Bedale Hall stands in parkland at the North End of the town close to where a medieval castle is believed to have formerly stood but of which no trace remains. It has been rightly described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “really a Country House placed in a Town”. In the early 19th Century the Hall stood in its own gardens with a main entrance on the old High Road to Lancaster.
The Squire then was Henry Peirse, direct descendant of one of the Peirse’s of Lazenby and Hutton Bonville, who had purchased in the mid 17th Century what had once been the half share of the extensive Manor held by the Fitzalans.
The Manor of Bedale was in two parts, nominally moieties, until the 19th Century. At the death, in 1306, of Brian Fitzalan, Lord of Bedale, when the male line of the Fitzalans died out the Manor was divided between his two daughters. It seems likely that, between the 14th. and 17th. centuries, each of the moieties had its own separate manor house. Mention is made in 1571 of “Manor House of Bedall”, and again in 1608, of “Manor house called Heygh Halle in Bedall in occupation of Brian Stapleton”. John Peirse’s purchase deeds of 1638 specify, inter alia, “the site or capital messuage of the manor of Bedale”, suggesting a more or less ruinous house. A hundred years later, John Peirse’s descendants acquired from the Stapletons, first by lease and then by exchange, a second “site of the ancient manor house” embodied in “Bryan Stapleton’s farm”.
It would appear that a manor house was built, possibly in the 17th Century, probably an unassuming house of rubble constructed in the vernacular style. The first room on the left of the corridor, which would have been contained in the original house, has some wood carving on the fireplace over- mantel and on the panel opposite, which may be 17th Century work after Grindling Gibbons.
18th. Century Expansion
In about 1730 Henry Peirse started to transform the Manor House into a Palladian Mansion following his return from “The Grand Tour”, a fashion then prevalent. This work included filling in the space between the wings of the old house to form a Saloon extending through two storeys and of double cube dimensions. The frontage was faced with stone and projected slightly forward from the ends of the old wings which were then rendered in Ashlar, to match the new stonework, the whole being finished with a stone Balustrade. The real glory of the improvements is the plasterwork. The entrance Hall is boldly decorated with panels, swags and masks, beneath a coffered cupola. The cantilevered staircase has banisters of a bulb and umbrella motif, characteristic of North Riding houses of this date. The baroque swagger of the saloon comes as a surprise.
On the deep cove is a rough copy of Giuseppe Artari’s frieze in Stone Hall at Houghton, the garland, medallions and strapwork of the ceiling are rather more delicate, while the frames of the large wall panels are enriched with baroque birds and trophies. No individual architect’s name has been associated with the work at Bedale Hall, although Colen Campbell and even William Kent have been suggested. Their designs were, however, well known, and it is possible that Mr Peirse and a good local builder could have planned the alterations themselves. It has been plausibly offered that the cove decorations were copied from the illustrations in Isaac Ware’s “The Plans, Elevations and Sections of Houghton in Norfolk” published in 1735. Our stuccoist is not known but the work strongly resembles the library at Newburgh Priory, which is attributed to Giuseppe Cortese, who had an extensive practice in Northern England from about 1725 onwards. The possibility of his having worked in Bedale is nowhere excluded. The fireplace surround in the Saloon resembles a design by Carr.
When the transformation was completed the Hall remained unchanged until about 1760 when a new stable wing was added to the west end of the house and a very successful racing stud was established. At the same time “gallops” were laid out on land near the house. The stable wing became so ruinous and dangerous that it had to be demolished in 1954.
Until about 1777 the Hall was detached from the houses on the west side of the Market Place when the owner decided to enlarge the house by incorporating an old Inn which stood nearby, and thus the building became attached to the town houses. At the same time the Lancaster road which ran through an archway under the Inn was closed, though the archway still remains. In the early 19th. century Mr. Henry William De La Poer Beresford, the eldest son of Admiral Sir John Beresford and Harriet-Elizabeth Peirse, assumed the additional surname and arms of Peirse on succeeding his aunt in the Manors of Bedale and Hutton Bonville. Mr. Henry Beresford-Peirse’s son, Henry Monson De La Poer Beresford-Peirse succeeded his uncle, Sir George Beresford as third baronet in February 1873
20th. Century Tenants
From this time onwards few external alterations appear to have been made and the Beresford-Peirse family continued to occupy the house until sometime after the 1914-1918 war.
During the time between the two wars the Hall was let and occupied by some notable tenants. However at the outbreak of the 1939-1945 war both it and the park were requisitioned by the war department. Thereafter it was occupied by various regiments until about 1946-1947. Wartime neglect had taken its toll and by the time it was derequisitioned in 1948 the Hall was in a very sorry state. Whilst standing in this condition the premises were entered by squatters and by 1950 some twelve or more families were living in the building, including two families in the Saloon. Much damage was being done to the ornamenttion, woodwork and flooring, both by the squatters to fuel their fires and by rain leaking through the roofs. At that time the whole of the wood block flooring in the main corridor, and many cupboards, had been burned, and about one third of the Saloon ceiling had either fallen down or was crumbling beyond repair.
Consequently at that time there were grave doubts that the Hall could be saved and it seemed possible that the property would be sold for demolition.
A New Lease of Life
It was then that the old Bedale Rural District Council, who were seeking a new Headquarters and Office building became interested in the property and in 1951 were able to purchase the Hall, three tenanted cottages and paddock for £4,000. At the same time the Park was handed over to be used as a public open space.
Minimal repairs were carried out to make the building habitable and the council’s offices were moved into the Hall in 1952. The Council then embarked on an ambitious long term programme to restore the building to its original condition. The highlight of this programme the complete restoration of the Staircase Hall, Corridor and the Saloon, now called the Ballroom. This scheme attracted a large grant from the Historic Buildings Council and the work was completed in 1961. Every detail of the Ballroom except for the heaters and emergency exits, is now as it was constructed at about 1730.
As well as serving as the Council’s Headquarters, the Hall became increasingly a Community Centre for the district, beginning with the establishment of the County Library in 1954 in the room which had been the library when the Hall was a family residence. This room is now referred to as the Drawing Room, the County Library having moved into refurbished accommodation at the rear of the building. The Ballroom was, and still is, regularly used for dances, dinners, receptions and trade purposes. Many other services were also accommodated in the building including a Dental Surgery, Child Welfare Clinic, National Farmers Union, Local Dramatic Society and a small museum.
In 1974 the ownership of the Hall passed to the new Hambleton District Council. The majority of the building was used as local authority offices. The foresight of the old Bedale Rural District Council in the early 1950′s, without doubt, ensured that this fine historic building was saved.
In 1985 Hambleton District Council encouraged the formation of a Tourist Information Centre to be run by volunteers, originally in the Staircase Hall then transferred into the Morning Room off the Ballroom in October 1986 when the Council moved to their newly completed Civic Centre in Northallerton. Bedale Hall was leased to Bedale and Aiskew Parish Councils in 1988. The lease was signed before invited guests prior to the official opening of the Community Centre by Lord Martin Fitzalan Howard D.L. on 30th. September 1988. The Hall is now operated as a charitable trust.
EXTRACTS FROM BERESFORD-PEIRSE ARCHIVES
6 June 1438
Grant from Earl of Northumberland, Lord Talbot, Lord Scales, Ed Stapleton, Wm Paston, Wm Ascough, to Miles Stapleton, Son of Brian Stapleton Ingham, Norfolk, Manors of Bedale, Coderston & Askarn Bryan with app 8 tofts, 6 oxgangs, 44 acres with app Advowson Bedale, Melsonby.
15 March 1445
Wm Dygbe of Bedall 45 in performance of indenture with Fr Slingsby & Fr Tanckard for sale for his manor of Bedell & others.
19 December 1497
Grant from Henry VII to Sir John Digby – manor of Bedale with app advowson, Knight fee, Court Leets & all liberties, Frankpledge 7 villeins which had come to the King’s hands by forfeiture, treason of Sir Francis Lovel, Viscount Lovell, Rent I red rose at the feast of John the Baptist.
27 October 1542
Covenant for annuity Everard Dygby esq. 20 marks from manor of Bedall, which manor came to King from forfeiture, Lovel, grant of Henry VII letters patent 8 December 1497 which manor has been trans to John Digby.
16 March 1557/8
Philip & Mary Dues & grants to Fr Slyngsbye all the itc Manor of Bedall with advow Bedall, Leeming, Richmond Feriby, Askought juxte Bedall, Leerning, Mellsynbye, North Lees Rawdiffe Hoime Burrell N Cowton sign Wm Broth……
Will Tennant attorneys to give siesin.
9 August 1565
Copy of pleading bel. Council of North, John Wycliffe, John Jackson, Leonard Gale of Newton, Richard Nelson, Aiskewe v Marm Pearse defendant. Reciting
( William Dygbe ) was seised in fee inter alia of a tenement in Bedale.
23 February 1570/1
Letters patt to Earl of Warwick (Ambrose) for faithful service during late rebellion in the Northern Parts, manors of Bedall, Ascugh etc Simon Digby in tenure.
28 November 1571
Title Deeds Bedale Manor by Peirse to Adam Tenente & son of John of Bedall Lease 1571 of site or Manor House of Bedall all demesne lands.
In 1586 Jackson & Ric Stapleton both held Bedall, Aiskew & others Covenant by Jackson to erect two mills on site of former mill
Letters Patent to Sir Wm Thekestone prev granted by Eliz I to Earl of Warwickshire.
2 September 1608
Lease for 25 years Sir Ric Thekestone Kt to Brian Stapleton of Bedall Gent of the Manor house called Heygh Halle in Bedall in occ of Brian Stapleton..
29 November 1613
Henry Peirse, gent, attorney to give seisin. lfilS Ric Peirse demanded of 2 tenants (Jn Wastell) return of fees of land & pasture & cattle.
25 October 1638
Articles of Agreement Wm Thekestone Kt (London) & wife & Jn Peirse of Greenwich, Kent, to indemnify them for ann of 20 marks claimed by Lord Robert Digby & bring a suit against Bryan Stapleton for part of annuity (Jn Peirse had purchase thier) if case went to Digby monies to be paid to Theakstone 1638. Properties in fine suit Stapleton v Peirse. Mr P hath purchased another property there, was Theakstone sometimes Digbies.
16 January 1639/40
Deed Poll Henry Tenente snr of Bedall gent surrendering to John Peirse lease as below & all his interest in the properties therein. Reciting that Henry Tenente held his present dwelling house in Bedall with cottage adjoining, buildings, orchards & appurenances (late in tenure of his cousin Henry Peirse) for term of 21 years at rent £26 pa… that Sir William Theakstone & wife Dorothy having sold the manor of Beedall to Henry Tenante’s cousin John Peirse did by lease (procured by Thomas Brewster) demised to Henry Tenente the said properties for 21 years at said rent.
Deed Poll John Peirse to son Ric Capital Messuage of manor.
From Miles Stapleton lease to John Peirse citizen and alderman of London, and his son Richard.
7 June 1656
Covenat by Peirse to spend £150 on building of a house adj one of their own called the Bolt.
17 September 1656
Lease for 21 years by Stapletons to John P of London & son Ric of Bedall, of site of old manor house in Bed as then walled with the ground adj thg wall called Cheryhill.
3 December 1662
Lease for yr. Ric Theckeston of Greenwich to Ric Peirce of Lazenby of 2 closes called Lowewood & Firby Loweside in Bedall in the tenure of Sir Miles Stapletone & the advowson of the church of Bedall alias Bedell also alias Ascugh alias Ascough alias Bedall et Ascough, and moity of such a vowson.
23 October 1669
Conveyance from Ric Tenante to Ric Peirse of Lazenby a parcel of meadow in Bristall Ings called Bristall Rood, in p of Rand Grange.
11 November 1685
Mortgage by 99 year lease for £1500 Richard Peirse of Lazenby Esq. & John his son & heir to John Wastell of Bolton-on-Swale of the Mansion house of Beedall with outhouse, stables, dovecots etc. Assignment of mortgage of 11 November 1685 back to Thomas Peirse, Richard’s son.
3 February 1713/4
Lease for 7 years Henry P to Ralph Harland shoemaker of a mess. in Beedall with buildings, orchard & garth (excep. a barn & stable adjoining High Street & formerly let with the tenement in posses, of Thomas Plumer) Covenant inc. one by Ralph Harland to build a cockpit at the back of the messuage.
8 December 1727
Lease for 21 years Henry Peirse to John Plummer of Beedall worsett merchant, of a messuage on East Row in Beedall occ. by Sarah Robinson adj. house of Ralph Longstaffe on south & house of William Thwaites on north.
Title deeds – Bedale Manor on lease by Peirse. Articles of Agreement Thomas Stapleton of Cariton Hall, York, Ann Peirse of Bedall, widow of Henry Peirse & guardian of Hen Peirse jun. Stapleton & Peirse were seised of estate in Bedale & Aiskew that late Henry Peirse had held by leases (last expiring 1752) from Stapleton, properties called Bryan Stapleton’s farm incl. site of ancient Manor Hse, buildings, a close at wood corner of Fletcher Close Nook (I acre) 2 closes behind site on south of the street & adjoining Laike Garth (6 acres).
NOTABLE DATES IN THE HISTORY OF BEDALE HALL
1651 Land leased to Thomas Plumer by the Peirse family, to build a house.
Work started to transform the house into a Palladian Mansion.
1760 Stable wing built and racing stud established.
1777 Hall extended to link with houses on west side of Market Place and Lancaster road closed.
1827 Duke of Wellington entertained at a great reception in the Saloon.
1917 Considerable part of the Hall used as a Red Cross Hospital and Convalescent Home for men injured in the war.
1920 Hall let and thereafter occupied by tenants.
1939 Hall requisitioned by War Department and occupied by the Army until 1948.
1948 Hall occupied by squatters.
1951 Bedale Rural District Council became owners of the Hall.
1959 Bedale Museum opened.
1961 Ballroom restoration completed.
1974 Ownership of Hall passed to Hambleton District Council.
1988 Hall leased to Bedale and Aiskew Parish Councils. A Charitable Trust formed to run the Hall as a Community Centre
A replacement floor was installed in the Ballroom.
Sources of Information
County Archives Northallerton
Museum Archives Bedale
McCalls Early History of Bedale
Hirds Annals of Bedale
Lesley Lewis Country Life Magazine 1971