Thursday, 21 March 2013

Flixton Hall

Flixton is a small village located near Waveney in Suffolk. The village was well known for the very grand Flixton Hall - a seat of the Adair family.

The Adairs resided at Flixton Hall for nearly 200 years. It was built in 1615 by John Tasburgh and was originally surrounded by a moat.

In 1753, the direct male line of the Tasburgh family became extinct and the estate passed to the Wyborne family, who sold it to the first of the Adairs, William Adair, who died in 1783 and in his Will left “as much money as should be found in my charity bag at the time of my death for charitable purposes”. 

The bag contained £300 13s 7d. The charity provided red cloaks for the schoolgirls, blue jerseys for the boys and boots for both, so “Flixton children” were easily distinguished when visiting town.

The charity survives in a different form, providing “extras” for deserving people in the area at Christmas time.

When William died in 1783, the Estate passed to Alexander Adair, great-grandson of Sir Robert Adair of Ballymena and Custos Rotulorum of County Antrim.

This branch of the family, who thus succeeded to the Flixton Estate and the Lordship of the Manor of South Elmham, were of Scottish descent and one of their ancestors had fallen on the Flodden Field.

The family subsequently settled in Ulster. Sir Robert Adair of Ballymena (1659-1745) raised a regiment for King William III and was knighted on the battlefield of the Boyne.

He was married four times and was succeeded in the Ballymena estates by the son of his first wife William Robert Adair (1745-1760).

He was a Captain in Lord Mark Kerr’s Regiment of Horse at the Battle of Culloden.

Research next shows that, in 1805, Alexander Adair raised and commanded the Loyal South Elmham or 9th Troop of Suffolk Yeomanry.

They encamped at Flixton Hall, and their weapons were preserved in the Armoury at the hall until its contents were sold.

Alexander Adair died in 1834 and was succeeded by his cousin Hugh Adair, who held a commission in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and was present at the siege of Gibraltar. He married Camilla Shafto, heiress of Benwell Tower. 

As he was 80, when inheriting the Hall he made it to his eldest son, Sir Robert Shafto Adair, born 1786 and created 1st Baronet in 1838.

A fire caused major damage to Flixton Hall in December 1846 and repairs took some years. Ten years later, the already ruined local church collapsed further so he paid for its complete restoration.

The architect - a Mr Salvin - completed it in 1861 and the lines of the original building (Saxon tower, Norman nave, aisle and chancel) were closely followed.

Queen Victoria subsequently created the 2nd Baronet 1st Baron Waveney.

In 1870, he had the Bungay to Harleston road re-routed so that traffic no longer passed close to the hall.

Sir Robert died childless in 1886 so the title then lapsed.

He was succeeded by his brother, Sir Hugh Edward Adair, 3rd Baronet. He had Flixton Hall reconstructed and a new wing added (1888-92), making it a mansion of 60 rooms and 365 windows; he died in 1902.

He was followed by his eldest son, Sir Frederick Edward Shafto Adair, 4th Baronet. He was very fond of his seaside residence “Adair Lodge” at Aldeburgh and formed a strong friendship with James Cable, then Coxswain of the Aldeburgh lifeboat.

Sir Frederick died in 1915 at the young age of 54. His funeral was made all the more imposing because some 800 members of the Shropshire Yeomanry were then encamped at Flixton Hall.

He was succeeded by his brother Sir Robert Shafto Adair, 5th Baronet, always known as Sir Shafto, who spent much of his time in London where he was once a barrister.

He was a great patron of the arts and a director of the Royal Academy of Music, a Deputy Lieutenant of County Antrim and held the unique office of “King’s Clog”, a right granted by the King in connection with taxes imposed by the Metropolitan Water Board.

In 1948, the whole Flixton Estate of 2,970 acres - then under the management of (Major-General Sir) Allan Shafto Adair - was offered for sale: there were 21 farms, several small-holdings, two licensed public houses, two schools, three village post offices, various houses, numerous cottages, marshlands, woodlands, and grazing rights.

The family retained ownership of Flixton Hall and Flixton Park, plus Home Farm and Home Woods.

Everything was purchased by Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Limited, although many of the cottage dwellers were later able to buy their homes.

Sir Robert died in 1949 and was succeeded by his only son, Major-General Sir Allan Adair, GCVO,CB, DSO, MC, JP, DL, 6th Baronet, who had been commissioned into the Grenadier Guards in 1916.

He then resided at Amner Hall on Her Majesty the Queen’s Sandringham Estate and served in the Queen’s Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard. He was a distinguished soldier of both World Wars and commanded the Guards Armoured Division in World War ll.

According to his 1986 memoirs, Sir Allan regarded Flixton Hall as ‘a vast, uncomfortable mausoleum, still with no proper central heating. In winter the children had to wear their overcoats when moving from room to room’. 

The Estate was expensive to keep and maintain, and owing to heavy death duties levied on his father’s Estate, the 6th Baronet was forced to sell.

His only son and heir had been killed whilst serving with the Grenadier Guards in World War II, during the battle of Monte Camino in Italy.

On retirement the 6th Baronet had set up residence in Raveningham and, in 1950, the massive library and all the fine contents of Flixton Hall were offered for sale.

Despite efforts by both the East and West Suffolk County Councils to buy Flixton Hall and 250 acres of the land for use as a joint farm institute, it was sold privately to a speculator.

Two years after the purchaser had removed and sold all the protective lead from the roof, water was causing serious problems to the interior so he applied and gained permission to demolish the building in June 1952.

As a result, one of the most magnificent buildings in Suffolk was allowed to disappear forever - only the shell of part of the ground floor survives today and is used for farm storage. 

First published in October, 2010.


Anonymous said...

Lovely house, Ballymena doesn't look quite so nice in comparison!


Anonymous said...

my family now farm the estate