A Detective Story – the rediscovery of Parlington Hall
Speaker: Brian Hull
Wednesday, 30 June 2021
On 17 June, our guest speaker Brian Hull's subject was 'A Detective Story – the rediscovery of Parlington Hall'.
This was once the home of the Gascoignes, a noted Yorkshire family who bought the estate in the sixteenth century.
It was situated near Aberford, near Leeds, alongside the A1(M). A block of Alms Houses can be seen from that road. They were built in 1844 and consisted of eight apartments, with a canteen at one end, and a chapel at the other.
They were one of several buildings funded, or brought about, by the Gascoigne family, and were designed by the architect George Fowler Jones.
The most famous building on the Parlington Estate was the Triumphal Arch, built during the time of the 8th Baronet, Sir Thomas Gascoigne. He had built the arch to celebrate America's eventual victory in the War of Independence. Some years later future King Edward VII was on his way to visit Parlington. When told about the arch which he would pass under, he promptly cancelled his visit.
Brian's talk concentrated on Parlington Hall itself, situated on an estate of five to six thousand acres. First, he showed us what was left of Parlington Hall – two adjoining houses, one of which Brian once called home.
An estate plan and a sketch made in around 1810 helped Brian to locate where the hall had once stood.
Using photographs along with overhead views of the estate, Brian gave us a 'tour' of the outside of the house, and its grounds. An 1852 watercolour picture is the only image from inside the hall, of the Gascoigne family at leisure.
The Gascoigne family's fortunes declined as the nineteenth century continued due to loss of income from tenants, and the closure of coal mines that they owned.
Into the 20th century, and Brian showed, and explained, more photographs, some of which were from postcards. One taken in 1908, showed the house boarded up. By now, the Gascoignes had moved to Lotherton Hall, which was also used as a hospital for casualties from WW1.
A postcard from Parlington Hall was sent by a Mr and Mrs Reedman around 1920. Mr Reedman had been employed to carefully remove doors, windows, and other parts of Parlington which could either be sold off, or reused.
Brian met the granddaughter of Mr Fred Selby, an estate employee. Her mother Beatrice and three friends are photographed in the 1930s visiting Parlington during its demolition. Included was a picture where Beatrice and a friend join Mr Selby on a worryingly high roof undergoing demolition. Not a safety helmet or yellow jacket in sight!
During WW2, the estate was requisitioned by the army, in the form of the Third Vehicle Reserve Depot. Their job was to service and prepare vehicles which were subsequently sent to the western front. The soldiers were billeted in a camp at Aberford, which later became the local secondary school.
In 1964, what was left of the house, and the whole estate – farms, land, and everything connected, was bought for around £2.8 million by the Industrial and Commerce Reinsurance Company, which later became part of the 'Prudential'.
The presentation concluded with Brian answering questions. The Alms Houses, separate from the rest of the estate, are now the head offices of a company who produce car tracking systems, the remainder is now owned by a company whose application to build a new town near Leeds was rejected some years ago, but another bid to build on the land is anticipated; and visitors to the area can still walk through the arch that a future king declined to visit.
Brian spent around ten years researching his subject and said there is still more to discover. For our part, his talk provided an hour of interesting and sometimes poignant accounts of the lives and times of the people who lived and worked on the estate – and its eventual, sorry, demise.
The next Todmorden U3A Monthly Members Meeting by Zoom will be on Thursday 15th July 2021 at 1.45 p.m. open to all fully paid-up members.
Our speaker for July will be Professor Matthew Cobb taking about 'The idea of the brain'.
Not yet a member? You can attend one talk free by requesting an invitation to this zoom event. We're always delighted to welcome new members.
Many thanks to Colin Sanson for this report
Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb - click here