One of the greatest losses in the many country houses demolished in the 20th-century was that of Trentham Hall, the Staffordshire seat of the Dukes of Sutherland. Originally a large Georgian house, it was rebuilt and greatly extended for the second Duke in the 1830s by the famous architect Sir Charles Barry, who was also responsible for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament. The house became a celebrated venue for entertaining and was filled with fine works of art and sculpture.
Unfortunately the relentless expansion of the nearby Potteries areas of Staffordshire led to increasing amounts of pollution entering the rivers which fed the lakes and gardens designed by Capability Brown. By 1898 the smell was so bad that the house was effectively abandoned by 1907. The Duke tried to donate the house and estate to the local council in 1905 but was rejected so in 1912 the house was demolished.
The gardens were eventually opened to the public with the remaining outbuildings sitting rather forlornly around the blank space which marked out the site of the now lost house. The gardens had been maintained and delighted generations of locals who would walk through the extensive terraces which led down to the now clean lake. Now the 750-acre Trentham Gardens are part of a £100m project to bring back the glory of the earlier eras, with the centrepiece being the £35m recreation of the house as a 150-room luxury hotel following Barry’s original designs.
Despite the economic turmoil, the developers, who originally planned for completion by 2011, are still hopeful that they will be able to proceed with the project. Although the hotel will not bring back the history and unique architecture of the house, the idea of recreating a lost country house is one to be encouraged. Although many houses were demolished, the parkland and gardens were often simply abandoned and are still visible today. Perhaps other estates might be encouraged to look at whether a new house might be the most appropriate use of the estate – after all, this was the purpose of their creation.
Full story: ‘Trentham rebuilt‘ [Property Week]