A history of Strelley Hall

Below is some interesting information about the history of Strelley Hall, taking you from Saxon times to present day.

Earliest Saxon times

Motts Corner

A few hundred metres South of Strelley Hall there is a sharp bend in Main Street. This is known now as Motts Corner. Near the corner are the remains of some Motts which is an old word meaning moat.

It is believed that there was a Saxon building within the Motts which would probably have been on stilts and made of wood. The building itself seems to have completely disappeared.

Tudor times

Most of the original Strelley Hall fell down and was not repaired during Tudor times. There is little record of what happened during this time.

During the archaeological dig in 2006/7 it became apparent from the layers of waste that there was probably a major fire at the end of the medieval period.

Strelley Hall changes hands in 1678

Nicholas Strelley was the owner of Strelley at this time but he gambled it away and eventually the Hall and estates passed to Ralph Edge, a lawyer.
There is a family tree kept near to the Castle Room which shows the generations of Strelleys from the time when they took the estate around 1200 through the period when they lost the estates in 1678 to the present day. Strelley Hall is sometimes visited by members of the Strelley family.

Strelley was the first industrial village of all time

Strelley Village today looks like an isolated time warp. But it was actually the site of industry in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was one of the first areas to be exploited for coal. There are the remnants of many bell pits all around the village. To work a bell pit a central shaft was dug and when coal was struck, the digging proceeded outwards until the overhang became unsafe. At that point the work moved to another location and eventually the core of the pit caved in. The volume of coal extracted and the difficulty of getting it to a suitable location for transport (for example the river Trent) demanded a better transport than horses and carts could afford. So the World's first railway was built between Strelley and Wollaton, at around the beginning of the 17th century. But there is a catch: it was only for horse drawn trucks running on wooden rails because the steam train had not been invented.

More recently there has been open-cast working for coal which only ended in the 1960s. It is interesting to note that there is almost no trace of the open-cast working but considerably more of the bell pits which operated 10 times as long ago and probably gave a fraction of the coal. Similarly there was prospecting for oil and gas in the 1980s which involved some huge derricks just the other side of the motorway. No oil was found and the site has been dismantled and returned to farmland with no trace left.

The first Strelley Hall and medieval remains

Motts CornerIt is believed that this was erected about 1200 AD. Pevsner says there was a medieval tower which is now incorporated into the modern Strelley Hall forming the Castle Room, the Castle bedroom above it and just a little of the half-window room above that. There is also a medieval cellar below the Castle Room.

The Gate Lodge has some medieval walls, particularly those abutting the road. The formation of the walls is similar to the Church and therefore may have been constructed at a similar time.

At the North end of the car park at the front of the main building is an underground room known as The Dungeon. Although it was used as a dungeon to imprison poachers even in the 20th century, it was almost certainly constructed as a cellar and the nature of the stonework suggests it was contemporary with the other medieval parts of the building.

There are two other rather likely medieval remnants. One was found when the West wall of the triple garage was being built and a remnant is built into that wall. The other was found when a chimney breast was being re-built at the North end of the Queen Anne Lounge but at first floor level.

Dowsers have visited the site to investigate ancient walls. Many people have independently verified that there are the remains of a medieval wall running across the lawn to the South of the Main Hall. It is believed to be about a metre thick and about 30 metres long. An attempt has been made to dig to try and find it. It appears that it was a relatively modern (last few hundred years) brick path leading from what was the main street through Strelley to what was at the time the rear or utility area of Strelley Hall. The remarks above indicate that the first Strelley Hall was a very considerable size.

Motts CornerArchaeological dig in 2006

In early 2006, permission was granted to erect a Sun Room to the South West of the Old Kitchen between the Main Building and the Stables. When the footings had been dug the buildings inspector said that he thought the ground to soft and it was necessary to dig further down to get to a firmer base.

While digging down a medieval wall was found. This was quite long (at least 17m) and went a long way down (3m) in parts. Following advice about where to dig given by the Nottinghamshire County Council archaeologists, the area was dug out and a moat of the original castle was found. The Moat was 7.5m wide and 4.75m deep measured from the ground level of the main building.

Motts CornerTwo buttresses were found. One of these was probably a chimney breast and the other which was smaller probably a strengthening buttress. Beside the larger buttress there was a hole in the wall which was probably a waste outlet from a kitchen or a closet.

The moat was certainly dry because the sandstone at Strelley is not capable of holding water. The moat had no strategic defence value and was really just a status symbol.

There were numerous finds of pottery and similar artefacts. Two of the most important from the dating point of view were a 6d piece dating from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and a dated fragment of pottery from almost the same time. The tusk of a wild boar was also found. There were various pieces of masonry found in the sediment of the Moat and some of these were on a large scale. One of the pieces, the largest, was larger in section than anything in Strelley Hall or the Church next door. Most of this masonry has been dated in the range 1250 to 1350.

The Strelley dig features in a book written by James Wright about the castles of Nottinghamshire. His view about the original location and size of the castle are interesting. His view is that the Castle Room and what is known as the dungeon area form two opposite corners of a rectangular enclosure and that the may be two others, one of which is to the North of the Game Larder and the other in the main car park and to the South East of the front door.

Motts CornerIt was assumed that Strelley Hall was a castle in medieval times. From a legal point of view this has to be untrue because there is no record of permission being given to crenellate. On that basis the medieval building becomes not a castle but a fortified manor house.

Archaeologists now believe that the Castle room is part of a tower at one corner of a rectangular fortified building. There is a diagonally opposite tower where the present dungeon is situated. Then there two other towers making up the other lost corners. If this is so, the Castle would have been quite large. But of course it may have been that there was a fortified bailey of this size and that Castle itself was confined to two or more towers.

The Edge family

Ralph Edge took over Strelley Hall in 1678 and his family kept it until the last member of the family, Emily Mary Edge died in 1978. Miss Edge had been left the use of Strelley Hall during her lifetime provided that she did not marry. It passed to the present owners in the first weeks of 1980. During the period from 1678 to 1980 there were three occasions when there was no relevant male heir and the estate passed to a daughter whose husband was required to take the name Edge. The requirement for a male heir named Edge was therefore especially curious since the male line from Ralph Edge had already been broken three times. Therefore there is no male connection today with the original Edges. There are many members of the Edge family living today and the history of the family can be traced back at least seven centuries. Edge family members still visit Strelley Hall.

The auction at Strelley Hall in 1978

In November 1978 there was an auction of the contents of Strelley Hall and this fetched around £500,000. Of this, about a third was for paintings which had been hanging in the main hall; these were by Fearnley of horses. The value of the paintings was a bit more than the value of the hall itself at the time.

The ghosts at Strelley Hall

Nicholas Strelley put a curse on gambling at Strelley and was believed to have visited Strelley at nights uninvited after he lost the estates. His appearances caused some serving wenches to lose their minds and it is they who are now believed to haunt the Hall. They appear to be quite benign. It is not till much later than these times that certain ghosts were, quite frankly, just invented and which behaved in a frightening and harmful way to living humans (such as vampires). The Strelley ghosts seem to favour the Castle Bedroom which is one floor above the Castle Room and which overlooks the Churchyard.

The Queen Anne building

By the early 1700s there was a Queen Anne style house at Strelley and this forms the present West Wing of the main building. There are lots of parts of this building still evident. It was a tall (5 storeys with basement), narrow building with the servants parts forming a tee off to the East of the main building where the present toilets on the ground, first and second floor are today. Unlike today, the main entrance was on the western elevation and the servants' entrance at the rear to the East. The artist's impression of the layout around 1750 shows the Queen Anne Building.

An interesting feature of the layout is that Mr and Mrs Edge had separate bedrooms and Mr Edge's was on the stairway which led to the maidservants' rooms.

The outside appearance of Strelley Hall

Motts CornerThe western elevation of the Hall is a typical Queen Anne form with a few exceptions. There was a window added to the second floor in what is now the Half- Window Room and the window to the Queen Anne Lounge was changed probably in the first half of the 20th century.

The southern elevation is almost a pure Georgian symmetric elevation but has had a French window added, probably around 1950, at the South East corner. The Castle Room has two windows on this elevation but one of them is false and only there to make the elevation symmetric. It does not connect to the room but backs onto a fireplace.

The eastern elevation was symmetric when the Georgian work was complete. But the Victorians have rather wrecked the classical form by adding to it in numerous ways. First they added a porch constructed out of inferior stone compared with the remainder of the building. Although they could be forgiven for wanting the main hall warmer they cannot be excused for making it such an obnoxious protuberance.

The Victorians also extended northwards. They have done this in three distinct architectural styles even though the extensions were carried out at almost the same time. The first part of the extension is of the Breakfast Room making it into the Dining Room but with quite different windows and stone treatment. The second extension is of the Estate Room where the various tenant farmers and other villagers from the estate went to pay their rent bills once a quarter. That is a bit gothic in its appearance, especially inside. The last part is the old servants' hall which is yet another architectural style and even within that style has two heights of window.

The Queen Anne Lounge

Motts CornerThis was believed to be the main reception room of the building in Queen Anne times. When the Georgian part of the building was added at the end of the 18th century, the Queen Anne Lounge was turned into the servants' hall. Later it became a servants' kitchen and it was not until 1985 that it was turned back into a Queen Anne style Lounge.

Some panelling was found in the stables rather haphazardly fixed to the interior walls. It was clear that it never originated there. It was refitted into the Queen Anne Lounge where it matches quite well the panelling in the Castle Room.

The Old Kitchen

This was probably built in the middle of the 18th century. It was a six metre cube and the windows started about two metres above ground level. Probably the window height was chosen so that the gardeners outside could not see the maids working inside and vice-versa. Today this has been reconstructed and more modern kitchen installed. But a new floor has been added and the space above converted into a bedroom and bathroom. The original windows have been lowered to match the remainder of the buildings and new smaller windows added for the bedroom and bathroom.

There was a huge and heavy looking grille in the roof of the old kitchen and it was carefully removed at the time of the reconstruction to reveal it as nothing more than a piece of blackened pinewood. It had been a grille covering an arrangement of shutters to cause fumes from the kitchen to be dispersed into the roof space.

The Panelled Room

Motts CornerThe Panelled Room on the Ground floor to the North of the main entrance was originally the Breakfast Room when the Georgian additions were made during the period 1780-1803. It was then only a moderately sized room. But in 1894 when there were significant additions to Strelley Hall the Panelled Room was extended. The panelling, which matches reasonably well through the whole room, was therefore believed to be late Victorian. But around 1990 an expert studied it and pronounced that it was Jacobean making it around two hundred years older than the room itself. If this is true it was obviously moved from some other building to its present location.

The original fireplace in the Breakfast Room on the South wall is a typical Georgian piece.

But when the Victorian additions were made there was another fireplace added and as is typical for Victorians, they went one better by making it bigger than the first fireplace. But they were not satisfied with even that so they added another screen above it with no continuity to the first piece. Even that was not enough so they added yet another screen above that and the resulting fireplace has in many eyes become a hideous monstrosity but serves to remind us of the lack of appreciation of the Victorians of balance in art.

The Castle Room

Motts CornerThis is the most interesting room historically. It is believed to have been one floor in a medieval tower with a cellar below and two further floors above. The walls are very thick - more than a metre. It is likely that it would have been connected to the other floors by a narrow stone winding staircase probably in its present doorway. The ceiling is vaulted like the cellar below and oak boards forming the floor would have been added at a later date. Th panelling is believed to date from the Commonwealth period at the end of the seventeenth century although there are numerous additions and modifications.

The fireplace exhibits a mixture of periods. The grey surround is Victorian. There are some medieval tiles built into this. The general shape of the fire grate is Georgian and the motifs are clearly from that period as well. But the puzzle comes from the date which is cast into the bottom of the iron and which says 1600. This makes no sense because fireplaces did not have this appearance in 1600 and in Georgian times there was no great interest in exhibiting history. 1600 is not known to be a significant date in the history of Strelley Hall. So, what does it represent?

One of the doors to the cupboards in the Castle Room is particularly interesting. It was actually made out of an old shutter with extra pieces of timber added at the top, bottom and sides. How strange that a rather tatty old door was re-used by people who were so rich! The door to the Castle Room was made out of at least three old pieces, two old shutters and some other facing material.

The School Room

There is a panelled bedroom above the Queen Anne Lounge. In Queen Anne times this was the bedroom used by Mrs Edge. The then Mr Edge had a different bedroom nearer to the maidservants' rooms. Some time after the Georgian extension was made the panelled bedroom seems to have become a schoolroom. Following some investigations behind the panelling, a cane made from a piece of local wood was discovered behind the panelling. The handle end seems to be rather well worn.

The Potty Room

The rooms at the top floor of the South East of the main building and next to the stairway were used as nurseries during the late 1880s, 1890s and into the start of the 20th century. At that time the Squire and his wife had seven children.

There is a small room, overlooking the Courtyard off the main hall to the North which was where the potties were kept for the nurseries. Shelves in that room were marked with the name of the nursery so that potties were returned to the right place.

The New Garden

As you drive towards the front of the main building along what used to be known as the long walk you pass the New Ground on the right. It was given this name in about 1860 because until this time it had been the site of the Home Farm.

The site of the village

Motts CornerStrelley Hall is separated today from the remainder of the village but that was not always the case. Before major additions were made in the late 18th centuries, the village was rather closer to the Hall but was then moved further away. At the end of a long hot summer, it is possible to see unevenness in the drying of the grass in the parkland: this is particularly to the East of the Hall and there are some other traces to the South. It is believed that the dry patches show the sites of former cottages.

The Broad Oak Pub

Motts CornerThe only pub in Strelley is The Broad Oak named after a large oak in the parkland between the pub and Strelley Hall. The oak was itself felled and used to make furniture for Strelley Hall. Until quite recently the pub was part of the Strelley estates and looked like a house from the outside; then it had only a six-day licence.
Once it was sold to a brewery it was run using a normal seven-day licence.

The Ice House

There is an ice house at the top of a rise a couple of hundred metres and outside the present ownership of Strelley Hall. It has been badly vandalised and is not considered safe.

The Brewery

When Strelley Hall changed hands in 1980, the plans showed a brewery. It is the small building to the East of the Olde Joyners' Workshoppe. It is three storeys and the central of these was the ground floor where the brewing was made. There is a loft space for malting and a cellar to store the finished beer. A historic buildings inspector visited the site in the late 1980s and pronounced that it was not a brewery and had never been one. His argument was that there no significant chimney nor any space where one had been and all breweries had to have one. We asked him what he thought the building was and he could give no ideas.

Since then the roof was refurbished (2007) and the use of the building became evident. There was a wall at the top level which ran across E-W. Until the repairs it was not obvious that there was a section in the middle of this wall which was newer than the remainder. It was then apparent that this was convenient way of feeding hay into the hayracks in the Northern part of the building. So we now believe it was built as a stable with a small tack room at ground level, a hay loft over and a further store in the basement.

The Stables

Motts CornerThe existing stables were erected at the turn of the 18th to 19th centuries. At a cost of £340 they were very expensive compared with houses for people at the same time. They were very stoutly constructed from good quality brick mostly 3 courses thick and with a substantial timbered and slated roof. There was a Churchyard wall demolished in order to make way for the Stables. This wall was probably at or parallel to the South wall of the existing Stables. The main stairs connecting the two floors of the Stables is the site of a very narrow winding set which was badly woodwormed and rotten by 1984 when it was replaced. There was also a hay chute enabling the upper hayloft floor to be connected to the lower floor where the horses themselves were. The smaller rooms in the Stables were various grooms' rooms, tack rooms and areas where cheese was made and bacon cured. At the East end of the first floor is the former Laundry room. On the ground floor at the West end of the Stables is the former blacksmith's area which is now a toilet area.

The Iron Store and Soap Room

The area above the Roll-up garage is the place where iron was stored for the blacksmith's use. The area known as the Soap Room to the North of the Iron store is less certain.

Motts CornerThe Octagonal Meat Safe

This is a small curious octagonal building situated about 10 metres West of the Queen Anne part of the building. It was used to store meat and had fly screens rather than the windows which are there now after its change of use to become a Gazebo.

The Home Farm and The Cowshed
(now renamed The Edge Barn)

In the 1860s, the Home Farm was moved from the site just to the North of Strelley Hall to a point a few hundred metres further along Main Street Strelley. The original Home Farm occupied what is now the New Garden and the Woodyard area. This included the present Cowshed. Until 1860 the Cowshed was used for cows and up to two bulls which were led each day from there to the parkland to the East and North East of Strelley Hall.

Trees at Strelley Hall

There was significant planting of new trees about 200 years ago corresponding to the Georgian rebuilding. Many of the trees planted then are now mature and at least the sycamores have reached the ends of their lives and are falling down.
Some of the beeches and cedars are still strong and are magnificent trees today.

The Ponds and water systems

Motts CornerThere is a spring in a pond in the parkland to the East of Strelley Hall surprisingly close to the highest point of the hill. It feeds an artificial fish pond to the North of the main building and that used to feed drinking water to the main hall and feeds a pond just to the South of the Church. Although the pond appears to have just one level, there is stonework suggesting that the eastern part was separated and higher than the western part.

There was a water tower near to the pond into which water was pumped by hand from the pond. This leaned over badly because of poor foundations and has recently been re-built on a firmer base in the same place and mostly using the original bricks.

There is significant storage underground for water at Strelley Hall and there is a large well in the Pump Court.

Sampsan's Pavilion

Motts CornerThis building was constructed over the period 2006-2007. The lower floor is mostly underground but has light from the East. The upper floor has a roof treatment which echoes the Edge Barn and has a height of about 5m.

The building is named after Sir Samson de Strelley. There are various spellings of Samson, Sampson, Sampsan etc. These may have corresponded to the source language being English, French or Latin or perhaps because at the time (14th century) the concept of spelling exactly had not been in people's minds. Even some centuries after Sampson the mark of an educated man was that he knew how to spell words in lots of different ways.