Parcevall Hall, Skyreholme

This very well known Hall in our immediate area has attracted visitors for many years, for the magnificent gardens but the Hall itself has not been open to the public.  Parcevall Hall is owned and managed by Walsingham College Yorkshire Properties Ltd. and leased to the Diocese of Leeds as a Retreat and for educational conferences.  It was a privilege to be permitted access to the Hall, thanks to the endurance of Sandie Weatherhead.

The sunny day allowed this particularly handsome 17th century building and its grounds to be seen at their best, and the group were fully appreciative.  Documentary evidence suggests the Hall was built on the site of a 16th century farm which almost certainly belonged to Bolton Priory.  While we sat around an ancient and long oak table in the dining room, Sandie gave a comprehensive and often humorous historical account of the Hall and its owners, with photos of the progressive maintenance of this old building.  The manor of Appletreewick which included Parcevall farm was purchased by Sir John Yorke of Gouthwaite Hall, Nidderdale.  His son Peter resided at Parcevall which does imply a 1600 date building existed on the current site, but it is uncertain how much of the original structure remains in the present house.

Parcevall Hall Approach

A prosperous yeoman named Christopher Lowson made additions to the house in 1671, and when he died in 1695 the property was occupied by various tenant farmers during much of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington bought the estate in 1735.  The Yorke family gained ownership again, briefly, in the 19th century but in 1927 it was purchased by Sir William Milner, Godson of Queen Mary, who was responsible for the additions and restorations that are present in the Hall today.  Sir William and his partner Bernard Craze displayed their creative and artistic abilities in the house and the formation and landscaping of the splendid garden and grounds.

View from Interior
Parcevall Garden
Parcevall Garden
Rear of Hall

Sir William was a very tall man, 6ft.7in., which necessitated alterations to doorways, and floor levels lowered, so ceilings and doorways are now seen unusually high for a 17th century property. He was also a quiet and private man, deeply religious, with a romanticism that created many artistic features, and contributed to a garden of rare and interesting plants, many collected from Western China and Tibet. He was aware of a book called The Silent Traveller, written by Chiang Yee, a London-based Chinese scholar with a talent for perceptive observation, who he contacted and their friendship endured until Milner’s death in 1960.

Early Window Latches

While walking through the interior we appreciated the very atmospheric and comfortable feeling of Elizabethan wealthy living which Sir William Milner maintained. Furnishings, beams, plasterwork, artworks and portraits, flagged ground-floor rooms and the voussoired inglenook fireplace, the window recesses and authentic door and window latches …..all sensitively retaining genuine structure of a 500 year old building, yet allowing modern comforts.

We followed this view of the Hall’s interior by walking up through steep woodland to the restored large barn which was originally built in 1737 for Richard Boyle.  It was called ‘Henry Simpson’s barn’ as he was the Agent for all of the Burlington’s British estates, and there is a plaque above the southwest cart entrance which reads “Mr.HS 1737”.  The barn is set on the hillside above and overlooking the Hall, and the two buildings were linked by a trackway before the Hall was greatly enlarged and the gardens landscaped by Sir William Milner after 1927.  This expansive building of four bays with a side aisle was partially a threshing barn flanked by stores and loose boxes.

Parcevall Barn

The main area was sub-divided internally by a shippon at the south east end, served by two entrances, above which was a hay loft.  A further hay loft was located at the north west end served by a pitching hole in the upper part of the gable end.  Although largely rebuilt and re-roofed, the barn does still reveal the internal stock sections, the stone setts, troughs and high beams, all seen by torchlight only, and very impressive.

Parcevall Barn interior – Ox stalls

The late Dr. Heather Beaumont wrote a comprehensive account of the Hall and history, and concluded, “something of the atmosphere of peace and friendship which obtained in Sir William’s time is perpetuated and shared by the many who now come to the house for rest, relaxation and renewal of body, mind and spirit.”

Visit arranged by Sandie

Words and photos by Phyllida

Content created by Keith P