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Hall Close, Brook Street, Wymeswold

Alec Moretti

The site of the old Wymeswold Hall is on the terraced part of Hall Field at the east end of Brook Street. Little is known about it, but in Derbyshire Record Office at Matlock are the manorial and estate papers of the Okeover family, and amongst these is 'A Valuation of all the materials in Wimeswold Hall house belonging to Leeke Okeover Esq'. This was made by Edward Storer and is dated 1744. Its reference number is 231M/E391.

From the materials listed, we may assume that it was a brick building and that it was built later than Bradgate House and Kirby Muxloe Castle which are described as the earliest brick houses in Leicestershire by Hoskins, being built about 1480-1500 of locally-made bricks. These are rather special cases and most brick buildings in the county were built about two hundred years later. According to Potter in his History of Wymeswold, the hall was demolished about 1750 and the materials sold. Certainly by 1757 on the Enclosure Award Map, no building was shown on Hall Field.

Such evidence as I have found links the hall mainly to the Leake family, who were Lords of the Manor from about 1632, when William Leake bought the manors of Wymeswold and Crackhole from Samuel Ballard. According to Farnham's Village Notes, he bought '6 messuages, 7 cottages, a windmill, 2 dovehouses, 13 gardens, 13 orchards, 600 acres of land, 60 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture, 200 acres of furze and heath, 60s in rent and common pastures of Wymeswold, Burton and Hoton'. The price was 600! Though it does not say so, we must assume that the hall was part of this deal. The Hearth Tax of 1664 does not mention the hall as such, but William Leake was charged for nine hearths which presumably were in the hall. The next largest house in Wymeswold was the Parsonage with three hearths, and this was also charged to William Leake. It is perhaps worth pointing out that Christopher Packe's house at Cotes had 29 hearths, and Moses Foxwright's at Prestwold had eleven, so Wymeswold Hall was not that large.

William Leake married Katherine Bainbridge of Lockington, and after his death in 1687 she married Sir William Yorke of Lincolnshire. Nichols in his History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester says she was probably the last person to live in the Hall. Her daughter, Katherine Leake, married Thomas Okeover in 1699 and so the Lordship passed to that family. Leeke Okeover, one of her sons, became Lord of the Manor of Wymeswold from 1723 to about 1753, and it was during his time that the 'Valuation of Materials' was made. Whether he was responsible for the demolition of the Hall is not clear, but it would be interesting to know why it happened, especially as it was not rebuilt on the same site. The Okeover's main property was not in Leicestershire, so perhaps it was felt to be expensive to maintain, especially if the materials were not in good condition as the valuation indicates – '?bad brick .... bad stone .... and bad wainscoat'.

The listing of the materials is by rooms so it might be possible to construct a house plan. The rooms mentioned are:- the hall, little parlour, best parlour, the chamber over the great parlour, chambers over the hall, closets, kitchen. In the hall there were 30 yards of wainscoat and 66 yards in the best parlour, whilst the little parlour had 43 yards, so some idea of the size of the rooms was given, though it does depend on what is meant by 'wainscoat'. Besides 200 yards of wainscoat in total, there are four sash windows with glass and weights, 57 old window frames, 26 casements, and 431 feet of glass etc. The most valuable items in the valuation were:

'all the bricks in the wall of the house, allowing for window vacancies, is about 80,000 which I value at 8s per 1000. The purchaser to take them as they are . . .32/-/-

all the timbers in the floors, ceilings and roofs and partitions, 2 stair cases and doors where there are no wainscoats . . . . . .30/-/-.'

The total value of the materials in the house was 121/2/-. Outside there were brick walls with coping stones which were valued at 67/15/1, so the total for the whole house was 188/17/1.

There are not many signs in Hall Field of any of these materials being left, but an archaeological excavation would probably add to our knowledge of the building, which at present depends on the surface survey and mapping carried out by RF Hartley, and published in Medieval Earthworks of Central Leicestershire (Leicestershire Museums 1989).

Originally published in the WHO Newsletter 1994.

Copyright the author.

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