Winkburn Hall was most probably built around 1690 as a two-storey house; the attic was added in the late 18th century (photo: Andrew Nicholson, 2005).
WINKBURN Hall, the seat of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Strelly Pegge-Burnell, of the Coldstream Guards, a justice of the peace for the county, who is also possessed of an estate in Yorkshire, to which is attached a charming old place called Beauchief Abbey, better known to Sheffield people than to us, is one of the oldest and one of the most interesting houses in Nottinghamshire. Perhaps but few persons are familiar with its proportions, and only those who have made researches among local records are acquainted with its early history. The house enjoys a seclusion which is as complete as it is charming. It is not more than four miles distant from Southwell, in a northerly direction, but that slender distance is sufficient to remove it from all contact with what little life there is in the quiet town just named. The roads which skirt its park are but little used, the clean and pretty village over which it predominates is as quiet as an empty church, and great trees surround its venerable walls, still firm and substantial, without a trace of decay. In fact, its situation and natural surroundings give it most complete and absolute privacy. Several generations of Burnells, the representatives of an old and influential county family, which at different times has furnished four High Sheriffs of Nottinghamshire since 1702, have lived there. Before they became possessed of the Manor it was the seat of a religious order, of whom, after the lapse of centuries, there are some slight traces yet remaining. This order or society was of great antiquity; it members were knights hospitallers or Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and when they became established of course it was necessary to find them accommodation. So one Adam Tyson generously came to their aid and granted them the Manor of Winkburn, where they continued to reside for a considerable period. A streamlet named the Wink, which to this day threads its way through the green and flowery pastures of the park, may reasonably be supposed to have provided them with fish, and probably in order the more readily to secure their favourite diet, they broadened the stream in places. About a mile from the house is to be seen a holy well, a place of interest, which is undoubtedly connected with the past history of the place. The order to which this brotherhood belonged originally existed for the protection of pilgrims travelling on their way to the holy city, and they are said to have become very wealthy. How this wealth was accumulated does not transpire, and the searcher after knowledge failed to find out whether it came out of the pockets of protected pilgrims or out of successful demands upon the Winkburn tenantry, such as those that were imposed by the priors of the neighbouring house at Thurgarton. In the silence of history it must be taken for granted that the followers of St. John of Jerusalem were above the mean exactions that were practised in the name of St. Augustine, and that the wealth of this Winkburn brotherhood was the result of successive grants made to them. That they were thought much of in high quarters is certain, for they had granted to them a house in London, and it is said that a member of their order was the first made baron in England, and had his scat among the Lords of Parliament. These knights hospitallers held the Manor of Winkburn until the reign of Edward the Sixth, when it was conveyed, together with the monastery, to William Burnell, a London merchant, and to Constance his wife, in exchange for certain lands in one of the southern counties. The Manor was possessed by the Burnells until the death of Darcy Burnell, in 1774. This gentleman left the estate by will to his heir-at-law, a procedure which seems to have occasioned some litigation, for a jury was called upon to give an opinion in the matter, and they awarded the estate to two persons descended from the female branch of the family of Burnell. So that the Burnells have been settled at Winkburn for nearly three centuries and a half.
Monument to D'Arcy Burnell who died 1774.
An almost complete history of this ancient family is to be obtained from the memorials in the church. This venerable structure would be an interesting study for the archaeologist. It is full of antiquity, if one may use that description; smothered with ivy, and surrounded by sunken gravestones. Not long ago these humble out-door memorials were ivy-grown. The fond plant had extended its embrace to almost every tombstone in the churchyard, and it required considerable effort to clear it away. In the church there are a number of memorials to the Burnells, dating from the middle of the sixteenth century down to 1878, when the late Mr. Burnell died, leaving his son, Colonel Burnell, as his successor, and three other sons, two of whom have followed their brother’s lead, and adopted the profession of arms. One of them is Colonel of the 7th Hussars the other holds a commission in the Rifle Brigade. The original name of the family seems to have been Steade, and they appear to have held lands in Yorkshire long before they came to Winkburn, some mention of the family being made in certain old writings in the reign of Edward the Third. In 1768 Thomas Steade married a daughter of Strelly Pegge, of Beauchieff Abbey, and sister of Peter Pegge, of Winkburn Hall, who devised his estates to his nephew, Mr. Pegge-Burnell. Broughton Benjamin Steade, born in 1774, was High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1889, and he succeeded to the estates in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire of his maternal uncle, Peter Pegge-Burnell, Esquire, of Winkburn, and in compliance with an injunction contained in the will, he took by Royal authority the name of Pegge-Burnell. Beauchieff Abbey formerly belonged to the Strellys, but by marriage it passed into the Pegge-Burnell family, whose property and residence it now is.
Winkburn Hall is a compact building of brick, with white stone facings, which cause it to stand out conspicuously to one who has passed through the park, and finds himself in front of the mansion. Its exterior bears evidences of antiquity but not of decay. The precise date of its erection I was not able to ascertain from any member of the family, but that it was built in an age when good work was put into English houses is certain, if the testimony of brickwork which has borne the test of centuries, apparently without making the slightest concession to time, may be taken into account. In the upper part of the house there are some oak staircases, which have been in existence for many generations, and which to-day do not seem very much worn, by the trial they have undergone. The lower and principal rooms are not large, but they are extremely comfortable and well arranged. Several of them contain most interesting specimens of carving. These are to be seen over the close-fitting massive oak doors, and they illustrate, for the most part, well-known fables. There are six of these doors, and they were formerly in one room ; they are now judiciously distributed in the principal rooms in the lower part of the house. The mantelpiece in the dining room is also a very fine piece of woodwork by no means modern. For a centrepiece it has a head of Apollo—the features of the god being admirably carved. In a house of such antiquity, and the ancestral home of an old country family, one would expect to find a collection of portraits. At Winkburn there are a number of these, and a very interesting sprinkling of paintings of another order. It is easy to distinguish the art of Sir Peter Lely in the two large portraits of William and Elizabeth Burnell. The hands with their blue veins are as delicate as the petals of a lily; the flesh tints are soft and fresh, rendered as only that master could render them. In the costumes of the different periods of which they lived, are Darcy Burnell, Acton Burnell, and a number of other members of the family, and Lord Essex, the favourite of Elizabeth. Among the portraits on the principal staircase are those of the late Mr. Edward Valentine Burnell, and of the Mrs. Burnell, his widow; of Mrs. Savile, and further up of Lady Cust, and of that William Burnell, who had a grant of Winkburn made to him so long ago as the reign of Edward the Sixth. Then the features of Mr. Gabriel Savile, and of another Mr. Acton Burnell, occupy other frames, and family portraits have become so numerous that for want of space they have been placed in out-of-the-way places. Besides the portraits, there are at Winkburn, some fine paintings, which perhaps have not been seen by many beyond the circle of the family’s friends, to say nothing of the few remarkably beautiful engravings which hang in different parts of the house. In the hall are two examples of Rosa da Tivoli’s art, two interesting paintings by Valetti, one giving an exciting aspect of a boar hunt, the other showing the perfectly drawn proportions of a cow and calf. They have evidently been in the family for some considerable time, and so, in all probability have many of the others—a lovely landscape by Buhlman, a characteristic head—that of a boy, by Schalken, a collection of game by Cuyp, and a winter scene, looking like a snowed-up Swiss village, by Fidenza. Amongst the hail pictures there are some of Sidney Cooper’s famous sheep, as well as a painting bearing the signature of Lukx, and in the library, over the mantelpiece, there is a very fine rendering of poultry which, without any authentic information on the subject, I venture to ascribe to Hondekoeter, whose works were all of this class, and showed a marked similarity. A companion picture to this I saw at Watnall Hall, and about its authorship there is no doubt whatever. There is a very fine chimneypiece of carved oak in the library, upon which an artist, centuries ago, by the look of the wood, successfully illustrated the process of cutting down a particular kind of tree for the purpose of extracting the oil which exuded from its wounded parts. In the dining room are some horses and dogs by J. F. Herring, upon whose works so much store is set, and two excellent copies of Murrillo and Guido, the latter of some stirring allegory which inspired the pencil of the master. In two, if not more of the rooms at Winkburn, there are some very striking drawings of animals—tigers chiefly, in different attitudes, which, though executed by an amateur hand, bear evident traces of artistic power of a very high order. These were done by the late Mr. Burnell during his confinement to the house, and the drawing is so firm and true, the perspective so good, and the conception of animal dignity so marked, that they are worthy to take a conspicuous place in any collection of pictures. There is a delightful tranquility about this old house and about its shady shrubberies, which have been grievously ill-used during the severe winters. Many an ugly gap has the cruel frost left in the Winkburn pleasure grounds, and the injury is not one that admits of speedy remedy. In one part of the pleasure grounds is the grandest copper beech I ever saw—and for wealth of foliage and symmetry I do not think it has its equal in the county. It could not be in a better place to be seen, and when it is at its best no prettier sight could be desired. An immense retriever dog, appeared to have permission to make himself at home in the hall, and, lying at full length on the paved floor, looked capable of disputing the right of entrance with any unauthorised visitor.