A Brief History of Baslow Hall

Even an architectural enthusiast may be forgiven for assuming that Baslow Hall is a typical 17th Century Derbyshire manor house. It has all the trademarks of that period: protruding gabled wings, mullioned and transomed windows with small leaded panes, and a splendid shell-porch over the main entrance.

The Hall was in fact built in 1907 and without doubt is a very skillful interpretation of a style of architecture that, even in Derbyshire, had gone out of fashion some 300 years earlier.

The house was built on land bought from the Duke of Rutland for the Stockdale family, benefactors to the village, whose name is commemorated by the Stockdale Institute, now the Village Hall, and by a memorial in the church to the Rev. Jeremiah Stockdale, vicar of Baslow for nearly half a century in Victorian times. The locally quarried gritstone has weathered nicely over the past 90 years and the house looks as though it belongs to the 17th Century.In 1913 the house was bought by the famous electrical engineer and inventor Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti, whose seventh and last child , Yvonne, was born at the Hall in July 1914.That the Ferranti’s were happy here is clear from Mrs de Ferranti’s charming biography of her husband, but it is equally evident that life at the Hall had its hazards, largely because ‘Basti'(as Mrs Ferranti affectionately called her husband), could not confine his passion for electricity to working hours. He was a ‘do-it-yourself’ man ahead of his time and certainly ahead of the coining of that phrase. That he did not install electrical light and power to the house until March 1919 could only have been due to wartime difficulties, but when he did go ahead there was no stopping him. After dismissing his original idea of using the old Baslow Mill for power because of the cost of repairing the old dam, he installed a 25h.p. oil engine and operated his own private plant until 1923. For heating the house he used radiators in the ceilings, an ingenious idea that was marred by frequent power failures, so that the family often sat huddled in fur coats through the long winter evenings. The system was speedily abandoned, and electrical fires were installed in every conceivable place.

The house became an electrician’s paradise with an electric laundry, electric lawn-mower, a tennis court lit by electric light and every modern labour-saving device that could be operated by electricity. Most of this seems to have worked most of the time, though a large number of chickens were inadvertently electrocuted in what was an early experiment in battery farming. There must have been doubts too about the heating, as a hot-air system was given a short trial.

After Mr de Ferranti’s death in 1930, the house was purchased by Mrs McCreagh-Thornhill of Stanton Hall, Stanton-in Peak and given to her grandson Mr Humphrey Davie as a wedding gift on his marriage to Elizabeth Barlow. Their first two children Bettine & Nicholas were born in the house in 1933 & 1936.The family lived at Baslow Hall very happily until the outbreak of war. Whilst Captain Humphrey Davie was on active service the house was let and re-let to the Kenning family, local car dealers who eventually purchased it in the early 1950’s. The Kenning family motto ‘work and pray’ is captured in the stained glass window in the door of the paneled hall. On Mr Kenning’s death in 1955 the house was sold and ownership passed to a second car dealer – T.C. Harrison, before being sold again to the Clixby family.

It was love at first sight when Max & Susan first set eyes on the house but it was to be some time before they were to open the doors to the public. During the course of refurbishment a devastating fire broke out in one wing, completely gutting it and creating a full year’s extra building work. But the time taken in rebuilding and refurbishing the house has been worthwhile and the Fischer’s are delighted by what Gertrude de Ferranti described as ‘this beautiful stone built house’ which is now quite free of any eccentricities of heating and lighting. The house might not be of any significant historical interest, but what it is is a charming, cheerful, family home.