DORFOLD HALL

Grid Ref: SJ 635 525
Date: 29 March 2006

 

North Elevation spacer Mastiff
North Elevation   Mastiff and Pups  
South Elevation   Chestnut Tree
South Elevation   Chestnut reputed to be 1000 years old
West End   Spring flowers
West End   Spring arrivals

 

Dorfold Hall is thought to be built on the site of a house owned by Edwin, the last Saxon Earl of Chester at a place then called Darford or Durfold.  The Anglo-Saxon word Deofold means an enclosure for cattle or deer.  In 1603, the year of the accession of James I, the estate was bought by Sir Roger Wilbraham.   It passed from him to his younger brother Ralph who built Dorfold Hall in 1616.  It comprised a main rectangular block and two lodges built in front of the house on either side of the entrance to the forecourt.  At this time architects were attracted by new ideas of symmetry but still wedded to the idea of a great hall on the ground floor.  As a result, the main entrance, as shown in my picture top left, is not through a cental doorway but a small door in the west side of a slightly projecting block.  This was a throwback to the days when there was an off-centre entrance leading to a screens passage with the great hall to the right and the pantry, buttery and kitchen to the left.

In the Civil War the Wilbrahams supported Parliament and the house was attacked by Royalist forces and plundered in 1643.  The Wilbrahams held the estate for five generations but in 1754 fell on hard times and were obliged to sell to James Tomkinson, a lawyer in Nantwich.  He employede Samuel Wyatt as his architect to make extensive alterations.  The great hall was divided into three main rooms - a hallway similar to the traditional screens passage, a dining room at the front and an L-shaped library, wrapping round the lower part of the staircase on the south side.  In the late 18th century a new wing was added to the East to accommodate more staff when Dorfold was famous as a hunting centre.  This wing and the additional stabling added at that time have since been demolished.

In 1824 the gaps between the two lodges and the main house were filled with replicas of the lodges to produce a more enclosed courtyard.  James Tomkinson's great grand-daughter Anne married Wilbraham Spencer Tollemache, Esq., DL, JP, the younger brother to 1st Baron Tollemache on 25 June 1844.  He was descended from the Wilbrahams of Woodhey who were related to the family that had built Dorfold.  Wilbraham Tollemache instituted a number of changes at the hall and employed as a landscape gardener William Nesfield.  The position of the lake was moved so as to allow a straight drive to the main road.   The lodge theire and the statue of the mastiff date from 1862.  The estate passed via and heiress to the Roundell family.  If you are able to visit, the most remarkable room is the chamber on the first floor with a barrel-vaulted ceiling richly decorated with original Jacobean plaster work.

Dorfold Hall near Nanthwich is open on Tuesdays and Bank Holiday Mondays from April to October.

Sources:

Pamphlet available at the hall
Lectures on manor house design by James Bond as part of a Mediaeval History course held at Wedgwood Memorial College, Barlaston, Winter 2005/6

 

TOMKINSON OF DORFOLD AND WILLINGTON HALLS

 

The Tomkinson family came to prominence in Cheshire during the 18th century with both clerics and lawyers, some of whom acted as agents for other Cheshire landowners.   The following tree traces the family up to the middle of the 19th century.

Footnote 1.

Ormerod Volume 3 page 345 relates:

The Wilbraham family continued in possession of Dorfold Hall and the manor of Acton until April 1745 when the estates were sold together with the manors of Hurleston and Croxton and a moiety of the manor of Wettenhall by Roger Wilbraham to James Tomkinson, father of Henry Tomkinson, Esq., who died in 1822 when the estates descended according to a pedigree given in the account of Hanklowe to a daugher and coheiress who married Wilbraham Spencer Tollemache Esq.

This statement is not correct as Dorfold went not to Henry's daughter but his grand-daughter who married Wilbrham Tollemache.  The year of the sale was 1754.  As Dorfold was purchased, its eventual inheritance would not be tied up in the provisions of old wills. As a result James Tomkinson does not appear to have been obliged to leave the hall to a younger brother or nephew and left it to his daughter. Examination of the family tree shows that James' next brother, Henry, had three sons who died unmarried. The next brother was William, who acquired Willington Hall. He had sons and some of them had issue.

The will of Henry Tomkinson of Dorfold, 1741-1822 (generation 4 above), shows that in addition to Reaseheath Hall in Worleston and Dorfold, he had land in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Flintshire and Denbighshire and leasehold properties in Cheshire and Staffordshire.  He had land at Davenham, the manor or Acton-juxta-Mondrum and owned the advowson of Davenham. In addition he had land in Aston purchased from the trustees of Sir Oswald Mosley.

Sources:

The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, incorporated with a republication of King's Vale Royal and Leycester's Cheshire Antiquities, by George Ormeod, 2nd Ed., revised and enlarged by Thomas Helsby, Esq., published by George Routledge and sons, Ludgate Hill, London, 1882. This is now available from the Family History Society of Cheshire on CD ROM.   See Volume 3 pages 480 and 481 from a pedigree of the Wettenhalls.
Burke's Landed Gentry

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Introduction to Cheshire Gentry

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