James Lionel Dugdale (1862-1941) laid the foundation stone of Crathorne Hall in December 1903 and the house was completed in June 1906, becoming the largest country house built during the reign of Edward VII.
It was built with 115 rooms, 41 of which were bedrooms. There were 26 live-in servants who occupied the servants’ wing built around a courtyard adjoining the main block on the eastside.
The Dugdale family, having made money in the Lancashire cotton trade, had bought the Crathorne Estate in 1844, mainly for the partridge shooting and trout fishing, but it was several decades before the family moved permanently. The previous owners of the estate had lived at Crathorne for five centuries and taken the name Crathorne in the 14th century.
The size of the hall perhaps reflected Lionel Dugdale’s wife, Violet’s supposed ambitions to launch her son into politics and her daughter into an advantageous marriage. If these were her wishes she succeeded as her daughter, Beryl, married the Earl of Rothes at Crathorne in 1926 and her son, Thomas Lionel (1897- 1977) became Conservative MP for the Richmondshire Division in 1929.
Seven years later Thomas married Nancy Tennant, a talented painter, some of whose works hang in the hall. She was born in 1904 when her father was 81. She was the last of his 16 remarkable children – the best known being her half sister Margot Asquith, wife of the prime minister.
After the death of Thomas’s parents during the war, he and Nancy moved into the hall. Sir Thomas Dugdale (as he became in 1945) was minister of agriculture in Winston Churchill’s post-war Cabinet but resigned from that position on a matter of principle in 1954 over the Crichel Down affair.
In 1959, 30 years after becoming an MP, he was created a peer and sat in the House of Lords as the first Lord Crathorne.
Many famous names have stayed at the hall, including Conservative prime ministers Sir Anthony Eden, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Macmillan (later Earl of Stockton) and Sir Edward Heath, as well as Lord Mountbatten, Group Captain Douglas Bader – the legless hero of the Battle of Britain – the Queen Mother, Prince Charles, racing driver Graham Hill, actresses Edith Evans and Sybil Thorndyke, musicians Yehudi Menuhin, composer Benjamin Brittain and comedians John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman and Bill Oddie, who stayed for a week.
Thomas Dugdale, first Lord Crathorne died peacefully at the Hall on 26th March 1977 when his son James inherited the title, and became the second Lord Crathorne.