Brocket Hall is a neo-classical country house set in a large park at the western side of the urban area of Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, England. The estate is equipped with two golf courses and seven smaller listed buildings, apart from the main house. The freehold on the estate is held by the 3rd Baron Brocket. The house is Grade I-listed.
On the parkland site were two predecessors, the first of which was built in 1239 as Watership or Durantshide Manor, early held variously of Hatfield Manor and the Bishop of Ely.[n 1] One of these was built about 1430; whereas in 1413 John Mortimer held Waterships it is known in 1477 Thomas Brockett held both manors. The house was acquired by John Brocket in the early 1550s and passed to his son Sir John Brocket (Captain of Queen Elizabeth's personal guard) on his death in 1558.
The building and park owe much of their appearance today to Sir Matthew Lamb, 1st Baronet, who purchased the estate in 1746 and commissioned Brocket Hall to the designs of the architect Sir James Paine in around 1760.
The next owner was The 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who was Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister 1835–41, when she regularly visited. His wife, Lady Caroline Lamb, infamously had an affair with Lord Byron causing Lord Melbourne much embarrassment. For one of his birthdays she held a state banquet in the Saloon, at which she had herself served from a large silver dish, naked.
In 1893, The 1st Baron Mount Stephen, President of the Bank of Montreal and the first Canadian to be elevated to the Peerage of the United Kingdom, leased Brocket Hall from the 7th Earl for the remainder of his lifetime. For the next three years guests included the Queen's children: The Prince and Princess of Wales, The Duke and Duchess of Connaught and the Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck. In 1897, one year after his first wife died in 1896, Lord Mount Stephen married Georgina Mary (known as Gian) Tufnell, the Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, who encouraged the match. Gian was a lifelong friend and confidant of the Duchess's daughter, Mary of Teck, the wife of King George V, and the Mount Stephenses regularly entertained the Royal couple. Gian preferred life at Brocket Hall to the social life that surrounded their London residence at Carlton House Terrace. Lady Mount Stephen was a close friend of Georgina, Marchioness of Salisbury, who lived on the neighbouring estate, Hatfield House.
After the death of The 7th Earl Cowper (1905), the underlying future reversion was left to his niece, but she died only a year after him (1906) and the estate passed to her husband, Admiral Lord Walter Kerr, who lived at Melbourne Hall. When the life tenant Lord Mount Stephen died in 1921, Kerr put the estate up for sale and in 1923 it was purchased by Sir Charles Nall-Cain, who co-ran the brewing company Walker Cain Ltd; he was created Baron Brocket in 1933. His son, The 2nd Baron Brocket, was a Nazi sympathiser and, when he was interned during the Second World War, his property was sequestrated and put to use as a maternity hospital.
In 1996 the 3rd Baron Brocket (often styled as Charlie Brocket) was convicted of insurance fraud. While serving a prison sentence, he let the whole estate for a minimum of 60 years to CCA (Club Corporation of Asia) based in Hong Kong. CCA converted Brocket Hall into a hotel and conference centre, built a second eighteen-hole golf course and developed a restaurant called Auberge du Lac in an existing building on the estate.
The estate almost touches the A1(M) motorway near Welwyn Garden City which is on the opposite side of the motorway; administratively and historically it lies at the extreme northern end of Hatfield.
Park and lake
In the 1770s the park was landscaped making use of the River Lea which is dammed to form a "broadwater" or lake. Next to the weir is a neoclassical bridge, often described as Palladian, which carries an approach drive across the river: it is faced in Portland stone and was designed by Paine.
Paine also built the Temple with an Adam-style plaster ceiling, elliptical porch that has niches either side of a Victorian period half glazed door and a pediment above its eastern entrance, typical of the finest garden temples of the era.
In popular culture
Brocket Hall has been used as filming location for a number of large-scale film and television productions, including Night of the Demon (1957), Murder with Mirrors, Johnny English Reborn, The Queen, Willow and Pride and Prejudice featuring Colin Firth. It also features as the home of character Paul Eirl in the Inspector Morse episode, "Who Killed Harry Field?" (1991) and can be seen in the Agatha Christie's Poirot episode "The Labours of Hercules" (2013). It was also used in EastEnders on 1 January 2017 when characters Ronnie Mitchell and Jack Branning got married and Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell died. Brocket Hall was also in Holby City for a wedding. The same venue was used in the Shakin' Stevens Video of "You Drive Me Crazy" in 1980. In 1983, the hall and its grounds was used for Mike Oldfield's hit single “ Moonlight Shadow”. The British pop group Steps used it as the location for their 2001 music video for "It's the Way You Make Me Feel". Queen Victoria is seen visiting Lord Melbourne at Brocket Hall in several scenes of the ITV drama Victoria.
References and notes
- Historic England. "Brocket Hall, Hatfield (1100987)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
- William Page, ed. (1912). "Parishes: Hatfield". A History of the County of Hertford: volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "BROCKET, John (1513/14-58), of Wheathampstead and Brocket Hall, Hatfield, Herts". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- "Will of Sir John Brockett of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, proved 3 May 1558, PROB 11/40/218". National Archives. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- Melbourne, Elizabeth Milbanke Lamb; Gross, Jonathan David (1998), Byron's "Corbeau Blanc": The Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne, Texas A&M University Press, p. 27, ISBN 0-89096-672-9
- "Scandalous stately homes". Telegraph. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
- Bolton, Sarah (1891). Famous English Statesmen of Queen Victoria's Reign. Boston: C.J. Peter's and Sons. p. 85.
- Davenport-Hines, Richard (2008). Ettie: The Intimate Life And Dauntless Spirit Of Lady Desborough. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297851745.
- "Lady Mount Stephen". Every Woman's Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
- Stewart, David. "Parliamentary Debates". Parliament of the United Kingdom.
- "Home page". The Brocket Babies. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
- Walker, Esther (2007) "Bangers & cash: How Charlie Brocket reinvented himself as a purveyor of eco-friendly sausages", The Independent, 27 September 2007, retrieved 6 November 2010
- "Auberge Du Lac At Brocket Hall, Welwyn In Hertfordshire". Luxury Lifestyle Magazine. 23 August 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
- "Brocket Hall - Location". Brocket-hall.brocket-hall.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 April 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- Grid square map Ordnance survey website
- Historic England. "Park and Garden, Brocket Hall (1000540)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "Brocket Park" (PDF). hertsgardenstrust.org.uk. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
- Historic England. "The Temple, Brocket Hall (1100988)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- Historic England. "Brocket Lea (1100993)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "Johnny English and his links to Hertfordshire - News", Welwyn Hatfield Times, 15 October 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- "Victoria: Brocket Hall". Armchair Anglophile. 6 September 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
- The expression "held of" is frequently seen in local histories of all parishes of England and much of Western Europe and means held on a lease, which could be forfeited through for example attainder or non-payment of the agreed rent.