Page revised 21 August 2001

EDWARD LAW

HUDDERSFIELD & DISTRICT HISTORY

STORTHES HALL, THURSTONLAND.

Edward J Law.

Storthes Hall has received attention in the past from two local historians. Firstly and most exhaustively by H J Morehouse in his History of Kirkburton and the Graveship of Holme, 1861, and more recently by Philip Ahier whose recapitulation of the foregoing and updates were published c.1932, possibly as part of a report on the West Riding Mental Hospital at Storthes Hall1. Morehouse’s description of the situation of the house although made at a time when the owners no longer resided upon the estate, is illustrative of the desirable natural setting which families of wealth sought from the earliest days, and which over the centuries might be further improved by afforestation and emparking.

  • It is situated on a richly-wooded knoll, at the north-eastern extremity of the Township of Thurstonland, and on the banks of a small stream, which divides the townships of Burton and Shelley from that of Thurstonland. It is a modern-built mansion, plain, but uniform in its exterior, having been erected about 70 years ago by the aunts of the present proprietor,- Charles Horsfall Bill Esq. When viewed from the opposite banks, the house has a very pleasing appearance, surrounded with fine timber, which has been allowed to attain a considerable size. There is also an extensive sweep of woodland, which stretches in an unbroken line to the west, and along the south front into the winding dell below.
  • A family of Storthes may have given their name to the district or, more likely, taken their name from it. It is thought that the transfer from place to family is likelier as it is a fairly common place name in the area around Huddersfield with occurrences at Birkby, Elland and Dalton.

    Whichever came first, the family or the place name, the first documentation of both is relatively close. Ahier records that the Wakefield Court Rolls of 1275 and 1286 mention the place, Storths in Thurstonland, whilst the earliest use of the family name noted by Morehouse is of a Matthew de Storthes in the reign of Henry III (1216 to 1272). Morehouse gives further instances of the family name through the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

    The earliest evidence of ownership of Storthes appears in a deed2 of c.1362, when a fourth part of "Storthes within the town of Thurstonland" together with other property, passed from John de Birton to Isabell de Birton. At some point the whole estate of Storthes came into the hands of the Storthes family. In 1541 Henry VIII granted "to John Storthes of Shitlington, but likewise of Storthes Hall, gentleman" the Manor of Thurstonland and other lands late the property of Roche Abbey3. The style ‘hall’ indicates a substantial house, and the fact that John was living elsewhere would seem to indicate that the Hall had been in existence for some time. We may assume that well before 1541 they had erected a substantial house on the land, and it is probable that they had in fact lived upon the estate from the thirteenth century, when the use of the name ‘de’ or ‘of’ Storthes is first noted.

    John Storthes died in 1544 and was succeeded by his fifteen year old son Gervase4 who in 1551 was described as of Storthes Hall. Both he and his wife were dead by 1573 and they were succeeded by Thomas Storthes, gentleman, who was of Storthes Hall from 1574 to at least 1603. In 1605 the estate and the Manor of Thurstonland was sold to Richard Horsfall. He is said by Ahier to have originated from Mankinholes in the parish of Halifax, whilst another authority5 places the family at Denholme in the parish of Bradford. Denholme and Mankinholes lie within ten miles of each other and there may be truth in both assertions. There is a deed6 of 1582 in which Richard Horsfall, yeoman, of "Mankynholes" is shown to have an interest in property in Thurstonland: whether this was the same Richard who purchased Storthes Hall does not appear, but there can be little doubt there was a connection.

    The Horsfalls made the Hall their family home and resided on the estate for some two centuries. Richard, the grandson of Richard who purchased the estate was a Captain in the Civil War. Morehouse places him in Sir J Ramsden’s regiment whilst Dugdale7 has Sir George Savile’s regiment. Morehouse quotes from a letter written by Sir William Savile in 1643 which would indicate that he was in Savile’s regiment. It has been said that Captain Horsfall gave up the army and returned to Storthes Hall at the time of his father’s death in September 1644. Statements in the Royalist Composition papers show that he was a Captain of Horse in the army under the command of the Earl of Newcastle and that he actually deserted from the army in August 1643.

    The male line of the Horsfalls came to an end in 1780 with the death of William Horsfall. He left a widow and five daughters, his only son, Ingram, having died at the age of ten whilst at Heath School. In 1788 only one of the daughters, Grace, was married, and in March of that year an indenture was drawn up which contained an agreement for the rebuilding of Storthes Hall and made provision for any or all of the spinster sisters and their mother to reside at the Hall whilst they remained unmarried8. The Hall which was built at that time is the one which Morehouse described as modern-built, and the one which still stands, now over 200 years old.

    Three of the five sisters did marry. Grace married George Sutton of Stockton on Tees; Dorothy married Robert Bill, a one-time resident of the island of Sumatra in the East Indies, and Frances married Joseph Scott of Woodsome, it is said that she was a good deal older than him and that he married her for her money9. Only Dorothy Bill had issue, an only child Charles Horsfall Bill being born in January 1792. The two spinster sisters Ann and Elizabeth lived at the Hall down to about 1818.

    It was Charles Horsfall Bill, the only grandson of William Horsfall who eventually became the owner of the Storthes Hall estate. He appears to have taken up residence at the time that his aunts vacated the Hall. He is noted there in the land tax return of 1819, and a deed of the same year records that Ann and Elizabeth Horsfall, late of Storthes Hall, were then living in Bath. The two sisters saw their days out at Bath, Ann died in 1832 and Elizabeth in 1843. It is not known how long Charles Horsfall Bill lived at the Hall; he was there in 1826 but by 1848 was living in York. Morehouse noted that the Hall had ceased to be the residence of its owner over twenty years ago, so it is possible that Bill lived there into the 1830s. Only a female servant and a gardener are noted at the Hall in the 1841 census: it may be that the house was unoccupied but kept in readiness for visits, a state of affairs which also pertained at times at the neighbouring residence of Woodsome Hall.

    No doubt as time passed and visits of the owner became less frequent his thoughts would turn to selling or letting the property. The first known tenancy was that of the Inchbalds. Sarah Inchbald, widow of Rev. Peter Inchbald, two of her sons and three of her daughters, all adult and unmarried, were living there in 1851. One of the sons, Peter, was principal of a boarding school on the premises and is recorded conducting an academy at the Hall in 1847. In addition to four servants there were two other masters and nine pupils at the Hall. Hulbert records that it was a place of "superior education". The nine boys boarding at the time of the 1851 census were aged between eight and sixteen and all except one were from Yorkshire. There were two local boys, George Beaumont from Honley and Joseph Beaumont from Huddersfield, the latter probably the son of Joseph Beaumont of Moldgreen, a prosperous tobacconist. The school was still functioning in 1861 but unfortunately the census of that year was taken the week after Easter and none of the pupils, who were presumably on holiday, are recorded. Two masters were in residence as were five servants and a gardener.

    The last record of the boarding school is in the directory of 1863-64 and certainly by the time of the 1871 census Peter Inchbald was no longer on the scene and the Hall was unoccupied. The only evidence of any usage of the estate at that time was the occupation by a father and son of the nearby Ravensknowle: they were gamekeepers. Charles Horsfall Bill died in 1863 and is interred in London’s great Highgate Cemetery. He had two sons, Charles Horsfall and Augustus Horsfall: the former served in the 15th Hussars and subsequently lived at Tetbury, Gloucestershire and Woking in Surrey. It may be that he enjoyed the shooting on the estate, which is reputed to have been the finest in the country10.

    The Hall was subsequently occupied by Benjamin Lockwood, a fancy woollen manufacturer in a large way of business, who is noted there from 1876 to 1881. He also took the demesne lands, farming 170 acres. When his business failed he left the Hall to reside at Ravensknowle on the estate.

    In June 1887 Joseph Armytage Armitage of the family of Milnsbridge mill owners took a lease of the Hall where he resided until his death in 1898, at which time he was paying rent of 130 p.a. for the mansion and land. In that year Charles Horsfall Bill sold the mansion and the estate to Thomas Norton of Bagden Hall for 49,500. It appears that Norton was acting in concert with the West Riding County Council for he immediately sold them the mansion and part of the estate, on which they proceeded to build the mental hospital.

    The mental institution served the West Riding for over 80 years, passing to Huddersfield University on its closure. It is hoped that in the present favourable climate for preservation the mansion will be safeguarded among grounds appropriate to its size and importance.

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