This week I visited Mellington Hall in Shropshire; a place that has always struck me as curious because its country house splendour and gothic architecture is surrounded by static caravans. It has always seemed to me a shame that such a beautiful building should have its gardens filled with holiday homes; indeed they are in direct contrast to the architectural gem that is the hall itself.
The present hotel was built in the Gothic revivalist style and the project was started by Colonel Thomas Browne for his family and was finished in 1876 by the Wright family. Mellington Hall was fashionable and held a prominent position in the world of Shropshire society and entertaining.
However, after the Second World War Mellington Hall, like so many sprawling country piles fell out of fashion, became too costly to maintain and subsequently fell into disrepair. The establishment of the Holiday Park in the 1960’s and the survival of the Hall are inextricably linked as the caravan park was the financial saviour of the hall.
When Mr Jack Evans, the grandfather of the present owner, purchased Mellington Hall and its surrounding Parkland in 1959 it was in a bad state of disrepair. Jack’s wife Margaret had been in service at the Hall as a young girl, for the Heap family and the property was a shadow of the property she would have remembered, indeed by the 1950’s the Hall was almost certainly going to be demolished.
Prompted by business contacts in the Midlands looking for a rural bolt-hole, Jack created the Holiday Park in the 1960’s to generate revenue which would pay for the restoration and upkeep of the hall and thus save it from demolition; in time the hall itself became a country house hotel and restaurant and the holiday park has grown and remains a large attraction and part of the revenue stream for Mellington.
Like all old country houses, Mellington Hall has its share of ghost stories and there have been various accounts from the generations of families that occupied Mellington, of sightings of ghostly military-style carriages, travelling through what is now the billiard room during the night, it is rumoured that the billiard room is built on an old carriage road.
Visitors to Mellington Hall have reported seeing children playing in the woods and seeing children’s faces looking out from the tower block as well as hearing the sound of a crying baby in the hall itself. The sounds of crying children and excited children were certainly audible during my visit as my children have not yet learned the meaning of a quiet drink.
During my visit the staff were very accommodating and I must confess that the outdoor play area was very useful for keeping my little ones entertained. It is hard to believe that the beautiful hall with its gothic architecture and beautiful interiors were once looking certain to be destroyed for demolition and so as I enjoyed my drink on the terrace, I looked at the beautiful parkland and landscape and was aware that the caravans out of eye line are responsible for this grade II listed property having escaped the bulldozer.