The History of Brocket Hall

Early evidence suggests the house dates back to 1239 and was called ‘Watershyppes’ and owned by Simon Fitz Ade. They were also known as FitzSymon from whom Symondshyde wood derives its name. In the 15th century a FitzSymonds heiress married Sir Thomas Brocket .

 

The Brockets orientated from Yorkshire but quickly made Hertfordshire their permanent home and in 1440 the house was rebuilt and renamed Brocket Hall. The most famous of the Brocket family was Sir John Brocket, who married Elizabeth, daughter  of Sir Rowland Lytton of Knebworth. Sir John Brocket and was high sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1553.

 

 

 

  Sir John was a close ally of Elizabeth 1st,. Elizabeth was under house arrest at nearby Hatfield house and when her sister Mary died the news that Elizabeth was now Queen  was told to the 25 year princess as she sat under her favourite oak tree in the grounds of Brocket Hall.

Mary daughter and co-heir of Sir John Brocket married Sir Thomas Reade in 1597, he was high sheriff of Berkshire in 1613 and of Hertfordshire in 1618. Their forth son, John born in 1616 inherited the Brocket estate and was created a baronet in 1641  by King  .Charles 1 and again by Cromwell in 1658. He died in 1694 and his son James inherited the estate. Sir James was a serious young man who went to Rome to follow his interest in politics and was struck down by smallpox and died in 1712.. He left only sisters and no male Brocket Heir and the estate passed on to one of the sisters  a Love Reade who married Thomas Winnington on 6th  August 1719. The estate was sold to Sir Matthew Lamb in 1746.

This era was an eventful  time Sir Matthew  engaged one of the leading architects of the day Sir James Paine and asked him to build a new Brocket hall  and Paine did just that. Sir Matthew died around 1765. Sir Matthew's son became the first Lord Melbourne, largely through the efforts of his wife who was a mistress of the Prince Regent, later George IV, who was a frequent visitor to Brocket Hall. The Prince gave his mistress a gift of a Reynolds painting which hangs in the ballroom and created the Chinese suite of rooms - known as the Prince Regent Suite - which are still used by residential guests today. The building was finished by by the 1st Lord Melbourne known as Peniston. With his wife they also widened the river into the lake and the work was complete by 1775. A surprising fact about Brocket Hall was at this time was horse races were held in the park.

The second Lord Melbourne, William who inherited the Hall in 1805 married Caroline Lamb and romantic liaisons were abundant at Brocket Hall. The wife of had a great passion for the poet Lord Byron and is said to have fallen from her horse at the shock of seeing his funeral cortege passing the Brocket estate; she had by all accounts, not known of his death until that moment.

The second Lord Melbourne proved to be more of an individual, going on to become Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister, with whom he struck up a close friendship. Victoria herself was another monarch who often stayed at the Hall.


On the death of Melbourne in 1848, the Hall passed to his sister Emily Mary who was married to 5th Earl Cowper of Panshanger who died in 1837 she then  married Lord Palmerston.  Palmerston went on to become Prime Minister and in 1865 died in somewhat bizarre circumstances at Brocket Hall, allegedly involved with a chambermaid at the time involving a billiard table. He had a reputation for vigorous exercise but none of his biographers mention the episode and the story might be just below stairs gossip.




After the death of his wife Emily in 1869 the house was passed onto Emily’s grandson Francis 7th Earl Cowper. Who may not have resided at Brocket Hall but remained at Panshanger as thecensus of 1881 shows the Hall to be occupied by his younger brother Henry Fredrick Cowper (1836 – 1887). After the death of Henry Frederick Cowper in 1887 the Hall whilst in the ownership of the 7th Earl Cowper was rented out and between 1893 and1921 the house was rented to Lord Mount Stephens. On the death of Earl Cowper in 1905 his niece inherited the property until her death in 1906 when her husband Admiral of the fleet Lord Walter Talbot Kerr. Lord Walter Talbot Kerr.



On the death of Lord Mount Stephen in 1921 the house was put up for sale and bought in 1923 by Sir Charles Nall –Cain of the Node Codicote. Sir Charles took the title ‘Lord Brocket ‘ in 1933 and on his death in the following year the estate passed onto his only son Arthur Ronald Nall- Cain (1904 – 1966) Lord Brocket, during WW2 turned the house over to the war office and it was used as a maternity hospital. Over 8000 babies were born ( Exact figure shows 8338). These babies are now called the Brocket Babies and have a website dedicated to them.

 

On his death the estate was inherited by his son Charles Ronald Nall-Cain in 1967, he was still at Eton and only 15 years old. As his father had pre- deceased the 2nd Lord Brocket, Charles inherited direct from his grandfather.
Charles built up the estate and promoted the hall as a conference venue for high profile corporate events and senior government meetings. In 1992 he built the first golf course and named it after the second Lord Melbourne.
In the early1990’s Charles encounted problems in his business of trading Vintage Ferraris and decided to sell a 60 year leasehold interest of the estate to CCA international.