By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 7 days ago
RAGS TO RICHES: My family originated from Derby and my parents were married there in July 1952. Mum was 19 and dad was 36 so quite a bit older. They both lived in Derby and were very arty; my dad went to the Derby Sketching Club in his free time and my mum attended art college. I’m not sure where they met but it was either at something art related or at a dance, as was usual in those days. My dad was a sculptor by trade; I think his interest was sparked by seeing all the beautiful alabaster in Italian churches during the war. After the war he set up his own business making alabaster lamps, bowls and candlesticks among other things (see header picture). He would go to the alabaster mines at Chellaston near Derby and bring back huge slabs which were then cut down to smaller sizes at his works in Crosby Street. He also owned a car as well as his own business so was quite the catch for my mum! After they married he built a little bungalow next to the works for them to live in, which is still there after all these years although the works have now been demolished.
For someone from his background, owning your own business was something of an achievement, being born the illegitimate son of a servant girl during the First World War. Even his birth is a story in itself as his mother worked at a nearby stately home as a servant and fell for the son of the house. My mum told me all about it years later – how they had fallen in love and were ‘walking out’ together even though it was forbidden in those days for the aristocracy to mix with the servants. However, the son caught tuberculosis and sadly died so my grandmother had to bring my dad up alone with help from her own parents, and without getting married (this is where my dad gets his double-barrel surname from). When my dad was about 4 years old my grandmother married a sailor and they had a little girl, my Aunty Dorothy. He told me how his grandparents brought him up but how poor they were and because of t...
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 07th September 2020
HOAR CROSS HALL - A BIT OF HISTORY: Hoar Cross was part of Needwood Forest, the 11th century lands of Henry de Ferrers. The land was passed down to Henry’s son and subsequent various people over the course of 500 years ending with the Webb family, around the 1730s, who bought the land and house known as the Manor of the Cross. This was quite a large house built on a hill near Yoxall (which is the village next to Hoar Cross). In 1740 the manor house was demolished and later the Hon. Charles Talbot bought the estate for £17,000. Eventually it was sold to Hugo Meynell, who already owned huge amounts of property all over the county.
This branch of the Meynell family originated from Leicestershire, namely Quorndon. In the 18th century Hugo Meynell had the title of ‘the father of fox-hunting’ as he had founded the Quorn Hunt in 1750 which became famous around the district. He bred his own strain of foxhounds and was the first person to study fox-hunting from a scientific point of view. He bought Quorn Hall in 1754 and built stables and kennels there, having 30 horses stabled at its height. In 1758 he became High Sheriff of Staffordshire and Member of Parliament for Lichfield. When his son, Hugo, died in 1800 he sold Quorn Hall to the Earl of Sefton and left to live in Derbyshire; although the family owned large amounts of property all over the Midlands in at least five shires.
The Meynell family claim to be descendants of the Norman baron, Hugo de Grand Mesnil, who came over with William the Conqueror. He is said to have died in Leicester in 1093 and his descendants settled in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. The sons of Hugo went off to the First Crusade and a representation of Hugo’s shield can be seen in one of the windows of Hoar Cross Church. Sir Hugo de Mesnil of Langley Mesnil represented his county under Edward III in five parliaments and thus started a long line of descent for the Mesnil family eventually changing the name to Meynell in the 1600s.
By Viv Wilson in Life at The Hall, Growing Up In a Stately Home | 01st September 2020
SKOOLS OUT FOR SUMMER! When Hugo and Emily Meynell built Hoar Cross Hall it stood within 50 acres of land. Their estate included kitchen gardens, greenhouses, stables, a farm and cottages. Old Hall (their original home) was also on the estate and was accessed via a private road, which ran from the main road. By the time the seventies came along the stable block and Old Hall were private houses and another part of Old Hall had been made into a children’s home. Emily Meynell had started this home in the Victorian days, calling it ‘The Home of the Good Shepherd’ but it was for boys only at that time. When we were there it was a mixed home and run by a husband and wife couple. They used to have fetes there in the summer and we would sometimes play there as they had lots of climbing frames and slides.
The private road also joined up to our woods near the driveway and this is the road I walked along every day, up to the main road, to catch the bus to school. It was about half a mile but I hated walking through the woods, especially in the winter when the mornings were darker. I was growing up now and keeping different secrets from my parents than the previous escapades with my brothers, Gavin and Piers; I had started smoking! Going into Uttoxeter every day meant I could buy cigarettes for 30p a pack and smoke them on the way home. I often went up to our attic room to do my homework and write stories but also to have a crafty cigarette!
One day, whilst walking round Uttoxeter at lunchtime, I saw a newspaper board telling everyone about a streaker that had run through the town the day before – what was this? A man running naked for the fun of it? On further investigation I found that this was the latest craze from America – but why anyone would want to do it in our cold country was beyond me!
I was not an academic by any means and hated my schooldays. I was constantly being teased for being too thin, too quiet, for wearing large clothes (my mum always bo...