|Nunnington Hall - Nunnington, York (NT)
|The first house recorded at Nunnington was in 1249, but the present
building dates from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with
substantial modernisation carried out in the 1920s by the then owner,
Margaret Rutson and her husband Colonel Ronald D'Arcy Fife.
|The original house was on land leased by tenants from the Abbey of
St. Mary's in York. An exception is Sir Walter de Teyes, who seems to
have lived at and owned Nunnington in the early fourteenth century. He
was Governor of York during the reign of Edward II and witnessed the
defeat of the English at Byland by the Scots under Robert Bruce in 1322.
He is buried in Nunnington church.
|The wealthy Grene family subsequently owned the estate and the
heiress of the family, Maud Grene, married Sir Thomas Parr in 1499.
Their daughter Catherine became Henry VIII's sixth wife in 1543. Her
brother, owner of Nunnington, was raised to the titles Earl of Essex and
then Marquess of Northampton by virtue of his sister's connection. He
was involved with the ill-fated scheme to put Lady Jane Grey on the
throne after Edward VI's death in 1553 and although he escaped death,
his estates, including Nunnington, were forfeited to the Crown. It was
this William Parr who built the oldest parts of the surviving house
which now form part of the west front. Following the forfeiture of the
estate, Nunnington was again subject to let, one of the tenants being Dr
Robert Huicke who was physician to both Catherine Parr and Elizabeth I.
It fell to him to tell the Queen that she would never have children. He
never lived at Nunnington however and the estate was managed by
stewards. The sub-lease was granted to Thomas Norcliffe in 1583 and the
family made many alterations over the next sixty years.
|The third Thomas Norcliffe fought on the Parliamentary side of the
Civil War, seeing action at Marston Moor in 1644. He allowed Nunnington
to be used as accommodation by troops, who may have been engaged in the
siege at nearby Helmsley Castle. The soldiers left their marks on the
house, some of which can still be seen in the Reading Room and this
discouraged Norcliffe from returning to Nunnington. He removed panelling,
stairs, doors and leading and then sold the freehold to Ranald Graham in
|It is difficult now to distinguish which of the various alterations
made at Nunnington were by Ranald and which by his heir Sir Richard
Graham. Ranald certainly rebuilt and refurnished the church and replaced
the old dilapidated bridge with the surviving elegant stone one over the
river Rye. Sir Richard rose to become Viscount Preston and Baron Esk and
was Charles II's ambassador to the court of Louis XIV from 1682 to 1685.
When James II fled in 1688, Sir Richard plotted for his return and was
only spared from execution by the plea of his small daughter Catherine
with Queen Mary.
|During the late eighteenth century, the Hall status declined to
become a glorified farmhouse and large parts of it fell into ruin and
were destroyed. Debts accumulated by the owner Sir Bellingham Reginald
Graham in the early nineteenth century meant than the estate was sold in
1839 to William Rutson. His father had made his money through trade
(including the slave trade) and industry and Rutson set about becoming
the perfect squire. He refurbished the church, built a village school
and repaired or rebuilt almost all the village cottages. His daughter
Charlotte Fanny painted the romanticised watercolours of Nunnington on
display in the Reading Room.
|The Fifes were the first owners to reside principally at Nunnington
for a long time and they commissioned the York architect Walter Brierly
to modernise the Hall in 1921. During the Second World War, some of the
priceless stained glass from York's Minster was brought to Nunnington
for safe keeping. Margaret gave the Hall to the National Trust in 1952
with the wish that her daughter and family came to live here as tenants,
which they did. Mr and Mrs Clive gave up the tenancy in 1978, but the
family still live in the village.
|The Stone Hall probably occupies the site of the earlier Great Hall
and is now one of the oldest parts of the building. It is decorated with
the big game trophies of Colonel Fife. The Dining Room was part of the
remodelling of the 1680s, with the fireplace, panelling and sash windows
from Lord Preston's time here. The deep blue-green paintwork is
original. Lord Preston's private withdrawing room is decorated with the
coat of arms of Lady Anne Howard, along side his own arms. The Oak Hall
is a very pleasant and spacious room dating from Lord Preston's time,
with the panelling fashionably stripped in the 1920s. The staircase
leading from the room would also have been originally painted and there
is a record of a painted ceiling by Jacob Huysmans installed in
1686, but this original work is gone.
|The Drawing Room was originally larger, taking in the space
subsequently closed off to form Colonel Fife's Bedroom. The Oak Bedroom
dated from c.1630, with the corner fireplace inserted later
that century. The bed is an amalgamation of sixteenth and century
pieces, with some even later. Both the Reading Room and the Panelled
Bedroom show signs of the Parliamentary army's occupation of Nunnington.
The West Staircase has lovely woodwork, smoothed over by generations of
hands. There is now a collection of miniature rooms on display, well
worth taking the time to study. In the garden, the Hall's most regular
and appealing south front can be seen from the large lawn. Peacocks now
roam the garden and there are late seventeenth century rusticated stone