The Reeve's Tale  website



Bylaugh Hall -by Roger Fryatt

There are at least two folk stories about this building. One is that the estate was originally acquired from Richard Lloyd by the Lombe Family
( subsequently known as Evans-Lombe) as the result of a card game, when the Lloyd's butler drugged his master's wine. The other is that when the Hall was originally built it had a curse put on it by the Lloyd's nursemaid to the effect that it would only stand for one hundred years. Whatever the truths involved in these tales, it is certainly the case that within one hundred years of its construction it was , as Sir Niclaus Pevsner described it, "a conspicuous ruin".

Sir John Lombe died in 1817, and left money to be held in trust with the instruction that a mansion be built on the highest part of the estate. Towards the middle of the century, nothing had been done, and so the Court of Chancery instructed the family to get on with it!

The house was built by Charles Barry jnr. (son of Sir Charles of Houses of Parliament fame) and R.Banks, and is reputed to be one of the first steel framed buildings in Europe. Evidence of this frame is visible today and presumably explains why so much of the house remains. Despite lavishing money on the construction of the Hall, there were still funds remaining which were ultimately spent on the building of three lodge houses (Elsing, Swanton Morley and Bawdeswell ) and some eight miles of estate walls. Regrettably, much of these walls are now in a sad state of repair.
 
 

_____________________________ 30m 

Bylaugh Hall. Plan

1. Billiard room
2. Dressing room 
3. Business room 
4. Library
5. Drawing room 
6. Dining room

By 1883, at 13,343 acres, the Estate was the fourth largest in Norfolk (Holkham with 44,090 acres, Raynham with 18,343 acres and Houghton with 16,995 acres) , but like other landowners at the time, was suffering from the effects of the Agricultural Depression that began about 1875. The Evans-Lombe family finally sold up in 1917, when the house was acquired by the Marsh Family from America, and was last occupied by Mrs Marsh until 1935. Mrs Marsh, nee Wilkinson, originally came from Yorkshire.

During the last war, the house was requisitioned by the R.A.F., and subsequent to its de-requisitioning was sold to a builder who sold the interior fittings and the lead from the roof in about 1950 - just one hundred years after its construction.

 From January 1944 until December 1945, the Hall was the headquarters for No.100 (Special Duties) Group, Royal Air Force. Because of the removal of the roof by the builders, the house was a ruin for fifty years. In the year 2000 it was purchased by local sculptor Steven Vince who raised the money to preserve what remained of this interesting building, and for a while it was popular as a wedding venue and  location for concerts and Latin American dance.  Ed
 
 

Auctioneer's Particulars of the house and Estate in 1917                               The little church of St Mary's, Bylaugh