crows hall during restoration greyhound plasterwork

Something old, new, borrowed & blue

Borrow Crow’s Hall for your wedding and Caroline Spurrier’s will certainly fulfill the rest of the bargain. Both the vaulted barn and moated hall are most definitely old and have been lovingly and carefully restored, given new roofs. And under Suffolk blue skies, the countryside panoramas are simply stunning. Read more

Soon after the renovations were complete several years ago, Suffolk & Norfolk’s Life’s Ian Baird headed down to the Crow’s Hall moated manor to reflect on the huge job that had been in hand and the impressive results of an old Suffolk secret brought back to life through a programme of sympathetic and award-winning renovation work.

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air”

Thomas Gray’s suggestion that some of the most aw-inspiring sights, while being no doubt awe-inspiring, are not necessarily sight if no-one sees them is perhaps true of one of Suffolk’s most awe-inspiring buildings. Tucked away from prying eyes, down a long tree-lined avenue at the north-east corner of Debenham, Crow’s Hall is not on the main tourist tail for visitors to Suffolk; it is however, a wonderful old building, especially since its recent make-over, and well worth a visitor if the opportunity should arise.

When Caroline Spurrier bought the hall in 2005, it was, although by not means a ruin, certainly far from being a fair representation what it might have even in its days of glory. There has been a building of sorts on the site of at least eight centuries, and the name Crow’s Hall is thought to derive from its 13th century owner, John Crow, but the present hall dates from the 16th century, with (as is common in all such ancient piles) a welter of additions form later periods.

The  problem has been that, while bits have been added, that which was originally there has not always been properly maintained, at then the same for the various additions, with the result that when Caroline Spurrier bought the hall, it needed major re-working to catch up with centuries of wear and tear, and that is what she set about doing under the auspices of Nicholas Jacob Architects with R&J Hogg carrying out the works.

What she has done in her three year make-over is to try to reconstitute or repair most of the remaining original splendours, while incorporating some of the fruits of modern technology (computer connections in every room discreetly installed), to make the hall into a home, with the result being so successful that it received awards form the Suffolk Association of Architects.

Crow’s Hall Suffolk manor history » 

Thus the moat with its charming bridge has been repaired and now stands in perfect order. The roof, which was in poor condition in 2005 with its concrete tiles  crumbling, has been re-tiled not in a style as near as possible to its original, with new hand-made clay tiles and oak joinery where necessary. Inside, the fireplaces which had been taken out or replaced in the 1940s or 50s have been repaired or replaced, one in the a 16th century style with superbly crafted panelling and pargeting.

Two rooms which had cornices have had them replaced by exquisitely hand-modelled ones. Look in one for the family Greyhound, a neat personal touch; in the new pargeting; its somewhere above the fireplace; and for the Westie, another family dog; in the other.

Also notice where the broken 16th century glass windows have been repaired and re-leaded rather than discarded, where the few floor-bricks rescued from the bridge have been cleaned and polished and re-laid in the entrance hall to the 16th century box-staircase, replacing late 20th century machine tiles.

At the hall, another area re-worked is the garden, newly designed by Lady Tollemache, planned in 2007, in a style which fits the splendour of the building and is itself another hidden treasure which should produce more each year as it matures.

See how Xa Tollemache’s planting designs have flourished  – Gardens Gallery  »    

The hall was, at some earlier period, connect with Anne Horne, a granddaughter of John Neville, known as Warwick the Kingmaker; it is therefore a neat footnote to the hall’s history that its present owner is a great-granddaughter of Francis Richard Greville, the 5th Earl of Warwick.

Hardly any of the hall remained untouched during its 3 year face-lift. For people with an interest in Suffolk architectural heritage , the new/old Crow’s Hall is surely a must-see.

Feature published Suffolk & Norfolk Magazine February 2009.