Kelmarsh Hall

Kelmarsh Hall & Estate – Jeremy Watson, managing agent for the farms & houses

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The Kelmarsh Estate

The Kelmarsh Estate is made up of 31 houses & cottages and seven let farms, totalling 2,700 acres, creating a typical midland agricultural vista from the Hall. It covers over 3,500 acres, incorporating a mixture of arable cropland with pasture, woodlands and parkland, with most of the farmland managed by long-standing tenant farmers.

The wider estate contains Kelmarsh Hall, along with a mixture of ponds, hedgerows, mature woodland and grassland and a scattering of spinneys that sequin the landscape. The woodland management over decades has earned the timber products a noteworthy Forestry Stewardship Council accreditation to support its provenance, of for which the estate team is extremely proud.

Domesday Records

The Domesday Book records the population of the village of Kelmarsh at 80 people, farming the land belonging to two manors. Jump forward a few hundred years and little has changed in terms of population with around 100 people living in Kelmarsh village.

The old Jacobean manor and 1,000 acres was purchased in 1618 by the Hanbury family for £11,600. Eight generations remained at Kelmarsh until the late 1860s, during which time the present Palladian style manor was built, completed in 1732, designed by the architect James Gibbs, famed for having designed the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford and St. Martins-in-the-Field, in London.

In 1864 the manor was sold to Richard Christopher Naylor and again at the start of the 20th century, moving into the ownership of the Lancaster family. George & Cecily Granville Lancaster had two children, Claude Granville & Cecily Valencia. Claude inherited the estate at the age of nine from his parents. The Hall was rented to Ronald & Nancy Tree from 1928 to 1933. Ronnie was Master of the Pytchley Hunt, then MP for Market Harborough whilst Nancy redesigned the dark Victorian interiors to what was hailed as the ‘most inviting Hunting Box in England.’

Nancy & Ronnie divorced in 1946 but Nancy soon returned to Kelmarsh as the wife of Claude in 1947. Her mark remains upon the interior design of Kelmarsh Hall, with her taste for comfort with formality setting the trend for the 20th century English Country House style. Nancy left for a second time, upon divorcing Claude in the mid-1950s. By the mid-1990s both siblings had passed away and a Trust had been formed to look after the Hall, gardens and wider landscape.

Jeremy Watson- managing agent for the farms & houses of the Kelmarsh Estate

Jeremy Watson is managing agent for the farms & houses of the Kelmarsh Estate, engaging with the Trustees to ensure that the best possible benefits are provided to the Trust and to look for new ways to generate income for the Trust. “My role includes finding, referencing and checking-in tenants, ensuring all aspects of property management are kept under control including the lighting, heating, ongoing repairs, any legislative requirements for rental properties adhered to and that the properties are well-maintained from a bricks and mortar, as well as a cosmetic point of view.”

In terms of the land, Jeremy supports the Trust in the tenancy agreements with the tenant farmers of the estate. The seven farms have all been rented on long-term farming agreements, based on the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1986, with lifetime security of tenure as well as statutory succession rights on death or retirement for those granted before 1984. Although some succession has occurred, the tenant families are very well-established at Kelmarsh and the strong community feel of the estate is clear for all to see.

Alternative Income

Alternative funding opportunities arise, on occasion, for the estate. For example, Kelmarsh Wind Farm Ltd has constructed a significant wind farm, providing a renewable energy source for the grid. Now that the turbines are in place, the land is being handed back to the farmers from whom it was rented in order for the construction to take place, under agreement.

Events are a big part of the Trust’s work on the estate. Gatherings include; an annual music and cultural festival which attracted over 7,000 visitors in 2019; the Morris Minor National Rally is an annual weekend event and Wild Voices festival will also return for the late May Bank Holiday weekend in 2020. The Kelmarsh Show boasts over 200 stalls and exhibition stands, live music, arena entertainment, food & drink vendors and activities over the Easter weekend each year. Open house and garden events, craft fairs, wedding fairs and art workshops are just a few of the other activities available.

Weddings at Kelmarsh Hall

In addition, Kelmarsh Hall has become one of the region’s most beautiful and desirable wedding venues in recent years, available year-round and for a variety of wedding styles; using the Great Hall, Saloon & Ballroom, Orangery or a marquee in the gardens. Our work at Kelmarsh is a labour of love. Our investment in the estate is one of not only working hard, but a genuine desire to get the very best outcome for all; the cottage tenants, tenant farmers, the beautiful estate and grounds and of course, ultimately, create an income that will enable the Trust to continue to open the doors and grounds of this stunning estate to generations to come.

The Role of a Managing Agent

Of his work with Kelmarsh Hall, Jeremy says; “ to be the best managing agent you can be requires utter dedication and that is what Kelmarsh expects of me and I am willing to give. Ensuring that this fabulous estate has a secure financial future is really worthwhile work and gives all involved a really positive feeling of a good-job-done-well.”