A Brief History Of Crabwall Manor
The history of Crabwall Manor is one of the most fascinating of any house in Cheshire, as well as being one of the oldest, the various occupants of the house have figured largely in the very shaping of history itself, both on a national as well as a local level.
The present Grade II listed building had the major change of the addition in the 1600’s of the fine red brick frontage, with its battlemented top. This frontage was probably ‘tacked’ on to a much older Tudor farmhouse, itself having been built on the foundations of a much older building: excavations have revealed the existence of a red sandstone plinth of an earlier date than the brick building. The original design of the house is impossible to trace since so many more alterations have taken place since that time, but the present Drawing Room is certainly part of William Gamull’s work of 1600.
Prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066, the manor belonged to Toret, a freeman, when it was called “Crabal”.
The Norman warlord, Hugh Lupus, William the Conqueror’s nephew, laid claim to the estate, and bestowed it on his baron, Ranulphus de Mesnilwarin. Ranulphus gave or bequeathed his “Hamlet of Crabhall” to his nephew Thomas, who in turn parted with it to Sir John de Arneway for the modest payment of one penny a year!
Sir John Arneway was Mayor of Chester from 1268-1278 and was the first of a long line of mayors of Chester connected with the house. Sometime during the 13th century Sir John presented the estate to the Abbey of St Werburgh (now Chester Cathedral) which held it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530’s. At that time, the Chester merchant Edmund Gamull acquired it on mortgage from the “widow Bromfield”, and thus the estate passed into the hands of the family who were to hold it until 1864.
The estate therefore had the very rare distinction of having had only two changes of ownership in nearly 800 years.
The Gamulls were a very old Cheshire family, related to all the great families of the County. Thomas Hughes FSA writes that during the 16th century “The Gamulls were at the head of the Chester commerce by sea as well as by land. Merchants and traders, men of intellect and moral power, second to none certainly in the old city, as to material wealth. They one after the other, fathers, sons, nephews and grandsons made themselves a necessity in our arena”.
Edmund Gamull became Mayor of Chester and he settled Crabwall on his second son, William, on his marriage to Eleanor Cotgreave on 18th April 1602. William himself was twice Mayor of Chester, in 1608 and 1620 and although he was the last of his name to hold that office, one of his descendants, Thomas Edwards, was Mayor in 1786.
The estate was sold to Colonel Humberston, Commanding Officer of the 5th Chester Rifle Volunteers, who continued the Mayoral tradition of the house by serving Mayor twice.
In the late 1800’s the Estate was owned by a Mr Milne, who came to an untimely death when he committed suicide on the drive. Mr Milne was an important merchant in Chester and owned the steam mill located in Chester on the canal banks still standing proud on the skyline in the south east quarter of the town.
Around 1900, the property was sold to a Mr Davies, a local farmer; unfortunately he fell on hard times and was forced to sell the house.
In 1906 the manor was bought off Mr Davies by an Irishman from Londonderry, Hugh Lyle-Smyth head of Ross T Smyth Grain Importers Liverpool. Hugh built a mansion at Great Barlow which he called Barrowmore. (Following a direct hit during the Second World War Barrowmore, though unoccupied, was totally destroyed). Hugh moved into Barrowmore upon its completion and Godfrey Lyle-Smyth (his son) moved into Crabwall with his wife and two children, Brian and Shelagh, until 1910 when Godfrey died of appendicitis. His wife and two children moved south to join the other Grandparents, Colonel and Mr J.W.Savage formally of the Chester Sappers.
Shelagh (now Thonald-Harper) succeeded all and now lives in Hampshire. Through the kindness of close friends she recently made contact with us and was able to tell the story of Hugh and Godfrey’s ownership on Crabwall.
During the First World War the house was used as a hospital for female personnel.
Again during the Second World War the house was used as a hospital for female personnel.
The Jacob family of Dublin owned the house. This family manufactured the well known Cream Crackers. However they returned to Dublin in 1960.
Mr & Mrs Stevens owned the house and turned it into a club with bedrooms. However, after Mr Stevens died and Mrs Stevens grew older, the club was mostly used as a late night drinking place and for wedding receptions.
Crabwall Manor Hotel
In 1985 Carl Lewis, a local businessman and restaurateur, purchased the house at auction. Again alterations were made; the East and West Wings were added at this time as well as the impressive clock tower. In May 1987 Crabwall Manor was opened to the public. The snooker room was completed as the first Christmas guests arrived in 1989; but while the foundations were being dug something was found and the archaeologists were called in. Fortunately, the items proved to be of no great age, so work carried on. In October 1989 a further 16 bedrooms were added, which included two ladies rooms and two non-smoking rooms. Three conference rooms were also added at this time. In July 1990, the new conservatory restaurant was opened which increased the seating capacity from 80 to 120 seats. Crabwall Manor is now ideally placed to meet the needs of the modern guest. With fine facilities unequalled in Cheshire, this award winning hotel caters for discerning visitors from all over the world.
Marston Hotels purchased Crabwall Manor in August 2000 and continued to invest in the hotel with an extensive refurbishment programme. Since taking over Crabwall Manor, the hotel has gained AA four Red Stars, RAC Blue Ribbon Award, four stars and a gold award from the English Tourist Board.
Crabwall Manor joined Brook Hotels’ extensive portfolio in 2006.
Akkeron Hotels & Dukeminster
On the 17th April 2012, Crabwall Manor was taken over by the Freeholder of the property, Dukesminster Limited. Dukesminster have chosen Akkeron Hotels to manage Crabwall on his behalf
The turrets – not only are they an attractive feature, but in rooms 1 and 2 which have almost certainly always been bedrooms, the turrets were used as powder closets in the days when bathing was not a done thing!
In the Cocktail Bar – the bar itself is a pulpit and the surround is an organ surround – they still serve spirits!
The area now represented by our Inglenook Lounge was formerly the back cobbled courtyard surrounded by stables and out buildings.
Credits: All Text – Crabwall Manor, Colour Images – Crabwall Manor, B&W Images Author’s Unknown