Panaramic view

Grantley Hall  | OS Grid Ref: 424179,469275  | Site classified as: Garden  | HPG Ref: 60053

Map Evidence

1854/6 OS
House depicted with pleasure grounds including two avenues of trees, two circular features (possibly ponds) and a lake.
Evidence of water management of the River Skell (to S of Hall) leading to the Lake.

1909 OS
As above, providing more detail, inc. avenues,walks, drives, lawns and detached complex of walled gardens and glasshouses. Lake to E now named as Low Lake.

Survey Evidence

The pleasure grounds were surveyed by the HPG in 2011 and a full photographic record was produced, a survey of notable surviving trees (see link to the survey below) a brief history of the site.

Other information

The Japanese Garden that exists to the N of the Hall has received Grade II listed status in March 2017.
There is a link below to Historic England's website that details the Listed Status of the Hall and the Japanese Garden.


The origins of Grantley Hall can be traced back to 1679, when Welbury Norton, a descendant of the Nortons of Markenfield, purchased a mill. The mill was described in the purchase document as "lying within the territory of Grantley", that is, on the north bank of the River Skell. The purchase document also mentions the acquisition of mill pools and dams, and a close called "Sunny Bank", a name still used for the land rising to the north of the present Hall. A document of 1717 describes Grantley Mill House, with barns, stables, orchards and a garden. It has been assumed that the remains of the Mill House are incorporated in the structure of the southern part of the present Hall.

Later Development of the Hall - Sir Fletcher Norton

The far larger part of the Hall, facing east and adjoining the back of the original building, was the work of Welbury's great-grandson, Fletcher Norton. Born in 1717, he made a career for himself in the law, being admitted to the Bar in 1739 and becoming a KC in 1754. He also embarked upon a second career in politics, becoming an MP in 1756. In 1762 he obtained a knighthood. Both his legal career and his political career prospered, and he was appointed Attorney General in 1763. His fortunes faltered temporarily in 1765 when he fell out of favour with his political colleagues and was dismissed from his post, but he regained his prominence by changing parties, and obtaining another parliamentary seat. He was appointed Speaker of the House of Commons in 1770, and remained in that post for 10 years. He was ennobled in 1782, and died two years later.

Sir Fletcher Norton's profitable legal practice and political career, and also his marriage, provided him with estates in London, Surrey and Sussex as well as in Yorkshire. His main residence was in London, and Grantley Hall was only one of several other properties that he owned. Perhaps for this reason, building work was spasmodic, and covered a period of around 40 years. However, when he was ennobled, he decided to be entitled the first Lord Grantley, possibly due to the family connection with the Hall.

Development of the gardens in the 18th and 19th centuries

We assume that at some time during the 18th century the River Skell was dammed to form the lake, and Banister Bridge was constructed to create a pastoral landscape that could be viewed from the new wing of the Hall. The 1856 OS map shows the Hall lying between the river to the south and a canal to the north, with grassland and the lake to the east, and avenues of trees to the west. Also to the west are indistinct garden features, which may have been the remnants of the original millponds.

The OS map of 1896 shows that these indistinct features on the western side had disappeared, but the circular island pond to the east had been installed. Also by 1896 some outbuildings adjoining the main house shown on the 1850s map had been demolished and a building to the north had been constructed. This was the new stable block, which remains to this day.

The first sale of the Hall

None of the Lords Grantley ever made Grantley Hall their main residence, and it seems that it was mainly used for hunting and shooting parties. In 1900 the 5th Lord Grantley decided to sell the estate. In his memoirs, his son the 6th Lord Grantley provides some insight into the reason for the sale. His father's private life was regarded as scandalous within his own social circle, caused firstly by his elopement with the wife of his cousin and heir, who then sued him for divorce. He married the lady concerned, but later, when she became terminally ill, he deserted her and went abroad with another married woman. This resulted in his involvement in a second divorce case. The 6th Lord Grantley comments that his father "was ostracised by his own class as a result of his two divorces and the way he had left his wife". Specifically, his father, who was devoted to fox hunting was denied access to local hunts in certain areas including Yorkshire. The sale came to be regarded as something of a relief to the 6th Lord Grantley, who described the Hall as "a gargantuan edifice with 60 bedrooms" and records that as a child he was completely unnerved by the gloomy corridors lined with portraits of glowering ancestors. Also, unlike his father, he detested hunting.

Modernisation and Improvements - Lord and Lady Furness

The whole estate was purchased in 1900 by Sir Christopher Furness, who was distantly related by marriage to the Grantleys. Sir Christopher had by then built up a fortune in shipping, marine engineering, coal and steel, and later became MP for Hartlepool. His business and political careers meant that he was rarely there, but the house, when modernised and remodelled, became a much loved family home for his wife Jane. It was she who organised the building of the garden features that can still be seen today, the Italian garden, the Japanese garden, the ha-ha and balustrade to the east, and the Moongate pond and other features to the west. She also personally supervised the gardeners and loved to drive around the gardens in a small carriage pulled by pit ponies retired from her husband's mines. The 1912 OS map shows these features (with the exception of the Janese Garden) and also a substantial kitchen garden with greenhouses to the north of the pleasure grounds.

Sir Christopher, who became Baron Furness of Grantley, died in 1912. Lady Furness maintained her interest in Grantley Hall, but must have been dismayed by the deterioration of her gardens during the First World War. The estate was put up for sale by auction in 1919, and photographs in the sale catalogue show that the Italian garden had been grassed over. A suitable buyer could not be found in 1919, but in 1925 the estate was eventually sold to Sir William Aykroyd.

Sir William Aykroyd

Sir William was a successful businessman from Bradford, with interests in the woollen trade and in brewing, and became a baronet in 1920. He was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1926. He and his wife were active in the life of Grantley village, and provided funds for the building of the village hall, and the foundation of the Womens' Institute. Possibly the high point of his ownership was entertaining Queen Mary to tea in 1937.

Aerial photographs taken of the Hall and grounds in 1933 do not reveal any major alterations. The Italian garden remained unrestored, but the Japanese garden still flourished. Sir William's addition to the gardens seems to have been confined to the planting of a tree to commemorate his 70th birthday, but the gardens were well maintained.

The Second World War to the present day

During the Second World War the Hall became a convalescent home. Vera Lynn and the Princess Royal paid visits. Sir William died in 1947, and the estate was broken up and sold. The Hall and immediate grounds became the property of the West Riding County Council for use as an adult educational college, which opened in 1949. Ownership changed in 1974 to the North Yorkshire County Council, who repaired the ponds and watercourses, and partly restored the Japanese garden. The North Yorkshire County Council also made alterations in the house, and increased the student accommodation by constructing the Ellis block in 1985. In 2005 the Hall was sold, and became a private residence once more. In 2009 it changed hands again, with the intention to reopen the Hall for exclusive events and functions, and to restore the gardens and grounds to their former glory. A large amount of work was done in the grounds to remove dead and diseased trees and clear undergrowth, and to repair the bases of the ponds. However, in 2013 the Hall and grounds were put up for sale again.

Extract from 1851 OS map centred on Site
Extract from OS Landranger map centred on Site
Extract from Google Map image map centred on Site
The tree survey report produced by the Historic Parks and Gardens Group in 2011
The listing of Grantley Hall on the Historic England website can be found here
Mid 20thC view from the air
Grantley Hall view from E with River Skell to right
Grantley Hall, statuary to S of house
River Skell at Western entrance to Grantley Hall showing the water management features
View of the Fountain to the NW of Grantley Hall, through the moon gates
Japanese Garden cascade
Japanese Garden Main Pond with replacement bridge
Japanese Garden Gorge with stepping stones
Japanese Garden autumn foliage
The HaHa to the E of Grantley Hall
Banister Bridge over River Skell
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