Middleton Hall is a Grade II listed building dating back to medieval times. A listed building, in the United Kingdom, is a building that has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. There are three types of listed status for buildings in England and Wales:
· Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest.
· Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
· Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them
Middleton Hall is situated in the northern part of the county of Warwickshire in England, south of Fazeley and Tamworth and on the opposite side of the present day Middleton village. Surrounding the hall is 40 acres of land including two walled gardens, the largest man-made lake in Warwickshire, and much woodland and Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve.
Middleton Hall shows evidence of several phases of English domestic architecture from the late thirteenth to the early nineteenth century. There is a fine Great Hall that is of Tudor origin. The Manor of Middleton was held by the de Frevilles until 1418 and came to the Willoughby by virtue of the marriage of Margaret de Freville to Sir Hugh Willoughby. The Willoughby had extensive estates in Nottinghamshire and elsewhere, their principal seat being Wollaton Hall, Nottingham.
Middleton Hall was also the home of some notable people and was visited by many important figures. One of these notable people was Queen Elizabeth I, who spent two nights under its roof after enjoying festivities at Kenilworth in 1575.
In the mid 17th century the hall was home to Francis Willoughby the famed mathematician and naturalist. The Georgian West Wing dates from the late 18th century, but in 1812 the estates and the Barony passed to Henry Willoughby of the Birdsall, Yorkshire branch of the family. By then, Middleton declined in importance and the Middleton and Wollaton estates were sold in the 1920s.
The hall estates were allowed to fall into disrepair over many years in the twentieth century, starting with the misfortune of being used for gravel extraction. One of the period buildings that formed the hall’s interconnecting central quad was demolished to enable gravel trucks to park in the courtyard.
Sadly, by the time Middleton was eventually given Grade II-listed status it was in ruins. Its grand windows were smashed, its joists and beams rotted, and several roofs and floors were missing altogether. By the 1970s, it was fit only for the motor bikers who had taken to practicing off-road scrambling on the Great Hall’s staircase. The same staircase where Queen Elizabeth I had stood during her visit in 1575.
The volunteers at Middleton Hall.
In 1980, Middleton Hall was being leased to a charitable trust operated by volunteers, who have lovingly restored the buildings and researched the many stories that belong to the Hall. For the past 30+ years, Middleton has undergone a quiet transformation at the hands of these of skilled volunteer craftsmen. Between them, they have put in hundreds of thousands of hours work to rebuild, renovate and restore a historic home which, almost uniquely, showcases the shifts in English domestic architecture over the better part of a millennium. While the Hall remains visitable rather than habitable, it would be entirely derelict without the intervention of its volunteer army.
These volunteers have done excellent work to bring back to life buildings of English history from ruins. However, there is still work that has to be done at Middleton Hall including: the main hall, the walled garden, the Tudor barn complex (now craft shops) and a 16th-century jettied building, which was close to collapse before restoration commenced. The buildings at the site are rented to a charitable hope to raise a further £1m to finish renovations in the Tudor barn complex. When they have completed the work it will be a site to be hold and visit.
This is the Great Hall before and after the restoration work.