Elmdon Hall

Location   Elmdon   Elmdon Hall
Gallery
County   Warwickshire  
Year demolished   1956  
Reason   WWII requisition damage and subsequent dereliction  

Elmdon Hall, if it had survived, would now be somewhat blighted by its location so near to Birmingham International Airport. However, the fine parkland still survives, although compromised on the periphery by housing and industry - the latter ironic considering the house was built as a country retreat for a Birmingham ironmaster.

The first house, Elmdon Manor, was built was during the reign of Henry VIII in 1547, by a lawyer called John Boteler or Butler, who had been fortunate enough to have gained possession of the estate through his marriage to a daughter of the Hore family. Pride and prestige led him to have his coat of arms carved on a 'great beame' of his new house. However, he was not to enjoy his status there for long as the house was sold to the Mayne family c1570. They remained there until it was sold in 1760 to Abraham Spooner (b. c1690 - d. 1788), a successful Birmingham ironmaster with mills in Erdington and other locations nearby who had previously lived in Rookery House (formerly Wood End Green House) in Erdington.

Elmdon was to be Spooner's escape from the industrial life in his retirement. The old house at the centre of the now 2,000-acre estate was either in a poor condition or not to his taste so Abraham Spooner demolished the manor and in 1785 began a new house. Interestingly, his first rebuilding on the estate was not the house but the parish church, completed in 1781, to replace the old church which had become unsound and dangerous.

The new house could not have been more different from the original manor house. In its place rose a elegant but slightly stark neo-classical mansion, sited in a commanding position overlooking the newly landscaped park and lake. Unfortunately Abraham Spooner, despite living to about 100 years old, didn't live long enough to see the completion of his new house, dying in 1788. The new Elmdon Hall was completed by his son Issac (b. 1736 - d. 1816/7), a successful Birmingham banker, in 1795. The house was three-storeys by seven bays wide with a pitched roof fronted by a large, unadorned pediment, beneath which were four plain giant pilasters with Ionic capitals creating an almost temple effect. The main entrance was also site on this front with a simple stone canopy supported by a pair of Tuscan columns. To the west front, a large three-window projection was added later. Overall, the lack of flourishes and its severity is interesting as it suggests either a ideologically disciplined architect and a like-minded client, or that it may have been simply built by a local mason using one of the increasingly popular pattern books which were becoming available at the time.

Either way, Elmdon Hall was a large and comfortable house - though the few illustrations which survive of the interior suggest the strict neo-classicism also prevailed inside as well. The main living accomodation of the house comprised a drawing room, three reception rooms, fifteen bedrooms, four dressing rooms and wardrobe rooms, and a splendid library which looked out over the parkland towards the lake. To support this lifestyle, the house also included a gunroom, servant’s hall with lounge room, a kitchen scullery, larder and dairy, and large beer cellars. In the court yard there was a bakehouse, brew house, laundry house and ironing rooms, a soft water tank and a slaughter house. In later years it would also include an engine house with a 6bhp gas engine with dynamo, electric light plant and batteries. The stabling consisted of a coach house and also a smaller coach house, stabling for twelve horses, harness room, mews room, and open trap shed and corn store.

On the death of Issac Spooner in approximately 1816/7, this fine house and mature estate was inherited by his son, Abraham Spooner Lillingston. Unfortunately Abraham was killed in 1834 near Whar Hall Farm on the estate when a tree fell on him. The house and estate then passed out of the Spooner family and were sold, in 1840, to William Charles Alston at a sale held at the Dees Royal Hotel, Birmingham. On his death it passed to his son, another William, known also as Squire Alston, a confirmed batchelor, who died in 1916. The house and estate were then inherited by his sister, Mrs Alston-Roberts West of Stratford who kept it until 1920 when a large section of land was sold. The rest of the estate and the Hall was sold in 1930 to a Mr Waters for £3,700 (approx. £170,000 - 2007). This largely signalled the end of the Elmdon estate - many of the beautiful old trees were felled for their timber value and sections of the parkland ploughed up and turned to agriculture.

In 1944, Solihull District Council bought both the Hall and what remained of the estate and for the remainder of WWII the house was home to the local Home Guard. Following the war the house was largely abandoned and left empty. In this period, as with many other homes vacated by the military, unless someone moved in quickly and started repairing the damage and performing maintenance the houses soon started to deteriorate. And so it was with Elmdon Hall; the roof leaked following the theft of the lead, water cascaded down the main hall, eventually rotting the staircase which subsequently collapsed. The house became largely the playgroud of the local children which accelerated the decline until it was a shell; windows broken, grounds overgrown. The deterioration became so severe, rendering it too prohibitively expensive to restore, that finally the house was demolished in 1956. Today, a car park marks the site of the house, with what remains of the parkland now a public park in which the fine old trees, lakes and estate buildings merely hint at the grand estate it once was.


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