Rushton Hall is ‘charmingly situated upon a gentle eminence which rises from the Ise, a small stream waters the park’. Excerpt taken from Northampton County Magazine February 1929, also describing Rushton Hall as a fine and Princely residence.
With its imposing and graceful appearance, Rushton Hall is entered through heavy timber doors. A stone figure of Plenty sits above, whilst on either side of the entrance is a carved armed knight. The hall’s interior is magnificent. Reformed throughout history, it is of a grand style. Huge stone and timber fireplaces adorn virtually every room, whilst wonderful stained glass can be found in the Great Hall and ornate plasterwork is featured in nearly every room, concentrating on the ceilings. Rushton Hall is a magnificent structure, built mainly in local stone. It was commenced by Sir John Tresham and his family in 1438, who through generations owned the hall for nearly 200 years.
The Estate was passed down through the generations to Thomas Tresham, who was knighted in 1530, and then to his grandson Thomas Tresham, who was knighted in 1577. Upon his death, the Hall passed to Francis Tresham son of Thomas in 1605. He became involved in the famous Gunpowder Plot and after his death his brother, Lewis Tresham, then became the owner of Rushton Hall in 1611.
The Cockayne family bought the estate in 1614, and William Cockayne and his son resided here for many years. Charles Cockayne was later created ‘Viscount Cullen’ in 1642 by Charles I. The Cullen’s held the seat until 1731, when it was then sold to the Hope Family.
William Hope, from Amsterdam, purchased Rushton Hall in 1828 for the princely sum of £140,000. He spent huge amounts of money on the hall, but only resided here during the shooting seasons.
In 1853, Miss Clara Thornhill paid £165,000 for Rushton Hall. A year later she married William Capel Clarke and in 1856 they both took the surname Clarke-Thornhill. Charles Dickens became a great friend of Clara Thornhill, and over the years visited Rushton Hall many times. In 1850 it is believed he conceived the idea of The Great Hall in Statis House, where Miss Haversham had her wedding breakfast laid out, in his novel ‘Great Expectations’, whilst he was staying at Rushton. The Clarke-Thornhill family owned the hall until 1934, but after the death of William Clarke-Thornhill, the Hall was let to an array of lodgers.
JJ Van Allen, who was a tenant of the Hall in 1865, loved the hall so much he reinstated many Tudor and Jacobean architectural details at great expense in the early 1900’s.
Louis Breitmeyer was leased the building in 1924. He was a German Gentleman who made his fortune in South African Diamond Mining.
British officers lived here during the Second World War and used the extensive cellars as bombing shelters.
In 1951 G H Pain became the owner of Rushton Hall after the Second World War. He transferred the ownership of the Triangular Lodge, which was once on the grounds of Rushton Hall, to the guardianship of the ministry, and since 1984 the Triangular Lodge has been in the care of the English Heritage, who has maintained its historical value.
The RNIB, who purchased the building for a mere £1, opened the hall as a school for the Blind in 1959, and Princess Margaret opened the building. The RNIB have now moved to premises in Coventry.
In 2003 H I Limited purchased Rushton Hall. H I Limited is a privately owned family business, committed to maintaining Rushton for future generations.
The designer of Rushton Hall is not known, however, a connection can be established with a Mr. John Thorpe, who worked on behalf of Thomas Tresham on the buildings at Lyvveden New Build and the Market House in Rothwell. Sir Thomas Tresham enlarged the house towards the end of the 15th Century and in 1595 added two gables in which he had his coat of arms inscribed.
The estate was sold to the Cockayne Family who proceeded with the expansion of Rushton Hall, working from original drawings. Work began on the gables at the front of the Hall, which have the date 1626 carved on and this date is also on their Coat of Arms. The Cockaynes lengthened the building and the two gables on the front, which are now located in reception and the Morning Room.
The last in the line of the Cockaynes pulled down the church, which was to the left of the entrance. The stained glass from the church can now be found in the windows of the Great Hall. The great hall still retains its fine roof and the staircase, dating from 1626, and the Chimney piece of Sir Thomas Tresham remains in the Library.