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Bennetston Hall, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, June 2019

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HughieD

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1. The History
Bennetston Hall was built in the late nineteenth Century by local doctor and property speculator Robert Ottiwell Gifford Bennett MD (1834 – 1902). Occupying a dramatic hillside location with a commanding view of the Derbyshire High Peaks, it is set in 10 acres of land including an impressive 2-acre trout lake. It comprises of a substantial country mansion and coach house constructed from coursed gritstone walls with gritstone detailing and has a number of significant and design features.

A couple of shots of the hall back in its heyday:

48174505861_df5f65a959_o.jpgBenneston old 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48174583027_b790e071cd_o.jpgBenneston old 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

In the 1930’s it was acquired by the YHA and became a Youth Hostel. After World War II, Bennetston Hall saw usage as a private dwelling, a nightclub and a hotel. The house was badly damaged by fire in the mid-1980s and this resulted in it falling into a sorry state of neglect and disrepair. The Peak Planning Board refused planning permission, back in September 1987, to turn the coach house into a residential dwelling. In October 1989, the then-owner, a Mr Adshead, was locked in a contractual dispute and was then ordered to pay the claimant’s costs incurred by the Legal Aid Board back. After a protracted legal battle, the hall was granted to the possession of the Legal Aid Board in 1996. However due to Mr Adshead suffering from a terminal illness and the resulting protracted legal battle it wasn’t until March 2012 that the Hall was put up for sale by auction on the instruction of the receivers at a guide price of between £150,000 and £200,000. The developers, Puro Property Partnership of Knutsford, who bought the hall at auction obtained planning permission to convert the hall into five luxury apartments and a self-contained house. The coach house was subsequently sold off for £170,00 in October 2013.

It then all becomes a bit murky. However, in 2017 it appeared the hall had turned the corner when it was acquired by Chimp Management as the corporate headquarters of the charity with conversion to a dedicated conference facility together with 32 bedrooms. Additionally, the restoration would include the reinstatement of the hall’s original roof-line with castellated gable and the restoration of the Coach House including a link via a single storey glazed passage to the main Hall. However, despite these ambitious plans, and conditional planning permission to go ahead with the work, little has changed, and the hall remains empty and at risk.

2. The Explore
This place has been on my radar for a while. With the acquisition of the hall by Chimp Management and their ambitious plans for the hall, I’d written the place off. However, I was recently passing and due to the apparent lack of development, thought I’d have a look. One of the main issues is the approach to the hall. It’s on a busy main road with no obvious parking places. Then there’s the long, exposed walk up to the house. Having worked out and negotiated these, it became very quickly apparent my perseverance was going to pay off. The hall itself stands beautifully well and externally is a lovely property. However, inside it is very sparse with little in the way of original features. The coach house is very strange. Clearly a lot of money has been spent to try and convert it into a hi-spec residential dwelling. I’m guessing this has been post-2013, but has stopped for a few years, perhaps due to planning permission issues. What is clear is that post-2017, no progress has been made by Chimp Management. This maybe down to the nature of the conditions attached to the planning permission that was granted to the company.

3. The Photos

The approach:

48159368761_4bffc3a061_b.jpgimg1583 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48159517182_39b3d5da78_b.jpgimg1577 by HughieDW, on Flickr

A view over the very picturesque trout lake:

48159461517_3e8040e43d_b.jpgimg1581 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48159480967_15cc67961f_b.jpgimg1579 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48162246897_f479df6c11_b.jpgBennetston Hall 14 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The main staircase in the hall:

48160663026_6d2f070451_b.jpgimg1560 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48160765852_ce28fa2b85_b.jpgimg1557 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Primitive alarm system:

48162295217_b81cdbda03_b.jpgBennetston Hall 09 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Sadly, some’s half-inches the fireplace:

48162235356_b66f310baa_b.jpgBennetston Hall 08 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Some view:

48160730906_81b5eec694_b.jpgimg1553 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Partition wall that’s seen better days:

48162256551_4735cd66c6_b.jpgBennetston Hall 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48162246711_b8425e2a83_b.jpgBennetston Hall 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48162276076_3c5725c86c_b.jpgBennetston Hall 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48162287796_1762bd3cdb_b.jpgBennetston Hall 03 by HughieDW, on Flickr

On to the coach house:

48159561837_5a4988c045_b.jpgimg1574 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48160650416_c43eef61ed_b.jpgimg1562 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48159577172_581acca32f_b.jpgimg1573 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Downstairs, the high spec kitchen has seen better days:

48162266077_f2a7596985_b.jpgBennetston Hall 12 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Loving the spiral staircase:

48160703687_b2eb632ced_b.jpgimg1564 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48159615257_077991d5a4_b.jpgimg1570 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48159560611_74182b0764_b.jpgimg1569 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48159596016_dd121b1204_b.jpgimg1565 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The bathroom is very nice:

48162212426_9e0606a44e_b.jpgBennetston Hall 10 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Attic space:

48159572531_96f8b353b5_b.jpgimg1568 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 

Roderick

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Another exemplary piece of work H. I have known this place for many years, I first visited it in the late 70s. The big sweeping staircase really gave it a wow factor, in the open area near the bottom of the stairs was a big roaring fire with comfy seats and a bar. In those days I lived in Sheffield and we had proper winters, on a cold snowy night it was wonderful to drive through the blizzard to B Hall and sit in front of that fire with a glass or two while the snow fell outside. In better weather there might be a disco night full of characters. One night after the owner had an argument with a local farmer who had had a lot of beer there was suddenly a cow joining in the fun. It didn't seem too bothered by the loud music and seemed happy to be there till the owner removed it. I was very sad when it burned though given the open roaring fire I wasn't too surprised.

For some time after the fire the owner's wife (who I though was a lot like Zsa Zsa Gabor) ran a tea caravan near the lake where you could have a cuppa and cake sat by the lake at a picnic table. She claimed at the time that after the fire the council insisted they use a bunch of cowboy builders who did such a shoddy job that it could not be signed off and it was then condemned as unsafe by the council. All the insurance money had gone and they had no money for the legal cost of taking on the builders and the council. Local farmers have subsequently cast some doubt on that but it would explain why it was never re-opened after the fire. More recently I heard that following one sale without any original documents, The original owner's wife had come forward with old deeds with her name on them calling the legality of the sale into question so you were right to describe it as murky.

This year work suddenly started on both the hall and coach house with lots of money and resources being poured into it so perhaps it will yet be saved.
 

Roderick

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ben1.jpg
ben2.jpg
ben3.jpg
 

HughieD

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Apologies @Roderick
Missed your fascinating post over Xmas about this fantastic place.

Really lovely memories that really bring the past of the hall to life. At least this one has a happy ending with the hall in the throes of renovation. Glad I managed to sneak in when I did.
 

Roderick

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Apologies @Roderick
Missed your fascinating post over Xmas about this fantastic place.

Really lovely memories that really bring the past of the hall to life. At least this one has a happy ending with the hall in the throes of renovation. Glad I managed to sneak in when I did.
Yes so am I. You managed to chronicle it just at it's turning point.
When it was first repaired after the fire there was a dispute between the owners and the builders which ended up in court with the builders getting legal aid and the owners adamant they shouldn't pay if the work wasn't right. As usual with court action it soon moved onto protracted legal debate and the original argument seemed to get lost as the legal costs mounted. The reason for the long period of decay can be found here Adshead & Ors, R (on the application of) v Legal Services Commission | [2001] EWCA Civ 1380 | England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) | Judgment | Law | CaseMine - if you can stay awake to the end.
 

Natters5

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I drove passed the place yesterday and work has started on it so Chimp Management must have finally found the money to do the work, they got planning permission about 3 years ago but Prof Steven Peters has been scratching around for donors to raise £1.5m to rebuild. My daughter was looking for a place to use as a wedding venue and this Hall was on our radar but Chimp would not sell even though they had had 3 or 4 planning applications turned down as they wanted an ultra modern conference centre joining to the left hand side of the Hall
 

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