large fields.  At the beginning almost all of the farms were tenanted but as tenancies expired or were terminated the farm houses were left empty and the fields farmed as a single estate.

When Mrs. Routh Clarke died in 1972, aged 59 and the Wattlefield Estate was put up for sale.  It was sold in 1973 and the sale particulars show that many of the then smaller farms house were empty.

Wattlefield Hall Sale Particulars – March 1973

The estate of Mrs. Routh Clarke was shared between the 2 daughters, one of which then moved to Australia, whilst her sister then married to become Mrs Harmer and lived at Blue Tile Farm in the village of Stibbard, close to Fakenham.

John Greetham bought almost all of the estate in 1973 and farmed it but he also introduced an equine stud.  As properties became empty and were not needed for estate staff they were generally sold, mostly with just a small amount of land.  When the Hall itself was sold Mr John Greetham and his wife moved to the updated Guiler’s Farm and whilst Mr Greeham died in **, Mrs Greetham still lives in Wattlefield.

In 1989 Mr Greetham sold the Hall and surrounding park land to Sir Stanley Grinstead.

Stanley Grinstead had served in the Royal Navy during World War II and upon returning to civvy street he joined an accounting firm before entering the hotel business.  He earned a reputation as a fearsome negotiator after wrapping up the deal to buy Intercontinental Hotels during a six-day stopover in New York.  He was also an avid gardener.  At the time of his purchase of Wattlefield Hall Stanley had recently retired as the Chairman of Grand Metropolitan, what we would now know as Diageo Plc.  He succeeded Sir Maxwell Joseph in 1982 to become Chairman until 1987.  Not much is known of his ownership of the hall up until his death peacefully at home after a period of long illness on 13th July 2009.

The current owners of Wattlefield Hall ……

Thank you to Alison Peters for starting things off and Robert Foster for the photograph.

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