Berry Hall is a name that has been used for two different buildings in Solihull. The name originally referred to the 15th-century half-timbered farm house on Ravenshaw Lane. However, this building was renamed Berry Hall Farm after the estate was bought by Birmingham steel pen-nib manufacturer, Joseph Gillott (junior), from Henry Ludlow on 21st January 1867.
Joseph Gillott transferred the Berry Hall name to a new mansion which was designed for him by architect Julius Alfred Chatwin. Work on the new house apparently began in 1870 and was completed in 1880.
Although known officially as Berry Hall, the new residence was often referred to locally as New Berry Hall, whilst the renamed “Berry Hall Farm” was also known as Old Berry Hall or, sometimes, Old Berry Hall Farm.
The new Berry Hall included an artificial lake which was constructed by the Solihull firm of George Lines & Sons, artesian well and hydraulic engineers. Once the water was in the lake, Joseph Gillott apparently decided that he would like an island to be created. According to George Lines’ obituary in the Warwick County News 8th April 1944, this order was carried out at a later date, albeit with some difficulty.
The purchaser of the Berry Hall Estate in 1867, Joseph Gillott (1826-1903), was the son of Joseph Gillott (1799-1872) who had established the steel pen-nib manufacturing firm, Joseph Gillott, in Birmingham in 1827. Joseph (junior) married Maria Sault in London in 1853 and they had six children:
- Algernon Sydney Gillott (1854-1898)
- Florence Maria Gillott (1855-1920)
- Agnes Mary Gillott (1858-1888)
- Joseph Henry Gillott (1864-1907)
- Alfred Ernest Gillott (1867-1897)
- Ethel Leonora Gillott (1869-1932)
Joseph Gillott (junior) died at Berry Hall on 3rd July 1903. His estate was sold at auction in June 1904 and his son, Joseph Henry Gillott, bought Berry Hall and Old Berry Hall with 123 acres of land, for £15,000.
Planning applications were submitted in October 1904 (ref.: SOL/PS/1/2/763) for the erection of a gamekeeper’s lodge in Hampton Lane (now known as North Lodge) and in March 1907 (ref.: SOL/PS/1/2/808) for the erection of dog kennels, a ferret pen and pig sty. North Lodge remained part of the Berry Hall Estate until July 2006.
Unfortunately, Joseph Henry Gillott outlived his father by only four years, dying at Berry Hall on 5th March 1907.
Joseph Henry Gillott’s will left various bequests to his wife, nephews, niece and servants but the residual estate was left equally between Battersea Dogs’ Home and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Berry Hall was bought at auction in 1907 by Birmingham printer, Mr William Albert Upton (1860-1908) who had previously lived at Sutton Grange, Station Road, Solihull from about 1894. He submitted a successful planning application in September 1907 for the addition of a motor house and engine house to Berry Hall (ref.: SOL/PS/1/2/1082).
William Upton fatally shot himself at Berry Hall on 5th September 1908. Newspaper reports from the time indicate that had invited a number of friends for some shooting at the estate on that day. He left his friends at about 5pm so that he could go back to the hall to order some tea and it was said that he probably stumbled over a mat at the door and a gun accidentally went off, causing the fatal injury. He was 48 years old.
His widow, Ada Anne Upton (née Heaton) married Maurice Davis in 1910 and continued to live at Berry Hall until her death on 26th December 1938.
Mrs Davis obtained planning approval in May 1911 for additions to be made to the library at Berry Hall (ref.: SOL/PS/1/2/1531).
Mrs Davis’s executors sold the contents of Berry Hall, together with a Rolls Royce limousine, in April 1939. The following description of the hall appeared in the local newspaper a few days after her death:
The hall itself is of no especial architectural merit – though its massive brick chimneys and cupolas are picturesque – but its surroundings are beautiful, as well as a true example of Victorian lavishness of layout. House and gardens lie amid thousands of specially-planted trees, including some fine cedars, now of great size, and numerous rare speciments. There are walled kitchen gardens, an artificial lake with an island and a main drive half a mile long, bordered with the rhododendrons which are one of the glories of the estate. This drive terminates in wrought-iron gates with a design incorporating elaborate patterns of foliage and flowers, and even a representation (inconspicuously on a lock) of the pen-nib which brought so much wealth to the Gillotts.Birmingham Mail, 2nd January 1939
The Trustees of William Albert Upton sold the Berry Hall Estate – comprising Berry Hall, Old Berry Hall and about 136 acres – on 8th June 1939 for £37,000. The purchaser was Mr Harold Arnold Tippetts, chairman and joint managing director of L. H. Newton & Co., nut, bolt and screw manufacturers, of Nechells, Birmingham.
The Warwick County News of 17th June 1939 reported that Mr Tippetts, of Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield, had fallen in love with the gardens at Berry Hall and so resolved to buy the entire estate. He apparently out-bid a prominent Solihull businessman in the last round of the auction. The newspaper noted the new owner’s intention to modernise Berry Hall considerably, with the installation of electric light everywhere being the principal improvement.
An article in the Birmingham Post on 11th August 1978 reported that Mr & Mrs Tippetts had floodlit the mansion and gardens and, in the 1950s, were the largest private consumers of electricity in the West Midlands.
Mr Tippetts also purchased some of the plants that had been sold from the estate weeks before the June 1939 auction at which he purchased the hall. In 1943, Mr Tippetts started a renowned herd of pedigree Guernsey cattle, which won many awards in national shows. The Berry herd was dispersed and sold at auction in July 1957, with the catalogue at the Core Library (ref.: D178/3) noting that 25 of the 26 cows listed were entered into the Advanced Register and five had been awarded the Diploma of Merit.
Mr & Mrs Tippetts were notable local benefactors to Solihull, giving land in Marsh Lane to Solihull Cricket and Tennis Club, together with wrought iron gates at the club’s entrance. They also presented the chains of office for the Mayor and Mayoress of Solihull when Solihull became a municipal borough in 1954.
Harold Arnold Tippetts died at Berry Hall on 25th January 1956. He was 67 years old. His widow, Mrs A. Maude Tippetts, furnished a room named after him at Job’s Close old people’s home, which opened in 1956. The room was paid for by means of a memorial fund established by her late husband’s employees. Mrs Tippetts died in Solihull in 1987, aged 97.
The 240-acre Berry Hall estate, which was wholly in the Green Belt and, therefore, not available for building development, was sold at auction on 11th July 1957 for £47,500. Berry Hall was described as a:
medium-sized country house with two entrance lodges, cottage, outbuildings and grounds; Berry Hall Farm with an Elizabethan house and dairy buildings; Bogay Hall Farm; woodlands and three cottages. Also included were four lots of accommodation land with frontages to Hampton Lane, Marsh Lane, Warwick Road, and Ravenshaw Lane.Birmingham Daily Post, 13th July 1957
The purchaser was apparently a London property dealer whose name was undisclosed in 1957 but who was named some years later as a “Mr Pearlburg” [sic] (Birmingham Daily Post, 11th March 1976) . This is believed to be Henry Hyman Pearlberg (c.1886-1975), who was apparently born in Russia but grew up in Lancashire before moving to Nottingham and then to London.
He subsequently split the Berry Hall Estate and sold Old Berry Hall and about 100 acres of farmland to bookmaker, Frank Berrow (1903-1964).
Housing propososals for the “fringe”
An advertisement appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post 29th August 1957 advertising “delightfully situated freehold residential building sites for sale for detached residences or bungalows” on land at Marsh Lane, Solihull “adjoining Solihull Cricket and Lawn Tennis Grounds and originally part of Berry Hall Estate.”
It seems likely that this is the land described in April 1958 as the “fringe” of the estate that been sold to a developer. In January 1958, Newcroft Investments were refused permission to build housing on the green belt land on the Hampton Lane frontage of the estate from Marsh Lane to Ravenshaw Lane. Newcroft Investments of Solihull appealed against this decision but the appeal was dismissed at a public inquiry held in September 1958.
The developer contended that the development of houses costing between £5,000 and £10,000 would be in-filling in an area already partially built upon. However, Solihull Council routinely opposed ribbon development on the edge of or inside the Green Belt on the grounds that “if it was allowed, development of interior land would be difficult to resist.” (Birmingham Daily Post, 20th September 1958).
Hotel proposals 1957-1972
Tentative enquiries were apparently made to Solihull Council in September 1957 on the possibility of building a motel on the estate. The scheme envisaged 200 living units with garages, and it was turned down by the council (Solihull News, 29th March 1958).
Berry Hall (Investments) Ltd was registered as a limited company in November 1957. In 1958, the company submitted a planning application to Solihull Council for a 500-bedroom and 400-bathroom luxury hotel to be built on three acres of the Berry Hall Estate.
The hotel would have comprised the former Berry Hall mansion and a new building to be erected alongside. It would have been one of the largest hotels in the Midlands. However, Solihull Council was opposed to any encroachment into Green Belt land and so the application was rejected. A town planning inquiry was due to begin on 19th November 1958 but it was adjourned on the basis that the company was intending to submit a revised application.
A modified application “by a London investment and development company” for a 64-bedroom hotel was put before the planning committee in February 1959. In the same month, Solihull Council made an order to preserve trees and woodlands on the Berry Hall Estate and 12-acres of adjoining land just outside the town centre.
An article in the Solihull News, 31st January 1959 named the owners of the Berry Hall Estate as Messrs H. Pelham and Partners. The article quoted a letter from agents, J. R. Eve & Son, suggesting that a small scale conversion and building was likely to be more acceptable to the council. Once complete, the buildings would be let to a hotel company on a long lease and the surrounding agricultural land could be let to a local farmer.
The modified application by Berry Hall (Investments) Ltd was approved but the hotel scheme was never implemented. According to an article in the Birmingham Daily Post 11th March 1976, the development didn’t proceed because none of the major hotel groups was interested in taking on the site.
At an Extraordinary General Meeting of Berry Hall (Investments) Ltd on 31st March 1967, a Special Resolution was passed:
That the Company be wound up voluntarily, and that Henry Justin Pelham and Paul Nicholas David Pelham of 44 Lowndes Street, London SW1 be and they are hereby appointed Liquidators for the purposes of such winding-up.London Gazette, 7th April 1967. p.3958
A. Gough, Director.
The Pelham brothers appointed as liquidators were the sons of Henry Hyman Pearlberg who had apparently purchased the Berry Hall Estate in 1957. The London Gazette 12th November 1954 included an announcement that Henry Justin Pelham, a student, had changed his name by Deed Poll on 8th October 1954 from Henry Justin Pearlberg.
The voluntary winding up of Berry Hall (Investments) Ltd apparently commenced in December 1967 although ongoing taxation issues meant that liquidation was still not complete by 2017.
The Birmingham Daily Post, 9th December 1972, reported that a proposed conversion of the Berry Hall Estate to provide 100 rooms had been given planning permission.
In December 1972, parts of the Berry Hall Estate – arable and rough land owned by Newcroft Investments Ltd and woodland, half bed of River Blythe, arable and rough land owned by Shonleigh Nominees Co. Ltd – were listed by the Secretary of State for the Environment as being required for Compulsory Purchase in respect of the M42 Birmingham-Nottingham Motorway (Solihull Section). The Solihull bypass from the M42 J5 now runs through part of the former Berry Hall estate.
Sale and new planning application
An article in the Birmingham Daily Post, 11th March 1976, stated that Berry Hall Estate was owned by the Shonleigh Trust, one of the Pelham family trusts, and that it was being managed on the Trust’s behalf by Savills of London.
A spokesman for Savills told the newspaper that “no firm policy was decided” but that they were “trying to get the land back into order” and that the future of Berry Hall would be decided within the following 12 months. Preliminary discussions had been held between the agents and Solihull Council and it was suggested that the hotel plan could be revived, given the site’s proximity to the M42 and the new National Exhibition Centre.
Two years later, the Birmingham Post 11th August 1978 reported that Berry Hall had been purchased by a businessman from the Middle East who was intending to rebuild the mansion as a private residence. The name of the purchaser, who was understood to have business connections in London, was not disclosed, nor was the price paid for Berry Hall and 60 acres of land, although the newspaper said the price was believed to have been more than £100,000.
The sale was stated to have been handled by Savills estate agents on behalf of Shonleigh Trust. Lord Caithness, a partner of Savills, was quoted as saying that the agents had been trying to sell the hall for about three months. The article noted that although Savills had had discussions in 1976 with local planning officials about the future use of the property, no satisfactory progress had been made so the Trust decided to sell it.
An article in the Birmingham Evening Mail 8th August 1980 reported that the “ghost mansion” of Berry Hall, which had stood empty for 20 years and was now “run down and derelict, in acres of overgrown gardens” was the subject of a planning application by Azemco Ltd, based in Bickenhill. The company, whose two shareholders were listed on Companies House records as having an address in Cairo, had registered the Title to the Freehold land, Berry Hall on 2nd February 1979.
The intention was to convert the existing hall – despite its floors and roof having caved in – into the hub of a new hotel with wings on either side for dining room, lounge and bedrooms. The dining room would cater for 160 customers and the other wing would house 116 twin-bedded rooms with private bathrooms. Sports facilities would include tennis and squash courts.
The Solihull News 19th December 1980 reported that in November Solihull councillors had considered recommending that the application be approved, as they believed that Berry Hall should be preserved. However, following a site visit, councillors felt that the building was actually beyond repair.
At a meeting of Solihull Council’s Planning Committee in December 1980, the committee chairman stated “the point of preserving it as a house has gone now.” The meeting heard that the chimneys had been shored up and that the building was “nothing short of derelict.” As a result, councillors were concerned that a precedent would be set by allowing the hotel to be built on the green belt. Several residents of Hampton Lane also opposed the plan, claiming it would cause traffic issues.
Solihull Council recommended that West Midlands County Council refuse the planning application, which it did on 10th December 1980.
Berry Hall gates
In 1984, the wrought iron gates from (new) Berry Hall, together with four 15-feet high Portland stone piers, were dismantled for removal to what was described as the owner’s other property in Wiltshire (Solihull News, 2nd February 1984). Estate agents, Savills, refused to disclose either the name of their client or details of the gates’ final destination.
The gates apparently bear the date 1882 and include the monogram “J.G.” as well as a key-hole in the form of a split pen-nib made famous by Joseph Gillott. Charles Lines in his article “Requiem for Berry Hall” (Warwickshire & Worcestershire Life, February 1985) describes the gates as being designed by Julius A. Chatwin and manufactured by the Birmingham firm of Hardman.
The Wiltshire property to which the gates were removed in 1984 was a Grade II-listed Georgian farmhouse – Manor Farm, Manningford Bohune, Pewsey. From 1926-1942 Manor Farm was owned by George Odlum, a specialist dairy farmer. In 1942, the farm was sold to Fyfield Estates Ltd, a company owned by Robert Spear Hudson, Minister of Agriculture, who later became Viscount Hudson of Pewsey.
Page four of the Savills’ sale brochure for Manningford Bohune estate in 2015 shows the wrought iron gates from Berry Hall, which are situated on the drive just north of the main road to Pewsey. The brochure indicates that the Manningford Bohune estate remained in the Hudson family until 1977, when it was was purchased by the present owners. A newspaper article in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, 29th December 2005 notes that the estate (Manor Farm, Barset Farms Estate, Manningford Bohune) was owned at the time by Paul Pelham.
The gates themselves are Grade II listed.
Decay and demolition
In July 1959, the Solihull News lamented that the grass in the grounds of Berry Hall was now two and more feet tall when not so long ago the grounds were receiving skilled and devoted attention. Land on the 240-acre estate was still being put to agricultural use, however.
A visit by a Solihull News reporter in November 1959, accompanied by the agent, Mr Gregory Prescott, of Messrs Vincent & Partners, voiced the agent’s view that, following cleaning and repair, the condition of the house was “excellent, dry and in very good order.”
The Berry Hall mansion gradually fell into disrepair and, by 1976, it was described as being derelict, with trees growing against the walls. The rateable value of the derelict mansion was said by the council to be £1,357.
By the early 1990s, Berry Hall was deemed to be in a dangerous condition and the building was demolished.
An article in the Birmingham Mail 4th April 2020 announced that the Berry Hall estate – described as a “pile of bricks with 58 acres thrown in” – was again for sale, with a price tag of between £2.5-£3m.
If you have any further information about the Berry Hall Estate or its former residents, please let us know.
Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies
© Solihull Council, 2022.
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