Hazelwood Hall

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Hazelwood Hall
Hazelwood Hall is located in the City of Lancaster district
Hazelwood Hall
Location within the City of Lancaster district
General information
Type Victorian mansion
Location Silverdale, Lancashire
Country England
Coordinates 54°10′01″N 2°49′37″W / 54.1670°N 2.8270°W / 54.1670; -2.8270Coordinates: 54°10′01″N 2°49′37″W / 54.1670°N 2.8270°W / 54.1670; -2.8270

Hazelwood Hall is a Victorian mansion set in 18.5 acres of mature woodland and gardens in the village of Silverdale, Lancashire, England, some 8.5 miles (14 km) north of Lancaster. It has recently been converted into luxury apartments.

History of Hazelwood Hall and Heald Brow[edit]

The history of Hazelwood Hall is typical of many small estates and country houses that developed in southern Lakeland and the Arnside and Silverdale area during the last 200 years. In fact a similar story can be told about the development of houses and land in many areas of the most attractive countryside within easy travelling distance of industrial towns. The historical development and landscape changes associated with Hazelwood Hall reflect the development of this area in response to the major changes that affected the English countryside during this period. These changes were interrelated, starting with the enclosure of the remaining areas of common land and the evolving Industrial Revolution at the end of the 18th century. This was followed by the development of the railways opening up attractive areas of coast and countryside for settlement and investment by wealthy industrialists.

This process continued and entered a mature phase in the early 20th century and then declined after the Second World War. This coincided with a whole range of other changes that had a profound effect on the countryside. These included the rapid increase in motor traffic and building development, which started as ribbon development leading to suburban expansion – rising wages and taxation affecting the upkeep of large country houses and estates. The new Town and Country Planning legislation was brought in to restrict destructive building development in coast and countryside. The spread of industrial methods to the countryside led to intensive farming and the relative neglect of grazing on poorer and more difficult land.

Whilst these were necessary restrictions and welcome developments at the time, providing protection of the countryside and increased food production, it is only in the last twenty or thirty years that the real long-term effect of some of these changes has begun to become apparent. One of the most profound changes is the displacement of the traditional rural population (farming families, trades people and rural workers) by urban wealth. The inflation of property values has helped the more wealthy executives, business and professional people (who previously lived in the towns and suburbs) to move into the countryside. Planning control protecting the amenity of the countryside by severely restricting new development has reinforced the whole process and this is reflected in inflated house prices and lack of affordable homes for young people.

Solutions to these problems are being sought and we are now on the cusp of the next big changes that will be brought about by the adaptations that will be needed to deal with the effects of climate change and the decline in basic resources that have driven our industrial society up to now. This description of the story of Hazelwood Hall helps to illustrate how changes in social and economic circumstances have affected life in the countryside.

Warton with Lindeth Manor enclosure 1811-1817[edit]

The unenclosed open land extended from the shore over the whole of Heald Brow and most of Lindeth to Woodwell – with the exception of ancient enclosures of the fields around Dykes Farm at Jenny Browns Point and Fleagarth on the southern slopes of Heald Brow, plus Magstone Wood (on early maps Flag stone) and Fleagarth Wood. The main woodland areas were probably present as relic scrub woodland similar to the semi-natural woodland pasture at Jack Scout. The species forming the core of Sunside Wood and the other semi-natural woodland will have survived from the open common wood pasture.

Surveys and historical records 1829-1960[edit]

The survey plan of estate in Lindeth, parish of Warton in 1829, appears to be the first record of Hill Top on the position of future Hazelwood. A single building was shown with straight access track to Hollins Lane corner. This survey may have been completed shortly after the house was built. Main areas of semi-natural woodland at Sunside Wood were shown together with linear planting around the field boundaries. Some surviving old parkland trees could date from this time.

A book about the firm, Websters of Kendal, quotes, "Hill Top (now Hazelwood) for Leonard Willan; a classical villa with matching lodge and a good farmhouse." This may have marked an important development of Hill Top into a classical style villa, and enough of the original build remains to suggest that it is a Webster house of the 1840s.

The 1846 Warton with Lindeth Tithe Map shows main areas of woodland as linear plantations and the house with a yard and lane. The 1948 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map shows the same information as the Tithe Map with woodland occupying the same areas as they have throughout the 20th century up to 2007. A small area of garden was shown approximately where the walled garden is now. On 21 March 1849, the Lancaster Gazette published a Sale of Wood - "The property of Mr. Leonard Willan about 5000 young trees lately cut down, suitable for props, railing or Scotch fencing". This may have been the first thinning of poles from the 1840s planting of Beech and European larch in the woodland belts, remnants of which are still standing in 2007.

The 1850-1860 witnessed some extensive alterations made to the Hazelwood estate. These include the building of a farmhouse (Hazelwood Farm), the lodge and extensions to the house. It is believed that some of the materials from Hill Top were used in the new farmhouse. This was possibly when the woodlands and parkland began to be laid out as a pleasure ground.

Ownership changes, 1870-1915[edit]

Ownership of Hill Top (Hazelwood) was passed to Thomas Dunn family, circa 1870, which was then rented by Isaac Smith until 1915. The second edition of the OS map now named Hill Top as Hazelwood which now includes top lawn with possible "ha-ha" (20 m nearer to the house than the 20th century position), the walled garden and all the woodland walks. The woodland areas shown are about the same as those that survive in 2007. William James Sharp of Bleasdale House, Silverdale bought Leavens Field, Over Croft and Magson Wood in 1912, and in 1916 also acquired Hazelwood. This is followed by major alterations to the house and garden, further extensive planting in the woodland belts, including Corsican pine and the arboretum of conifers and rhododendron in Magstone Wood. Work started in 1916 to extend Hazelwood to the designs of Prentice Mawson (Thomas Mawson's son). Garden work included terraces, steps, fountain and grotto, pergola, statues and seat as well as the planting of shrubbery and flowerbeds. The extent of Mawson's involvement in the wider landscape work such as the woodland paths, edged with limestone boulders and stone seats, including viewpoint in Sunside Wood, is not known. In 1920 or 1921 the Sharp family moved to Kent and rented Hazelwood to Harold Carrington.

Involvement of Thomas Mawson 1925[edit]

In 1925, landscape architects Thomas Mawson and his son Edward architects were employed by the Sharp family, who had returned from Kent, to design a new house and garden at Grey Walls, now Ridgeway Park, on the south-west slope of Heald Brow. At the time this house was built, Heald Brow was used for grazing with fine views of Morecambe Bay. Since Grey Walls was built the land surrounding the garden was not grazed and woodland grew blocking the views. This had also happened elsewhere in the area.

Ownership changes, 1945[edit]

In 1945 Hazelwood Hall, woods and parkland were sold to the Carrington family while the Sharp family retained remainder of Silverdale Estate. Subsequently, Hazelwood Hall was bequeathed to the Roman Catholic Church, St. John of God, and was converted for use as a hospital for the chronically sick, A church and additional accommodation were built with minimum consideration for aesthetics and the relationship with the existing house and landscape. From about this time, the garden and the woodland management started to be neglected. In 1967, St. John of God sold Hazelwood Hall to the missionary Sisters of our Lady of the Apostles. The Brothers left the Hospital on 31 December and the Sisters took over possession on 1 January 1968. They looked after a number of chronically sick patients as long term residents on the ground floor but had a contract with the NHS to nurse orthopaedic convalescent patients upstairs. As the need for this reduced with improvements to orthopaedic techniques, a number of beds were taken over for palliative care as the local element of the growing hospice movement. In 1980 eight beds were in use for this and a trust was established to build a purpose-built hospice for North Lancashire and South Lakeland in Lancaster (St John's Hospice). This opened in December 1985 and the sisters moved with the patients to the new facility.

In 1986 Hazelwood Hall was acquired by Mrs. Burns and converted for use as a nursing home for the elderly. The Lodge, Magstone Wood and the walled garden, on the other hand, were acquired by Roger Walton who, with his wife, started considerable restoration of these areas. The walled garden is again restored to full production, now with beekeeping in addition.

In 1992 Hazelwood Hall was taken over by Professional Health Care (UK) Ltd. Roger Cartwright, estate management consultant, was appointed to produce a Landscape Management Plan for the Woodland. The survey for this confirmed that the semi-natural woodland and the parkland planting that included fine beech, larch and pine were of considerable wildlife as well as landscape interest. The historic parkland was now mature but the terraces, shrubbery and gardens around the house were neglected and likely to be very costly to restore. Countryside Stewardship and Woodland Grant Scheme agreements provided some assistance and it was possible to commence woodland and parkland restoration.

Woodland regeneration 1993[edit]

Two areas of woodland went through major thinning. Sunside Wood (2 hectares or 4.9 acres) consisted of a semi-natural mixed wood of mainly ash and yew with a few scattered old oaks and small leaved lime with low stunted crowns, all growing on limestone pavement with a shaded understorey of moss, ivy and ferns. Beech, Scots pine and larch had been planted in about 1850 on the western edge. The second area, Parkland Belts (0.6 hectares or 1.5 acres) consisted of similar 1850 planting of beech with a few oak, Scots pine and larch, all of which were tall closely spaced, in poor condition with spindly crowns and many were beginning to die and several had been blown over. The woodland was also open to grazing as part of the parkland area and had been used for winter feeding and dumping rubbish. The intention was to thin these woods but it was found that they had deteriorated to such an extent that a partial clear fell was needed to avoid further wind blow. As a result, 163 trees were felled with a volume of 256 cubic metres, consisting of 108 beech, 7 oak, 18 sycamore, 8 ash, 5 wych elm, 1 horse chestnut, 9 European larches, 6 Scots pines and 1 Corsican pine. The timber was sold for the sum of £6,200.

The felled areas were fenced and planted with a mixture of oak, hornbeam and wild cherry with the anticipation that this would be supplemented by natural regeneration of ash, beech, birch and a few Scots pine. The extent of the felling caused considerable local concern at the loss of beautiful mature trees that were significant landscape features and provided old wood habitat for bats and birds such as nuthatch. The benefits included opening views of the estuary and Lakeland Fells that had been lost for a hundred years and the opportunity to create more diverse, natural woodland with a high proportion of native species.

National Trust, 1999[edit]

In 1999, the Sharp Estate Silverdale which includes Heald Brow and Leavens Field (land of the former Hazelwood Estate) was acquired by the National Trust. This land adjoins and surrounds Hazelwood Hall and has become a significant part of the Trust's Silverdale estate. The National Trust has continued the woodland management with a greater emphasis on conservation and has cleared areas of scrub woodland that had invaded limestone pavement. The National Trust has also accelerated the scrub clearance as part of the Countryside Stewardship management of the limestone grassland and has continued to manage the land with the assistance of an organic farmer using native cattle and sheep. In the last few years the National Trust has recorded an increased number of fritillary butterflies and other rare species.

Estate management, 1992–2006[edit]

Under a Countryside Stewardship agreement, provision was made of a new permissive public path, which opened up the old woodland walks to link with the public footpath across Heald Brow from Lindeth to the shore at Jenny Brown’s Point. The parkland, which was used for grazing since the 1970s, was turned into low density organic grazing with native cattle, supported by sheep and ponies. Relics of the limestone grassland flora remained and under Stewardship and organic management this has flourished. A part-time estate worker was employed for the essential maintenance of the gardens, paths and woodland. The "Piggeries", an ornamental field barn in the park, was converted into a "holiday" cottage. This has now become a permanent residence.

In 2006 Hazelwood Hall and grounds were acquired by Pringle Homes with planning permission for conversion into 21 luxury second home apartments The ugly additional accommodation and the redundant Roman Catholic church have been demolished and Pringle Homes almost completed the garden restoration and conversion of the house. In August the building restoration work is still in progress and the new planting in the Mawson Garden is well established. The permissive footpath has been re-routed away from the "ha-ha" on the edge of the garden and now follows a diagonal route across the parkland with good views. The conservation grazing has continued during this very wet summer and in mid-July a botanical survey of the grassland by John and Jill Webb identified some 61 species.

The Mawson garden and restoration, 2006-2007[edit]

The Mawson gardens were created when the Sharp family acquired Hazelwood in 1916. Thomas Mawson was at the height of his fame as a landscape architect. The garden fell into disrepair following years of neglect and changes of use of Hazelwood Hall from a convent to a nursing home. In 2006-2007, the hall was converted into apartments and restoration began. The garden was restored to the original Mawson's vision based on old photographs, careful excavation and interpretation other evidence. Characteristic of Mawson's work, including tiered terraces, a grotto and pergola garden, were restored. Although there was no record of the original planting plans for the pergola garden and formal rose gardens, species from the period such as China roses were used.[1]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Roger Cartwright, Estate Management Consultant, reference note, August 2007.
  2. ^ Kit Patrick, Taylor Patrick McVean, Landscape Architects, Manchester.
  3. ^ Pringle Homes, Developers, The Coach House, Hollowforth Lane, Preston.
  4. ^ Lawson Architects, Whittle Le, Chorley.