Lord Hollenden moves into workshops – 1941

Lord Hollenden moves into workshops?
May 1941 – Seventy-Five Years Ago: the Problem of War Time

Robin Hope- Morley has given the Historical Society two different plans of some building works at Hall Place in May 1941 – seventy-five years ago.  The first is headed “Proposed Temporary Conversion of Workshop Building into Living Accommodation for Lord Hollenden”.  The second plan seems more roughly done but gives more details.

We know that a good number of children were evacuated in September 1939 from two Roman Catholic schools in central London – those from Kensington stayed for the whole war and those from Victoria seem to have only stayed for under a year.  An indefatigable lady who lived at Park House was in charge of ‘persuading’ locals to take in the new arrivals and she seems initially not to have been faced with the problem of persuading Lord Hollenden to accept London children.  We know from one evacuee, Gladys Hale, who was initially lodged with the Head Gardener, Mr Ferguson, that in October 1939, Lord and Lady Hollenden were living at Hall Place in some splendour.  Gladys, then aged seven, was invited with other school children to Hall Place to see a film.  “I remember that it was quite a surprise because they had two flunkies in uniforms on either side of the stairs.  And later Lady Hollenden summoned me up to the house to give me coloured ribbons for my hair – all wrapped in tissue paper”.

It seems that there are two possible reasons for Lord Hollenden converting the workshop for him or perhaps some of his servants to live in.  Perhaps when the London bombing became really bad he allowed himself to be persuaded to accept evacuees and, therefore, needed to move out.  The trouble is that no one seems to remember any evacuees there.  Alternatively it is possible that the 1940 fire which destroyed around a third of the main living accommodation meant that he needed somewhere else to sleep when he came down to Leigh.  We do not really know.

We do, however, have these two plans, one dated May 1941 drawn up by local constructional engineers, R. Woodhams & Son.  The overall building, still there, was one hundred and twenty-four feet long (that’s about 38 metres for the younger generation) by twenty foot wide (about 6 metres).  It was part of the original Devey buildings and is marked on his original 1873 plans as ‘workshops’.  Certainly they were not meant as living quarters and even today the rooms have no ceilings – they just go up to the rafters.

Some people will know the Estate Office.  This was made into a bedroom with WC/bathroom and a dressing room.  A door led through into what was called a Lounge, a large room nearly thirty feet long.  It is still there and used by the Estate for the shoot lunches.  (Today it has a fireplace at the far end and, although it is not shown on the plans, it seems fairly certain that it was there in 1941).  From the far end, another door led from the Lounge into the Dining Room but the peculiarity is that there is no kitchen marked on this first plan.  Was it just that the room next door was to be made into a kitchen or could it be that, as the huge Hall Place kitchens had not been bombed, the cook prepared the food there and the servants brought it over?  At the end nearest the house and rooms originally designed for storing the bags from the shoots – were two further bedrooms.  However, the second plan does show a kitchen and a slightly different layout.

There is clearly a large number of questions.  We may have the plans, but was the conversion ever actually done?  And, if the building was rebuilt, how often did Lord and Lady Hollenden use it?  Or the servants?  (The Hollendens seemed to have lived at their estate near Dartmouth for most of the war (until the US Army compulsorily purchased it to practice for the D-Day landings).  And, anyway, how many servants lived throughout the War at Hall Place?

So anyone with memories please get in touch.

Chris Rowley (Parish Magazine article: May 2016)