Stype Estate, based on Stype Grange, is a rural estate 4km (2½ miles) south-west of Hungerford. Although the hamlet of Stype is physically in Wiltshire, it has always been associated with its nearest town of Hungerford.
- Stype Grange, 2013
- The "old" Stype Grange in ruins, seen in 1943. [This, and the following pictures below, kindly sent by Roland Whaite]
- The ruins at the top of the steps, seen from across the fish pond and fountain.
- A different elevation of the ruined Grange, with a "pavilion" to one end
- Close-up of the pavilion
- The lake with bridge and boathouse
- Irene Farmer's Official Pass/identity card issued 3 Feb 1941 and later annotated with her married name
- Thatched property at Stype, probably used for billeting of the office staff
- Thatched property at Stype, probably used for billeting of the office staff
- Substantial house on the edge of the Stype estate, with five-bar gate.
- Office staff relaxing around the "pavillion", ca 1942
- Bobby(?), Jean Munn and Ethel(?) on their bicycles outside a barn at Stype, ca 1942
- Irene Farmer and Jean Munn at the five bar gate, ca1942 (two of the main contributors to these reminiscences)
- Group around one of Billy Rootes' Humbers; Doreen Lawrence and Ethel(?) holding registration plate, Bobby(?) on back seat
- Was this the heated swimming pool, later staff canteen?
- A reunion group in the grounds of Stype Estate soon after the war. [Irene Cooper (nee Farmer) is 3rd from left in back row; Eileen ? 2nd from R back row; Bobby ? 2nd from R front row.]
- Stype reunion - NWN cutting from 1983 (covering the reunion below)?
- Stype reunion, 1983 - print no 2245; Leslie Stroud (nee Wells) contacted thre Virtual Museum by email (Nov 2016) to add that "The Stype reunion was held at my mother's house, 4 Upper Eddington, Hungerford sometime in the summer of 1983. My mother (Mrs Dorothy Wells nee Newman) is second on the left. Her friend Mrs Vera Lloyd nee Hooper from Great Bedwyn is first on the left." Doreen Lawrence is fifth from the right.
- Possibly from a drama performance, or a post-war re-union of the "office staff". Can anyone explain what is going on?
- Sir William Rootes' Grange, converted from Home Farm. (Undated, post 1945?)
Much of the following information has kindly been provided by Roland Whaite, who contacted the Virtual Museum (in Jun - Dec 2014).
The estate was created on the edge of Savernake Forest and over the years has fragmented, been reformed and fragmented again, and at times included the village of Bagshot. It has accommodated a number of small holdings and tenant farmers.
Stype Grange, 1918:
There seem to have been several buildings named as Stype Grange on the site but the first for which we have details was an early Georgian residence which was the subject of several sale advertisements in the spring of 1918, well before the end of the First World War.
The main house had up to 12 bed/dressing rooms with associated stabling and a motor garage. The property benefited from beautiful gardens, a lodge, a lake stocked with trout and a well-timbered park of some 240 acres with 'fine shooting'.
Nearby Home Farm included a bailiff's house and had eight cottages on 155 acres, whilst there were three dairy farms, all with their own workers cottages, making a total estate of over 700 acres.
Mr & Mrs Henry Spurrier:
Stype Grange itself was stated to be in an excellent state of repair and there are reports that it had been refurbished during the war.
It does not seem to have sold immediately and went to auction, but by 1919 the owner is listed as Henry Spurrier (Sir Harry Spurrier according to Lord Rootes, 1983), who was appointed as Managing Director and Chairman of Leyland Motors when it became a public company that same year. (It should be noted that three generations of the Spurrier family - all named Henry - controlled Leyland Motors between 1907 and 1964).
The Hon. & Mrs Ronald Whiteley:
In 1925, the Grange was sold to the Hon. Ronald G. Whiteley, the younger brother of the second Baron Marchamley. Ronald Whiteley added considerably to the amenities surrounding the Grange, particularly providing a heated swimming pool and it was probably during this ownership that a nine hole golf course was also created.
Stype Grange fire, 1932:
(with quotes from the contemporary report in 'The Times' newspaper, issue no 46093, March 29, 1932). Mr & Mrs Whiteley were returning from a three-month visit to South Africa when the dramatic events of the 28th March 1932 led to the destruction of much of the Grange by fire.
The plan had been for their chauffeur, Mr Charles Smith, and the butler, Mr E Thornley, to leave at 4am in the morning to meet the Whiteleys at Southampton when they disembarked from the Union-Castle liner 'Warwick Castle'.
Mr Smith was quartered with other servants in a building some 100 yards away from the Grange, and although Mr Thornley and his wife, the head housemaid, usually slept at the manor, on this occasion with the imminent early departure, they moved into the servants' block with Mr Thornley choosing to sleep in his clothes on a settee. At 1am, Mr Thornley woke to see a red glare coming from the Grange and realised that the manor was well alight with the fire spreading rapidly in a high wind.
All the staff were roused and rushed to help, bringing out Mrs Light, the cook, and Miss May Court, another servant, unharmed in their nightclothes. Mr Thornley discovered the under-housemaid, Miss Dolly Baker, unconscious on a landing and carried her out to the fresh air where she soon recovered. Meanwhile, Mr Smith's daughter, Lily, a 21-year old kitchen-maid, could not initially be found.
In desperation, the chauffeur brought his car onto the grass in front of the building so that its lights illuminated the roofs and chimneys; climbing onto the roof of the car, Mr Smith could see that his daughter had exited from a window onto a second storey roof and had edged forward along a gutter. By then she was hanging by her hands from a projecting spout some 20 feet above the ground.
Mr Smith rushed back in amongst the buildings until he was directly under Lily; at that moment, tongues of flame licked out from the wall near her and she dropped astride her father's arms, knocking him backwards off his feet. By thus breaking her fall, he saved Lily relatively undamaged although obviously very shocked, whilst he escaped with bruising particularly to his forearms. (One nice detail is that Lily threw her engagement ring into the yard before climbing onto the roof and her fiancé was able to find it after daybreak that morning).
Thick smoke and flames had prevented anyone from reaching the one telephone on site and so Mr Smith, despite his exertions in rescuing his daughter, got back into the car and drove it to Hungerford to alert the fire brigade. The fire engine, which had officially been christened by Mrs Spurrier back in 1924 (see Fire Service since 1924), on arrival was directed to the lake as a suitable source of water, but unfortunately got stuck in soft ground and embarrassingly could not be freed in time to take any part in fighting the fire.
The Marlborough brigade were fetched and realised that the swimming pool held 20,000 gallons of water. Most of this quantity was pumped into the Grange, but it was too late to save much of the fabric or any of the contents, which included 'old paintings and mezzo-tints of the British school, some fine furniture and porcelain, treasures for the most part inherited by Mr Whiteley'.
The building containing the swimming pool was saved, along with the stables at one end of the Grange and a 'picturesque covered cloister' at the other. However, when Mr & Mrs Whiteley arrived back at Stype around mid-day, they were faced with the smoking ruin of what had been their beautiful home.
Janet Johnstone emailed (Dec 2020) to add "My grandfather was Mr E. Thornley the butler who rescued Dolly the under-housemaid from the house fire in 1932. His name was Eugene Thornley but known as Ted and he married my grandmother Ellen Mortimer, known as Nell or Nelly, whom he met on the Stype Estate. They had two children, June and Joseph, and lived in one of the thatched cottages. Ted and Nelly lived and worked at Stype. The fire left them homeless and jobless. All the staff were dispersed and Ted and Nelly moved to London where Ted worked at the Strand Palace Hotel."
By July 1932, Stype was for auction as a sporting estate of around 577 acres, including the lodge, 16 cottages and additional farm buildings.
It was acknowledged that the main residence had been destroyed by the fire but that the garage, swimming pool and squash court were undamaged, and that the property benefited from its golf course, trout-stocked lake and 5 acres of garden laid out by a 'famous garden architect'.
Mr & Mrs William Rootes:
The connection of Stype with the motor industry was renewed when William Edward (Billy) Rootes bought the property, Billy being the founder and Chairman of the Rootes Group, who at this time manufactured Hillman and Humber cars.
The new Grange is built:
The fire-damaged ruins were left alone whilst the main Home Farm building was re-structured as the new Grange.
It is not clear how quickly the rebuild was finished but a report in 1934 stated that Billy Rootes was lending some of his land at Stype for competitive trials of retriever dogs.
His business acquisitions included the marques of Singer and Sunbeam cars in 1935, and as war loomed, he turned much of his manufacturing capacity over to military production, especially armoured scout cars, aircraft and aero engines.
In early 1941, he moved a significant part of his administration staff from his Central London headquarters to Stype; later in 1941, he headed the reconstruction effort for the city of Coventry in the aftermath of the German bombing assault. In recognition of his wartime endeavours, he was knighted in 1942.
Wartime at Stype:
Early in 1940, Mrs W E (Nora) Rootes was advertising for domestic staff at the Grange, suggesting that the family comprised four members whilst the staff should be a minimum of six, but the whole tenor of the estate was soon to be changed.
The following passages have been put together by Roland Whaite, the son-in-law of Mrs Irene Cooper (neé Farmer), using her collection of photographs (courtesy of her daughter Mrs Virginia Whaite) and a few reminiscences gathered not only from Irene but also from Mrs Jean Corti (neé Munn) and Miss Doreen Lawrence with additional photographs from Doreen's collection (courtesy of her niece Mrs Maureen Wallace).
"Irene Farmer was 20 years old and a short-hand typist with Rootes Ltd when William Rootes elected to evacuate some of his office staff from Devonshire House in Piccadilly to rural Wiltshire. Her new official pass and Identity Card for this move was issued on 3rd February 1941, and she therefore left her terraced house where she had been living in Fulham with her parents- and struggling to and from work through the Blitz- to be billeted in dormitory conditions in one of the thatched cottages in Stype. She clearly remembered how someone- maybe a Rootes' employee- acted as a sort of matron and produced food in the evenings whilst looking after the general welfare of a group of mostly young girls.
We can only speculate about the number employed at the Grange- group photos generally show 15 to 20 people and there must have been a limit to the capacity provided by the local accommodation- but understandably there were very few men on site at this stage of the war- whilst the evacuated staff were predominantly female and generally single. Their office was a converted cow barn and they were kept pretty busy on Rootes' administration, and may well have had additionally to help with estate and farm matters. One exception was an estate worker named Morris who worked with the horses and sheep dogs.
In these circumstances, life-long friends were made - Irene, Jean and Doreen all reached 90 years of age and stayed in touch with each other - so my wife and myself have attended all their funerals in the last few years. Unfortunately although the same faces appear in many of the photographs, we only have a few other Christian names, but you can sense the camaraderie.
Photographs show them relaxing around the pavilion structure at one end of the ruins, posing on a five-bar gate outside a substantial detached house presumably on the edge of the estate, sitting around the pond and fountain in the former rose garden, forming groups aboard the odd stationary motor vehicle and more frequently setting off on bicycles to explore the neighbouring villages.
Irene reckoned they were out on their bikes most weekends and it was very much at Stype that she acquired a love for the countryside. But thrown very much onto their own resources, the girls managed to create quite a social life. They tried to visit Hungerford whenever it was practicable and attended local dances; some of these may have been organised at Stype once the swimming pool had been boarded over to create a staff canteen and it is possible this provided the venue.
What isn't clear is how they impacted on the permanent residents of Stype, some of whom took on landlady tasks for these Rootes' employees? And, of course, the military were around the area in a variety of training camps, so the dances proved very popular. Hungerford became particularly significant for Irene, since it was there that she met Richard (Dick) Cooper who at the time was with the Derbyshire Yeomanry (see Second World War/Derbyshire Yeomanry) and they married back in Fulham in June 1942 before he went off with the 6th Armoured Division as they battled their way through North Africa and Italy. Irene was not to see much of Dick until he was demobbed in 1946, so stayed at Stype for much of the rest of the war".
Post-war reunions of the 'office staff':
There was at least one such event in the early post-war years, to judge by one set of photographs which suggest that at least some of the time was spent on the estate.
But there is one photograph and a local newspaper cutting which frustratingly hasn't got a date nor any indication of which paper was involved. The only possible clue is the numeral 2245 on the back of the photographic print, presumably from a local Hungerford studio. This photo and cutting was found in Doreen Lawrence's collection and she is the only person whom can readily be recognised, suggesting that quite a few years had elapsed since the war. We would date the picture as the 1980s or 1990s.
According to the cutting, headed 'Memories Revived', the reunion was organised by Mrs Dorothy Wells of Upper Eddington, and Rootes' wartime Stype workers came from all round the country and in one case from Indiana in the USA. There were 18 people in the picture including three couples. 'They were able to walk the beautiful grounds at Stype, to see the lakes now filled with wild-life and the swimming pool. They then danced to the music of Glenn Miller to bring back memories of the dances at Stype'.
Sir William Rootes:
Post war, Sir William Rootes remained very much a hands-on Chairman for the Rootes Group, but also found time to indulge his passions for riding, shooting and farming. He hit the livestock headlines when his prize Aberdeen Angus bull named 'Stype Editor' (albeit bred in Perthshire) sold for a record 17,000 guineas at auction in 1955.
In 1959, a baronetcy was conferred on Sir William Rootes who became the first Baron Rootes of Ramsbury, simultaneously making his main residence Ramsbury Manor, across the A4 to the north-west of Hungerford.
Mr Charles (later Sir Charles) Clore:
The Stype estate was sold to the financier Charles Clore; following in the footsteps of Billy Rootes, Clore set up a new farming company which was appropriately named Stype Estate and they upped the record by paying 27,000 guineas for a pedigree bull in 1960. They had an award-winning animal named 'Eroica of Hungerford' at the Perth show in 1963, and Clore also appeared in the racing pages around 1967/68 as the owner of a colt named 'Stype Grange'.
Charles Clore was a sometimes controversial figure who had been born relatively poor in London's East End, but had risen in the world through a programme of company acquisitions which included much of the British shoe industry, the Selfridges department store, the jewellery firm of Mappin & Webb, and a host of residential properties. Apart from being a retail and property magnate, he was a philanthropist who supported the arts and also many Jewish community projects both in the UK and abroad.
During his time at Stype, the Grange was clearly enlarged and it would also seem that the whole estate had become expanded to around 2,000 acres. Charles Clore was keen on country pursuits, especially shooting, and for the second time Stype hosted a knight of the realm when he became Sir Charles in 1971.
It is uncertain how much time he spent at Stype since he owned several estates and also spent much of his leisure time abroad in later years. Stype Grange had been put up for sale by auction in July 1978 but had failed to reach its reserve price of £4 million; meanwhile an apartment in Monte Carlo had been added to Clore's portfolio, although he was physically in London when he died in 1979.
The Inland Revenue managed to argue successfully that Sir Charles Clore was effectively domiciled in the United Kingdom for inheritance tax purposes at the time of his death and the 1984 judgement can be found, for example, at www.uniset.ca.other/cs5/1984STC609.html
In that decision, it is clear that Stype Grange was empty and thus regarded as uninhabitable when it went to auction in 1978, but one of the witnesses said that Clore actually wanted to return permanently to England and Stype still represented an option for him.
Dame Vivien Duffield:
The family obviously then became liable for death duties but there must have been sufficient funds available since the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain was created to house the Turner collection thanks to a £6 million donation from the Clore estate and his daughter Vivien Louise Duffield.
Mrs Vivien Duffield was subsequently created a Dame of the British Empire in 2000 for her philanthropic services to the arts.
Burridge Heath Farm:
The site of the Stype Estate Stud, when put up for auction separately from the estate in 1980, comprised a 'good farmhouse, traditional buildings, 22 loose boxes and 32 acres of paddocks, fields and woodland'. 14 other lots included The Old Mill House, the adjoining Mill, another four-bedroomed farmhouse, and some thatched cottages. Some online reports suggest that Mrs Duffield still had an owning interest in 1998.
(This section requires further research to confirm) Stype estate was bought (perhaps in 1979) by Marcus Sieff, who was Chairman of his family firm Marks & Spencer from 1972 to 1982. He was knighted in 1971, and created a life peer in 1980 as Baron Sieff of Brimpton. He remained on the board of M&S until his death in 2001.
Mr & Mrs Philip Magor:
Purchased Stype Grange and some 1000 acres of the estate in the 1990s. Philip Magor is a direct descendant of the co-founder of the Williamson Magor Company, one of the world's leading tea producers.
Another Hungerford angle:
A newspaper report of a book signing at the Hungerford Bookshop on 15 December 2012 when local author Keith McCloskey unveiled his history of Airwork, the airline service company, revealed that a co-founder of that company, Alan Muntz (1899 – 1985), had lived at Stype Grange at some stage of his life. Tantalisingly, there are no dates given.
- Letter from William Rootes to the Palmers, 22 Jul 1940. (from Stewart Hofgartner)
- HHA Archives [A10]