English Stately Homes and Castles - East Midlands

Scawby Hall, North Lincolnshire

The family home of the Nelthorpe family for over 400 years

Scawby Hall is a lovely brick built Jacobean Manor House with tall chimney stacks in the depths of the North Lincolnshire countryside. It is still lived in by descendants of the Richard Nelthorpe who built the house in the early C17th and is buried in the church, along with many other members of the family. Over the years it has been gradually extended and altered, without destroying the feel of the house. 

Scawby Hall, North Lincolnshire

It is the only still lived in stately home open to visitors in North Lincolnshire and is surrounded by parkland with mature trees and a walled garden.  It is only open for a few days each year in the summer.

Scawby Hall, North Lincolnshire

Visits are by guided tour lead by enthusiastic guides but photography is not allowed in the house. The route taken varies, depends on the guide and also avoiding other groups being shown round.

The tour begins in the ENTRY HALL with dark panelling round the base of the walls, rather dingy cream coloured paint on the walls and a splendid wood staircase. There are lots of family portraits and much of the tour is linked to the history of the family and their portraits. It is quite a convoluted story and it helps to have read the background on the website or in the guide book beforehand. The family coat of arms is also on display with the hand and dagger at the top. This appears throughout the house on pieces of furniture, china etc.

We began in the DRAWING ROOM off the entrance hall which faces south over a rough kept lawn. This would originally have been the main entrance hall of the house, but was altered in the C19th. On one wall is a huge mirror which makes the room look a lot larger and would originally have been where the main staircase went off. There is a splendid Waterford crystal chandelier. There are easy chairs scattered round the room with small footstools.

Above the mantlepiece is a Stubbs painting of Elizabeth and Henry, the first of many seen around the house. Elizabeth, the second wife of Henry, the fifth baronet was the first to recognise Stubb’s genius and commission paintings by him.

Above the fireplace is a hatch which could be lifted for boys to sweep the chimney. There is some very nice furniture in the room, including a C16th marquetry chest which is the oldest piece of furniture in the house. A later chest of drawers is also marquetry although when seen from an angle, the marquetry looks more like carving. The Japanese ceramics on display were brought back by Robert Nassau Sutton-Nelthorpe, the C19th soldier who spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and India.

Next was the DINING ROOM with its big central table surrounded by what may be Sheraton chairs. On the far wall is a round convex mirror described as the butler’s mirror. When standing in a corner of the room, he could see the whole room in it. Near it is a Victorian teapoy used to keep tea under lock and key. On one wall is a huge bookcase. Henry’s first wife brought the books as part of her dowry.

The tour then continued up the splendid staircase to the first floor landing with the bedrooms off it, each identified by a painted number on he door. At the top of the stairs in a William and Mary marquetry tall clock which is actually built into the fabric of the house.  There are pictures of horses on the walls (not Stubbs) as Sir Henry, the seventh baronet, was keen on horse racing. His horse Everlasting won three gold cups which are displayed in ROOM 9. This is rather an empty room with  big display case in the centre with an original copy of Stubb’s book “The Anatomy of the Horse” from 1776. He was unable to find anyone skilled enough to do the engravings for the book so spent seven years teaching himself how to be an engraver.

Sir Henry also bred shire horses and there is a model of one of them displayed in here. This was made by Mappin and Webb and presented too Sir Henry at a ceremonial dinner in Brigg. There are large display cases against the walls. One contains family silver, much with the hand and dagger, with coronation mugs above.

Across the hall in Room 8 is COLONEL OLIVER SUTTON NELTHORPE’S BEDROOM.  The colonel died in 1963 and this is very much a soldier’s room with his uniform hanging in the wardrobe and his medals on display. At the foot of the bed is a large trunk with leather straps. He was able to lie in bed and look out of the window at the domestic buildings and keep an eye on the servants. It is quite a spartan room with a single easy chair and table. On the wall by the fireplace are a series of small silhouette pictures painted in 1820. Above his bed are some small rather nice watercolours of sloops and keels on the Humber and the Thames.

BEDROOM 7, the middle room, was and still is the guest bedroom and faces south. The pale blue walls are the original colour from the C17th. There are hidden cupboards set into the panelling on the walls. There are huge wardrobes and bookcases with a selection of modern paperbacks. Making a change from the family portraits are paintings of estate servants; the gardener and the grave digger and his wife. There are also two rather nice water colours of the lakes at Scawby. Through the far door is the bathroom with pale and dark blue walls.

This leads into the oldest part of the house with another splendid wooden staircase. Pevsner lusted after the staircases which he reckoned were the best in Lincolnshire. A door closes off the stairs to the servants quarters. 

Off this is BEDROOM 2, a huge room which makes the half tester bed look quite insignificant. Originally there would have been a rope from the bed to the latch on the door, allowing the door to be opened without getting out of bed. The white china toilet set with the rust red rim is Wedgwood.

Across the landing is the NURSERY with an appliqued quilt with tractor, farm animals and children. There is a tiny china tea set and a set of ivory elephants of different sizes. The small four poster bed was made by estate workmen. On the wall above the bed are a series of Kate Greenaway drawings. She was a visitor to the house.

The stairs lead down into the ‘SITTING HALL’. This is a large room stretching across the eastern side of the house and would have had a doorway to the outside. Against the wall is a massive carved oak cupboard dated 1671 which predates the house and a carved child’s cradle. There are easy chairs around the massive fireplace which has alcoves on either side, displaying blue and white china collected by Robert Nassau Sutton-Nelthorpe. Above the alcoves are a Staffordshire lion and a tiger dating from 1810-20. The tiger has a man’s head in his jaws and commemorates the tragic death of Sir Hector Munro’s son while hunting deer near Calcutta in 1792.  There are two more Stubb’s pictures here as well as family photos.

Off the sitting hall is the STUDY which has a huge desk and bookcases with books connected to the estate. Above one of the bookcases is a very clever trompe-l’œil book. On the wall is Stubb’s painting of lions. The heavily carved fireplace and over mantle was probably made of recycled pieces of furniture, including bed posts. 

Down the corridor is COLONEL OLIVER’S Study or the LIBRARY, with views out over the estate. This was the estate office with massive central table with comfortable ‘corner elbow’ chairs. On the table in a box for stationery and another wooden box contains a Mappin and Webb Microscope. The bookshelves hold the estate books and there is a Bible box. Above it is the box containing the scroll with the petition to Queen Victoria from Robert Nassau Sutton to be allowed to add Nelthorpe back to his name. There is a big recessed brick fireplace and Stubb etchings on the walls.

The guided tour takes just over an hour. The first tour is at 1.30 and as I was the only person waiting, I had my own personal tour.  I did find it a bit heavy on family history and portraits which I do tend to find a bit boring. I managed to persuade the guide to cut this part short and concentrate more on the house and contents. Unfortunately less is known about these than the pictures. The house had only been open a couple of days so the guide was still relying very much on the crib sheet which she was reading out.

It is worth spending some time exploring the walled garden. St Hybald’s Church is also open when the Hall is open, serving tea and homemade cakes. These are very good.

Scawby Hall, North Lincolnshire

Scawby Hall is only open for a few days each year in the summer. Dates vary from year to year and are advertised on their website.
The post code is DN20 9LX and the grid reference is SE 968057. There is plenty of parking near the walled garden. The Sutton Arms
in the village does good meals.

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