On the left hand side travelling to the village from Henley-in-Arden stands Barrells Hall. It cannot be seen from the village road but travelling along the A4189 towards Studley through Oldberrow a glimpse of the building can be had.
The name Barrells, applied to an estate, is first mentioned in a P.C.C. will of 1581, and it is probable that a descendent of a William Barel acquired the estate now called Barrells about that time and gave his name to it. William Barel is mentioned in the Lay Sub. Rolls for 1327 and 1332 as having paid 12d. in respect of land held in Aspley in Wootton Wawen. In 1413 Richard Barell of Ullenhall occurs in Ancient Deeds. (Cooper, Henley-in-Arden, 1946)
From 1554 Barrells Hall was in the hands of the Knight family. From the list of contents recorded in the inventory of Nicholas Knight in 1652 it appears to have been merely a farm house of the ordinary Warwickshire type. At the death of John Knight in 1681 it was called the Manor House and the residence, orchards and gardens covered a little more than one-and-a-half acres, the whole estate including the waste being 400 acres. (Cooper, Henley-in-Arden, 1946)
In 1730 it was purchased by Robert Knight from his second cousin Raleigh Knight. Robert Knight was the son of Robert Knight cashier of the South Sea Company who was blamed for the infamous financial scandal. [If you’d like to read more about the South Sea Bubble try A Very English Deceit: The Secret History of the South Sea Bubble by M. Balen, 2002].
Robert Knight married Henrietta St John. She was half sister to Viscount Bolingbroke, a minister in Queen Anne’s government. Henrietta Knight (Lady Luxborough) caused a society scandal when news broke of an alleged romance with a young man named Dalton, a tutor employed by her friend Lady Hertford, Duchess of Somerset. Whether anything improper did occur is the subject of debate but nevertheless she was ‘banished’ to Barrells in 1736 and lived there, separated from her husband, for the rest of her life.
Whilst living at Barrells she made improvements to the house and garden and became part of a local Literary Coterie which included Shenstone, Somerville, Jago and Richard Graves.
Lady Luxborough died in 1756. Her husband, Robert Knight, who was elevated to the Earl of Catherlough in 1770, spent the last years of his life living at Barrells with Jane Davies, the daughter of his tenant of the Moat Farm in Ullenhall, and their children. He made alterations to the house by building domestic offices, servants’ rooms, a new kitchen and a chapel.
Although they never married, the eldest son of Lord Catherlough and Jane Davies, Robert Knight (b1768), inherited the Barrells estate and he doubled the size of the house by adding a new building designed by the architect Joseph Bonomi.
On the death of this Robert Knight in 1855 there were two claimants to the Barrells estate Robert’s nephew, Charles Raleigh Knight, and Rev. Henry Charles Knight. Henry Charles Knight (b 1813) was the son of Robert’s wife Frances whom he had married in 1791, but despite having the ‘Knight’ name it appears that he was not Robert’s son and Robert did not want him to inherit the estate.
A compromise was agreed between the two claimants and in 1856 the Barrells Hall estate was put up for sale. The Rev. Henry Charles Knight bought parts of it, but Barrells Hall itself and other parts of the estate were sold to Mr William Newton, a Birmingham merchant who lived at Whateley Hall, Aston.
“The property, . . ., is now possessed by W. Newton, esq., who has taken down the portico, repaired the front, and built a lofty hall extending to a lighted cupola or lantern at top, with spacious kitchens and other suitable offices behind”. (Hannett – The Forest of Arden, 1863).
When William Newton died in 1862 his eldest son, Thomas Henry Goodwin Newton, inherited the estate and Hall. This era saw the Newtons build a new Church, Village School, and Coffee House for the Village.
“The property is now possessed by T.H.G. Newton, Esq., . . . The present proprieter has added a spacious conservatory on the west front, through which is now the principal entrance, and has built a new wing on the east”. Hannett – The Forest of Arden 1894.
Thomas Henry Goodwin Newton died in 1907 and the estate and Hall passed to his son, Hugh Goodwin Newton. It is said that he was well liked in the area but for some reason he decided to sell the property and estate in 1919 and move to Somerset.
The estate of the late Rev. H.C. Knight was also put up for auction in 1919.
The Barrells Estate was split up and sold after H.G. Newton decided to leave the area in 1919. The Hall failed to sell in 1919, and at a sale in 1924 following the death of H.G. Newton in Devon. It was therefore put up for sale again in 1925.
Barrells Hall was eventually purchased by Mr J.W. Marsh of Bishopton House. However in 1933, before he had taken up residence, a fire destroyed part of the building.
The Hall later came into the possession of Mr E.H. Smith. He lived at Grimshaw Hall, just a short distance from Barrells Hall.
Barrells Hall became an impressive ruined stripped of most of its content.
In 1957 Barrells Park, comprising of the shell of Barrells Hall, The Lodge, The Stable Cottage, Coach Houses and Stabling, was offered for sale as part of the Grimshaw Hill Estate sale.
It was purchased by Mr Patrick Dare who built a new house in the grounds. He took down the worst part of the 18th century building and incorporated some of the old stone carving into a specially designed hearth, as well as using some of the better of the old bricks.
In 2000 the then owner of Barrells Park, Mr John Saville, put Barrells Park House, the Stable Cottage & Coach House, Barrells Park Lodge, and the Old Barrells Hall Ruin up for sale.
The ruin was purchased by Mr David Riley of Grimshaw Hall, who was granted planning permission to restore the ruin as a private residence.
It was then sold to Mr Daniel Lynch who carried out work to restore the part of the Hall that was still standing – the Bonomi building and the east wing.
It is now once again a private residence.