The sale of the historic Noseley Hall estate, nine miles west of Uppingham, Leicestershire which comes to the market in today’s COUNTRY LIFE at a guide price of £14 million through Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) signals the end of 690 years of direct ownership by the Hazlerigg family, whose ancestor Roger de Hesilrige came to England with William the Conqueror. The family surname was changed to Hazlerigg by Royal Licence in 1818.
The manor of Noseley was originally granted to the Marti-vals, sub-tenants of the Norman Earls of Leicester in the early 12th century, and passed to the Hesilriges in 1419, on the marriage of Thomas Hesilrige to the Martival heiress, Isabel Heron. Nothing remains of the original Martival house, although the present Georgian one, built in about 1728, follows the courtyard plan of its predecessor. On the lawn beside it stands a complete medieval chapel, built in 1270 and remodelled by William Hesilrige in the late 1400s.
Perhaps the most famous member of the family was the second baronet, Sir Arthur Hesilrige, a Roundhead and supporter of Cromwell, who helped lead the Parliamentary rebellion against Charles I in 1642. He later became Cromwell’s general in the north-east of England, and formed the Coldstream Guards. Cromwell is thought to have prepared for the battle of Naseby from Noseley, even stabling his horses in the medieval chapel. After the expulsion of the Long Parliament, Sir Arthur changed sides and opposed Cromwell, which saved his life at the Restoration, when he was merely sent to the Tower, dying there in 1661.
The idea of building a new mansion at Noseley, first conceived by Sir Thomas Hesilrige in the early 1600s, was revived in the early 18th century by the 7th baronet, Sir Arthur Hesilrige, who according to John Martin Robinson (COUNTRY LIFE, March 29, 1990) was ‘the model of the cultivated 18th-century squire, as interested in the arts and letters as in sport’.
In 1723, Sir Arthur went on a Grand Tour of Italy, where according to Leicestershire historian John Nichols, he commissioned paintings from Trevisani and collected ‘many curious antiques with which he embellished the old family mansion, which he in great degree rebuilt’. As well as rebuilding the house, Sir Arthur refurbished the chapel and laid out the park, creating two lakes in front of the house. Although no records exist to confirm the identity of the architect or craftsmen involved, Dr Robinson argues strongly in favour of the Smiths of Warwick, who at the time were the leading master builders in the Midlands.
In 1819, Sir Arthur’s great-grandson, Sir Arthur Grey Hazlerigg inherited the estate at the age of seven. Following his marriage to Henrietta Philips in 1835, he made a number of improvements to the house including the remodelling of the drawing room with a plaster cornice and marble chimneypiece. He also rebuilt the west wing to create a fine neo-Classical library. Further alterations were carried out in 1890–91 by the architect J. MacVicar Anderson, who designed a boat house, new cottages, added a clock tower to the stable block, and remodelled the exterior of the house.
The interior, however, remains more or less in its original 18th-century state, with its handsome timber-balustraded staircase, wainscoted bedrooms, and fine ground-floor rooms, including the double-height Stone Hall, which fills the centre of the south front; the splendid drawing and dining rooms; the study, formerly the dining room, with its elaborate stucco ceiling, six mahogany doors, and full-size portraits of the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Holland; and the Oak Hall and Library, which doubles as a ballroom.
The decision to sell cannot have been easy for the present Lord Hazlerigg, who inherited Noseley on his father’s death in 2002. But he will leave behind, in remarkably good shape, one of Leicestershire’s oldest and most beautiful estates with its grand, 23,850sq ft Georgian house, Grade I-listed private chapel, 10 farmhouses and cottages, and 1,264 acres of parkland, arable and woodland. Especially its centrepiece, stately Noseley Hall, listed Grade II*, which has five reception rooms, extensive kitchens and wine cellars, seven bedroom suites, a private two-bedroom family wing, seven second-floor bedrooms and a staff flat.
The gardens and grounds that surround the house, with sweeping lawns leading down to the lake and boat house, are also quite magical, and allow the owner to take full advantage of the wonderful views.