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Loughborough College purchase Quorn Hall - to be used as hostel, residence of famous hunting men

Loughborough Echo 18th February 1938

A Ghost Story ------- “With His Head Under His Arm”
For some considerable time there have been rumours that Quorn Hall, now used as a country club had been sold, but confirmation of the deal was rather difficult to obtain.

The “Loughborough Echo” now understands that the Quorn Hall has been sold to the Loughborough College and will be used as a hostel for students.

Quorn Hall has been used as a country club for upwards of eight years, and is a popular rendezvous for people in the county. It is situated in a picturesque portion of Leicestershire, near the river Soar, and the estate comprises nearly 60 acres. There are three hard tennis courts, a squash court, and there are facilities for bathing and boating in the river.

The Hall itself has a very interesting history, and is noted for the fact that Hugo Meynell, founder of the Quorn Hounds, lived there for some time, and for a number of years many famous hunting men, including the celebrated Assheton-Smith and Squire Osbalderston, lived there.

Quorn Hall was first built in 1680 by Henry Farnham, a captain of the 5th Regiment, a descendent of Thomas Farnham, who built the Nether Hall at Quorn. Quorn Hall, since that date, has been altered several times, but the main outline of the original building can be definitely identified.

At first the house consisted of two wings connected by a hall. Hugo Meynell, a later owner, added another storey and also reception rooms on the north side of the hall, while the late Mr. E.H. Warner carried out several important alterations in the mid-nineties. He built a front entrance and porch in red brick on the north-western side, the approach to the house having previously faced the river.

Captain Farnham died in 1684 and shortly after his death the Nether Hall passed out of the hands of the family. It was then sold to George Morton, of Sileby, and again changed hands when his daughter married a certain Henry Collingwood. A legend has been handed down regarding this gentleman, the origin of which is as mysterious as it is obscure. The story goes that one dark evening in the year 1708 he murdered his wife on the top storey of the hall.

A year or two later he died, and ever since, so the story runs, it has been his custom at infrequent intervals to gallop- round the paddock at twelve of the clock with his head under his arm. His wife is also reputed to haunt the hall premises clad in a dress of black silk. There is no satisfactory evidence to support this legend, but there are some peculiar circumstances about the case which are of considerable interest.

Henry Collingwood was a bon viveur and it is probable that he had a bad reputation in the district. He may have ill-treated his wife, and exaggerated reports to this effect possibly had a wide circulation. He lived at such an extravagant rate that he was seldom free from financial embarrassment. In his frantic endeavour to improve matters, he plunged into interminable lawsuits, and finally his position became so desperate that he was practically ruined. The loss of his wife at this period at the early age of 22 may have no significance, but it would be interesting to know if there was any mystery surrounding his death; otherwise we find it difficult to account for the fact that the name of Collingwood is still remembered, in this connection, in village circles in Quorn and Barrow-on-Soar.

In 1750 Lawrence, Earl Ferrers rented the hall from the owner, Justilian Rainford. Lord Ferrers was a man with a violent temper, and in 1760, when under the influence of one of these uncontrollable fits, he killed his steward. He was tried by his peers and sentenced to death. It was considered a great concession to public opinion that a peer of the realm should be condemned to death on such a charge, and in order to console the unhappy Earl he was allowed the privilege of being hanged by a silken rope.

In 1754, Hugo Meynell bought the hall and inaugurated that association of the house with the Quorn Hunt which was to last for a hundred years. Meynell was the originator of the modern school of hard riding, and like most pioneers, he came in for much criticism at the hand of sundry sportsmen of the old school. He had his own method of dealing with opposition and his quiet and not unkindly sarcasm, shrewdly applied, seldom failed in its purpose. Unlike most of generation, he was but a moderate trencherman, and his usual hunting breakfast consisted of “as much as a small tea-cup would contain of 1lb. of veal, condensed to that quantity.” In his flask he carried “not curacao, not cherry bounce, but a far better stomachie in the shape of veritable tincture of rhubarb, to the use of which he was addicted.”

In 1791, Hugo Meynell entertained a large party of nobility and gentry at Quorn Hall. The names of several Dukes, Marquises and Earls are mentioned in a contemporary account but by some strange error of omission no one beneath these exalted ranks receives notice of any kind. On the first day of hunting, we are told “his distinguished visitors attended him to covert where there was an assembly of 300 horsemen and several ladies in carriage.” This house party characterised by the most lavish and generous hospitality, continued for ten days. For more than 45 years Hugo Meynell “reigned” over the Quorn, a perfect M.F.H., tactful and efficient, and “as much at home at St. James” as he was at Quorndon, or at Ashby pasture.”

In 1807, the renowned Assheton-Smith took over the reins. He was one of the fines riders to hounds in the history of the Quorn and his indenitable spirit is reflected in his famous remark that any fence can be got over without a fall.”

It is improbable that any other house in the shires can count among its owners so many of the most famous hunting men of all times. In 1817 the hall was sold to squire Osbaldeston, one of the outstanding personalities in the sporting history of this country. He was only with the Quorn for a short period, and it was the TitzWilliam that his name is chiefly associated. He was however with the local pack sufficiently long to leave behind him an abiding memory of “muddy backs, broken hats, and horses blown in their endeavour to live with hounds.” In 1821 for a wager of 1,000 guineas, he performed the astonishing feat of riding two hundred miles in eight hours fifty minutes, and we are told that he stood in the stirrups all the way.

The squire left the district in 1827 and for the next 28 years the hall continued to be the residence of respective masters of the Quorn, the last of whom was Sir Richard Sutton. In 1855 the estate was purchased by Mr. Edward Warner of The Elms, Loughborough, and although the kennels remained, the direct association of the hall with the Quorn Hounds was broken after it had endured for over a century.

 Submitted on: 2011-07-14
 Submitted by: Christine Sibcy
 Artefact ID: 1335
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page

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