1889 - 1914: John Derby-Allcroft
John Derby-Allcroft was a partner in Dent-Allcroft, glove manufacturers in Worcester. He bought the Stokesay Castle Estate in 1867 and added land to it over 21 years, finally purchasing the Aldon Estate where he built his dream house and home for his growing family. The architect was Thomas Harris.
Building work began in 1889 and John Derby-Allcroft's family moved in six months before he died in 1893. The architect was Thomas Harris. In 1900 the house passed to his eldest son, Herbert, who married Margaret Russell, daughter of Sir William Russell of Charlton Park, Gloucestershire. They had two children, Russell and Jewell. When Herbert died in 1911 Margaret took on the running of the house until her death in 1946.
1915 - 1918: WW1 VAD Auxiliary Military Hospital
Stokesay Court became a soldiers’ convalescent home on 19th April 1915, with 10 beds, rising to 30. Each man had his own room. Hospital trains from Southampton brought the wounded and sick soldiers to Berrington War Hospital at Atcham for assessment before transferring to a convalescent hospital. Mrs Allcroft was the Commandant of the hospital.
The average stay was around six weeks. If well enough, soldiers were expected to help with chores. For recreation there were concerts, boating trips, and sports. Stokesay Court remarkable hospital archive, contains around 300 letters from soldiers and their wives, as well as official hospital documents such as accounts and food returns.
1918 - 1939: Between the Wars and World War II
Life returned to normal between the wars. Russell and Jewell came of age.Russell’s celebrations were attended by all the estate tenants and staff.Jewell had a coming out ball at Stokesay in 1928. There were also many parties and charitable events. Mrs Allcroft had remarried Brigadier General John Guy Rotton in 1916. He was a popular figure in the local community and, as a keen horseman, a regular attender at Ludlow Races. Mrs Rotton became Shropshire’s first woman county councillor and was also the longest serving Girl Guide Commissioner for the county.In World War II the house was requisitioned by the army and used as a Western Command Junior Leaders Training School.
1945 - 1992: Decline and End of the Allcroft Era
By the end of WW2 the house was falling into decline. Russell was often unwell and died in 1950. Jewell had married Philip Magnus, biographer of Kitchener, Gladstone and Edward VII, in 1943, but the marriage was childless. They did not reopen the house after the war, but lived in the Ladies Wing to which the family had retreated in 1939.While Philip wrote, Jewell tended the house and estate, growing prize carnations and opening the gardens for charitable events. They became increasingly reclusive and the house started to crumble around them. The furniture and artifacts, moved for the duration of the war, remained stored in the attics and cellars, gathering dust, worm and moth.
1992 - Present Day
Jewell died in 1992 without telling anyone about her will. The house was left to a number of beneficiaries including her niece, Caroline Magnus. A 4 day sale by Sotheby’s in 1994 saw all the contents sold. Caroline spent the next 10 years undertaking extensive infrastructure repairs and refurnishing the interiors.
She was richly rewarded when Joe Wright and Working Title Films asked to use Stokesay Court as the setting for the Tallis House in “Atonement”. The film received wide critical acclaim. This encouraged Caroline to open for tours and events. Stokesay Court has been the subject of many articles and documentaries and is now well placed to look towards the future.