The History of New Hall Hotel & Spa
A History of New Hall
New Hall is reputed to be the oldest listed inhabited moated house in England. Prior to the Norman Conquest the land was owned by Edwin, Earl of Mercia, who was executed by William the Conqueror in 1071 and his property was annexed by the crown. In 1126 Henry І exchanged it for other lands with Roger de Newburgh, Earl of Warwick. By 1340 the estate was held by another Earl of Warwick, Thomas Beauchamp, who in the following year released it to Sir John Lizours, Knight, using the name “New Hall” for the first time.
During the War of the Roses, 1455-1485, the fortunes of the Hall waxed and waned, as did those of the Earls of Warwick, and in 1487 Anne, Countess of Warwick, ceded it again to the crown. By 1525 William Gibbons was is residence and it was his son, Thomas Gibbons, who made the first extensions in 1542.
1590 saw the advent of perhaps the most notable ancient family to occupy the Hall. Henry Sacheverall of Morley and Callow purchased the estate and embarked upon improvements to the house. On his death in 1620 it passed to his son Valens, and he in turn was succeeded by his son George who had for his chaplain the famous jacobite firebrand Dr. Henry Sacheverall (no relation). The doctor took up residence with his patron at New Hall after his trial for sedition in 1709 and he was later imprisoned at the house.
George’s great nephew, Charles Sacheverall Chadwick, a descendent of one of the Knights who fought for the conqueror at Hastings, inherited the estate in 1715. The house remained a Chadwick possession until 1897, though it was used as a boy’s school for a few years. John de Heley Chadwick, the last of the Chadwick family to reside at New Hall, added to its size and appearance in 1870 by enlarging the north wing and building up the central tower.
Walter Wilkinson purchased the estate in 1903 and resided at the Hall for the remainder of his life. Alfred Ernest Owen was the next owner in 1923, and New Hall later became the home of his famous son, Sir Alfred Owen, Chairman of Rubery Owen and Company Limited. Michael Blakemore another Midland business man was the last person to live at New Hall before it was bought by Thistle Hotels in 1985 and has been run as a luxury Country House Hotel since May 1988. New Hall is the leading hotel in Birmingham and the West Midlands area, receiving many awards and accolades since its opening and has become famous for looking after many of the stars that perform in Birmingham and at the National Exhibition Centre.
The Great Hall and the Dining Room are of Anglo Saxon origin. The walls of the Great Hall are lined with Oak panelling of the late 16th Century. Fine mullioned windows contain medallions of Flemish glass of excellent 16th Century workmanship. The fire place is 17th Century with a carved Oak overpiece.
In the Dining Room the moulded stone fireplace is late 17th Century. The 16th Century Flemish glass has old Dutch wording. Other windows have the Sacheverall Arms and Crests of the various branches of the Sacheverall family and the “Fate of the Cow” is shown in three insets.
The Great Chamber originally constructed in 1542 by Thomas Gibbons, was enlarged by Henry Sacheverall at the end of the 16th century, the oak panelling being of this period. The fine ribbed ceiling of moulded plasterwork, adorned with ormula and gilt, is also Elizabethan. The windows are glazed with small leaded quarters and many have diamond writings by George Sacheverall, dated 1689. Two superb 18th Century chandeliers complete the room.
The moat, originally formed in medieval times to provide protection, is fed by seven springs. The terraces which travel southwards of the moat are 16th or 17th century and other features of the garden were probably added during the 18th and 19th centuries. The grounds have extensive established shrubbed and wooded areas.
The story of New Hall...
Standing about a mile to the south-east of the parish church of Sutone Colfield (to use its antiquated spelling), New Hall rises majestically from a wide, deep moat that has lapped it’s walls for over 700 years. It lies within 26 acres of finely timbered land, rich pasture and elegant gardens and is widely reputed to be the oldest inhabited moated house in the country.
The history and development of the magnificent manor runs almost parallel to that of the parish Church of Holy Trinity, both being founded at the beginning of the 13th Century with significant enlargements during the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. It stands proud today as a constant reminder of the changing tastes of countless generations, reflective also of the many famous families that have resided here.
The Earls of Mercia:
The history of Sutton Coldfield can be traced back to the time of the Mercian Kings, prior to the Norman Conquest. Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and a grandson of Lady Godiva, owned much of the land, all of which was annexed by the crown at his execution by William the Conqueror in 1071. The Domesday Book of 1086 rates Sutton Coldfield at 8 hides, one of which, it seems highly likely, was the New Hall Estate.
The Earls of Warwick:
In 1126 King Henry I exchanged the land in Sutton Coldfield for other land with Roger de Newburgh, the then Norman Earl of Warwick and with the exception of two short intervals in history, the Warwick family held the estate for just over two hundred years. The spirit of the times made defence an essential consideration when considering a site for a house. In a county with an abundance of streams and springs, it was only natural that the habit of surrounding one’s houses with water for protection developed in the area. The seven springs in the near locality of the site of the present house almost certainly played a part in the Earl of Warwick’s decision to build the manor house in this location circa 1200.
The first house was built in grey-white masonry, most of which still stands today, although almost certainly with some later repairs. The plinth and two or three courses above it are ashlar, the remainder being of weather-worn rubble, mostly squared stones with ashlar angle dressings. This forms part of the present west range and south wing. Once the moat was established the only means of entry was a drawbridge by the main door, which today is used as access to the Bridge Restaurant.
In 1327 at the beginning of Edward III’s reign, William de Sutton, a descendant of Guy, Earl of Warwick, held New Hall. The estate then passed on to Robert de Sutton, a Coventry merchant, before passing back to the Earls of Warwick, more specifically Thomas de Beauchamp (LEFT: Thomas de Beauchamp's coat of arms), who in 1341, released all his rights in one message, called New Hall, to Sir John Lizours, Knight, who was attached to the Court of the Earl of Warwick. This is the first appearance of the name, New Hall.
A reminder of the long association of the Earls of Warwick with New Hall can be found on the first floor half-landing of the main staircase in the form of a bear and ragged staff (leading down from the Great Chamber to the Bridge Restaurant entrance). The bear has been emblematic of the house of Warwick, since their first Earl Arth, a Knight of the Round Table, adopted the bear to represent him. The staff is attributed to the second Earl, Morvid, who, according to legend, added it after overcoming a giant who attacked him with a tree that had been plucked from the ground by its roots and stripped of all its branches.
The Lizours Family:
Sir John Lizours and his descendents were to be the owners of New Hall for the two centuries following its ownership by the Earls of Warwick. Of direct Norman descent, heralding from Lizours, a village in L’Eure, approximately 18 miles from Rouen, the family settled primarily in Nottinghamshire and Sir John, who acquired New Hall in 1341, was the third Sir John of Fledburgh.
At this time, New Hall amounted to 407 acres and in 1359 Sir John entailed his estates, so no further record of ownership can be traced until 1431, when Sir Richard Stanhope, Knight, was granted various properties, including New Hall, by Thomas Basset of Fledburgh in return for a life annuity of twelve pounds. The connection between the Bassetts and Lizours is likely that of marriage. Sir Richard Stanhope’s daughter, Katherine, married William Bassett, son of Thomas. On his death in 1442 Katherine demised the estate for twenty-one years to William Deping of Sutton and Richard Ley of Maney, by the name of “Dominum Vocatum.”
For the period of the Wars of the Roses, 1455 - 1485, very few records of New Hall have been found as its fortunes followed the cycle of the wheel, as did those of the current Earls of Warwick in relation to the current stage of the Wars. The “Kingmaker”, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, was killed in 1487 during the Battle of Barnet. Ann, Countess of Warwick, ceded all her lands, with the exception of Erdington, to King Henry VII, of which New Hall was included. It is likely, given that the young Earl of Warwick had been imprisoned in the Tower of London for some time, that this “gift” to the Crown, was somewhat forced.
The Gibbons Family:
By 1525 Henry VII had been on the throne for sixteen years, and in this year William Gibbons, is mentioned as living at New Hall. He was Brother-in-Law to Bishop Vesey, who in 1528 obtained a Charter from Henry VIII placing the Chase and Manor of Sutton Coldfield in the hands of the local body, known as ‘the Warden and Society’, for the benefit of the inhabitants in perpetuity. The Bishop nominated his Brother-in-Law as the first Warden, whose son, Thomas, succeeded him.
Bishop Vesey’s association with Henry VIII continued and a Royal Visit to Sutton was arranged. Thomas Gibbons, being a man of some means, coupled with his Wardenship, began extensive alterations to New Hall in preparation for the great event. The north wing, including the Great Chamber, was added to match the style of the existing building, but in red sandstone, and the main stair hall against it is of the same period and material. The Great Hall (currently the fore part of the Restaurant) was extended and the large square projection on the south side was built as a great Tudor chimney stack, of which only the base now remains, as it was later converted into a bay. Magnificent 16th Century gables in the centre and on the left of the main front were constructed. Windows were added to the south and southeast wings and the square-headed windows of the second and third storeys, the former with transoms, appear to be insertions of this period.
According to legend King Henry’s visit to Sutton could have been fatal, as he was unexpectedly charged by a wild boar during a hunting trip with Bishop Vesey. An unseen marksman, in the form of a young, and beautiful woman, whose family had been dispossessed of their property, shot an arrow through the beast’s heart, killing it before the King was harmed. In return he ordered restitution of said lands and presented the woman with the Tudor Rose, which would henceforth be the emblem of Sutton Coldfield, her native town.
In 1559 Thomas Gibbons bought the advowson of Sutton Parish Church for 21 years, which gave him the right to appoint clergy there. This, presumably, was a lucrative investment as many of the landed gentry indulged in the practice. However, Thomas seems to have mishandled the privilege, as in 1581, he was bought before the Star Chamber Court for wrongful appropriation of church lands. He died five years later and was succeeded by his son, also named Thomas.
The Sacheverell Family:
1590 saw the advent of perhaps the most notable family ever to occupy New Hall. Henry Sacheverell of Morley and Callow, in Derbyshire, purchased the estate some time after the turn of the century, and he must have obtained possession soon after the death of Thomas Gibbons, whose initials and the date 1590 are carved in the one-storey bay window, to the south of the tower, suggesting that this wing is his work. Henry was the representative of an ancient family, his name coming from the Saultechevreuil in Normandy. He served as Sheriff of Derbyshire and married a daughter of Sir Humphrey Bradborne of Leicestershire, by whom he had a family of at least three children.
Henry Sacheverell embarked upon improvements to the Hall and was most clever in his adaptations, but he appears to have demolished part of the existing structure and rebuilt in the style pertaining to the period. In the lower part of the old front wall, he inserted a fine oak studded door as the main entrance. Above the door was placed a large shield displaying the Sacheverell/Chadwick coat of arms, the Sacheverell crest of a goat, and their Norman French motto ‘En Bon Foy’, meaning ‘In Good Faith’. The former staircase was elaborated and decorated with heraldic beasts, and possibly work was done on the fireplaces and chimney stacks in the Dining Room and Hall. The Great Chamber was enlarged by the addition of several bays, which were characteristic of that period; fine gables surmounted of carved finials, and splendid Elizabethan stone - mullioned windows, the front window over-hanging the moat and corbelling out on many mouldings from a central support of semi-hexagonal forms, containing loop-holes. North-east of the house, just outside the moat, a two story building was erected, with walls of scabbled squared rubble. The size and windows are suggestive that it was used as a chapel.
On Henry’s death in 1620 his bastard son Valens inherited the estate. It was not unusual in the Middle Ages, or through the Tudor period, for a man of recognised social standing to take on a mistress. Given that many marriages of the time, especially those of a son and heir were arranged by parents in light of possible settlements and dowries, this is perhaps understandable and it has been argued excusable. Thus it was that “Mistress Keics” gave Henry two illegitimate sons, and it was to the elder that he bestowed New Hall.
With the inheritance Valens became a man of assured position rather than a child born out of wedlock. Given this change in station he married Anne, daughter of Sir George Devereux, fifth Viscount of Hereford. They had two children, George, son and heir, and Anne, heiress to her brother. In 1628 Valens Sacheverell became the first owner of New Hall to register his children at the Parish Church of Holy Trinity.
In 1645, during the Civil War, Valens was charged with “compounding for delinquency in deserting his house for enemy quarters”, to which end he was fined a sum of 542 pounds. He was a Cavalier, and it is said that Charles II stayed one night at New Hall during his flight from England. Soon after this Valens must have let New Hall to a relation by marriage, Sir Walter Devereux, cousin of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and High Steward of Sutton Corporation.
Valens’ son, George succeeded his father at New Hall and later also inherited an estate in Callow from his uncle, Jacinth Sacheverell. The right to bear the Arms of Sacheverell was granted to George, albeit with additional “border gules” (a red border); this right had been denied his father due to his lineage. He married twice, firstly to Lucy Danet, and secondly to Mary Wilson, who survived him. There were no surviving children from either union.
George, albeit a little eccentric, was also, like his father, a man of strong opinions. He was an Elected Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and they are still in possession of a silver salver and tankard engraved with the Sacheverell Arms presented to them in the year of his death. He was also an enthusiastic Jacobite and on his appointment as High Sheriff of Derbyshire he nominated Dr. Henry Sacheverell as his chaplain – a famous firebrand for the Jacobite cause. In 1709, during a sermon given at St. Paul’s he made a personal attack against Lord Gondolphin, the Whig Prime Minister; the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London were in attendence. The contents of the sermon were committed to print and Dr. Sacheverell was charged with sedition. He was found guilty and suspended from preaching for three years, and the offending sermon was ordered to be burned by the public hangman. Queen Anne attended the trial each day for the three weeks in which it took place, in support of Dr. Sacheverell, and in general this reflected public opinion. The light sentence only increased his popularity, and played some considerable part in the defeat of the Whigs at the next General Election.
Shortly after the trial Dr. Sacheverell took up residence with his patron at New Hall. Then on 20th October 1714, at Sutton Coldfield Parish Church, he preached a sermon, to a congregation augmented with some two hundred Jacobites, so inflammatory that his audience left the church with riot in their minds and proceeded to set fire to meeting houses and generally disturbing the peace.
As a result the Doctor was put under house arrest at New Hall, and was promptly forgotten by his ‘admirers’ and by the government. Whilst here, he managed to convince George that he was a kinsman, although this appears unlikely, more so that he was really descended from the Cheveralls of Dorset. George was convinced however, and bequeathed a moiety of his estate in Callow to Henry, which he inherited on George’s death. Henry later married George’s widow.
When looking at the life of George Sacheverell we see two very different portraits, of which in both it seems that there are elements of truth. On the one hand, we look at the Latin inscription on his monument (in the family vault that he was granted permission to build in the Parish Church) and he seems a man “endowed with great genius, noted for his affability, politeness and serious study, who, during the Civil War followed arts and poetry rather than the war”. He was the Justice of Sutton and for many years, it appears that he afforded an exemplary example of piety towards God, and generosity to the poor.
In contrast to this somewhat glowing portrayal several of the Sacheverells were suspected of magical practices. It seems certain that one of them was an alchemist, as verses written at the time show. A poem entitled “Sacheverell’s Warning” indicates that this was George, given that he was the last in the line. Another poem, “The Alchemist of New Hall” describes a visitation from a demon, clearly indicating that there was a school of thought that considered Sacheverell to be in league with the devil. Copies of both these poems can be found on the walls in the bar.
The exact whereabouts of Sacheverell’s study at New Hall is not certain, but when the passage known as the Screens, at the side of the Great Hall was removed a room was discovered, also oak-paneled and could well have been a secret study.
Given that he outlived his sister, and had no heir of his own, the estate passed to his great nephew, Charles Chadwick, on his death in 1715.
The Chadwick Family:
The Chadwicks held land at Berewick in Salop and Mavesyn-Ridware in Staffordshire. They were of ancient lineage being descended from Mavesyn, or Malvoisin, one of the Knights who fought at Hastings for William the Conqueror. It appears that Charles ‘Sacheverell’ Chadwick took up residence in New Hall in 1729, presumably in preparation for his marriage.
To paraphrase an article by “Gentlemen’s Magazine” written at the time painting is not to the taste of the gentry here, although on the whole it is an agreeable neighborhood, if only because of the complete lack of party zeal. This was to change in 1745 when an incident occurred that many say is responsible for one of the ghosts at New Hall.
An army, headed by the Duke of Cumberland, was sent in pursuit of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was marching from Scotland to England with his eye on the throne. The advance party lost its way near Tyburn and stopped a local man to ask directions. The man, however, had no roof to his mouth and was unable to make himself understood, at which an officer ordered his execution, believing him to be a spy. The body was thrown in a ditch in Eachelhurst, and the head carried, in triumph atop a halberd, to New Shipton, where it was flung into an oak tree. The tree was felled in 1827 and the skull rolled out. Since then, it is said, that a body-less head can be seen drifting from Wylde Green Road across New Hall estate, to where its body was thrown.
Charles Chadwick died in natural circumstances in 1779 and his spinster sister, Dorothy, inherited the estate. Six years later, whilst counting out some money to donate to charity a candle set fire to her bonnet and the good lady passed away, leaving the property to Ralph Floyer of Hints for the rest of his days, although, the youngest brother of Charles, John, actually inherited the estate.
John had married an heiress and, on Ralph Floyer’s death in 1793 began alterations to New Hall, although he never actually lived here, rather prepared it for his son, Charles. The bay on the west side was widened and a third storey was added above the whole widened bay to form a low tower above the roof with a still higher square turret, making a fourth storey above the newer part. The extensions were in brickwork with red stone quoins and Gothic windows, and having embattled parapets.
Much of John’s work was altered in 1868, by his great grandson, but it was John who first built the tower, and dated it 1796, with his initials, those of his son (Charles Chadwick), and also his grandson (Hugo Mavesyn Chadwick). Charles adorned several windows with pieces of painted glass from Flanders, representing legendary subjects, and also assembled a valuable collection of books and pictures.
Charles’ only son Hugo inherited New Hall on the death of his father in 1829 but spent most of his life traveling, and whilst in England, tended to stay at his home in Ridware. New Hall was occupied by a farmer for most of the first decade and largely used for storage purposes, the room above the Great Chamber was used as an apple store, and by 1840 the floor was so rotten that it became unsafe. The house was then let to a Birmingham merchant named Jacot, until Hugo returned from his final journey and took up residence at New Hall, circa 1850. He thoroughly repaired the armorial cornice in the Great Chamber and restored much of the building, passing the estate to his son on his death in 1854.
John de Heley Chadwick was a Lieutenant in the Second Dragoon Guards and had served his country with credit during the Indian Mutiny. His inheritance consisted of four ancestral estates: Healey Hall, New Hall, Callow and Mavesyn Ridware. He married the eldest daughter of Major F. B. Good of the Bengal Cavalry. He was also a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Warwick. However, despite his position of prominence he was not only hugely extravagant but also a gambler that, despite bringing more life and gaiety to New Hall than had ever been seen before, also bought about his bankruptcy in 1883.
To help settle some of his debts a sale was arranged of numerous items at New Hall, of which one was the chandeliers that hang in the Great Chamber; these were sold to a Mr. Chatwin of Edgbaston. Fortunately, his son offered them back to the then owner of New Hall, Mr. Walter Wilkinson, in 1910.
New Hall College:
In 1882 Aston Rural Sanitary Authority had laid main sewers to the Hall, a somewhat modern convenience for the time, but one that would have played a part in the decision being made to use the building and surrounding twenty acres for a school.
The college opened in 1885 with one Mr. F. W. W. Howell as Principal, although he tragically drowned whilst on a visit to Iceland, and by 1891, the school was run by Mr. J. Everard Healey and his son. Over the next few years New Hall would see an increase of 14 boarding pupils to sixty-two.
The Great Hall was used for dining purposes; the Great Chamber employed as a reception room, and on occasion, as a special Assembly Hall. The lofty upper rooms were used as dormitories, whilst the lower ones were used as classrooms. The second bridge was enclosed. The chapel, which had been used as a coach house was adapted as a carpenter’s shop, and later as a gymnasium. Playing areas were laid out in the fields and gardens. In 1902, electricity was laid on.
Schoolboy tales abounded, but the most memorable tell of cunning monster pike living in the moat steadfastly refusing to be caught, and of the eerie old owl that lived in the tower, and was constantly exploited as a means to scare new boys. Although, it is unknown why, it seems there was a common habit of throwing ink wells in the moat given the great number that were discovered when it was cleared by its next owner.
The College focused on preparing pupils for Professional or Commercial careers, with particular emphasis on French and German, and claimed many successes in Public Examinations. In spite of this though it was not a success financially and was eventually bought as a private residence again in 1903.
Walter Wilkinson, joint owner of a wholesale millinery business, was responsible, with the help of his wife, for modernising and redecorating New Hall, returning it to its former splendor. They moved in to the Hall in 1904 where home and garden became the main occupiers of his time. Many garden parties were held, often for charities, and these sometimes included an account of the Hall’s history to the guests.
After an operation in 1922 Mr. Wilkinson died of a heart attack, aged 74, and the estate passed to his wife. On her death, there being no heirs, a Mr. Alfred Owen, an industrialist from the midlands, bought the estate.
The Owen Family:
Alfred Ernest Owen was born in Wrexham, Wales, and throughout his life played an active part in the development of bicycle, motor car and aeroplane. In 1893 he moved to Darlston, Staffordshire, where, with his partner, Mr. Rubery, he set up a small engineering business.
By 1896 he had developed the presses steel car chassis which won the company a gold medal, and over time he built up the firm, weathering even the Depression of the 1920s. By the time of the New Hall purchase “Rubery Owen” was synonymous with the supply of car components.
In 1923, Alfred Owen, his wife and young family officially moved into New Hall. A keen collector of arts in general, Alfred had a special love for English colour printing, and built up one of the first complete collections of Baxter prints, for which his new home was supposed to be the ideal setting. It was not to be. Mr. Owen’s early death in 1929 meant they were left undisturbed in a vault that they had been stored in for later reframing, until their later discovery in 1981.
Florence Owen, took on the daunting task of running the New Hall estate and bringing up her family alone after the death of her husband. For the next twenty-nine years New Hall flourished under her ministrations, and gave pleasure to many thousands of visitors. Perhaps also, this was the reason why they suffered a loss of some three thousand pounds worth of jewellery to theft, a cat-burglar managed to climb the water pipe and entered the house through a window on the first floor. In former years bars had protected this window, but they had been removed so as to enable occupants to escape in case of fire during the war. They had not been replaced afterwards.
Florence Owen died in 1958, and with the exception of a live in caretaker it stood empty for the next six years until her son, Sir Alfred George Beech Owen, took up residence.
Sir Alfred Owen left his studies at Cambridge to take over the reins of the Rubery Owen Company and showed tremendous energy at the helm of the biggest private family business in Britain. Besides being Chairman and Joint Managing Director of Rubery Owen and Co. Ltd. he was also on the Board of ninety-nine companies and Chairman of over eighty. On top of this he also held thirty voluntary offices in social work and twenty in church work, as well as being a lay preacher in the Anglican Church. During 1951 and 1952 he was Mayor of Sutton Coldfield and received his Knighthood in 1961. In 1970 Alderman Sir Alfred Owen was made Freeman of the Borough of Sutton Coldfield, and was the last person to hold this office.
Sir Alfred Owen had one other passion: racing cars and track events. He sponsored the BRM racing cars and received the Ferodo trophy as the man who had done the most for British racing in 1963.
Sir Alfred passed away on 29th October 1975, once again leaving New Hall empty save for a caretaker. The Rubery Owen Group spent several years looking for a use for New Hall, including offering it to the National Trust, before it was eventually put up for sale.
The Blakemore Family:
The next owner was Mr. Michael Blakemore, a Midland businessman, with three generations of involvement in farming and meat wholesale. New Hall Estate, listed at 135 acres in size appealed to Mr. Blakemore as much as the house itself and he purchased it in January 1982.
Despite being structurally sound, The Hall was in need of internal work in order to make it suitable for family occupation. As a result the building was completely rewired, the central heating modernised, the rooms redecorated and a new kitchen fitted. At the same time the whole house was re-carpeted and work was done on the grounds and gardens.
The estate had many other buildings, some of which were in quite a state of disrepair. Some of these outbuildings were sold off, which not only helped to ensure that they received the attention they needed, but also provided the finance for work done on the Hall.
In 1985 Thistle Hotels approached Mr. Blakemore expressing interest in buying the property. Despite being initially reluctant he did agree in the end, believing that it served the best interests of the building itself, and that as a part of the town’s heritage it should be made more available to the public.
New Hall Thistle:
Thistle Hotels purchased New Hall and twenty-six acres of surrounding land, including the most notable features of the garden in 1985 and invested substantial amounts of money restoring the buildings before opening as a country house hotel and restaurant. The emphasis was on extension rather than alteration and much of the original character was retained, with a new wing, built in the style of the old, containing 48 bedrooms.
The Hotel opened in May of 1988.
Towards the end of 2004 negotiations began between Bridgehouse Capital Ltd and Thistle Hotels for the removal of the five country house hotels from under the Thistle umbrella. The official hand-over took place in February of 2005. New Hall Hotel & Spa remained a Bridgehouse Hotel until February 2008.
Since February 2008, New Hall Hotel & Spa has been owned by Handpicked Hotels. Hand Picked Hotels was set up by financier Guy Hands and his wife Julia, owns and operates a collection of individual and historic country house hotels. Julia, a former lawyer, now runs Hand Picked Hotels.
Hand Picked Hotels began in 1999 whereby the company bought seven hotels from Virgin. In November that year Hand Picked Hotels bought another eleven hotels from the Arcadian Hotel chain.
In February 2008, Hand Picked Hotels obtained another three hotels, including New Hall Hotel & Spa, bringing the total number of hotels to 17 and approximately 950 bedrooms within the group.
The Ghosts of New Hall:
New Hall has witnessed many historic events over the past eight hundred years, and numerous families have lived and worked within it’s walls, so it is not surprising that there are a number of ghost stories associated with the house. However, ghosts tend to have rather disobliging habits; they elude even the most dedicated ghost hunters, but materialise without warning to those people who claim not to believe in them, and though darkness is their element, they are frequently seen in broad daylight. Such are the ghosts of New Hall.
The most macabre legend refers to the ghost of a local man who had a speech impediment. In the year of 1745 an army under the Duke of Cumberland was sent in pursuit of “Bonnie Prince Charlie” – pretender to the English throne, who was marching from Scotland to England. The Duke’s advance party lost it’s way near Tyburn and asked for directions from a local man, who, having no roof to his mouth was unable to make himself understood. Thinking he was a spy, an officer ordered his execution. The victim’s body was then thrown in a ditch at Eachelhurst and his head carried in triumph on a halberd to New Shipton, where it was flung into an oak tree. The tree was felled in 1827 at which point the skull rolled out. Since then, at the hour of dusk, the nebulous bodiless head makes it’s appearance, drifting slowly from the Wylde Green Road, across New Hall estate towards the spot where the body was tossed.
Inside the house a lady in white is said to haunt the Red Landing. No-One is certain who she is, but perhaps she is the wife of Henry Sacheverell who dies at the beginning of the 17th century, and the many coats of arms which decorate the timbers of the ceiling on the landing remind her of the lost heritage of her own children, for her husband bestowed New Hall on Valens, the elder of his two illegitimate sons by “Mistress Keics”.
Sometimes it is an audible rather than a visual effect of a ghost which is experienced and this is the probable explanation of the loud crashing noise which may be heard in the area adjacent to the Dining Room. A former resident of New Hall relates how one evening, when sitting in what is now the dining room she heard a loud crashing noise nearby, which she likened to the sound of a large dresser falling. When she rushed to see what had happened, she found everything in perfect order. The noise remains unexplained, but the area where it occurs is where the secret study of George Sacheverell was found, currently the Oak Room. At the beginning of the 18th Century he was known as “The Alchemist of New Hall”. Maybe it is George up to some of his old tricks!
Another ghostly happening which is heard and not seen may be experienced after dark in the circle of trees at the end of the Yew Tree Walk. Here voices and the noise of galloping horses may be heard. Who is riding with such haste and calling with such urgency? The answer may be found to relate to the period of the Civil War. In 1645 Valens Sacheverell was charged with “compounding for delinquency in deserting his house for enemy quarters” and he was fined a sum of £542. Valens supported the Cavaliers, and it is said that Charles II stayed one night at new Hall during his flight from England. There are so many records of sightings of ghosts of Cavaliers in the area, such as the young man with long black hair, wearing a beautiful velvet suit with a ruffle at his neck, and black patent shoes with large buckles., who has been seen many times at the 400 year old Three Tuns Pub about a mile down the road from New Hall. There is also the mass grave of Cavaliers and Roundheads at the old parish church of St. Nicholas in the village of Curdworth, where according to legend a hoard of treasure lies buried, and an apparition walks along the old road seeking it. So many murderous incidents happened in this area during this period of history, that the dashing coach may well carry a Cavalier making his escape.
However, the lady in dark clothing, with a dog, who has been seen on the driveway of New Hall is more likely to be a local woman who worked at the manor. It is often said that small children have natural psychic abilities and can evoke responsiveness from ghosts. This was the case when the lady was seen near the old kennels by the children of a gardener at New Hall, for she held her hand out to them, as a mother would offer her hand to her child.
If you are fortunate enough to see or hear a ghost, don’t be afraid, as it is a matter of record that people who have undergone such experiences, whether at New Hall or anywhere else, feel a sense of peace and tranquility after the event.