The site is “moated” and lies immediately west of the village of Dunham, with its deer park to the south. The hall was donated to the National Trust by Roger Grey, 10th and last Earl of Stamford in 1976. The hall was used as a military hospital during the First World War.
The history of the property goes back to medieval times with a reference to the “manor” of Dunham recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. Over time the estate and lands passed through many hands whilst growing in wealth and importance. The suffix of “Massey” to the name Dunham reflects the manor’s importance and Dunham was the seat of the “Masseys”. Whilst the Masseys remained “ Lords” of Dunham and its environs until the 14th century. In 1409 the male line died out and most of the family land was inherited by the “Booth” family. This notwithstanding, Dunham Massey remained at the heart of the estate.
Dunham Massey Hall became the home of the manorial lord and a centre of power in the area with the Hall being rebuilt in 1616, leaving no remains of the old medieval manor house. A mill at Dunham was documented in 1353, although its present structure dates to the 1860; the first record of Dunham’s deer park was also in 1353. During the medieval period, the primary source of employment was agriculture, mainly arable farming.
A major change to the area occurred between 1853 and 1854 when the Warrington and Stockport Railway was constructed through Dunham and a railway station was built to serve the area. Between 1851 and 1881 the population increased by 57.5%, primarily because of the railway, but in all other respects the industrial revolution had little effect on Dunham Massey and it remained a predominantly agricultural area.
Dunham Massey Hall.
The present hall was built in 1616, by Sir George Booth, who received one of the first baronetcies to be created by James I in 1611. It was remodeled by “John Norris” for his descendant, George, 2nd Earl of Warrington between 1732 and 1740 and it was further altered by “John Hope” towards the end of the 18th century and again by “Joseph Compton-Hall” between 1905 and 1908.
The result is a superb example of the period, an ornate, almost overwhelming interior, with wonderful collections of Georgian furniture, paintings, and silver. It is built around two courtyards, one cobbled and the other centred around a fountain and informal garden. Tours of the interior take visitors around the main court rooms, with the highlight being the library. A crucifix by Grinling Gibbons hangs above the mantelpiece, and models of the heavens stand beside the bookshelves. In the Tudor long gallery is Dunham Massey’s most prized painting, Mars, Venus, and Cupid with Saturn as Time, by Guercino. Interest is not confined to the sumptuous showrooms however, the servant’s quarters have been restored to provide a glimpse of life below stairs.
The house is set in attractive gardens of special interest to keen plantsmen. An orangery shares space with fine old trees and planted borders, a Victorian bark house and well house. The deer park surrounding the house and gardens contain lovely walks beside ponds. Deer wander the grounds and visitors can get quite close to them.
After a very full day, full of surprises and blessed by good weather we assembled for the customary group photograph before boarding our very comfortable coach for our return to Melton. All in all everyone agreed that this 3rd and final trip of the “Summer Programme” had consummated a very enjoyable series of visits and following a very good journey home we wished everyone well until the next meeting in October.
Best Wishes to All,