Penley Hall

Penley Hall 1905

A smallish Georgian mansion set in gardens and shrubberies with walled kitchen garden extending to 2.75 acres, along with a .337 acre pool. The hall itself contained: ground floor – large entrance hall with staircase, drawing room, dining room, staff room, kitchens, pantry and cellar; first floor – three bedrooms, dressing room, bathroom and a half landing to second floor -five further bedrooms, two boxrooms and a bathroom. There was a self-contained wing for staff quarters – living room, kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom. Outside there was a range of Georgian stables with two cottages, and even earlier half-timbered farm buildings, in addition to 95 acres of farmland, and 65 acres of woodland. Parkland extended to 39 acres, much as intake from Far Green or Big Green before the Enclosure Award of 1796.

Penley Hall c.1905; east elevation overlooking the gardens, dominated by a giant copper beech.

When Robert Myddelton Dymock died in April 1899, aged 81 years, the Penley Hall estate passed to his nephew Theophilus Vaughton who adopted the surname Dymock, with the family hence known as `Vaughton Dymock’. Theophilus immediately embarked upon the restoration of Penley Hall, which had been allowed to fall into disrepair. In 1900 three large bay windows were added, also a front porch which incorporated a frieze and drops of the stained-glass Dymock coats-of -arms from the 1784 parish church, demolished in 1899. Theophilus never lived in Penley, preferring Bath, where he died in 1905, aged 76 years. At this time Penley Hall was leased to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Cotton and family, who took up residence in May 1901. Miss V.E. Cotton surrendered the lease in March 1934.

Penley Hall in it’s maturity, before the disastrous fire of 1935.
Penley Hall following the fire of 1935.

Penley Hall was gutted by fire in the early hours of Tuesday, 26 February 1935. The above photograph shows the east elevation of the hall after the fire, with Bob Fletcher, groom, pointing to the window from which Miss Elizabeth Barnett, cook, was rescued by Reg Austin. Mrs. Constance Mostyn Owen, wife of Capt. Guy Mostyn Owen (current occupier of the hall), jumped from a 17ft window, suffering a severe shaking and bruised chin before raising the alarm and sprinting to the Post Office to summon the fire brigade, Ellesmere and Whitchurch brigades attended. They could only contain the fire.

Valuable oak panelling, much of it from the 1784 parish church, and a beautifully carved staircase of unknown provenance, were destroyed. Only the pieces of furniture that were dragged out by estate workers were saved. Total damage, covered by insurance, was estimated at some £4,500.

Penley Hall following the fire of 1935.

The last occupant had been the Dowager Lady Kenyon. The Gredington Estate disposed of the hall to the Ministry of Works in 1964, who turned it into a dining room and kitchens for senior medical staff in the Polish Hospital. The hall had no place in the plans of the successor, Welsh Hospital Authority, and it was left to deteriorate further, before being sold to a private developer in 1986 and demolished the following year.

One of the last photographs of Penley Hall before being demolished in 1987.

All that was left in 1993 were the former housekeeper’s cottage and the hall’s back wall beyond.

The grooms’ Club Room’ or bothy (`bothie’), has also gone, but the great bell that called generations of estate workers to and from their 12-hour work day fortunately survives in private hands.

Sources: CPAT; Spirit of Penley; Wrexham History.

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