Derbyshire 98 - Chesterfield /walking in the footprint of Wingerworth Hall/what is the connection between Wingerworth, Randolph Hearst and the St Louis City Museum


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May 3rd 2020
Published: May 3rd 2020
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Did you know that there was a connection between our large 7000 inhabitant village of Wingerworth , Randolph Hearst and the a museum across the pond in St Louis ? No neither did I until I treated our village as if I were a visitor on a first visit . As a visitor research is always something that needs to be done before the visit takes place . I have always done this abroad but never for the village I live in. I took it for granted . I rarely walked around it . In fact , I disliked it immensly . It was a place to live. Nothing more . Nothing less . I never gave it a second glance . How many times do we do that when we live somewhere ? It is so familiar we don't even think about it. It is just there in the background. Never changing . Never challenging . Covid 19 though has changed everything . With lockdown prevented anything but essential travel the area within walking distance of home has taken on a different perspective . It has needed to change.

Today the walk will be boring. The weather is cooler . May has definately started with a more chillier feel than last month. You can come along with me . On my wander round the village with my mind all over the place . We are heading down through Deerlands and Parklands . Reminders of what was once here . A morning jogger wished me a good morning as he ran past heading roughly in the same direction we would be travelling. I never think about the history of our village. It is a rich history but one neglected by me. It was recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 . A village of fourteen houses owned by freemen. A far cry from the hundreds we are walking through today. The village grew out from the hill around the church to what we walk through today. I was walking my way through what was known as Wingreude - Old English for Kings Land. The Brailsfords were the local lords before a sideways move brought the Curzons from Kedleston near Derby to the lordship. Finally we have the Hunlokes whose coat of arms decorate the old stone cottage we just passed . I keep finding things along the way that relate to the Hunlokes . Two gatehouses with columns , a mausoleum in the church . Built for the family the first burial of a child in 1795. When the family died out so did the use for the mausoleum . Turned into a vestry and storeroom . The only reminder the date over the door giving a clue to what was inside .

The family lived at Wingerworth Hall - I have never found any trace of the hall on my walks . Just a footprint of what the estate might have looked like in its heyday. It grew from a small hall in the 1600s. By the time we reach 1724 the new hall had been completed . It must have been somewhere around where I walked over the Trickett Brook . Perhaps close to the point where I crossed the road to avoid the large shire horse that was heading towards me. The rider thanked me profusely for crossing the road . Her horse was a touch fickle . The house must have been impressive . Called an understated Baroque design .- better than Sherbourne Hall in Dorset but not quite the standard of Chatsworth . Gardens designed by the famous Humphry Repton . Not quite Capability Brown but the next best thing when it comes to parkland design .

Once over the brook close to the Nethermoor Plantation - one of the many woods that must have been planted by the Hunlokes to hide their estate from prying eyes . I find what I am looking for . A milestone marked up with the mileage - 1 and 3/4 - that is all that is chiselled into the stone . No words . No destination . At a guess it is 1 and 3/4 miles from Chesterfield. It has always been there but I never once have spotted it . I must have passed it by without a second glance . Perfectly formed . I wonder how many drive or walk past it without even noticing it . Still telling us after all these years just how far we need to walk to get to Chesterfield . There are more of these around. I thought I might find the 3 mile marker but there was no trace . Perhaps it was there once but long ago thrown into a skip unloved . Or re-used in a wall. It could easily have been hidden beneath the undergrowth of the hedgerows . There are more - I know there is at least one more to find and find them we will before Covid 19 is long forgotten.

So what about the fortunes of the Hunlokes . They tried to sell their hall in the 1920's when their circumstances changed . They found no buyer . No National Trust that wanted to look after the heritage . No rich landowner who wanted a slice of history . Instead it was sold off bit by bit to builder who knocked it down stone by stone and sold off the contents of interiors .

So what was the connection between our hall and America? The builder had to make his money back . The interior was sold in an auction . One entire room was purchased by Randolph Hearst, shipped to California for use in his home San Simeon . It was not used and sold to the Dalva Bros in New York who sold it on to a Dallas architect Wilson McClure in the 1940's. An English room was sold to the St Louis Art Museum and was in situ until remodelling of the museum in the 1980's after which its footprint was lost again as it now sits unloved in the basements and storerooms of the museum.

Without Covid 19 and my walks perhaps I never would have known this . One day maybe I will go into the Art Museum in St Louis and ask if they will let me see the remnants of Wingerworth Hall .

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