The Manor House

Mulbarton Old Hall or The Manor House

Mulbarton Old Hall is situated near Mulbarton Church, behind the huge tithe barn that faces the Common. It is sometimes called the Manor House, though whether a Lord of the Manor ever lived here is doubtful. The Old Hall is built on a moated site, and it is almost certain that an earlier house stood either on the present site or within the moat. Dr. Wells (owner 1940-78) found some cornerposts of a building within the moated area, which is described as 'Scite of Mannor' on some early maps. The moat itself is semi-circular, so was probably dug as a source of water rather than for defence.

Old Hall in foreground, with Long Barn to left, + church & pond
Old Hall in foreground, with Long Barn to left, + church & pond

The House

In the auction documents for the sale of the huge estate of the late John Steward (Lord of the Manor of Mulbarton) in 1920, Old Hall Farm house is described as 'an Ancient Edifice of red brick with tiled roof and picturesque haunched gable....surrounded by a high brick wall with well-kept Lawn in front and has at the rear An Ancient Moat....The Picturesque Old Gardens and Orchard are entirely walled and adjoin the moat.'

The farmhouse had an entrance door at the south gabled end leading to a 'Sitting Hall' and Lobby; Drawing Room; Vestibule with glazed door to garden; Dining Room with door and porch to front lawn; Store Room; Kitchen; Scullery; Pantry; two staircases to first floor which had six Bed Rooms, one Dressing Room; three attics.

'Adjoining the house are Weather-board and Tiled Gig House, Two-stall stables, Harness Room, Lean-to Implement Shed in rear, Two Pigstyes, Lean-to Mixing Shed and Coal House.'

The Old Hall from the front - the man at the gate is almost certainly John Riches Draper
The Old Hall from the front - the man at the gate is almost certainly John Riches Draper

In 1920, Old Hall Farm was owned by Mrs. J H Steward, widow of John Steward of East Carleton Hall, and was let to Mrs. Mary Ann Draper. The Draper family had lived there since at least 1883. John Riches Draper is listed as 'farmer' in Directories of 1883, 1896 and 1904. He was a governor of Mulbarton School and his death in April 1906 is recorded in the school log book. Before the Drapers, the tenant was William Riches (known to be there 1864, 1868, 1869 and 1876), and there may well be a family connection between William Riches and John Riches Draper.

Watercolour of Old Hall from the East turned into a postcard
Watercolour of Old Hall from the East turned into a postcard

The Old Hall has changed little since the Victorian photograph and watercolours that still exist from when the Draper family lived there. By then it had been re-roofed with tiles - possibly in the 1880s from a comparison with Victorian roofs in Norwich. A porch and flat-roofed extension on the south-east end were added in the mid-1950s. More recently, one of the barns has been altered and a new conservatory added.

The house has seven windows on the first floor of its long north-west facing side, aligned slightly off-centre (above), suggesting that the south end has been extended. Norfolk Record Office has a builder's account dated 27 Sep. 1667 (ref. MC786/1 795X6) for a substantial brick extension to a Mulbarton house, which is almost certainly the Old Hall. This is substantiated by the fact that  most of the house is built of wattle-and-daub, with brickwork at this extended southern end. The bricks of the south end are laid according to Flemish Bond - first used in Britain in the 1630s. This is less strong than English Bond, but easier for shapes and decoration. The south end of the Old Hall has a particularly fine 'Dutch gable' that matches the gable-ends of the nearby Tithe Barn that was part of the property. The central door and two upper windows are old, but the ground floor windows at this end were added in 1965. This was the main entrance to the house up to 1920 or later.

Mulbarton Old Hall rear view from south. The ‘castellated’ single-storey building is a modern addition, replacing the extension of the late ‘30s.
Mulbarton Old Hall rear view from south. The ‘castellated’ single-storey building is a modern addition, replacing the extension of the late ‘30s.

The side facing south-east, overlooking the moat, has two wings, one of which contains a staircase and a brick chimney-stack. The other wing has a stepped gable end on either side of a central chimney of various fireplaces and the old ovens in the kitchen. The old brickwork here is English Bond. The huge buttresses that support the corner are of machine-made bricks and almost certainly Victorian.

Inside the house there are some particularly fine beams, so the house must have been worked on by good carpenters. One unusual beam with a rounded end is in line with the beginning of the brickwork of what is probably the extension with Dutch gable. Upstairs, further evidence has been found for this extension.

The outbuildings near the house listed in the 1920 auction sale may once have included farmworkers cottages with dormer windows. The roof line has been changed several times. One part was a dairy in the nineteenth century.

The Great Barn, once part of the Manor House - seen here before it was renovated for a succession of businesses, and before other outbuildings were demolished. The hedge in the foreground belongs to a farm 'cottage', now Harvest House.
The Great Barn, once part of the Manor House - seen here before it was renovated for a succession of businesses, and before other outbuildings were demolished. The hedge in the foreground belongs to a farm 'cottage', now Harvest House.

How old is Old Hall?

The late 1500s was the time of the 'Great Rebuilding' - England was prosperous, farming was profitable for crops and wool, Spanish gold was circulating... Many contemporary writers commented on the amount of building, the beautiful buildings, the vast number of chimneys appearing everywhere, and the amount of timber being used. If there was a house on the moated site at this time, it was probably replaced by a grander Elizabethan hall.

A study of Mulbarton Old Hall made by a graphic design student in 1983* concludes that the main part of the Hall was built in this late Elizabethan period. The 'stair tower' was added later, possibly around 1620, and the house was extended slightly when the south gable was added in the late 17th century. The former dairy was probably built about this time, too. Inside there is a lot of Regency panelling which suggests there was some major renovation and even rebuilding around 1800, when the door onto the front lawn was given its hood.

In Victorian times, buttresses were added to stabilise the north-east corner and later the house was re-roofed. Major alterations to the outbuildings and minor alterations to the house were made last century.

(*Based on 'Manor from Evans' by David Evans (unpublished Graphic Design thesis, 1983) lent by Mary Mellor)

Some Old Hall Owners and Residents

The house was owned by the Greshams when Lords of the Manor in the 16th Century. It then passed to later Lords of the Manor, until sold by John Steward's widow in 1920 as part of the East Carleton Estate - which included property in all the parishes around.

John Husband lived at this or an earlier Hall in the mid-16th century. The 'Last Will and Testament of John Husbande, one time farmer of The Hall' dated 1574 is in the Norfolk Record Office. The parish registers record some key events in his life:

8th Nov. 1557 Alice, wife of John Husband, buried.

28th April, 1558 John Husband marries Elizabeth Crowe (below)

24th August, 1558 John, son of John and Elizabeth Husband baptized (below)

24th August, 1558 John, son of John and Elizabeth Husband buried

[The calendar year ended on March 24th, so the following entry is still given as 1558]

25th February, 1558 John Masters, servant to John Husband, buried

'Robert ye ladd at ye hall Husbands servant was buryed ye iiiith Daye of Maye Anno predicto' (i.e. 4th May 1559) (below)

In the 17th Century, Henry Hartstong, gent. was 'sometime farmer at Mulbarton Hall' until he died in 1631. His daughter Elizabeth married Rev. Anthony Frere, Rector of Mulbarton 1616-1660.

In the 18th Century, James Balls was Lord of the Manor and owned the farm. He had a map of the estate drawn up by Cooke in 1716 (above). He was the father of John Balls, who ordered the map of the manor drawn up in 1724. According to his monument in the chancel of the church, he was a citizen of Norwich - indeed, an Alderman - and 'the best of husbands' to Susanna his wife. In his day, the farm had some thatched buildings - according to his will when he died in 1755, James Ball bequeathed £2.5s.2½d to John Watling, thatcher, for work done on the farm.

The Old Hall was owned by the Steward family for most of the 19th Century and from Census returns and Directories we gather the resident tenant farmers were:

John Lain 1851 census and Rate Book

William Riches 1864, 1868, 1869,1876 (when given as occupier in Poor Rate Book; owner = J. Steward Esq.) Area = 229 acres 2 roods 24 perches; rateable value £304 17s.6d. Small piece of Glebe Land added.

John Riches Draper (occupier) 1883, 1896, 1904 

Draper family outside front of the Old Hall
Draper family outside front of the Old Hall

[Entry in school log book for 1906: 'April 9th ....Mr. J. R. Draper died this morning. He has been a Manager for many years, and under the Act was appointed a Foundation Manager.']

Mrs. Draper & family continued the tenancy, which was due up at Michaelmas 1921. The house and land, still owned by the Stewards, was auctioned with rest of estate in 1920.

OLD HALL FARM SALE
(Sale documents for the Auction of The East Carleton Estate, 2nd October, 1920 lent by Ingrid Fairman )

Lot 17 in the sale of the East Carleton Estate by auction on 2nd October 1920, by direction of Mrs. J H Steward:

'A Very Valuable Corn Growing Farm...bounded on the west by the Common, on the East with frontage to the road to Swainsthorpe Station and intersected by its own farm road. It extends to an area of about 229 acres 0 rods 26 perches.

Besides the house and its outbuildings there were 'Exceptionally Well-built Farm Buildings:
Ancient Tithe Barn (about 140 ft long) divided into hay barn, chaff cutting shed, corn barn, stable for four.

Also another stable with loft above, cart shed, cart horse stables (for eleven horses), cow houses and sheds, thatched bullock shed and yard, another bullock shed, cattle yard, turnip sheds, cart shed, implement shed.

There are 18 arable fields listed, three pastures and two orchards listed in the farmland.

Mrs. Draper's tenancy ran out at Michaelmas 1921, when the purchaser could have 'vacant possession'. It seems that the purchaser was the Cross family of Cross & Co, (Seed, Oil Cake, Manure and Coal Merchants of 35 Cattle Market, Norwich).

Ralph Cross was at Hall Farm in 1922, when he employed a farm bailiff, William Buttle. He later moved to Lodge Farm where he lived for many years. Herbert E Cross(e), Ralph's brother, is listed in directories of 1933 and '37 as at Hall farm. When he died, the land was bought by Brigadier Harris of Swardeston and the Old Hall sold as a private house to....

Dr. Calvin Percival Bampfylde Wells, FRAI, PhD, MRCS, LRCP who owned Mulbarton Old Hall from 1940 to 1978 and lived there for most of his married life. He died on 31st July 1978, in his 71st year, and the following information comes from his obituary in The Times:

Old Hall from South, 1966. Note the west end brickwork & door mentioned above. The extension was built by Dr Wells in the late '30s as a consulting room/study. (Cp photo above)
Old Hall from South, 1966. Note the west end brickwork & door mentioned above. The extension was built by Dr Wells in the late '30s as a consulting room/study. (Cp photo above)

'...an outstanding international authority on palaeopathology, of which discipline he was among the pioneers in this country....one of the moving spirits behind the founding of the International Palaeopathology Association...
Educated at Charterhouse, University College, London, and University College Hospital, [and] studied anthropology.... After six years' service in the RAMC during the Second World War he settled in Norfolk and took up the medical aspects of anthropology as a main interest while also carrying on a medical practice in order to retain direct touch with clinical medicine... His studies of ancient bones as a palaeopathologist often held relevance for modern health problems.
He contributed to diverse journals... His publications include Bones, Bodies and Disease (1964), in the Ancient Peoples and Places series.... The Centre de Palaeo-anthropologie et de Palaeopathologie at the University of Lyons... where he worked in recent years...is to be jointly named after Calvin Wells and Pierre Morel.
He combined intellectual enthusiasm with a zest for physical action, water-skiing almost to the end of his life; and he loved...scrambling over the mountains of Provence in the full summer heat.
He enjoyed 42 years of happiness with his devoted wife Winifred ("Freddie")... He... combined medical knowledge and clinical expertise with a wide-ranging awareness of man's place in nature and history.'

In 1978 it was purchased by Judge David Mellor (1940-2005) as a family home, and Mrs Mary Mellor contributed much of the information and many of the photos on this page. The Old Hall has changed hands several times in the 21st Century.