Marbury Hall was a country house in Marbury, near Northwich, Cheshire, England. Several houses existed on the site from the 13th century, which formed the seat successively of the Marbury, Barry and Smith-Barry families, until 1932. An extensive collection of artwork and sculpture was housed at the hall from 1801 until the 1930s. The final house was extensively remodelled by Anthony Salvin in the 1850s.
Marbury Hall was used as a military camp and later as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War, and afterwards Imperial Chemical Industries housed foreign workers there. The house was demolished in 1968, and the grounds now form part of Marbury Park.
The first Marbury Hall was built in the 13th century by the Marbury or Merbery family. On the death of Richard Marbury in 1684, the male line of the family became extinct. The estate was sold to Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers, in 1708. In 1714 it passed to James Barry, 4th Earl of Barrymore, the Earl’s son-in-law, who enlarged the existing house, and then to his second son Richard Barry. When the latter died without issue in 1787, the hall passed to James Hugh Smith Barry (1746-1801), an art collector who also owned the adjacent Belmont Hall. In 1819 the Marbury Hall collection of artworks and sculpture was published by Barry’s son.
James Hugh Smith Barry’s grandson of the same name had the hall extended and remodelled by Anthony Salvin in around 1856. It served as the family home of the Smith-Barry family until 1932, when it was sold and became a country club. In 1940, during the Second World War, the house was requisitioned for war use. British soldiers camped in the park before huts and roads were built to serve the military, including survivors from Dunkirk. The house became a prisoner-of-war camp, known as Camp 180. Bert Trautmann, a German paratrooper, later to become Manchester City goalkeeper, was billeted at the camp.
After the war the house was sold to the chemical company Imperial Chemical Industries, and was used to house Polish workers. However, the house deteriorated over time and was demolished in 1968. Nikolaus Pevsner called the demolition “a great pity”.
The Marbury Hall of 1714 was a vernacular building in brick, which Lord Barrymore extended with side wings and a portico. In 1837, Thomas Moule described the hall before Salvin’s remodelling as “a spacious building with a Doric corridor on the entrance front”.
The hall was enlarged and remodelled in around 1856 by architect Anthony Salvin, based on the great French château of Fontainebleau. Salvin was recommended by John Nesfield, landscape gardener to the Smith-Barry family.
Pevsner considered that Salvin’s work was a remodelling of an existing house originally by James Gibbs. Architectural writers Peter de Figueiredo and Julian Treuherz, however, state that this is a misidentification of a house by Gibbs described as “a very Convenient Small house of six rooms on the floor for the Honble John Smith Barry at Aston Park in Cheschire” in manuscripts held at the Soane Museum. They identify John Smith Barry’s house with Belmont Hall, now a school, which stands adjacent to the Marbury estate.
Pevsner compared the remodelled Marbury Hall with Wellington College, completed in 1859, describing it as “quite a document of architectural history”. The architecture mixed Louis XIII pavilion roofs and French dormers with parts in the Queen Anne style; there were turrets and a dome.
Gardens and park
Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer states that the hall “stands in beautiful grounds, which include a lake of 80 acres”. The Lime Avenues were planted in the 1840s to the design of Nesfield, and still exist today.
None of the house exists following its demolition. However, raised terraces, a pair of rusticated gatepiers topped with urns, stone walls, the arboretum and walled garden still exist within Marbury Park. The walled garden is now a garden centre. Dead trees in the Lime Avenues were replanted in 1980 to commemorate the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and the avenues were renamed Queen Elizabeth Avenue.