Ingleborough Hall

Ken Pearce
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Wednesday 5 August 2009 provided an unusual opportunity for members of the Trust. It was the one day when members of the public could have access to Ingleborough Hall in Clapham. Since 1939 the Hall has been occupied by a succession of educational institutions and the presence of many children on site has meant that the grounds have generally been closed to the public. Yet the Hall is an interesting building with an interesting tale to tell. Fortunately the present Head at the Hall invited past pupils, from the days when the building was home to a residential school for delicate children, to revisit their alma mater. Members of the Trust were given the chance to visit at the same time.

Members were advised of the planned visit and about 20 turned up at 10.00 am on a fine day, to be met by Ken Pearce, a Trust member who has researched the history of the Hall. The morning was divided into three sessions.

To set the scene a little of the Farrer family history was sketched out, for it was the Farrer family which built the Hall as a gentleman’s country seat with a sporting estate. For centuries the family had lived on an estate near Clitheroe. In the 17th century they acquired by marriage a farm in the parish of Clapham and commuted between the two. In the 18th century a family dispute led to the patriarch moving permanently to the farm near Clapham. His grandson became a local lawyer, lived a successful life in the village to begin with but was later declared bankrupt and lost everything. His son, however, was made of sterner stuff, amassed a fortune in London and returned to Clapham to buy back everything his father had lost - plus a great deal more. He bought a village farm which he enlarged to become Clapham Lodge. He died soon after, leaving everything to his nephews James and Oliver, who went on to have the Lodge extensively enlarged and remodelled once again to become the Hall as it stands today. They also bought up many, many local properties, building up a shooting estate of over 30,000 acres, and remodelled the village to provide a suitable setting for a gentleman’s country seat.

The years 1820-63 were the expansionist heyday of Hall and estate. In 1925 the last Squire to live in the Hall died. His widow lived on in the building until 1937. From the start of World War II the Hall acted as home to first a preparatory school evacuated from the south coast, then a school for delicate children, then an outdoor education centre, its present role.

Following this introduction we entered the Hall, paid the modest admission fee and passed between the splendid twin columns of Dent marble to wander the ground floor reception rooms and enjoy light refreshments. This done we were introduced to John Eaton who had worked at the Hall for many years. John showed us round the confusing corridors and numerous rooms above and below stairs, all adapted from their country house uses to serve the needs of a modern residential education centre. Armed with a plan of those original uses we identified what had been the butler’s pantry, the sewing room, the lamp room, the library and all the other offices of years ago, many now turned into bunk-bedded dormitory accommodation for city youngsters. The Hall has been transformed into a different, more utilitarian world.

We thanked John for his detailed account and went our separate ways, checking up on uncertain details of this and that room, working out exactly what was where, looking at photographs of former glories, whatever caught our individual interest. Most ventured outside and explored the gardens and grounds a little, scene of the famous Reginald Farrer’s forays into rock gardening which fed his appetite for the plant collecting which took him to his death in the mountain mists of Burma. Some tracked down the icehouse on the slopes behind the kitchens while others wondered at the carriage houses lower down, where the ‘tradesmen’s tunnel’ from Thwaite Lane gave access to the Hall’s back door, concealing even the local doctor from more genteel eyes.

Those with an architect’s eye noted the curved glass in the elegant bow windows of the old drawing room and the elliptical morning room - there is curved and semi-circular detailing everywhere. A little bit of detective work revealed even a hidden speaking tube where callers could be quizzed before admission - security clearance even then!

It was an interesting visit, a rare opportunity to understand a little more of what makes Clapham such an unusual survival from a former age, yet living rather than pickled in aspic.