Articles from the Thoroton Society Newsletter

Basford Hall and the Hall family

Basford Hall was built in 1770 by John Newton for the Duke of Newcastle and thought to have been leased to the Hall family. It was a typical brick Georgian farmhouse except for its side entrance, which was unusual for a building of this type. It has typical 4x3 Georgian windows. In 'Old Nottingham Suburbs: Then and Now' (1914) Robert Mellors says it is 'a modern building', which probably refers to the extensions built on the front and end in 1903. The date can clearly be seen on a window sill. Behind the building were flower, fruit and kitchen gardens. Once, it was set in a pleasant park with a lake, fountains, rockeries and even a shell grotto.

Basford Hall in 1939 (courtesy of Nottingham Local Studies Library)Basford Hall in 1939 (courtesy of Nottingham Local Studies Library)

In 1940 the Hall was purchased from Miss Edge of Strelley by the Basford Miners' Welfare, who eventually had an extension built, boldly bearing the date 1996 twice. This replaced a large Forces Nissen hut built in 1945, which was developed into a concert hall with two bars and a kitchen and became a popular venue for dancing, variety shows, weddings, indoor sports &c. In 1989 the Hall was saved by a campaign of protest led by the Communist Councillor John Peck. (Clement Attlee, the Labour Prime Minister, had spoken at Basford Hall in 1947).

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the Hall family lived at Basford Hall. Born in 1756, Robert Hall Junior grew up greatly interested in scientific matters, especially with reference to the local textile industry. He had works built near the Midland Station in Nottingham where he was a spinner of cotton and angola wool. But his most important contribution to the industry was in bleaching; he was one of the first to use chloride of lime. A process which formerly took a month was now reduced to one day. He also found time to invent a new kind of crane. In 1793 he built, at his own expense, a Methodist chapel in the Hall's grounds for his workforce. He had been used to walking four miles there and back to Hockley Chapel in Nottingham, which he had helped to build by raising funds for it. He was closely involved with the rise of the New Connexion and was a friend of Alexander Kilham who stayed at Basford Hall; John Wesley was also a guest there.

Robert Hall Junior and his wife Ann had eight children; three sons and five daughters. All the three boys were influenced by their father's interest in science. Samuel, the eldest, born in 1781, assisted his father in spinning and bleaching and in 1817 made a great step forward by inventing a process for singeing off the floss on cotton. According to William Felkin this made a fortune of £50,000 for Samuel, although he gave many licenses to work his patent. He also invented the bleaching of starch by using chloride of lime, a lucrative process that he gave to his brother Lawrence, who also made a fortune out of his 'Patent Starch'.

Following this, Samuel turned his attention to steam engines, in particular to marine surface condensers. He alone seems to have seen the problem of surface condensation in steam ships as a whole. His invention was widely used in 1834-40 by many vessels including the 'Sirius', which made the first Atlantic crossing under steam power in 1838. Surprisingly, Samuel's invention was abandoned for 20 years, then reintroduced almost exactly as he had designed it. Next, he appears as a champion of smoke abatement, taking out patents for smoke-consuming furnaces and 'self-fuel and self-air supplying apparatuses', which many railway companies fitted.

Today, his inventions are not well-known, but his name is still prominent in one Nottingham suburb. In 1825, Samuel took advantage of the sale of prime building land in Sherwood, a hamlet to the north of Nottingham, and laid out the grid pattern to the north-east of Mansfield Road. He named some streets, including Hall Street and Marshall Street, the latter in recognition of his brother Marshall, already a prominent physician. A few years ago, one half of the electric tram shed on Mansfield Road, Sherwood, was converted into a pub and refurbished in 2010 by Wetherspoons who named it The Samuel Hall'. Samuel would have been interested in trams but, as a Methodist, probably not so keen on having a pub named after him!

Dr Marshall Hall, the sixth child of Robert Hall Jun., was born at Basford Hall in 1790. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and in 1817 started a general medical practice in Nottingham. As the physician at the Nottingham General Hospital, he reduced the use of leeches for bloodletting by 80%, calling the lancet 'a minute instrument of mighty mischief. He moved to London in 1826, specialising in nervous diseases and making the important discovery of reflex action. He also rationalised the treatment of epilepsy, introduced the ready method in asphyxia and devised the life-saving system long used to restore animation to partially drowned people. In 1832 he became a fellow of the Royal Society and in 1841 a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Besides numerous scientific and medical works he published Two-fold Slavery of the United States', a country he visited in support of the Anti-Slavery movement. He died in 1857 and is buried in Nottingam General Cemetery under a granite monument bearing a Greek text.

The Hall family lived at Basford Hall until about 1840 when the estate was purchased by Thomas Webb Edge of Strelley Hall. For the next 100 years the Edge family owned the Hall but never lived there. They always leased it, most prominently to Thomas North, the local mine owner, then in the 1860s to Sir Charles Seely who had taken over the Babbington Colliery after North's insolvency. Sir Charles never lived there, but settled his Mining Engineer, George Fowler, in the Hall, where he remained until his death in 1921. Three years later the last tenant, Thomas Draycott Hancock, the Commercial Manager of the Babbington Colliery, moved in. After he died in 1940 the estate was sold to become the Miners' Welfare.

Terry Fry