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6 - The Big House
In any village,
if there is a 'Big House', it can have quite an influence. Its very presence
alters the shape and layout of the village. Firstly, there is the house itself,
with park or garden where there would otherwise be fields. Secondly, there are
the estate cottages and workshops. These are physical influences. The third
effect is on village life. The family in the Big House have a considerable say
in what goes on, both socially and economically. The Big House was simply
called Stillington Hall and for much of the village's history was home to the
who later became Lord Mayor of York, commissioned the building of Stillington
Hall to the East of the Village in 1649, and the family remained in residence
until 1895. The Hall was part of a large estate, the family being referred to
in armorial directories as the 'Crofts of Stillington and Aldborough'. The
family had major connections with the sherry and port shipping business, and
'Croft Old Original' is still a well known brand name today. We do not know
what the first Stillington Hall looked like. It was rebuilt in 1733 and
photographs show a grand house built in Palladian style with two and a half
storeys. Most of the brick structure was rendered in the 1850s when a porch and
conservatory were added to the east wing. Old photographs of the interior of
the house show splendid examples of plasterwork, carving, mahogany panelling and
magnificent fireplaces. Gated entrances to the grounds were from the York Road
with an Avenue Drive across the parkland and from the village Main Street
When the Crofts
left, the house was first sold to Rawdon Thornton, and then in 1903, to Matthew
Liddell. For the next 30 years, the Village remembers an employer who provided
work for many families and businesses. Mr Liddell, who had a mining connection
in Newcastle, built Home Farm in 1914 and he took a great interest in the farm
work, particularly at threshing times. He would sit in the yard and watch the
proceedings. Even, when he was unable to walk, he would be pushed down in a
He gave the
village children an annual party at the Hall with tea and buns (and for many
this was their first experience of a sticky bun). Tea was served in the
Conservatory, the children taking their own mugs, and then it was fun and games
on the front garden and over the Ha-Ha wall into the field. At Christmas time,
the Village Carol Singers were invited to the Hall. The head Gardener, Spencer
Corbett (whose father was also a Hall gardener), helped the Methodists decorate
the Chapel for their Anniversaries and special occasions.
family employed a chauffeur, groom, butler, housekeeper, cook and some 3 or 4
house maids. Some of the staff lived in the House, whilst others were in estate
property in the village. They also employed as many as five or six gardeners.
A famed Tulip tree grew near the conservatory in the garden and the extensive
greenhouses produced grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers and peaches amongst other
family took quite an interest in the village. They were involved with the
Village Hall, they provided the horses and carriage for King George VI's
Coronation celebrations, and Mrs Liddell supported the Church and its fund
raising. Mr Liddell died in 1934 and is buried at Easingwold Catholic Church.
The estate was sold in 1936 - a sad day with many village people losing their
Home Farm and the
land was bought by the Church Commissioners and the Hall and grounds were bought
by the Roman Catholic Alexian Brothers. Some of the monks were qualified Nurses
and worked in the York City General Hospital in Haxby Road. The Hall was a Home
for retired gentlemen and also a convalescent home. One such gentleman, a Mr
Fishwick, is remembered for his billiards skill in the Village Hall and for
umpiring cricket matches.
Whilst people of
different religions did not mix at that time, the village children were welcomed
into the grounds and they often found more sympathy at the Hall's Back Door
surgery, than from the Village MD. Father Daws, who skated and flew kites, was
a great favourite with the young lads. The double doors from Mill Lane into the
walled garden were kept locked, but callers were welcome round the back.
Brother Cerenus, a Frenchman, was in charge of the garden and handed out edible
treats to the youngsters, whilst those families in need in the village were
often supported. Many Catholic Villagers went to Sunday morning Mass in the
Hall and the Christmas Midnight service was always full to capacity with
generous refreshments for all afterwards.
During the War,
evacuee children were housed in the coach yard buildings. Norman Collier, the
comedian, and his brother were amongst the Hull evacuees. The children were
schooled in the Village Hall; had snowball fights down the Main Street against
the village children and Jim Cole used to train some of the boys in boxing.
After 1948, the
hall was taken over by the Catholic Verona Fathers - some were Italian - who
used the building as a Catholic Boys' School and trained young men for the
priesthood and for missionary work. Over one hundred pupils attended at one
time; and the boys were regularly walked round Roseberry. The Hall was no
longer an Open House. Nuns were sometimes in residence probably attending to
cooking and domestic affairs. Meat deliveries which used to take over one and a
half hours in the Brothers' days, were now conducted in silence, and produce was
handed over through a window. The number of pupils and students gradually grew
less and the Fathers left in due course and went to Mirfield.
from Leeds, was the next owner during the 1950s. He lived there, whilst
stripping the building of many of its architectural features. The House became
derelict and was eventually demolished by Embleton Brothers from York in 1966.
Then, through a succession of builders the Parkfield housing estate emerged.
This made a dramatic change to the Village affairs, and the numbers attending
the village school. The stables and coachyard were taken over by H Morse and
Sons coach business. This was later joined by John Manson and Son's motor
repair and maintenance business. The final stage for part of the yard is a
private housing development.
What is left of
the Hall? Many artefacts were salvaged and are possibly installed in various
properties nationwide. The Coat of Arms is fastened onto the North wall of
Mossy Terrace with the Motto - To Be or Rather To Seem To Be. A fireplace is at
the Gables Restaurant at Birdforth; the lounge door in Lees House Stillington;
and a stone plaque depicting missionary work in Africa is built into the Bay
Horse/Mossy Terrace garden wall.
The Green and its
surrounds formed part of the Croft Estate. Records tell us that the remains of
the old pinfold (probably on the Green) were removed in 1892. An old photograph
shows a timber framed house on the East boundary called Cromwell House. This
was built in 1630 and finally dismantled in 1920 and removed to Boston,
Massachusetts by one Leslie Buswell, related by marriage to the Croft family.
The house, known as Stillington Hall, is a private residence, but often used for