|Allcroft of Stokesay|
John Derby Allcroft began buying land in the Stokesay area in 1867 when he acquired the 5,200 acre Stokesay Castle estate from the Earl of Craven for £215,000. With the land came the abandoned fortified manor house of Stokesay Castle, which he restored, and which his son opened to the public from 1908. There seems never to have been any suggestion that the castle might be modernised as a residence for the family, perhaps partly because it was already widely recognised as an important and eminently picturesque antiquity.
|Stokesay Castle, from John Britton's Architectural antiquities of Great Britain, 1813|
In 1874 John Derby Allcroft bought the adjoining property, called The Stone House, from the Windsor-Clive family, and renamed it Stokesay Court.
|The Stone House, Stokesay, from a watercolour. Image: Caroline Magnus.|
The Stone House was an attractive building, with a seven bay, two and a half storey front built for the Earl of Powis in about 1800, but with older work - said to date from the 16th century - behind. The Stone House became the family's temporary home, but was always felt to be too small for John Allcroft's large family. He seems always to have intended to build a new house, but he was determined to do so on a site with magnificent views which lay on the 686 acre Aldon estate to the south of Stokesay, which the owner would not sell to him. He waited patiently until she died in 1886 and then bought it from her son, Lord Rowton. He was finally able to begin the construction of the house in 1889.
Work on the house and grounds was still not finally completed when John Derby Allcroft died in 1893, in the middle of his year as High Sheriff of Shropshire. His house, like his shrievalty, was finished off by his son, Herbert John Allcroft (1865-1911), who practised as a barrister. A few aspects of the project which had not been commenced, like the building of an observatory and swimming bath, were abandoned. Herbert married late and died young, leaving a young family. His widow, Margaret, married again and lived with her second husband, son and daughter, at Stokesay. During the First World War the house was used as a military hospital and the family moved out into the Stable House for a period. During the Second World War Lancing College occupied the house for a year after being evacuated from Sussex, and it later became a Western Command Junior Leaders’ School, but the family kept a foothold in the house in the Ladies Wing. Margaret died in 1946 and her son, John Russell Allcroft (1905-50), died aged 45 in 1950, leaving the house and estate to his sister Jewell and her husband Sir Philip Magnus (d. 1988), who changed his name to Magnus-Allcroft in 1951. The fact that the family incurred two lots of death duties so close together may help to explain why Sir Philip and Lady Magnus-Allcroft never lived in more than a few rooms of the house. When Lady Magnus-Allcroft died in 1992 she left the estate to three beneficiaries, one of whom, her husband's niece, Caroline Magnus, wished to take the house on and live in it. Unfortunately it was necessary to sell all the contents in a massive four-day sale in 1994 by Sothebys to make this possible, but Miss Magnus then embarked on the enormous task of restoring and reviving this enormous mansion, which was in very poor repair after decades of limited maintenance. She describes it as a work in progress, but a great deal has been achieved, not least with the proceeds of using the house as the main set for the film Atonement in 2006.
Stokesay Court, Shropshire
Stokesay Court is by some way the grandest Victorian Jacobean mansion in Shropshire, and it is one which exhibits the Victorian country house plan at its most elaborate. It was built in 1889-92 for John Derby Allcroft by Thomas Harris of London, who perhaps came to Allcroft's notice because of his earlier commission to build Bedstone Court in Shropshire. By 1892 a total of £101,814 had been spent, and this figure continued to rise over the next three years. Harris advocated distilling a 'style for our time' from historical precedents, rather than slavishly copying them, and some of his commercial buildings were frankly experimental; architects did not then realise how insidiously the date of a building declares itself in the minutiae of building, almost regardless of the extent to which the architect sets out to reproduce something from an earlier time. In his country houses Harris was more traditional, but no one would mistake a huge big-boned but essentially domestic house like Stokesay for a 16th or 17th century mansion.
|Stokesay Court: entrance front. Image: Stokesay Court.|
The house is built of a local yellow sandstone, used rock-faced in thin courses, with ashlar dressings of the same stone. The entrance side is on the north-west, and consists of a deep three-sided courtyard, closed on the fourth side by a balustrade and wrought iron gates, linking the low battlemented tower features at the ends of the wings. The planning dictates that the courtyard is surrounded by corridors, and these are lit by small windows that give the house a rather bleak and forbidding appearance on this side.
|Stokesay Court from the west. Image: Stokesay Court|
The south-east and south-west fronts, overlooking the terrace, gardens and wonderful view, are a very different story. Both fronts deploy the full palette of Jacobean design tricks: shaped gables, bay windows of different shapes, oriel windows, grid windows that seem to occupy the entire wall, and stone balustrading, to give variety, interest and movement to the house.
The same change of mood from the entrance side to the show rooms is evident in the interior. The centre of the house is a single enormous top-lit and galleried hall, surrounded by broad corridors which are divided from it by arcades (below) and a colonnade (above) of richly-carved Jacobean-style woodwork. The south-west side of the hall has a massive grey stone and marble chimneypiece and overmantel, and the main staircase, again a tour-de-force of carving, lies behind the north-west arcade. All the main ground floor rooms open off the corridors around the hall, and these rooms are light and airy, with big windows and white-painted panelling in the drawing room. The south-west (or Batchelors') wing, framing one side of the entrance court, is composed of the billiard room and gentlemens' rooms, where dark wallpapers and unpainted wood were deemed appropriate; it is matched on the other side of the entrance court by a service wing. The north-east wing was the ladies' wing, (as far away as possible from the batchelors' wing), which backs onto the service wing. The original furnishings throughout the house were provided largely by Hampton & Sons of Pall Mall East, London, and were augmented by decorative items picked up by Herbert Allcroft on his travels, and later by items bought at country house sales by his widow, especially at the Oakly Park sale in 1944. The house was technologically advanced in various ways, and was one of the first houses to be lit by electricity from the beginning.
The gardens were laid out to designs by H.E. Milner in 1892, and included an herbaceous garden, a rock garden, a tea house and a fountain, all of which can be seen in their prime in photographs taken for Country Life in 1901. The house is now open to the public on a limited basis; see here for details.
Descent: Estate built up 1867-86 by John Derby Allcroft (1822-93); to son, Herbert John Allcroft (1865-1911); to son, John Russell Allcroft (1905-50); to sister, Jewell (1907-92), wife of Sir Philip Magnus (later Magnus-Allcroft), 2nd bt. (1906-88); to niece, Caroline Magnus (b. 1951).
Allcroft (later Magnus-Allcroft) family of Stokesay Court
Allcroft, Jeremiah Macklin (1791-1867) of Lower Wick House. Elder son of John and Mary Allcroft of Worcester, born 20 March 1791. Apprenticed to John Dent, glove manufacturer at Worcester, 1801, and by 1822 in partnership with J. & W. Dent of Sudeley Castle (Glos) as glove manufacturers at Worcester and London; Chamberlain of Worcester, 1832-33. He married 1st, 8 January 1821, Hannah (d. 1836), daughter of Thomas Derby of Birmingham, and 2nd, 20 September 1837, Sarah Davis (c.1808-80), daughter of Thomas Northwood and widow of George Linnell Bennett (d. 1837), and had, with other issue:
(1.1) John Derby Allcroft (1822-93) (q.v.);
(1.2) Elizabeth Macklin Allcroft (1825-51), born 19 December 1825; married, 17 April 1848, William Yarworth Jones (c.1811-84); died without issue, 19 October 1851.
He died at Lower Wick House, 5 July 1867; his will was proved 31 July 1867 (estate under £60,000). His widow died 16 December 1880; her will was proved 17 March 1881 (estate under £25,000).
Allcroft, John Derby (1822-93). Son of Jeremiah Macklin Allcroft (1791-1867) and his wife Hannah, daughter of Thomas Derby of Birmingham, born 19 July 1822. Glove manufacturer at Worcester and London as managing director of firm of Dent, Allcroft & Co., which under his leadership became the largest glove manufacturer in the world; admitted a freeman of the Cities of Worcester, 1844 and London, 1850; Fellow of Royal Astronomical Society, 1865 and the Royal Geographical Society; MP for Worcester, 1878-80; JP for Shropshire; High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1893; DL for County of London. He was a noted philanthropist of strong Evangelical persuasion, who built a number of London churches, including St Matthew, Bayswater (1881-82 by John Johnson), St Jude, Courtfield Gardens (1867-70 by G. & H. Godwin) and St Martin, Gospel Oak (1862-66 by E.B. Lamb) and was Chairman of the Church Pastoral Aid Society for many years to 1893; Treasurer of Christ's Hospital School; freemason and founder of Derby Allcroft Lodge in London, 1886. He married 1st, 5 June 1854 at Christ Church, Highbury Grove (Middx), Mary Annette (d. 1857), daughter of Rev. Thomas Martin, and 2nd, 9 August 1864 at Holy Trinity, Tulse Hill (Surrey), Mary Anne Jewell (d. 1895), eldest daughter of John Blundell of Timsbury Manor (Hants) and had issue:
(2.1) Herbert John Allcroft (1865-1911) (q.v.);
(2.2) Elizabeth Mary Allcroft (1866-1958), born 22 November 1866 and baptised 17 April 1867; died unmarried, 16 January 1958; will proved 17 July 1958 (estate £6,497);
(2.3) Harriet Jewell Allcroft (1868-1912), born 16 October 1868; married, 8 August 1902 at St Luke, Chelsea (Middx), Edward Augustus Bull and had issue three sons and one child who died in infancy; died 23 April 1912; will proved 6 June 1912 (estate £2,369);
(2.4) Walter Lacey Allcroft (1870-1931), born 6 October 1870; engineer; married, 30 December 1911, Ethel Annie Ricarda (d. 1933), daughter of Henry William Henniker-Rance LLD of Kensington (Middx) and had issue two daughters; died 13 January 1931; will proved 11 February 1931 (estate £5,681);
(2.5) Arthur Raleigh Allcroft (1872-1955), born 29 January 1872; partner in Dent, Allcroft & Co.; married Sofie Amelie Meyer (1869-1946) of Copenhagen (Denmark); died without issue, 10 December 1955; will proved 10 April 1956 (estate £17,210);
(2.6) John Derby Allcroft (1873-1926) of Sowberry Court, Moulsford (Berks), born 13 September and baptised 4 November 1873; married Marietta Harriet Ord and had issue two sons and two daughters; died 31 May 1926; will proved 22 July 1926 (estate £17,961).
He purchased the Stokesay Castle estate in 1867 and the adjoining Stone House estate in 1874, where he lived until he built Stokesay Court. In 1886 he bought the site he had selected for the Court, which was built in 1889-92. He also owned a house at Harlington (Middx).
He died at his London home, 108 Lancaster Gate, 29 July 1893; his will was proved 25 September 1893 (estate £492,063). His widow died 28 October 1895; her will was proved 13 December 1895 (estate £18,536).
Allcroft, Herbert John (1865-1911). Eldest son of John Derby Allcroft (1822-93) and his second wife, Mary Anne Jewell, daughter of John Blundell of Timsbury Manor (Hants), born 10 July 1865. Educated at Harrow and Inner Temple (called to the bar, 1890); practised as a barrister at law; admitted as a freeman of the City of London, 1887; JP for Shropshire; High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1893 (in succession to his father). He was a great traveller, and brought back oriental ceramics, Indian brasswork, Japanese embroideries and Chinese silks to decorate the interiors of Stokesay Court. He married, 15 December 1900, Margaret Jane (c.1867-1946), only daughter of Gen. Sir William Russell, 2nd bt., of Charlton Park, Charlton Kings (Glos) and had issue:
(1) (John) Russell Allcroft (1905-50), born 27 May 1905; educated at Harrow; High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1933; a Governor of Christ's Hospital; served in WW2 with Coastal Defence force of Territorial Army, 1939-41; died 19 March 1950; will proved 18 July 1950 and 2 August 1951 (estate £468,862);
(2) Jewell Allcroft (later Magnus-Allcroft) (1907-92) (q.v.);
He inherited the Stokesay Court estate from his father in 1893. At his death it passed to his son, and on his death, to his daughter Jewell and her husband.
He died 26 May 1911; his will was proved 21 July 1911 (estate £334,661). His widow married 2nd, 9 January 1917, Brig-Gen. Sir John Guy Rotton (d. 1940) and died 26 June 1946; her will was proved 31 October 1946 (estate £9,700).
Magnus-Allcroft (née Allcroft), Jewell (1907-92). Only daughter of Herbert John Allcroft (1865-1911) and his wife Margaret Jane, daughter of Gen. Sir William Russell, 2nd bt., of Charlton Park, Charlton Kings (Glos), born 26 January 1907; served in WW2 as a Welfare Officer in ATS, 1943-45; Vice-Chairman of British Legion (Women's Section). She married, 14 July 1943, Maj. Sir Philip Montefiore Magnus (later Magnus-Allcroft), 2nd bt. (1906-88), historian, but had no issue.
She inherited the Stokesay Court estate from her brother in 1950. At her death, Stokesay Castle passed to English Heritage, and the remainder of the estate to three beneficiaries, among whom her husband's niece, Caroline Magnus, has taken on and restored the house.
Lady Magnus-Allcroft died in 1992.
SourcesBurke's Landed Gentry, 1952 edn., p. 24; Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 2003, pp. 2695-6; Country Life, 2 March 1901, 18-25 August 1994; J. Newman & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Shropshire, 2006, pp. 452-53; http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/printable/63561; http://stokesaycourt.com/site/index.php/history-of-stokesay-court/; http://www.independent.co.uk/property/interiors/design--interiors-stokesay-court-781858.html. I am most grateful to Caroline Magnus for her assistance with the preparation of this account.
Location of archives
Allcroft and Magnus-Allcroft of Stokesay: the archive is believed to exist in private hands.
Coat of arms
Argent, a cross engrailed, in the first and fourth quarters a fret between four fleurs-de-lis, and in the second and third quarters, three pears pendant, all sable.