Reproduced by kind permission of Gordon Smith
Please see Campsall Hall picture gallery at the bottom of this page.
“Campsall is situated a little more than a mile north-west of the spa town of Askern. It is a small but well built village, situated on a gentle declivity. The area around is surrounded by gently rising hills. From Sutton village little of the old village of Campsall is visible apart from the occasional glimpse of pan-tile roofs and to the far right the commanding and lofty front of Campsall Hall.”
This passage from the 1823 Askern Visitors’ Guide advertises the delights and charms of Campsall and its undisturbed neighbouring countryside as places to visit during a period of stay at nearby Askern Spa. The description remained accurate until the early 20th century when a colliery was established in Askern and then a coalite chemical plant. The guide goes on to say that Campsall Hall was known as “an extensive mansion replete with every convenience and well calculated for the residence of a lover of field sports, being surrounded by a large estate abounding with game and in the centre of a fine sporting county.” Situated at the edge of a small but delightful park with two lakes, it had good trees and plantations.
Earlier, in 1804, the Doncaster musician and historian, Dr. Edward Miller, wrote that Campsall village, a small distance from Campsmount “must please a stranger on account of the neat and well-built houses and cottages it contains.”
Campsall and Campsmount were two separate estates and were divided by the village road, Campsall to the south and Campsmount to the north. The parish of Campsall, until the 1930s, consisted of about 1,400 acres of land. Three quarters of the area belonged to the Cooke-Yarbrough family of Campsmount and the remainder to Mrs. Bacon Frank of Campsall Hall. The patronage of Campsall church was until quite recently the gift of the Cooke-Yarbrough family who, although no longer living in the district, have still maintained an interest in the village and church. The Manorial Lordship title was held by the Bacon Frank family. It was, however, common knowledge that the Cooke-Yarbrough and Bacon Franks were not on neighbourly terms.
The Frank and Bacon Frank Family
The Frank family’s association with Campsall began during the early 17th century when Pontefract-born Richard Frank purchased the Campsall estate. He lived there with his wife Ann, daughter of Bernard Ellis, Recorder of York, and their three boys and two girls. As the three sons predeceased their father, the two daughters became co-heiresses. The youngest daughter married Edward Ashton of Club Cliff Hall, Methley, and the elder of their two sons, also called Edward Ashton, adopted the surname Frank as he was his grandfather’s heir. Edward married his only cousin and died in 1695 without a son. The Campsall estate then passed to Edward’s Brother Matthew Ashton who also assumed the Frank surname.
Around 1678, when Matthew was in his early twenties, he left England for Hamburg to try his hand as a merchant in broadcloth, kersey and other materials. However, he became bankrupt in Hamburg during 1701 and by 1710 he had returned to England to administer the Campsall estate. Matthew had earlier married Anne Ashwin, daughter of Thomas Ashwin of Hamburg, and they had a family of two sons and five daughters. When Matthew died in 1717 he was succeeded by his son Richard, who had graduated from Cambridge as a lawyer.
During the 1720s Richard began taking an active interest in managing the Campsall estate where he lived with his sisters and widowed mother. In 1738 he married Margaret Frank who was a distant relative. He was also one of the earliest and most active members of the Society of Antiquaries, collecting large quantities of manuscript material towards a history of Yorkshire.
Richard Frank died in 1762 without issue. The Campsall estate was then passed to his nephew Bacon Frank. The unusual Christian name, Bacon, was derived from his mother’s maiden name. Bacon Frank married Catherine Hoare, daughter and heiress of John Hoare of Pontefract, and they had four sons and five daughters. The eldest son, Richard, died aged only 10 months; their next son Bacon, became an army officer but was killed by a fall from his horse at Tunbridge in 1789 when he was only 18; the third son died an infant and from 1789 the heir apparent was the third and youngest son Edward, born in 1780. Three of the Frank daughters, taking pity on their underprivileged neighbours, instructed, at Campsall Hall, a few young girls in reading and sewing, as well as providing them with necessary articles of clothing. This makeshift school sometimes catered for as many as 60 girls and the three sisters defrayed the expenses and carried out the teaching duties entirely on their own. Eventually the gentry of adjoining parishes realised the educational effects of this educational instruction and liberally contributed towards its support. As the prosperity and number of pupils attending the school gradually increased, a purpose built school was constructed in 1811 along the Askern/Campsall road. During 1828 it was reported that 60 girls attended the school and were instructed in knitting, sewing, reading, writing, and arithmetic. A large proportion of the goods produced were sold throughout the neighbourhood.
The profits provided various rewards for good behaviour during the girls’ attendance at school and also paid for their annual contribution to a friendly Society, which was created, in 1880, by the three Frank sisters.
When Bacon Frank’s only surviving son, Edward, was about 20 years old, he married a daughter of Colonel Sowerby of the Royal Artillery. Edward and his father quarrelled over the marriage and the latter attempted to annul it through a lawsuit. Consequently Edward’s wife was forbidden to visit Campsall Hall, although Edward received £200 annually from his father who was declared a lunatic in 1811 and died a year later at the age of 73. The Campsall estate was subsequently inherited by Edward Frank, who had become a minister of the Church of England and succeeded his uncle, Dr. Richard Frank, as rector of Skelton and Hardwick in Norfolk.
It was alleged that Edward Frank used to take two or three bottles of champagne with him to church on Sundays and certainly, in 1816, he too was declared of unsound mind. Edward never lived at Campsall Hall, which was occupied by his mother until her death in 1826. After Edward was committed it would appear that his wife came to live at Campsall Hall and was said to be living with a Dr. Dickinson. She was turned out on 8th January 1817 most probably because her mother-in-law exercised the clause in the will of her husband’s father stating that she was forbidden to live there.
After the death of Edward’s mother, and until about 1852, Campsall Hall was let to a number of tenants, including Charles Thorold Wood an Sir Joseph Ratcliffe of the College of Arms, London.
All of Edward Frank’s children carried the surname Bacon Frank, although the name was not hyphenated. Edward’s eldest son, Richard Bacon Frank, predeceased his father and consequently when Edward died in 1834, Richard’s son Frederick inherited his grandfather’s estate.
Frederick Bacon Frank was born at Twinham Green, Middlesex, in 1827, and educated at Langley and Trinity College, Cambridge. Later he moved to Campsall and during 1854 married Mary Anne Walker, , the eldest daughter of Rear-Admiral Sir Baldwin Wake Walker. In subsequent years Frederick, like other members of his family previously, became a West Riding magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant of the county. He served as High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1872, and was, for a time, chairman of Campsall Parish Council. Following his wife’s death in 1902, Frederick married Mary Peel, Rector of Burghwallis, who was 32 years his junior. Frederick died, without issue from either of his two marriages, in 1911 at the age of 84. From this time, the Campsall estate was no longer headed by a male member of either the Frank or Bacon Frank families. Frederick’s widow continued to live at the hall until 1941 when she became deranged and moved to “The Retreat”, a residential mental institution at York. A year later she died and her heiress was Miss Helen Marjorie Walker of Burnbank, Tarset, Hexham, a cousin of Frederick Bacon Frank.
As a child Miss Walker spent long holidays with Mrs. Bacon Frank at Campsall Hall but on inheriting the estate her visits were only twice a year. She also suffered from mental illness and died in 1971 at The Retreat in York. Following her death the Campsall estate was sold, completely severing any connections with the Franks or Bacon Franks in the United Kingdom.
Bacon Frank was responsible for the alterations and the enlargement of Campsall Hall. The original 17th century house is reported to have been a long narrow building containing a dining hall with a musician’s gallery and a kitchen large enough to “turn a coach and four around in it.” In his youth Bacon Frank spent some time at Campsall and before going to Cambridge he attended Doncaster Grammar School. In 1763, the year of his marriage, he began altering and enlarging Campsall Hall. The architect is noted as John Carr of York, who was later engaged by Doncaster Corporation to design the original Grandstand at the racecourse.
The exterior was of rough stone, rendered, and had a fine heavy stone cornice with carved dentils. After completion of the main block, the kitchen and servants hall were added and the house slated by the autumn of 1764. In October of that year Bacon Frank and his wife travelled from Earlham in Norfolk to take up residence. It took them six days by stagecoach. In 1767 the stables and coach house were built, the walled gardens laid out, the fish ponds were joined, and the bridges, drive, and the Askern Lodge was built.
By 1873 the records show that the Bacon Frank family’s Campsall estate was 2,232 acres with a gross estimated annual income of over £2,931.
The estate included a gravel pit at Askern, which was managed from the hall, and land at Trumfleet, Norton, Askern, Sutton, Fenwick, Moss, Kirk Bramwith, Kellington, and Pontefract.
The ground floor reception rooms at Campsall were large and elegant, particularly the salon, with its gold and white woodwork, tall sash windows, and pillars supporting a bow window apse. The dining room also faced south-east across the parkland and in this room it is of interest to note that the glazing bars of the large windows facing east were made of iron and not wood. This is the same principle used by the architect James Paine at Sandbeck Park when he designed that house for the Earl of Scarbrough. There he used bronze glazing bars rather than wood in order to support the extensive weight of glass in the large Venetian window in the long gallery.
It would appear that Campsall Hall may have undergone further alterations in the early 1800s and such work is attributed to Carr’s assistant, William Lindley, who was Doncaster’s leading architect about that time. The first floor windows may have been made taller because the upper glass panels were false and they merely masked the intervening floor space of the upper rooms. The first floor rooms led off the main staircase landing and comprised a series of suites, each with bedroom, dressing room, and sitting room.
A feature of the galleries and doorways at Campsall was the variety of elegant fanlights designed to allow as much natural light as possible to pass gracefully through various parts of the house, particularly along the first and second floors. The most impressive room on the first floor was Mrs. Bacon Frank’s bedroom above the library. Here the room was pine panelled to create a complete oval. Even the doors were set at angles and the tall windows extended to the floor and presented a magnificent view of the box-wood hedged lawn, mature trees in the pleasure grounds and a glimpse of Campsall village beyond. The entire architectural design harmonised with the late 18th century concept of the “return to nature,” which encourage the construction of the house on ground level without large basements and standing in natural countryside. The idea represented a complete break with the earlier formal styles.
The staircase was a fine feature and set within a high square central chamber naturally lit by a large elegant glazed dome. In fact, the ornate plaster surround gave the impression of it being an enormous Wedgewood bowl. The cantilever (or self-supporting) staircase was of stone steps set into the wall and had decorative wrought-iron railings. Another similar well-known local example of this type is at Nostell Priory, near Wakefield.
The departure of Mrs. Bacon Frank from Campsall Hall in 1941 marked the beginning of a slow decline for the house and estate. It was a difficult moment during the Second World War when, like so many country mansions, a large part of the house was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence to be used as a military base. It was at this time, in 1942, that the material contents of the hall were sold. A large part of the famous Bacon Frank collection of manuscripts was auctioned by Sotheby’s of London. However, the principal collection of the Frank manuscripts, from Campsall Hall library, including estate papers of the Franks, are now spread among various archive departments, including those of Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield, and others. The library and family portraits were retained by Miss Walker and housed at Burnbank.
After the contents were sold, the house remained unfurnished and unoccupied until the early 1950s. Its future looked bleak until a use was eventually found that involved converting the more suitable rooms into flats. Professor Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, in his West Riding of Yorkshire edition of The Buildings of England, 1959, makes reference to Campsall Hall and concluded his notes saying, “Council housing is coming alarmingly near this excellent group of buildings.” It was, however, development in the private sector that finally determined its fate, though some 25 years later.
This splendid house always seems to have had a history of future uncertainty and there was indeed an unhappy mystery surrounding Campsall Hall whereby insanity seemed to take over so many of its owners.
The pleasure grounds were along the western boundary of the park. A carriage way came along this route and terminated at a lodge entrance of the Sutton Road. The grounds had a variety of trees and bamboo shrubs and also a sunken ornamental grotto not far from the garden front. Dividing the circular lake from the long lake at the far southern boundary of the parkland, the carriageway rose above a rustic stone bridge with iron railings. The railings were, however, removed during the war years supposedly to provide ready-made iron to be melted down for use in armoury.
Churchfield road at Campsall is the far eastern boundary of the former extensive Campsall Park. A classical entrance comprising a wide arch supporting the Bacon Frank falcon crest, and surmounted by an ornamental urn, remained in situ until 1956. The entrance arch was flanked by two single lodges, or gatehouses, known as the Askern Lodge. In 1955 Doncaster Rural District Council rejected an application for its proposed use as a betting office. By 1956 the local council called for its demolition on the grounds that it was a danger to children, having become structurally unsafe as a result of neglect.
The base structure of the arch and lodges can still be identified in the present boundary wall. This main route to Campsall Hall extended through parkland and alongside copper beech trees and weeping ash near the south front. Behind the beech trees and to the east of the house were the walled gardens. Inside these high red-brick walls were a series of flues through which hot air passed from a wood fire lit at an arched level opening. This was done to heat the walls at ground level and to protect the sensitive peach trees growing there from early spring frosts.
The area of parkland across from the south front of Campsall Hall was traditionally known as Skelbrooke, though on the estate plan of 1744 it is marked as Orchard Close. The entire park was laid out in a typical 18th century landscape manner. It is said the Bacon Frank had demolished a group of cottages along the Churchfield Road in order to extend the parkland and gain an uninterrupted view from the Hall windows. From the Askern lodge the driveway passed along the boundary to the grounds of Campsall Grange. This was a sizeable house between the church and the walled gardens and was complete with its very own large coach house and stable block. Although part of the Campsall Hall estate, it was leased to various notable families. For example, it is recorded that in 1828 Campsall Grange was the residence of Thomas Foljambe. He was a Justice of the Peace for the West Riding of Yorkshire and a relation of the Foljambe family of Osberton Hall near Worksop. During the period that Campsall Grange was leased, the Bacon Frank family were not in residence at the Hall and it also had been tenanted out. Campsall Grange was latterly the Estate House and was occupied by the agent to the Bacon Frank family and the Campsall estate.
On the death of Miss Walker in 1971 the Campsall estate passed to her nephew, Sir Francis Walker, who was living in South Africa. Instructions were given to his legal agents to offer the entire property for sale by public auction. This was carried out at the Danum Hotel, Doncaster, by Henry Spencer & Son, of Retford.
The estate, including the Hall and farms, was sold to a London development company called Redspring Ltd for £90,000. With the idea of realising some money from development, Redspring Ltd applied for permission to build a limited number of houses in the derelict walled gardens in order to reinvest in Campsall Hall and upgrade the existing spacious flats. The local authority, acting on a decision made by Norton Parish Council, refused the application. The owners then approached the local authority for a grant to carry out urgent repairs to the roof of Campsall Hall, but again the local authority rejected their pleas and refused any financial assistance even though grants were available. Consequently the company began to dispose of the estate property by selling farms and cottages to existing tenants. They abandoned all interest in trying to carry out long overdue maintenance and provide a new and safe future for Campsall Hall and its impressive stable block.
The future of Campsall Hall started to look uncertain and vandalism began on a small scale even while some of the flats were still occupied.
Eventually all the tenants left and the house remained empty. Vandalism increased. The local authority had intimated for quite some time that they wished to purchase the parkland in front of Campsall Hall and to incorporate it and the Hall in a plan for local authority and public use. However, ideas concerning the Hall were abandoned and eventually only the land was purchased, which is now known as Campsall Country Park. Campsall Hall, its grounds and parkland were again put on the market, and in 1977 Humber Homes obtained permission to build houses in the walled garden. A year later, the same company unsuccessfully applied for permission to demolish the Hall and stables. These were eventually bought, hopefully not be rescued, by the Sheffield and Rotherham Building Trust. However, in 1982 a fire had been started in the central ground floor study and had quickly spread upwards. Thus, by the time the Trust bought the Hall it was semi-derelict. Rain was pouring in through the roof, the staircase had been wrecked; the chimney pieces removed from the main rooms and the house was open for anyone to enter. The Trust spent considerable money making the roof temporarily waterproof and putting grills on the ground floor window openings. Unfortunately, the Historic Buildings Council refused to give a grant for permanent repairs to be carried out and the Trust tried to find a buyer who would put the Hall to good use. It was at this time that the vandals got to work again and stripped the hall, putting it beyond economic repair.
In August 1984 there were further acts of arson and the house was beginning to appear unsafe. By this time it had been purchased by Mr. Carnell of Doncaster and an order was signed by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council for Campsall Hall to be removed from the protected buildings list and authority be given for the property to be demolished.
Campsall Hall, stables and coach house were razed to the ground in September 1984.
The entire area is now a housing development.