When Rookery Hall was built in 1816 it was known as “The Rookery, Worleston” and was the home of William Hilton Cooke, whose family portrait hangs in the Salon.
Apart from owning Rookery Hall and 500 acres of surrounding land, Cooke was also the proprietor of a sugar plantation in Jamaica named Chester Castle.
The next chapter comes in 1867 when Baron William Von Schroder bought the hall together with the park, farms and greenhouses, where vines were grown successfully. He was the son of Baron John Henry Von Schroder, founder of merchant bankers J Henry Schroder and Company.
Baron William became a justice of the peace, Lieutenant of the County of Cheshire and, finally, High Sheriff in 1888. He was a keen sportsman and loved hunting. He died in 1912 at the age of 71 and is buried in Worleston churchyard.
The Von Schroder crest and coat of arms can be seen on the beautiful barrelled ceiling in the main dining room. The baron changed the traditional Georgian mansion into a small chateau. Furthermore, he was responsible for substantial additions to the building, giving the house the unusual character which makes it almost unique in this country.
After the hall was sold in 1947, it continued to be used as a private house until its purchase in 1979 by Harry and Jean Norton. These renowned hoteliers embarked on the successful transformation of Rookery Hall into an exclusive hotel with 12 en suite rooms and an acclaimed restaurant. In 1984 the Marks family bought the hotel when the Nortons retired and the reputation for fine cuisine and wines was continued under the new management. It has, through the years, been transformed into the very elegant country house it is today.
The sympathetic addition of the 1990's wing in 1990 further enhanced the Hall's reputation as one of the most distinguished country houses in Britain. The style and build blends with the character of the existing building and complements the already magnificent features whilst creating another 21 bedrooms for the hotel.
The renovation of the stables block, which once housed the family’s hunt horses, has been sympathetically converted to a health club and spa, which despite its exterior – which remains untouched – is very contemporary on the inside. The new executive extension was added in 2007 with 39 Executive and Deluxe bedrooms and a superb suite of function rooms
The lovely setting of the hall amid 38 acres of gardens and wooded parkland, fringing the banks of the River Weaver, ensures complete tranquillity and the atmosphere of a bygone age. The front entrance looks across lawns to a small lake, while to the rear a magnificent terrace overlooks a fountain and lawn garlanded by well stocked flower borders. From this side of the property there are great views across timbered parkland to attractive meadows and woods.
The architecture is impressive, with external walls of fine mellowed sandstone under a Westmorland slated roof and a fairytale tower at the northwest corner. Internally, the beautiful proportioned reception rooms are notable for the elegance of the Salon, the splendid oak staircase and the wood panelling in the sitting room/study. Most memorable is the highly polished mahogany in the Dining Room – the craftsman’s skill is evident in the magnificent ceiling with its four crests, nine coronets and frieze of winged cherubs. In the Salon there is a fine marble fireplace which dates from the original house.
Would-be guests should not be deterred by the legend of the ghosts. The Grey Lady, whose portrait hangs in the Drawing Room, was an elderly maid of the Cookes, the builders of the hall. She had a fatal fall whilst hanging curtains and is said to roam the corridors, leaving a sweet smell of flowers in her wake. Another tale refers to young master Schroder who sometimes materialises in the Salon crying because he has lost his dog. His pet's grave can be seen near the old walled garden.
Rookery Hall is now an elegant 70 bedroom country house hotel which has been awarded four red star status by the AA and The Hall has also achieved notable accolades for its fine cuisine and wine list.