Trentham Hall, Staffordshire

Once part of England’s grandest country houses, mostly demolished in 1912 due to pollution in the River Trent, the remains give an idea of the Hall’s former glory but are in a very poor state

Trentham Hall, formerly one of England’s grandest country houses, was rebuilt for the Dukes of Sutherland in an Italianate style by the architect Charles Barry – best known for rebuilding the Houses of Parliament. Such was Trentham’s magnificence that on a visit in 1873 the Shah of Persia is said to have remarked to the future King Edward VII that their host was “too grand for a subject, you’ll have to have his head off when you come to the throne.” But within decades this ‘private palace’ was abandoned, blighted by Victorian urban expansion and industry.

Trentham Hall did not fall victim to the ‘all-too-familiar misfortunes or disasters’ often faced by other large country houses at the start of the 20th century. Instead, Stoke-on-Trent’s sewage polluting the river Trent ‘made life in the house impossible and caused its abandonment’. No buyers were found for the estate and the Hall could not even be given away to the County of Staffordshire or Stoke-on-Trent Council. The majority of the Hall was pulled down in 1912 and Trentham’s stone balustrade and urns sold in a Country Life architectural supplement.

The surviving buildings, including the square tower and grand entrance give an idea of the Hall’s former magnificence. The Hall’s gardens have been restored and are a popular tourist attraction but, as the photographs show, what’s left of the Hall itself is now in a state of disrepair. Plans to turn the Hall’s remains into a conference hotel floundered when it was found that the cost of restoration exceeded the value of the proposed hotel. But with the success of the restored gardens, and a recovering economy, surely conditions are now favourable enough for the owners to begin restoration work – before what’s left of one of England’s greatest country houses is lost.

Stoke-on-Trent also featured in last years’ Top Ten when Fenton Town Hall was listed. The owner, the Ministry of Justice, has put the building up for sale. Sadly, as far as we are aware no progress has been made in safeguarding the future of the unlisted Town Hall and its interior, including its First World War memorial and Minton tiling.

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