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North Lees Hall

Hathersage, Derbyshire

An imposing sixteenth century tower house in the heart of the Peak District National Park, providing a rural retreat for six.

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This imposing tower house is located in the Peak District National Park. With the craggy face of the famous gritstone cliff at Stanage Edge as its backdrop, the setting is as spectacular as the architecture of the Hall itself.

The ground floor accommodation consists of a fully equipped country kitchen which leads through to the spacious dining room with a wood-burning stove. A staircase to the rear of the hall travels through the whole building and provides alternative access to the accommodation at the rear of the building and the mezzanine level bathroom. The impressive spiral elm staircase at the front of the building leads up to the stately living space with log burning stove, impressive plaster ceiling and exquisite views. Following the spiral stair up to a half landing there is a double bedroom. The second floor contains a further two bedrooms - one twin and a double with a four poster bed. Both bedrooms contain original fireplaces. There is a second bathroom adjacent to the double bedroom. Guests can continue up the spiral stair to the roof terrace from which the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside can be enjoyed.

The hall forms part of a sheep farm with the farmer living in the adjoining cottage. See lambs frolicking in the fields in Spring and enjoy the farm tea room during the summer months.

A wide, elm spiral staircase connects all floors in the hall. The treads are uneven and steps are of varying height, due to the historic nature of the building. A more modern, yet steep stair travels through the rear of the building.

Dog Allowed - No 

Oil central heating, plus 2 wood burning stoves 

All Vivat Trust properties have a TV, DVD player and CD player plus fully equipped kitchens with oven & hob, fridge/freezer, dishwasher, microwave and washing machine. In addition North Lees Hall provides the following facilities.

Tumble dryer
1 bathroom has a shower over the bath
A four poster double bed in the second floor bedroom
Cot & highchair available for infant
Roof terrace with outdoor furniture
Off road parking

Spa Breaks
Relax at the Gatehouse with a visit from your own personal spa therapist. My Personal Sanctuary provide a special 2 hour 'Unwind' package for couples, find out more...

North Lees Hall is believed to have been the inspiration for Thornfield Hall, Mr Rochester's house in Charlotte Brontë's famous novel, Jane Eyre. Built for William Jessop in the last decade of the 16th century, the Hall has been ascribed to Robert Smythson, a prominent architect of the Elizabethan era. Since 1989, when the building was converted into high quality holiday accommodation, North Lees Hall has been leased to The Vivat Trust by the Peak District National Park Authority, which owns and manages the North Lees Estate. 

Robert Smythson
In the late 16th century architecture was a profession in its infancy. Born between 1535 and 1537, Robert Smythson was one of this country's first practitioners. Among his most notable achievements is the remarkable Wollaton Hall (Nottinghamshire) and it is likely he was also responsible for the final form of the great house at Longleat in Wiltshire. 

No documentation survives to verify the identity of the architect of North Lees Hall, but the attribution to Smythson has been made on stylistic grounds. Especially characteristic of Smythson is the building's ingenious split-level interior layout which uses a variety of floor and ceiling heights, providing a combination of halls and great chambers to the front in conjunction with smaller domestic rooms to the rear. 

Further support for the ascription lies in the putative connection of Smythson with William Jessop who, in the 1590s, is thought to have commissioned the late Elizabethan tower house we see today at North Lees. Jessop may well have become acquainted with the work of Smythson through his professional relationship with George Talbot, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury who had asked Smythson to design and remodel his house at Worksop Manor, Nottinghamshire. Smythson was also responsible for the design of Hardwick New Hall, built in the 1590s for Bess of Hardwick, the wife of George Talbot. 

Description of the Building
Aside from its recognisably Smythsonian characteristics, North Lees Hall is of particular architectural interest in that it incorporates elements of a regional building style now referred to as the North Midlands High House, the characteristics of which are height, compactness of plan and a turreted outline. Examples include Old Chatsworth, Lord Shrewsbury's house at Buxton and Queen Mary's Tower at Sheffield manor (built 1574). 

North Lees Hall comprises a minimum of three distinct building phases. The tower wing to the west is the part attributed to Smythson. The entrance hall dates from the early 17th century and the low east wing is a 19th-century remodelling of an earlier construction. The stately rooms on the south side of the tower wing occupy three floors over a basement and are lit by large stone mullioned windows. Behind them smaller, more private chambers have been organised on four floors. The spiral elm stair which also gives access to the leaded roof, is housed in a square tower in the angle of the building between the tower wing and low east wing. 

The principal ground floor room has an elaborate plaster frieze at cornice height. Partially reconstructed in 1964 from a few surviving fragments the frieze now incorporates three inscriptions: over the south window, Velle suum quis est nec voto vivitur uno (Everyone has their own notion of what pleases them and tastes differ); over the east window Vincit qui patitur 1594 (He who suffers, conquers) and above the west window, the motto of former owners, the Beach family Toute en bonne heure 1964 (All in good time). The fireplace here is the largest in the building suggesting that this room was a more public and /or a more functional space. 

The large room on the first floor was the foremost chamber of the house boasting a splendid frieze of unusual motifs which may have been the stock in trade of local plasterers. Its fine decorative plaster ceiling depicts heraldic shields, leaping beasts and fleurs de lis. 

Literary Connections
Charlotte Brontë paid 'two or three visits' to North Lees Hall when staying with her friend Ellen Nussey in Hathersage. Such was the impression the Hall made upon her that in her novel Jane Eyre (first published 1847) she used it as the model for Thornfield Hall, home to her Byronic hero, Mr Rochester. The name of the fictional Hall clearly stems from its factual counterpart: 'thorn' is an anagram of 'north' and 'field' stems from the Anglo-Saxon word 'leah', later 'lee', meaning woodland glade or field. Brontë describes many features of North Lees in the novel, including the battlemented façade, the view from the roof and the Apostles Cabinet, a unique item of furniture belonging to the Eyres. The legend of a mad woman at North Lees, reputed to have perished in a fire, may have been the inspiration for Mrs Rochester's dramatic demise. 

The Eyres who were a local family, resided at North Lees for two generations during the 15th century. They took up the tenancy again in 1750 and lived there until 1882. 

The Restoration of the Building
By the middle years of the 20th century, North Lees Hall was in a state of dereliction: roofless and with blocked and broken windows. Inroads made by the weather had caused ceilings to collapse, partially destroying historic decorative plaster. Happily, the building's solid three-foot thick millstone grit walls maintained their structural stability. 

Thanks entirely to the commitment and resolve of the last private owner, Sir Hugh Beach, the restoration of North Lees Hall was begun in 1962. Under the supervision of the architect Lt. Col. Gerald Haythornthwaite, the Hall was repaired and converted into a guesthouse for visitors to the Peak National Park. The large rooms were divided into smaller units, to house a number of people in hostel style accommodation. Pictures taken in 1904 were used to aid the reconstruction of the water-damaged plaster ceiling to the first floor room. 

In 1971, the Peak Park Joint Planning Board purchased the North Lees Estate. In 1987, the Board leased the tower wing to The Vivat Trust for a period of 50 years to manage and let as distinctive holiday accommodation. By this time, the building was again in a state of disrepair and The Vivat Trust undertook a second refurbishment which involved the removal of internal partitions and improvements to the plumbing and heating systems and electrical circuits. 

A second phase of improvements to the building is in train to include vital repairs to the roof, re-wiring, soundprooflng and the installation of a new heating system. The building has also been equipped with furniture appropriate to the period including traditional Derbyshire designs. 

The Peak National Park and The Estate
The North Lees Estate, in which the Hall stands, comprises 1290 acres. The Peak District National Park Authority conserves the estate and is responsible for its landscape, wildlife and archaeological sites dating back to 6000 BC. 

The Vivat Trust would like to thank the following for their generous support in the furnishing of North Lees Hall:

Addis Housewares Ltd, Bose Ltd, Brabantia (UK) Ltd, Bentley Brushes, Cally & Co, Chefset, Chromette Ltd, Chortex, Cosatto, Creda Hotpoint, Dexam International Ltd, Dorma, Hoover Candy Group, Isis Ceramics, Josiah Wedgewood & Sons Ltd, Morphy Richards, Neptune Classics, Persephone Books Ltd, Sleeping Partners, Slumberdown, T & G Woodware, The Bristol Guild, The Nomads Tent, Toshiba, Zoffany.

Location: 3 miles north of Hathersage and the A6187. 13.5 miles from Sheffield 

Interesting Towns: Bakewell, the spa towns of Matlock and Buxton 

Historic Attractions: Chatsworth, Bolsover Castle (EH), Calke Abbey (NT), Haddon Hall, Hardwick Hall, Blue John Mines, Crich Tramway Museum, Steeple Grange Light Railway 

Activities: caving, climbing, hang gliding, riding and walking in the Peak National Park, watersports at Carsington Water, 'Go Ape' high wire forest adventure, Derwent Reservoir, Heights of Abraham cable car rides and golf available nearby 

Local Events:
May: Chatsworth International Horse Trials
August: Bakewell Show & Sheffield Fayre
September: Chatsworth Country Fair 


North Lees Hall

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