27 January 2021

Haselour Hall, the ‘most
charming half-timbered
house,’ for sale at £3m

Haselour Hall has was once described as ‘the most charming half-timbered house’ in Britain

Patrick Comerford

Sometimes, when I allow myself flights of fantasy, I dream of being able to buy back Comberford Hall or the Moat House on Lichfield Street in Tamworth. But these two former family homes in south-east Staffordshire have always been outside my reach, even in my wildest dreams, and I plant my feet firmly on the ground again within minutes.

Of course, the costs of maintenance and heating alone should be prohibitive for anyone who even begins to think of houses such as these. But I like to dream, and continue to be interested in the architecture, history and families of houses such as these.

In recent day, I have been writing about some houses like these, including Wall House, in Wall, south of Lichfield, and Pipe Hill House, just west of Lichfield.

Haselour Hall, a Tudor manor house just outside Harlaston in south-east Staffordshire, is on the market with an asking price of £2,995,000. It has been described on one site as the most expensive property in ‘B79,’ and is within the boundaries of Lichfield District Council, 4.6 km from Comberford, 5.5 km from Comberford Hall, 8.3 km north of Tamworth, and 12 km east of Lichfield.

Haselour Hall has was once described as ‘the most charming half-timbered house’ in Britain. The architectural historian, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in his guide to Staffordshire was delighted with its ‘gorgeous black and white front of five gables.’

This is the house where the future Henry VII is said to have spent the night before his decisive victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and there are links too with the Comberford family of Comberford Hall, distant though they may be.

However, the history of this house goes back centuries before the War of the Roses. The name Haselour is of Saxon origin, derived from ‘hazelnut’ because of the large number of hazelnut trees on and around the land.

The house was once surrounded by a double moat, dating back to Norman times, and traces of it can still be identified. A house probably stood on the site of Haselour Hall when the Selvein family held the manor in the 12th century.

Gradually, the Ardernes of Elford became the dominant family at Haselour, ousting the Timmon family who had held the manor. Under them, the two manors of Haselour and Elford were united and remained so for many generations. Sir Thomas Arderne, who died in 1391, won glory in the French wars. It was he or his father who led men from Haselour and Elford men at the Battles of Crecy and Poitiers.

The Arderne heiress married Sir Thomas Stanley in the early 15th century, bringing Haselour into the Stanley family.

Haselour Hall played a role in the War of the Roses on the night before the Battle of Bosworth Field

While the Stanley family were living at Haselour, the house played a role in the War of the Roses. Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and later Henry VII, is said to have spent a night at Haselour Hall, after slipping away from his march from Lichfield to the Battle of Bosworth Field with a small band of his guards in 1485 before his decisive victory in 1485.

The hall was then home to Henry VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had married the powerful Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, in 1472 after the death of her third husband, Sir Henry Stafford. She founded both Christ’s College and Saint John’s College in Cambridge, and has given her name to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

While he was visiting his mother, Henry entreated Stanley, his step-father, to join him in battle against Richard III. Stanley, however, refused to choose sides, opting instead to remain neutral for a while longer before making clear their allegiance. This neutrality was so important to the Stanleys, that when Richard kidnapped one of Stanley’s sons to force him to join his ranks, Stanley replied laconically: ‘I have other sons.’

The Battle of Bosworth Field was the last significant battle in the War of the Roses. On the day of the battle, it is said that Stanley watched it unfold from afar, and when Henry defeated Richard III, Stanley rode down the hill from which he was watching, took the defeated king’s crown from his head and used it to crown Henry VII, only then pledgng his allegiance to the new king.

Much of the building is unmistakably Tudor, and the present house may have been built by the Stanleys. The black and white half-timber work of the South front gives Haselour Hall its characteristic Tudor appearance. Many original tiles are still on the roof and are said to date from 1550.

A tunnel reputedly lead across the fields from Haselour Hall to the Manor House in the centre of the village of Harlaston.

John Stanley died in 1508, leaving no male heir, and for many generations the manor of Haselour passed through female lines of inheritance. Eventually, it descended from the Huddlestones to the Brookes, when Lucy Huddlestone, the co-heiress, married John Brooke in 1557. Her sister, the other heiress, married Sir John Bowes, taking as her share of the inheritance the manor of Elford. So, the two manors were separated once again.

Haselour Hall was heavily restored by Augustus Henry de Trafford who came to live there in 1885

The Brookes, who held Haselour for over 200 years, were there at the time of the Civil War. It may have been due to impoverishment that they sold Haselour to Samuel Dilke in 1672, so bringing to an end the lineal descent from the Arderne family that had lasted for more than three centuries.

William Brooke of Haselour died in 1672, and Mary, his only daughter and heiress, married Christopher Heveningham of Pipe Hall and Lichfield in 1692. Christopher Heveningham was, in turn, a descendant of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall.

Christopher Heveningham was a direct descendant of Sir Walter Heveningham, who married his cousin, Ann, daughter of William Fitzherbert of Norbury. His father, Christopher Heveningham, married Dorothy, daughter and only child of William Stanley of Aston near Stone, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Thomas Comberford of Comberford and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Ralph Fitzherbert of Norbury.

Haselour Hall was heavily restored by Augustus Henry de Trafford (1823-1895) when he came to live there in 1885. He was a member of an old Lancastrian Catholic family and the son of a Baronet. His family gives its name to an area in Manchester and well-known cricket and football grounds.

His sister, Jane Seymour de Trafford, married George Archer Shee. Their great-grandson, George Archer-Shee, was the subject of a notorious 1910 prosecution for allegedly stealing a 5 shilling postal order. The case formed the basis for Terence Rattigan’s play The Winslow Boy (1946).

Augustus de Trafford’s five sons took part in World War I, including Captain Thomas Cecil de Trafford, Royal Fusiliers who died on 10 November 1914, and Captain Henry Joseph de Trafford, South Staffordshire Regiment, who died on 25 September 1915. Their sister Mary married George Mostyn (1857-1913) of Haunton Hall, a descendant of the Comberfords of Comberford Hall.

For local government purposes, Haselour was extra-parochial until 1858, when it became a civil parish within Lichfield Poor Law Union. In 1894, it became part of Lichfield Rural District; in 1934 the civil parish was incorporated into Harlaston.

Haselour Hall is Grade II* listed building, built in the 16th century and heavily restored by Augustus de Trafford in 1885. It is a half-timbered, five-gabled, Tudor residence that retains many of its original features, including an oak panelled reception hall and dining room, a Norman oak front door, and stained-glass leaded windows.

The front provides a sumptuous display of decorative timber framing including close-studding, quadrant braces, quatrefoils and diagonal braces in herringbone patterns. Pevsner suggests the middle or third gable, which is smaller, may have been a porch originally.

The reception hall has a large open hearth with a pillared oak staircase and leads to a drawing room and a grand panelled dining room. The dining room has an oak fire surround with intricate, hand-carved depictions of the Battle of Hastings.

The main house has 12 bedrooms, including a grand master bedroom with east-facing bay windows and a carved four-poster bed. The annexe has a further three bedrooms. There is a detached annexe, a chapel dating from the 12th century, a barn, four stables, 11 garages, a summer house and an outdoor pool, all on 10 acres of land.

The grounds are approached through a gated entrance and a tree lined driveway, which opens out into an open lawn area. They contain secluded patio areas, mature woodland and a paddock.

The 19th century additions link the house to the chapel. The chapel is even older than Haselour Hall, and Pevsner describes it as ‘a real medieval building.’ He says the turret with spire looks 13th century, but assumes the chapel was bult ca 1370.

The chapel, with its early Gothic interior, includes memorial windows commissioned by the de Trafford family. It is still in use and open to the public annually for Remembrance Day services. Near the chapel are the remains of the ancient family burying place, and the skeletons of five 14th century Black Death victims have been unearthed by the chapel.

The chapel is older than Haselour Hall and Pevsner describes it as ‘a real medieval building’

Haselour Hall was once described on one site as the most expensive property in B79, the post code in south-east Staffordshire, east of Lichfield, covers most of Tamworth, including the Moat House on Lichfield Street, and also includes Comberford, Wigginton, Elford, Harlaston, Edingale, Thorpe Constantine, Seckington and Shuttington.

The house is being sold by the Taroni family, described in one tabloid newspaper as ‘Birmingham’s undisputed scrap-metal kings.’ He fought a long battle with HS2 bosses over the purchase of his scrapyard.

The house has been home to Russell Taroni and his family for over 20 year. Russell Taroni has told the Tamworth Herald: ‘The men love it, the women don’t. They take a look around and think it’ll be hard work. It’s a fabulous building. I’m quite happy where I am, but my wife would move tomorrow.’

The couple’s two sons no longer live at Haselour Hall, but it is also home to his sister-in-law and mother-in-law.

He originally put it on the market in January 2017 for £4 million to raise funds for new business premises following the enforced HS2 move. ‘There was a house at the back of mine that I was looking to move to,’ he added, ‘but it’s gone now.’

Haselour Hall is on the market again since June 2019, through Aston Knowles, estate agents in Sutton Coldfield, who are inviting offers above £2,995,000.

Sophie Bullock, director of Aston Knowles, says: ‘The original features are so unique, and the history is incredibly rich and interesting. Those who have an entrepreneurial mind, and subject to the relevant permissions, could see the stunning hall as an opportunity to create a fabulous ‘live-in’ wedding venue. There’s certainly enough space for it.’ Ms Bullock adds that ‘the hall is exquisitely grand and has been extremely well-maintained by the current owners.’

The chapel has an early Gothic interior and includes memorial windows commissioned by the de Trafford family

Remembering victims and
survivors of the Holocaust
who have lived in Ireland

The Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews in Europe, including 4,000 people in Ireland … an exhibition in Auschwitz (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2021), marking the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau on 27 January 1945, before the Holocaust and of World War II.

In Birkenau, a series of memorials in over 20 languages commemorates the victims of the Holocaust who were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz and Birkenau, representing the variety of languages spoken by and nationalities among the victims.

There is no plaque in Irish, but we should not think that the Holocaust was something that was a far distance from Ireland, for the Nazis were planning to extend their genocide to Ireland too. One exhibition in Auschwitz shows that the Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews in Europe, including 4,000 in Ireland.

Like many people, I watched the streaming of the Holocaust Memorial Service in Dublin on Sunday night (24 January 2021), which was addressed by the two Holocaust survivors still living in Ireland, Tomi Reichental who was born in Bratislava, Slovakia, and Suzi Diamond, who was born near Debrecen in Hungary.

Inside the Spanish Synagogue in Prague … Helen and Harry Lewis were married in Prague in 1947 before leaving for Belfast (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There were many other Holocaust survivors who lived in Ireland and who have died in recent years.

Helen Lewis (1916-2009) was born Helena Katz into a German-speaking Jewish family in Trutnov in Bohemia, 160 km north-east of Prague, now in the Czech Republic, close to the border with Poland.

In Prague, she studied dance in Prague, where she also studied philosophy and took lessons in French, and there she married Paul Hermann, from a Czech Jewish family, in June 1938.

Helen and Paul were sent to Terezín (Theresianstadt), 70 km north of Prague, in August 1942. There she worked in the children’s homes and spent months in the camp hospital.

Helena and Paul were separated in May 1944 when they were moved to Auschwitz and they never met again. He died on a forced march in April 1945.

She was among the remaining people forced to leave Auschwitz on 27 January 1945 and marched forcibly for weeks through the Polish winter. When she fell in the snow, she was abandoned, and when she reached her uncle’s house in Prague, she weighed only 30 kg.

She married Harry Lewis in in Prague in June 1947, and they left to begin new lives in Belfast, where he set up a handkerchief-making business and she returned to teaching dance and choreography, bring ‘a whole European dimension to dance in the theatre.’

Her memoir, A Time to Speak, became a bestseller, was translated into many languages, and was serialised by RTÉ and the BBC. Helen died at her home in Belfast on 31 December 2009, aged 93.

Geoffrey Phillips from Germany escaped on the Kindertransports to England in 1938. He came to Ireland in 1951 and died in 2011.

Rosel Siev escaped from Germany to England, but nearly all her family died in the Holocaust. When she was a widow, Rosel married a widowed Irish solicitor, Stanley Siev, and they lived in Rathgar, Dublin, until 2012 when they moved to Manchester. Stanley died in 2014. One of Rosel’s sisters, Laura, was saved by Oskar Schindler and is included on the scroll of names at the end of the movie Schindler’s List.

Inge Radford (1936-2016), who was born in Vienna, escaped to England on the Kindertransports in 1939. Her widowed mother and five of her brothers were murdered in the Holocaust.

Inge was a social worker, a probation officer, and worked in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Her husband, Professor Colin Buchanan Radford, was a French academic and dean of the Faculty of Arts at Queen’s University Belfast. Inge lived in Northern Ireland with her husband Colin, until she died in 2016.

Edith Sekules (née Mendel) was born in Vienna in 1916. She spoke of her experiences at Women’s Institutes and in schools, and spoke at the first two years of Holocaust Memorial Day in Northern Ireland. She later lived in Kilkeel, Co Down, and died in 2008. According to her obituary in the Jewish Chronicle, she attributed her survival to her determination to save her family.

Edith Zinn-Collis was brought to Ireland in 1946 with her brother Zoltan by Dr Bob Collis. She lived in Wicklow and died in 2012.

Her brother, Zoltan Zinn-Collis was born around 1940 in Czechoslovakia and was sent to Ravensbruck and Bergen Belsen with his sister and brothers. He was brought to Ireland in 1946 by Dr Bob Collis with his sister Edith. He died in 2012.

Doris Segal from Czechoslovakia came to Ireland with her parents in the 1930s, and later lived in Dublin. She died in 2018, shortly before Holocaust Memorial Day.

Jan Kaminski was born in Poland in 1932. At the age of 10, he escaped a round-up of the Jews, fled into the forests and spent the war on the run. He survived but his entire family perished. He later lived in Dublin, and died in 2019.

Ludwig Hopf moved to Dublin on 17 July 1939 (Photograph: Deutsches Museum, München / Sommerfeld Sammlung)

Professor Ludwig Hopf (1884-1939), a German Jewish refugee who escaped the Holocaust when he fled to Dublin in the weeks immediately before the outbreak of World War II, lived and died at No 65 Kenilworth Square, Rathgar.

He was a theoretical physicist who had been the first assistant to Albert Einstein, and he introduced Einstein to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung. As a theoretical physicist, Hopf made contributions to mathematics, special relativity, hydrodynamics and aerodynamics.

He was dismissed from position as professor of applied mathematics in Aachen on racist, anti-Semitic grounds soon after the Nazis seized power. After Krtistallnacht on the night of 9/10 November 1938, he escaped arrest at the hands of the SS and in early February 1939, he received a research grant in Cambridge. The Hopf family moved to Dublin on 17 July 1939 when Ludwig was offered a specially created professorship of mathematics at Trinity College Dublin, and they moved to No 65 Kenilworth Square.

However, became seriously ill and died at 65 Kenilworth Square on the evening of 21 December 1939. The speakers at his funeral in Mount Jerome were two fellow refugee, Hans Sachs and Erwin Schrödinger.

Dr Ernst Scheyer (1890-1958), who lived at No 67 Kenilworth Square, was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. He was born in Oppeln in Upper Silesia in 1890, was decorated for his bravery in the Germany army in World War I, and later earned a PhD in Breslau (Wroclaw). Later, he was a practising lawyer and a respected member of the Jewish community in Liegnitz, Silesia. He married Marie Margareta (Mieze) Epstein, who was five years younger than him and was born in Breslau.

He was rounded up after Krtistallnacht and spent almost a month in Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin. He arrived in Dublin on 14 January 1939, and the Scheyer family made their home at 67 Kenilworth Square. He later taught German at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and in Trinity College Dublin. When he died in 1958, he was buried in the Progressive Jewish community’s cemetery in Woodtown, Rathfarnham.

His daughter Renate married another refugee, Robert Weil (1924-1989), in 1948. It was the first wedding in the newly-established Progressive Jewish Synagogue. Robert Weil had arrived in Ireland in 1939 as a young Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. He went to school at Newtown in Waterford, studied at TCD, and became a teacher of modern languages, especially German, in Belfast.

In her biography, Renate Weil recalls that both sides of her family had been non-Orthodox Jews for generations but remained Jewish. ‘Our family proved that assimilation did not mean the loss of Judaism. We were German Jews and proud of it.’

Dr Marianne Neuman (1913-2008) was born Marianne Heilfron in Berlin in 1913, the daughter of Curt Solomon Heilfron. During her medical studies in Berlin in the 1930s, it became dangerous to continue living in Germany as a Jew. She left in August 1936 and later arrived in London, where she married another German Jewish refugee doctor, Dr Rudi Neuman.

Rudi travelled to Edinburgh to pass his British medical exams, with the hope of settling in Ireland. They found a large house on Upper Rathmines Road, in which they lived and practised. Both were active and committed founder members of the Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation.

Dr Rudi Neuman died suddenly in the synagogue at the end of the Yom Kippur service in October 1965. Dr Marianne Neuman chaired the board of management of the Dublin Jewish Burial Society for many years, and was elected honorary life president on her 80th birthday in 1993.

She died at the age of 94 on 17 March 2008 and was buried in Woodtown. Four members of the Heilfron family who were murdered in Minsk in 1941 during the Holocaust are remembered by Stolpersteine or stumbling stones in Berlin.

Hans Borchardt was the son of a Jewish dentist in Berlin Charlottenburg. He was working with a business specialising in surgical and dental instruments when it was ‘Aryanised’ in 1934. He fled to England in September 1934, became a British citizen, and was an agent for a firm importing gloves from Ireland when he chose to make his home in Ireland in 1939. He died in Dublin in 1986, and was also buried in Woodtown.

Sophie Raffalovich O’Brien (1860-1960), was a writer and Irish nationalist, and although she converted to Christianity shortly before her wedding in 1890, she continued to insist on her Jewish identity, and later survived the Holocaust in France.

Sophie Raffalovich was born in the Black Sea port in Odessa. She was a daughter of Herman Raffalovich (1828-1893) and his wife Marie Raffalovich (1832-1891).

The Raffalovich family was Jewish with rabbinical ancestry. When Sophie was four, the family moved in 1864 to France in 1864 to escape to pressure to convert to Christianity.

She first met the Irish Home Rule politician and journalist, William O’Brien, from Mallow, Co Cork, in Paris in 1889. To her father’s dismay, Sophie converted to Catholicism before her marriage in 1890. But, while, she gave up the Judaism of her childhood, she never abandoned her Jewish identity, and suffered attacks from French and Irish anti-Semites.

William died in 1928, and Sophie moved back to France in 1938 to live near Amiens with Fernande and Lucie Guilmart, sisters who had been pupils in the orphanage and school she had supported all her life.

When World War II began and Germany invaded France, the sisters helped her to escape with them to a region near the Pyrenees. While Sophie was living in semi-hiding under the Vichy regime and in Nazi-occupied France, she refused to change her name or to disavow her Jewish identity. Two members of the Raffalovich family – a nephew and a cousin – died in Nazi concentration camps.

By the end of the war, Sophie was extremely impoverished. She died at Neuilly on 8 January 1960, a week before her 100th birthday.

No 65 Kenilworth Square … home of Ludwig Hopf, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, in 1939 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

At least five Irish citizens were murdered in the Holocaust: Ettie Steinberg and her son Leon died in Auschwitz; Ephrem and Lena Saks from Dublin were murdered in Auschwitz; and Isaac Shishi from Dublin and his family were murdered by the Nazis in Lithuania

The Steinberg family moved to Ireland in the 1920s and lived at 28 Raymond Terrace, in ‘Little Jerusalem’ off the South Circular Road in Dublin. The seven Steinberg children went to school at Saint Catherine’s School, the Church of Ireland parish school on Donore Avenue.

Ettie married Vogtjeck Gluck, originally from Belgium, in the Greenville Hall Synagogue on the South Circular Road on 22 July 1937. They later moved to Antwerp. As World War II was looming, they moved to Paris, where their son Leon was born on 28 March 1939. By 1942 they were living in an hotel in Toulouse.

When the Vichy puppet regime began rounding up Jews in southern France at the behest of Nazi Germany, Ettie, Vogtjeck and Leon were arrested. Back in Ireland, her family in Dublin secured visas that would allow the Gluck family to travel to Northern Ireland. But when the visas arrived in Toulouse, it was too late. Ettie, Vogtjeck and Leon had been arrested the day before.

Ettie, her husband and their son were taken first to Drancy, a transit camp outside Paris. The Glucks were then deported from Drancy on 2 September 1942 and arrived in Auschwitz two days later, on 4 September 1942. It is assumed that they were put to death immediately.

Isaac Shishi, whose family came to Ireland from Lithuania, was born in Dublin on 29 January 1891, when his family was living at 36 St Alban’s Road, off the South Circular Road. He was murdered along with his wife Chana and their daughter Sheine were murdered by the Nazis in Vieksniai in Lithuania in 1941.

Ephrem and Lena Saks were born in Dublin on 19 April 1915 and 2 February 1918. Ephraim Sacks was murdered in Auschwitz on 24 August 1942. Lena was murdered there in 1942 or 1943.

Some years ago, I was chilled when I realised that a direct descendant of the Comerford family of Cork, and through that line a descendant of the Comerfords of Co Wexford, suffered horribly with her husband after the German invasion of France and that both died in the Holocaust – one in Ravensbrück and the other in Dachau.

Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944) and her husband, Louis d’Ax de Vaudricourt (1879-1945) of Château Vaudricourt, were French aristocrats and did not bear the Comerford family name. Nevertheless, they are part of my own family tree, no matter how distant a branch. Their fate brought home to me how even today we are all close to the evils of racism and its destructive force across Europe and in North America, and we must never forget that.

May their memories be a blessing, זצ״ל