Researching the grander houses of Spondon has never been easy, simply because there have been more than a few: Spondon Hall, The Grange, The Cottage, Field and Spondon Houses, The Homestead, West and Prospect Houses. Of these only the last three survive, and not all had estates attached. Most were what is called by estate agents ‘village houses’ and their profusion reflects the prosperity of this part of Derbyshire over many centuries.
pondon Old Hall may well have lain on the site of the earliest manor house. It faces south east overlooking the valley of the lower Derwent, a fact rather lost on today’s visitor, for the view is obscured by 20th century building, including a large council estate. In any case, were there a house still in situ from which to enjoy the view, the main thing that would strike the eye is the now derelict Courtaulds/ British Celanese site.
From 1298 until 1522, the Hall was in the hands of the Twyfords of Kirk Langley, who inherited it from the first and last Lord Pipard, a descendant of the FitzRalphs, a younger line of the Staffords and thus kin to the Longfords and Gresleys. In 1309 a surviving charter tells us that John Pipard inherited a capital mansion at Spondon from his father, Ralph.
In 1522 the Twyford heiress brought a considerable holding to Henry, second son of Peter Pole of Heage, enabling him to found the cadet branch of the Poles of Langley. Spondon, being separate seems to have been sold on and partly split up, a portion being bought by the emergent Wilmots of Chaddesden. It was this portion that contained the original manor house. A younger Wilmot son, Edward, settled in the house in 1718 marrying his cousin Catherine Cassandra, daughter and co-heiress of William Coke of Trusley. Their son married yet another Wilmot cousin and the grandson Francis, rector of both Trusley and Pinxton, died unmarried in 1818 leaving all to his sister Susannah. In 1806 she had conveniently married her kinsman, John Coke of Debdale Hall, Nottinghamshire. The complicating factor here was that he died without issue in 1841 leaving everything to a nephew, Col. Edward Thomas Coke (1807-1888) who thereby restored Trusley to the family after a 123-year break.
Thus we have charter evidence for a mansion in 1309 and clear evidence for one in 1718. There is further evidence concerning the actual building a century later in the form of an 1810 document amongst the Coke-Steel muniments at Trusley which reads,
“The Mansion House….the buildings consist of a large old rough cast House, brick and tile, – detach’d brewhouse half timbered and tiled, – coalhouse & pigstyes with dovecote over, brick & tile all in tolerable repair, – an old barn half timbered & thatched in very moderate repair…”
From this, for which and much other information I am most grateful to David Coke-Steel, one gets only the sketchiest idea of the house except that it was of stone probably no more than roughly shaped and brought to course – from the description “roughcast” – reinforced with brick and with a tile roof. There were also two timber framed outbuildings the brew-house and barn plus the dovecote/pigsty, so the entire ensemble was visually in all probability extremely attractive.
From the death of William Coke it is likely that the house was either let as a farm or tenanted and when the inventory was drawn up it was lived in by the Misses Pickering who were paying £105 – 12s – 7d a year for the mansion, three crofts, a close and two cottages, one a saddle house for the other. These ladies were the two unmarried sisters of Revd William Pickering (1740—1802), who had succeeded his father as rector of Mackworth in 1790. The family were anciently stewards to the Mundys of Markeaton Hall and their father was an intellectual, mathematician, astronomer and tutor of Revd Thomas Gisborne. More to the point the mother was sister of the Miss Wilmot who had married Edward Wilmot’s son, which explains a lot!
After their death the house was let briefly to Bryan Balguy, the Recorder of Derby who quickly moved to Borrowash Manor and then to Field House at Spondon. He was succeeded by Alderman John Drewry proprietor of the Derby Mercury, who later in 1839 sold his former house and printing works on the corner of Iron Gate and Sadler Gate to William Bemrose and then Roger Cox (1777-1843). The latter, who took over in 1837 was a member of a notable lead-smelting family originally from Brailsford.
In 1846, Bagshaw’s Directory says of the house, “…large mansion west of the village…inhabited by Mrs Fanny Cox”. It was in fact not in the west at all, but more to the east in Moor Street, later Sitwell Street and Fanny was Roger’s widow, the daughter and heiress of the Derby banker George Richardson. The renaming of the street seems to have been thanks to the long residence at the Old Hall, after Fanny’s death a few years later, of Miss Selina Sitwell a member of the Stainsby House (Smalley) family and again a kinswoman of the Wilmots and the Cokes. By this time however, John Coke had died (1841) the house passing to E T Coke who died in 1888.
Also by this time the picturesque old hall had been rebuilt or replaced, allegedly in 1851. Unfortunately we only have the 20th century remnant left to help us understand what this replacement house was like but it was clearly built quite close to 1846 in the late Regency fashion, and was Classical, three storeys high and about twice as large as the building people remember. It was presumably of brick – as from c1850 there was the railway to bring in building materials – with busy quoins at the angles, simple Georgian 12 pane sash windows with entablatures over and a rather fussy portico (possibly a later addition) with rather too many decorative brick quoins, the effect of which was exacerbated later when the building was painted and they were picked out in darker hues.
By 1878 the Cox family had long moved down the hill into the Regency Spondon Hall but had installed an unmarried grand-daughter of Roger and Fanny, Ellen Cox, in the Old Hall. Not long after this the tenant was a Mr Barber, probably John Lewis Pasteur Barber (1853-1906) a member of a Nottinghamshire borders coal-owning family and a great uncle of the much-loved vicar of Spondon from 1939 to 1986, Revd T E M Barber (1907-1988), whose father also lived in the village.
Barber left for Stanton-by-Newhall in 1886 and was succeeded by Capt Henry Stair Sandys RN (1841-1912). His mother was a daughter of William Abney of Measham Hall, but he lived locally as a result of his marriage to his cousin, the daughter of Revd Edward Abney – the photographic pioneer, friend of W H Fox-Talbot and mentor of Richard Keene – who lived at The Firs on Burton Road, just outside Derby. She died in 1874 and he remarried a kinsman of mine, oddly enough: Mary Alice, daughter of Revd John Till, vicar of Gnosall, Staffs, by whom he had an only son.
Yet in 1891 Sandys was off again and the house was then sold by E T Coke’s heir Maj-Gen John Talbot Coke as part of a general sale of family property at Spondon by auction on 12th June that year. It was bought for £2,005 by Henry Staples previously of Prospect House, elder son of Wiltshire born former Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Staples KCMG FSA. Henry was a director of the Spondon colour works of Messrs Leach Neal & Co. On a grey September day in 1892 his wife Constance gamely climbed the newly built Leach, Neal chimney stack with him to put in place the last of 170,000 bricks – what a gal!
In 1914 he moved into Pinxton House almost opposite (its name presumably inspired by the name of the parish in which the Coke seat at Brookhill Hall stands). This he had built earlier on a plot he had bought with the Old Hall. Frank Coleman, a manager at Aiton’s acquired the Old Hall, his wife was a Spondon girl called Oldershaw, hence the choice. After her death the house was acquired by the parish council in 1951 and converted into the village hall. In 1957 a room was set aside as a Jehovah’s Witness chapel and another two for the County Library. It was presumably in the 1930s that Mr Coleman decided to make the house look more ‘modern’ removing the large service wing and the upper storey, whilst at the same time replacing the roof.
Either way, the roof was eventually the house’s undoing and by 1976 it was on the point of collapse and closed as a dangerous structure in December of that year. It was demolished early in 1977 to be replaced in 1981 by the present rather ordinary village hall, an ignominious end.
NB. I have to declare an interest. These before and after shots of Spondon Old Hall are included in my latest book of Derby pictures, Derby Through Time, published by Amberely barely a week or two ago and available in all local bookshops at £14.99!