Panaramic view

Weston Hall  | OS Grid Ref: 417860,446737  | Site classified as: Park  | HPG Ref: 60091

Map Evidence

1851 OS
A complex of buildings comprising the house, a walled orchard and a walled enclosure to the north divided into parterres, a banqueting house, paths, a circular feature in front of the house to the W. To the SE are three ponds, the uppermost with an island. A drive crosses the parkland from east to west from the East Lodge to Church Lane. To the SW of the house are further buildings and the church of All Saints'.

1909 OS
The walled garden enclosures remain to the north with the addition of a further walled area to the NE, and glasshouses within the original walled garden. A small orchard is depicted to the SW. The drive across the parkland is bordered with an avenue of trees and there are isolated trees or small clusters across the expanse of the parkland with one distinct 'clump' to the S. One pond is depicted with an island. The banqueting hall and church are also depicted.
Plot no 220, acreage 5.728.

Additional information

Ambler, L. 1913 The Old Halls and Manor Houses of Yorkshire. London: Batsford.
Creaser, M. 1980 'W. Vavasour: the Squire of Weston, 1798-1833'. Thoresby Society, Misc. Vol. 56, Part 3, No. 126, pp. 159-186.
Creaser, M. 1994 'The Vavasours of Weston'. Pamphlet ASIN BOIAM25ROY.
Pevsner, N. and E. Radcliffe. 1967. 2nd Ed. The buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding. London: Penguin Books.
Speight, H. 1900 Upper Wharfedale. London: Elliot Stock
Vavasour, W. Diaries 1797-1827, WYAS 639/445
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Morley. Dawson Estate and Family archive WYL/639
Buck, S. (c.1720) Yorkshire Sketchbook, p. 165. The South Prospect of Weston Hall, the Seat of William Vavasour Esq.
Historic England English Listed buildings

Extract from Site Visit report

In 2008, the Historic Parks and Gardens in the Nidderdale AONB Study Group were given the opportunity to visit the site and undertake a photographic survey of the park and gardens of Weston Hall. This has been deposited at WYAS, Morley, in the Dawson family archive. Their work also included a brief history of the site and its features.

Site Description: Manor House with parkland
Site Access: Lay-by on B road between Ilkley and Otley
Visibility: From main road into Park, from lane to the church view of the back of the house
Micro climate: Sheltered location in valley bottom, surrounded by belts of trees to the north
North boundary: Wood, and walled nuttery
South boundary: Garden wall
East boundary: Lakes
West boundary: Ha-ha separating house from path
Buildings: Listed with English Nature
Walkways / Gateways / Paths etc: Drive through parkland to the east.
Curved drive to the rear of the hall (W)
Gardens surrounding the house to the N/NE, laid out in parterres marked by gravelled paths
Water features: Lake with island
Other man-made features: Avenues of trees, clumps of trees dotted in parkland,
Natural features: N/A
Planting: Large topiary specimens, mostly yew, to the W of the house
Banks of rhododendrons and ornamental planting
Hazel nuttery and Walnut nuttery adjacent to kitchen garden
General Condition: Gardens and lawns in the vicinity of the house maintained by gardener. Nutteries abandoned. Kitchen garden no longer in use, a few espalier fruit trees survive in walled area.
Local knowledge: Housekeeper.
Weston Hall archive deposited in WYAS, Sheepscar
Recorder: MAH
Date: September 09

Early history

The manor of Weston: Ownership

The manor of Weston was granted to Berengar de Tosny after the Conquest. Doomsday records 4 villeins, 1 plough, a church and a priest who had 2 acres of meadow. The manor included woodland pasture ½ league long and ½ league broad.

In 1204 King John granted Sir Robert le Vavasour free warren in Wharfedale and permission to build a park there (Dob Park Lodge), if he wished. By the end of the 13th century the Vavasours held the manor of Denton and lands at Askwith. John le Vavasour of Denton and Askwith married Maud, the daughter of Sir Robert de Stopham, lord of the manor of Weston. The property passed to their descendants and the Vavasours settled at Weston in the middle of the 14th century. The manor remained in the direct line until the death of William Vavasour in 1833: 'The last squire of Weston'. He and his ancestors are buried in the chancel of Weston Church and are commemorated by a memorial stone tracing the family's descent set up by William Vavasour in 1820.

Weston Hall

Weston Hall is an Elizabethan house built in the late 16th/early 17th century for the Vavasour family consisting of a hall and cross wing, although there may be an earlier medieval core. The right end of the garden front has four storeys and a gable. On the west and south sides the house was extended and rebuilt in the mid-18th century and the windows towards the garden front were altered (1803). At the corner of a former walled garden, overlooking the parkland and the valley of the Wharfe, a magnificent banqueting house or casino, contemporary with the house, was built. It has three storeys, the second decorated with ornamental circles to the left and right of the windows. The whole is surmounted by a parapet with openwork decoration and to the back there is a higher lookout tower or standing with five-light transomed glass.

The Church and Tithe Barn

The Church of All Saints is of Norman origin with a porch dated 1686. The irregular west front has an unusual double arched bellcote. The interior has a three-decker pulpit, a squire's parlour, box pews and a memorial dated 1587 to William Vavasour. The Tithe barn situated between the Hall and the church is thought to be 16th century or earlier. It was probably cased in stone in the 17th century and converted to a stable and coach house in the mid-18th century.

The park and gardens in the early 19th century: William Vavasour's influence

William Vavasour (b.1770-d.1833) was the last Vavasour to live at Weston Hall. As the fourth son of Walter Vavasour, he had every expectation of having to earn his own living and had studied medicine at Edinburgh. However, all his brothers predeceased him and, on the death of his brother Edward in 1798, he inherited an estate somewhat encumbered by debt and mortgage. For thirty years (1797-1827) he kept a diary which not only recorded the details of local affairs but also reflected political opinion and contemporary concerns. Being closely involved in the management of his estate, he kept note of the practicalities: harvesting the crops, haymaking and the rearing of livestock. He took an interest in new farming and stock breeding techniques and joined the Otley Agricultural Society, acting as a judge of horses. He supervised closely the planting and harvesting of timber plantations (eg in Birker Wood and Dob Park). The diaries also regularly mention repairs and improvements to the house and grounds. He was also a practical gardener himself: pruning was a regular activity in the winter and he and his wife, when travelling or at home, visited noteworthy gardens in the area . William Vavasour was a frequent visitor at Farnley Hall, the residence of his friend W. Fawkes.
In 1820, he was at last able to record that the debts encumbering the estate had been paid off.

Amongst the features of the gardens and grounds which William Vavasour introduced or altered, are 'the circle in front of the house' in which he made a flower bed and put a border of sods around it (Nov. 1800). This circle appears on the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map. H. Speight in 1900 reported that a magnificent cedar of Lebanon, one of the finest and oldest in England stood in front of the hall. This is visible in a photograph contained in Ambler (1921) and family photographs, but is no longer present.

He also undertook work on walls, gates and fences. In 1801, he was busy replacing and painting the palings in front of the barn. In 1810, he had the iron gates at the Lodge installed. They had to be repaired the next year as 'a neighbour's horse chased a hart which ran up against the park iron gates and broke one of them in several different places' (Oct. 1811). In 1820, work began on a sunk fence, (a ha-ha) to the west of the hall, bordering Church Lane.

In 1802, he decided to install a hothouse (30ft x 18) – he had much admired the hothouse at Denton, which had provided his ailing brother Edward with 'an apricot' – this was completed in the early part of the following year. The frame was ordered from Kirstall forge, the work being completed in December. A further hothouse was purchased in 1807. He noted that his cactus grandiflorus was in flower and spent part of one cold January morning pruning vines.

As early as 1798, as soon as he came to live at Weston, William Vavasour started planting trees - around the house and in Birker Wood. In 1802, he gave the tenant of the parkland notice to quit so that he could get it into his own hands, and then planted 'a little clump' in the pasture before the house and some trees between the pond and the garden. In 1808, he was selecting trees from the wood to be dug up and planted in the field before the house, and buying sand for the garden walks. Work in the grounds continued regularly – in 1812, he was planting 'two small clumps' at the lower part of the Great Pasture.

The diaries also make a careful note of trees damaged or blown over by storms or bad weather which provide some clues as to the existing planting: winter storms over the years blew down an old willow tree, 'the handsomest and perhaps largest of my beech trees [...] as also several other trees', a large walnut, large trees including elm.

In William Vavasour's day there were three ponds adjacent to the Hall: he refers to them as the lower pond, the middle pond and the pond with the island. Three ponds appear on the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map. Under his stewardship the ponds were cleaned out and repaired on several occasions, he complained in particular that the lower pond leaked. In the summer months, the ponds were regularly fished for eels and tench. When H. Speight saw Weston Hall circa 1900 only one pond remained 'the resort of water birds'.

Later developments in the park and gardens

On the death of William Vavasour, the estate passed to his nephew, William Elmsall Carter, a Lincoln attorney, who himself died the following year. His daughter, Emma married Christopher Holdsworth Dawson, the grandson of one of the founding partners of the Low Moor Ironworks in Bradford in 1852. Emma Dawson (d. 1880) is commemorated in the east window on the north side of All Saints' church as an Hon. Member of the National United Order of Free Gardeners. As a member of this charitable body she had been instrumental in supporting the purchase and equipment of a lifeboat and boathouse in Redcar. The lifeboat operated from 1877-1884 and was affectionately known as the 'Emma'.

The estate remains in the hands of the Dawson family to this day.

Further glimpses into the history of the gardens at Weston are provided by surviving account books for the latter half of the 19th century. (WYAS Dawson achive). For instance the accounts for 1841-1843 refer to payments for 'iron work for the hothouse', the purchase of 12 standard rose trees, gravel for the garden, new steps for the garden house and garden chairs and the settling of a bill for £6.19s.10½d. from Mssrs .Backhouse of York, Nurserymen.
The Accounts for repairs/alterations/work on a hothouse (1860) also survive with reference to leading the forcing house and melon bed. There is also a mention of raising the garden wall in 1860 and 'building the cement for balls and providing a new ball and neck' – presumably for the low wall around the house and lawn to the E. A new hothouse, to be supplied by Richardsons of Darlington, was installed and various repairs made to the cucumber bed frame, the gardener's cottage, the forcing pits and so forth.

In the course of the site visits in 2008, HPG group noted the remains of a soft fruit walled garden, an orchard, a nuttery (hazel), several walnut trees. Smaller buildings within an enclosure to the E of the hall included a fernery, mushroom house and potting shed. The orchard to the north of the churchyard depicted on the 2nd OS map remains.

The swimming pool

Speight signals as worthy of note a large and handsome swimming bath erected in a private part of the grounds 'about 4 years ago for the family's private use'. This would place the construction of the swimming pool circa 1895(?). A family photograph dated 1895 would corroborate this.
The boiler for the heating system in the swimming pool was manufactured by the Low Moor Ironworks.

The landscape park

The walls and trees constitute important landscape features. In particular, the wall surrounding the grounds of Weston hall, which is surmounted at regular intervals by ball finials. Trees form an important part of the landscape either in the park itself or as ornamental species in the grounds of the Hall itself. They include the remains of a lime avenue, and yew topiary to the W of the house bordering Church Lane.

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
18thC West Wing of Weston Hall
The Boating Lake with island
The Elizabethan Banqueting House
16thC East Wing of Weston Hall
Wall to soft fruit garden
Vegetable garden to S and W of the greenhouses
Yew Topiary S Front Garden
Gates to the Entrence of the Park
Late 19thC outdoor swimming pool
Greenhouse, now Peach House
Fern House
Ice House, Lintel stone engraved with date of 1838
The Drive through the Park
Early 20th C postcard showing the Elizabethan wing to the right of the building with the Cedar of Lebanon in the foreground
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