Those familiar with the local photographic collections will perhaps be familiar with a photograph of this lost house’s south front labelled ‘Spondon Hall’ and this indeed, is a title to which Field House was attached from time to time, too. In its decline, however, it had become derelict, a natural playground for adventurous children (before an obsession with health and safety curtailed most of the riskier pleasures of childhood). It was locally known a Devas’s, and pronounced ‘deVASSes’ (instead of ‘Deevas’, as is correct) as the late W. H. Brighouse informed me.
The house in my photographs was not, however, the first on the site, which appears to have had a long history. The land would seem to have belonged to a farming family called Soar, who appear to have become freeholders. Ellen, a co-heiress, married in 1687 Isaac Osborne of Alvaston (1688-1738), also a farmer. His ancestors came from Elvaston, where lived the earliest traceable forebear, William, an Elizabethan yeoman farmer and tenant of the Stanhopes.
Ellen died having had three sons, whereupon Isaac re-married in 1693, Elizabeth, daughter of William Leaper of Osmaston by whom he had another son and a daughter.
He became very prosperous, and is thought to have been the builder of the first house on the site, which I assume was a substantial farmhouse. His great grandson, another Isaac (1745-1796) was a London merchant who later was appointed a governor of the Bank of England. He retired to Spondon House (on which see Country Images Lost Houses for April 2018) as his next brother’s third son William was then living at Field house, which he had inherited from his father, the local butcher, in 1784.
As a third son, he would not normally have inherited the family home, but both his elder brothers had made lives for themselves elsewhere, Jacob as a wool broker in Basinghall Street, London and Isaac in Georgswalde in Bohemia (now Czech Republic) having married the daughter of a mediatised Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Carolina von Salm zu Schlukenau.
Thus it was that this William in 1818 sold the house and went to live elsewhere in the parish, dying unmarried in 1835. The purchaser of house and about 25 acres of land was Bryan Thomas, the second son of John Balguy of Duffield Park (pronounced ‘bawgy’), he was a descendant of the Bulguys of Derwent Hall, who had become an Alfreton coal-owner but who professionally was a barrister and a very eminent judge. Bryan Thomas Balguy (1785-1857) was also a barrister, and in 1818 was appointed Town Clerk of Derby, which is why he needed a house within striking distance of the Guildhall.
The house he built was very much up-to-the-minute architecturally, being of two storeys, and with its entrance and main façade facing south west. This side was embellished by a pair of full height round bays topped with conical roofs and lit by wide tripartite windows with Neo-Classical friezes over them and the central bay was embellished by a Doric portico. The nearest equivalent was the west front of Egginton Hall, which was done in very similar style, albeit designed by Samuel Wyatt 38 years earlier. The height of the cornice above the first floor windows suggests that part of the house had an extra half-storey worked in, probably over the service accommodation as was common for local Regency villas.
The side elevations were perfectly plain, and the house looked out onto 13 acres of carefully landscaped parkland. The drive from Church Road was what is now Park Road; what the owner of Prospect House, built a little earlier, thought of its proximity to his north side, I don’t know; he cannot have been that pleased.
Having built his house, Balguy decided, about twenty years later, to move to Ockbrook Manor (another lost house—watch this space!). He let Field House to William Legh Clowes (1781-1862), a Lancashire cotton magnate who inherited Broughton Hall, in Lancashire, but who moved to Derbyshire on his marriage to the daughter of Revd. Robert Holden of Aston Hall and initially built Stoney Cross House for them to live in. Having moved to Field House however, Stoney Cross was sold.
Later, in 1857, when Balguy died, Holden bought the house and park for his daughter and her husband to live in. Meanwhile, their eldest son, Samuel followed his father south, buying the Norbury estate from the FitzHerberts in 1881.
Nevertheless, the death of his father obliged William to move back to Lancashire, and Field House was again let, this time to Frederick Arkwright (1806-1874) who, by 1864 was calling the house The Hall, which was confusing, because the Richardson family’s stuccoed villa further down the hillside was also Spondon Hall (see Country Images Lost House August 2016). Nevertheless, his father, Peter, died two years later and Frederick inherited Willersley Castle to which he retired.
This left the freehold with Robert Holden’s son Edward, of Aston Hall, whose daughter, Anne Shuttleworth, had married Horace Devas (1826-1903) the younger son of Thomas, a London businessman living at Dulwich in 1857. The family, which believes itself to be of Hugenot extraction, was from Cawood in Yorkshire. Horace Devas was an executor of the will of Edward Holden, from which it is confirmed that the house and grounds were bestowed upon his wife by his father-in-law.
Anne subsequently set up home there with Horace in 1866 – hence the colloquial local name for the place. When Horace died, their barrister son, Edward Thomas Devas JP inherited, but he died only a year later, aged only 45, although his mother remained in the house until her death in 1924.
One innovation during the Devas years was the transfer to the west end of Park Road, of the magnificent stone gatepiers, formerly pedestrian entrances to St Mary’s Gate House in Derby, designed by James Gibbs. This did not include the actual iron gates themselves, which were put into storage and later re-erected in Derby Cathedral. Quite why this was done, and upon whose initiative is quite unclear.
The Baptist Chapel then occupying St. Mary’s Gate House must have been the vendors, but when exactly were the structures transferred? St. Mary’s Gate House was demolished in 1938, but it seems that the curtain wall and gates were removed some time before this, as there is a photograph of them in situ taken in around 1924. By 1938 Field House had been inherited by Horace George Devas, who already had Pickhurst Manor, near Hayes (I recall passing the Devas Arms, at Pickhurst, a large ‘bypass Tudor’ pub, now a Miller & Carter’s, on the ’bus from Bromley South station on visits to an aunt in the 1950s) and Ightham Warren, Kent to live in and cannot have had much incentive to beautify a house for which he couldn’t find a tenant.
His solution at Pickhurst had been to sell for housing, but at Spondon, the house lingered on, looking for a tenant or a purchaser. The younger Horace died in 1927, and his son still held on to it until 1938, by which time he had sold part of the parkland for housing (leading to the building of Merchant Avenue).
In that year the local education committee bought the house and 13 acres for a school, but then nothing happened for twenty years, due to the outbreak of the Second World War. The consequence was that the house stopped being maintained and began to fall to pieces, its dereliction being enjoyed by the local children during the war who climbed adventurously all over it; others merely stripped it of anything re-usable (or saleable). In the event, it survived as a shell until being cleared in the early 1950s. West Park Secondary School being built on approximately the same site, completed in 1958 and being taken over by the then Derby County Borough Council in 1968.
Part of the park includes a nature reserve, and in 2019 one of the gatepiers was destroyed by a carelessly handled lorry. This damage, however, was put right on the insurance money, and completed last June. They are listed, deservedly, grade II*, but apart from them, no vestige of this handsome villa remains.