Historic mansion steeped in legends

THE beautiful Thorpe Hall at South Elkington with its own deer park, indoor pool and leisure complex, has just come on the market for £2.15 million. Here we tell of the history and legends surrounding the spectacular mansion.

Situated in 20 acres of magnificent gardens and parkland laid out by Gertrude Jekyll, Thorpe Hall abounds with history and legend.

The present Hall was built in 1584 for Sir John Bolle, famous for his connection with 'The Spanish Lady' or 'The Green Lady' who, some say, still haunts the mansion.

In 1596 as Captain John Bolle he took part in the expedition to Cadiz for which he was knighted. His gallantry also won him the love of a beautiful Spanish lady who had been assigned to him as a prisoner.

He finally ended her dreams by telling her of his wife in England.

Heartbroken the Spanish Lady made a noble gesture. As well as giving him her jewellery to take home for his wife, she presented him with a portrait of herself wearing a green dress.

Sir John died at Thorpe Hall in 1606. He was buried in Haugh Church where a monument was erected to his memory.

The lady, is believed to have been Donna Leonora Oviedo, who retired to a nunnery, and as far as is known, died there.

After the death of Sir John's widow in 1647, his son, Sir Charles Bolle, felt that the Green Lady's personality still breathed at the hall.

Didn't she look down upon them, almost life-like, her smile transfixed within the portrait, given to his father, and on the wall at the Hall?

Somewhere the lady in the green dress still smiles, although her portrait was sold in 1760 and the only reminder of her is a ballad telling the tale.

The Bolle family continued to live at Thorpe Hall and bequests were made in their wills to be distributed to the poor of Louth at Christmas Easter and Whitsuntide.

In time Thorpe Hall passed through a succession of owners to John Fytche son of Stephen Fytche, vicar of Louth, and a first cousin to the Tennyson brothers.

In 1872 John Lewis Fytche visited London and saw the church of St Mildred's in the Poultry, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, being demolished.

He arranged for the church to be transported back to Lincolnshire to build a private chapel. He had all the stones crated up and taken to the banks of the Thames.

From there they were lowered on to barges and taken out to the North Sea, up the coastline to Tetney and on to the Louth canal.

As the stones arrived in Louth, they were winched on to sturdy carts, to be pulled by horses through the 19th century streets.

Unfortunately, financial constraints prevented the building of the Chapel and the stones were dumped in a paddock at the side of the Hall .

Years later Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth (who later acquired Thorpe Hall) gave large quantities of the stone to St James's to restore the exterior of the church.

This time the stone was transported by lorry to Northgate where it was stacked and awaited a new use.

It was then realised that St James's was in fact built of Ancaster stone, whilst Sir Christopher Wren built in Portland stone. The stones were never used for the restoration and they mysteriously disappeared over a period of time.

John Lewis Fytche sold the house to Sir Henry Bennett who became engaged in litigation with the churchwardens.

The church at Louth was restored in 1869, and with the agreement of John Lewis Fytche the Thorpe Hall pew was removed, on condition that he was allowed to occupy a stalled pew on the front of the south aisle.

The vicar and churchwardens maintained that this right did not pass to his successor, and the matter ended up in the High Court, where the Lord Chief Justice eventually ruled in Bennett's favour.and the pew was attached to the owner of Thorpe Hall for evermore. The action cost the vicar and churchwardens 2,000.

From 1895 to 1906 Thorpe hall saw another esteemed owner in Captain Julius Tennyson, nephew of the Poet Laureate.

Captain Langston Brackenbury, MP for Louth, bought the Hall in 1906 and it remained in his ownership for a further 14 years.

It was during this time that Captain Brackenbury came across the stone from the stacked up church of St Mildred in the Poultry and used some for his garden rockeries, flower bed edging and a ha ha.

Mr Geoffrey Harmsworth acquired the Hall in 1938. In 1939 it housed evacuees from the Midlands, and later in the war the house was requisitioned as an Army Officers' Mess.

When Harmsworth returned from service with the RAF there was much to be done to return the house to its former glory.

Sir Geoffrey also used the stones to build a stairway in the garden of the Hall. This can still be seen today.

Sir Geoffrey sold the house to Sir John Marsdon when it then became a Diocesan Home of Healing, an organisation that apparently did not stay the course.

Lady Evelyn Patrick, who was the daughter of the 3rd Earl of Lovelace, then bought the house.

Lady Patrick died in 1974 and it then passed into the hands of her son, Mr Mark Patrick who later sold to Nicholas Shailer, who was the first person to open a wine bar in Louth. In 1982 the house was offered for sale once again.

There was also rumour that the house may become a nightclub or even be refurbished into flats.

Fortunately, these things did not materialise and the current owners purchased the house in 1983 for use as a family home.

The house is for sale through Hodgson Ellkington County Register.