Ledston Hall and Gardens
The oldest part of the property is the chapel which dates back to the late 12th century. It was built by the Monks of Pontefract Priory who were substantial land owners of the era. The chapel which was dedicated to St Thomas a Beckett stood alone for a number of centuries and is situated just below the brow of the hill, giving shelter from northerly and easterly winds. It would be many years until the Hall and gardens, much of which can be seen today, were annexed.
In 1540 the Priory at Pontefract and all its adjoining lands were surrendered to King Henry VIII who subsequently leased it to tenants. Ledston was granted to Henry Witham in 1556. The Witham family added a courtyard block to the Mediaeval Chapel and Refectory. The way the building took shape suggests that it was sited on the edge of a precipice which later became a terrace at the rear of the property. Baroness Mary Witham, grand daughter to Henry, was the last Witham to reside in the property – she was married to Sir Thomas Bolles and died in 1662. Her father Henry Witham and wife Elinor were responsible for installing the fireplace and ceiling in the Lady Betty room.
In 1631 Ledston was sold to Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Stafford. He completed the south wing of the property which is currently converted and used as residential flats, and the north west block known as The Unfinished Room. It is reported that in 1631 workmen downed tools and refused to go on when they heard news of the Earl’s impeachment. The room was then bricked up for many years. King Charles I restored Ledston Estate to Earl Stafford’s son William, however William fled to Holland during the civil war. The Estate was then sold to Sir John Lewis in 1653 who completed the Hall with the addition of the north wing.
Following the death of Sir John Lewis in 1671, the Estate came into the hands of Lady Elizabeth Hastings, his grand daughter, in 1704. She had grand plans to transform the building by demolishing and replacing the Medieval and Witham blocks. She then decided to change the external surroundings of the Hall and in 1711 commissioned Charles Bridgeman, architect of George II, as her adviser. They most notably altered the main drive, now known as the Red Ash Drive, the brick terracing to the west side of the Hall and the eastern grass banks.
The gardens were typical Bridgeman style consisting of a central lawn with formal hedges, with two side alleys converging on the centre. The gardens were destroyed around 1810 to create space for vegetable gardens to feed racehorses. The gardens you see today are a reconstruction.
The entrance gates were built by Lady Elizabeth Hastings prior to work commencing on the gardens.
The iron gates at the south-east end of the terracing have been restored in recent years together with the stone staircase. There is also a brick summer house, built so the occupant could see the terraces, lower gardens and the Brewhouse Yard.
Ledston Hall now
In 2015 Planning and Listed Building Consent was granted to convert the Hall into 10 residential dwellings with some community space in the principle rooms. the scheme will also create a new access off Back Newton Lane through the North Park.
The proposal relied heavily on input from Architects, Archaeologists, and Conservation Officers to produce a sympathetic scheme that made the best use of the building as it stands.
To date, work is yet to begin on the full project but various implementation works including upgrading all of the rainwater goods and providing disabled access to the chapel via a new door were carried out in 2017 and 2018.