The life and times of Condover Hall

PUBLISHED: 09:16 25 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:09 26 February 2013

The life and times of Condover Hall

The life and times of Condover Hall

Condover Hall - The Story of an Elizabethan House, by local historian John Richard Hodges, is a great way to while away some cosy evenings, rich as it is in lively text and lavish illustration

Condover Hall The Story of an Elizabethan House, by local historian John Richard Hodges, is a great way to while away some cosy evenings, rich as it is in lively text and lavish illustration.

It tells the remarkable story of a fine house and those who have been fortunate to live there over the centuries.

Condover Hall, built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, is a stately mansion, often described as the grandest in Shropshire. It remains one of the most complete country houses in Great Britain.

It has experienced many ups and downs since it was built by Thomas Owen, who was a Judge of the Common Pleas. The Owen family lived in opulent splendour through many generations with clever marriages into other more illustrious families, among them the Myttons of Halston Hall and the Leightons of Loton Park, both in Shropshire.

It passed through inheritance to Thomas Cholmondeley in 1863, and then to his younger brother Reginald Cholmondeley. He married Alice Egerton, daughter and heiress to Lord Egerton of Tatton Park in Cheshire.

Tragedy struck this young couple with the untimely death of the beautiful Alice in childbirth. Visitors to Condover church cannot fail to be moved by the memorial tomb, created by Reginald Cholmondeley with the Victorian sculptor George Frederick Watts a poignant life-size recumbent effigy of Alice with the infant child in Carrara marble.

Reginald entertained such luminaries of the time as author Mark Twain and the painter Sir John Millais.

This masterful book traces generation of the families who have been in residence since at Condover Hall, and its importance in the local community.

It is a fascinating insight into the intrigues and social matchmaking between the great merchant families of Shropshire who had made their money as drapers, trading Welsh wool over the border.

It features extracts from personal journals and historical records of the time. The author records the lavish interiors, architectural features and art collections, and we join the occupants on their travels, including lavish dinners with Maharajas in exotic palaces in Kashmir. What exciting lives these Salopians led!

After the death of Reginald Cholmondeley in 1896 the Condover estate was sold to Edward Brocklehust Fielden, who had made his fortune in the Lancashire and Yorkshire cotton mills. He was considered by Shropshire county families to be very much new money (even though he was a Tory Member of Parliament in Manchester).

In 1927 the hall was sold to Rex Cohen, the managing director of Lewiss Stores in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. Then in the 1930s it was bought by industrialist William Henry Abbey, though he never lived in the house.

During the Second World War Condover Hall was commandeered by the War Office and used as an officers mess for nearby RAF Condover airfield.

In 1948. the hall was bought by the National Institute for the Blind as a residential school for blind children with additional handicaps. This period of its history is well covered with contemporary accounts from past staff members.

The book also takes in its present incarnation as a JCA Adventures residential activity centre for young people, complete with high ropes activities, sports fields, adventure rooms and accommodation.

Local residents pop up with their own tales of ghostly appearances at the hall.

I thoroughly recommend this beautifully written book; a fascinating record of a building and its 400
year history.

Condover Hall The Story of an Elizabethan House
RRP 19.99

Available to Shropshire Life readers for special price of 16 inc P&P direct from author Richard Hodges
7 Amber Reach, Spring Lane, Worcester WR5 1AU.

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