Parlington Hall :: Considering the Grand Staircase?

The header picture is a sketch of a typical stone stair tread, drawn to scale 3' 6" long, with a rise of 6" and a tread of 12" including the nosing. Note the end which was built into the stairwell wall is fashioned into a rectangular piece, only the exposed section is moulded. The treads stack together to form a continuous flight, the balustrade is fixed in a socket, using a molten lead caulk, topped off at the surface with a fine mortar to match the stone tread. Styles vary but the principle is the same, The stone may be a fine sandstone or limestone, but consideration has to be given to a type of stone which does not tend to polish with foot traffic.

Stair Treads Combined to Form a Stairway

Sketch of possible cantilevered stair tread

Tread Detail

Stair tread detail

Hall References

There are no drawings or photographs which indicate the existence of a main "Grand" staircase at Parlington. Yet clearly something larger than a single flight of stairs between floors for the use of the family and guests must have been a significant feature of the mansion. I did discover a small fragment of stone which on reflection could have been a very seriously worn part of such a stone tread, but as it was from the same grey/white limestone found in the centre section and bay, I initially took it to be a part of the wall masonry, possibly a section of jamb.

Anecdotal evidence of the staircase comes from a few different sources. Firstly people in the locality; Garforth, Barwick in Elmet and Aberford, etc. who have attended talks given by me on a number of occasions about the Hall, have after the talks were over, discussed with me their childhood recollections of playing in and around the remains of the Hall. For the most part the statements relate to the period after the Second World War, but one I remember with some detail after a talk to the Sherburn in Elmet Historical Society. A very elderly gentlemen, quietly told me of his time as a youth playing in the Hall, a popular sport with young boys, although always running the risk of having your "collar felt" by the Gamekeeper. It seems he visited the old place on a number of occasions during school holidays and the like, the period was before World War Two, during the 1930's. He remembered quite clearly going up a large staircase, but was unable to remember where it was in relation to the other chunks of the Hall that were still standing.

Further evidence was provided by the Hon Merriel Wingfield a relation of the Gascoignes' who recalled during meetings on two occasions, that she, whilst picnicing in the gardens of the Hall with the Gascoigne Family in the 1930s, had ventured into the old derelict mansion and had gone onto, but not necessarily climbed up the full way, the old grand staircase. Again she could not give any effective details of the type of stairway. In recent times the subject again came to the fore when a short article was published in the "Barwicker", the local history society's regular publication. I took the opportunity to contact the authoress of the piece, and sent a letter with sketches and drawings, sadly she could not add to my knowledge, to any great extent, but it worth noting for the record.

Details from the Letter

Thank you very much for sending the information re Parlington Hall. I find it all very interesting and it brings back many family memories. I have been racking my brains but I am very sorry but cannot tell you anything further about the staircase. It was all such a very long time ago and I think I must have been no more than 8 or 9 years old at the time, if that,. I was born in Thorner, where I lived until 1949 but my Mother's family the Lumbs and Perkins had been in Barwick for many generations and I was christened and married there. (We moved to Barwick a few years after my father died and a lot of my Mother's family were in the area.) My Great Grandmother farmed Kiddal Hall in the late 19th and early 20th C and I have several photographs and paintings of the house before the removal of the oriel window. Gt Gt Granny moved to Beckside Farm in Aberford with her daughter Annie (who married Harry Thorpe) and when they retired they were found a temporary cottage by the Gascoigne's almost next door to the old hall. (later moving into Aberford.) I had a cousin - Dennis Townend - who was about 18 months my senior and it was he who took me into the old building to explore. My recollections are of being rather alarmed by the dangerous building and especially of a wide staircase which just disappeared into space as there were no floors above the ground floor!

Scenario One

Considering the letter and the earlier statements, and remembering that most if not all the correspondents would have been quite young when they were visiting the site, it is possible that the stairs were those at the back of the Drawing Room, although they do not look very "grand", being a simple U shape on plan, in a relatively narrow well. By modern housing scales the staircase may have appeared quite substantial of course to a small child. A clearer view of the area can be found by clicking on the button at the beginning of this article titled: Stair Analysis, this will open a pop-up window of the ground floor duly annotated and coloured to indicate the floor levels in the vicinity in question. The staircase at the back of the Drawing Room is highlighted in box 1. The extent of the two storey section is outlined in green, and the three different floor levels are colour coded for clarity. The approximate floor levels relative to the Entrance Hall [below] are shown in red.

Doing the Math

The dimensions of the stairwell, scaled from the print I have are about 8' 0" x 22' 0", therefore it follows that a flight width of 3' 6" would fit readily with a 1' 0" well between the two outer strings at the landing. The Drawing Room height determines the number of steps necessary to reach the upper storey, in my view this could easily be 16' 0", which it roughly scales taken from photographs. Using some typical dimensions, a stair with a 6" rise would produce two flights of 16 risers each, which in turn at a 12" tread gives an overall length of stair and landing which is too long for the available space; at around 22 feet, giving no room for the lobby shown on the plan. If the riser was greater at 8" then the number of stairs could be 12 per flight, giving 12' 0" overall length plus the landing. Still rather too big, I appreciate that by changing the design and utilising the "going;" the actual horizontal length due to the undercut brought about by a nosing on the stair, or by having a sloping riser, could reduce the length, but these are marginal changes which would not influence things greatly. On balance I suspect this is a service stairway.

Dates of Construction

A final consideration which I believe nails the coffin on this scenario as the main stairway, is that the Drawing Room block including the stairs, was added at around 1810, so I feel it was just another addition, in the long sequence of alterations that took place over many many generations. The search for the main staircase continues!

Scenario Two

Two documents which lend some credibility to the hypothesis of the staircase, detail the rooms inside the hall and therefore explain to some extent the layout, are the valuation undertaken in June 1905 for probate purposes after the death of Col F C Trench-Gascoigne earlier that month, and the Auction Catalogue comprising many of the items revealed in the earlier valuation document, described thus, for the sale of valuable: "In and Out Door Effects, Greenhouse Plants etc.", the whole auction lasting six days from Monday July 24th through to Saturday 29th July 1905 commencing at Eleven o'clock each day. Even the Gascoigne private coal/passenger train from Garforth to Aberford was suggested as a means of reaching the Hall, and a short timetable is included within the catalogue showing the train times at Garforth and Leeds, with the following statement by the auctioneers Hollis & Webb: "Arrangements have been made for the 'High Flyer' to run to and from Aberford in connection with the trains marked with an Asterick, [the *10:28 from Leeds and the *4:48, *5:19 and *5:25 from Garforth] at a small charge." The nature of the sale, not uncommon in what was essentially a house clearance, was to set out the particulars as if walking through the property. I will use the auction catalogue to suggest the route through the house.

If we start with the details provided in the auction documents from 1905. Beginning on the first day of the sale; The Entrance Corridors, Drawing Room Corridor, Entrance Hall, Small Drawing Room, Large Drawing Room contents went under the hammer.

The second day of the sale; the auctioneer sold contents in; the Smoke Room, Gallery, Passage to Gun Room, Pantry, Butlers Pantry, China Closet, The Bed and Dressing Rooms etc., the Drawing Room Wing , Three Attics over the Billiard Room, Small Bedroom, West Wing Stairs and Landing, ending that day's sale.

However at the end of the second day when the auction paused after selling the contents of the West Wing Stairs and Landing, which had included the following:

Some Items from Auction Sale Day Two

Lot 589 Crimson Footmat.
Lot 590 The Crimson pile stairs carpet, 27" wide by 17' 6"e; long.
Lot 591 Forty-six brass stair rods, 30" wide.
Lot 592 Two crimson door mats.
Lot 593 The piece of Brussels carpet as laid to half landing
Lot 594 Four Oxford frames and photographs
Lot 595 An 8ft 6in ROSEWOOD BOOKCASE in three divisions, with moveable shelves, slightly carved and inlaid with Buhl around the cornice.
Lot 597 etc etc
Lot 602 Tapestry Stair carpet to Billiard room, 19ft by 27in
Lot 603 etc etc
Lot 608 About 34yds of old Brussels landing carpet, 5ft 3 in wide

Lots 595 and 596 are the give away, they are found in the earlier probate document clearly in the old part of the hall near the Billiard Room, so it is reasonable to surmise that the carpets offered in adjacent lots and of some quantity are associated with corridors and stairs in this area.

The Billiard room must have been in the area above the two cellars, there is simply no other location which would accommodate such a sizeable room. From a draughting perspective, there are some indications that whoever did the plan, presumably one of Fowler Jones assistants, was faced with the quandary of how to deal with the varying floor levels. Strictly speaking the drawing is in error by modern standards, the stairs should be curtailed after the initial couple of treads, usually you allow for upstands from the base level of perhaps a foot or so. The draughtsman has tried to put as much information into one drawing as is possible, the cellars should be noted as lower on the plan. It was only as a result of my excations which uncovered the cellar beneath the Small Drawing Room that I was able to confirm the actual level at about 8ft below the entrance floor. The doorway into the cellars is off the landing beneath stair 2, as that is the access to the lower cellar beneath the Small Drawing Room, as noted in my discovery.

Isometric View of Floor Levels

floor level isometric projection

My suspicion is that the staircase adjacent to the cellars, marked 2 on the pop-up plan is part of the main staircase arrangement. Firstly it is right in the oldest part of the Hall, but springs from the low level corridors which must have been added when the central block was developed by Sir Edward Gascoigne in the 1730's The stairway would have been introduced during the re-modelling by Sir Edward. At the head of that stairway would equate to the roof/floor above the cellars! Leading to the Billiard Room and further access to bedrooms and second floor servants quarters.

The balance of evidence given points to a "U" of "L" shaped design on plan, this would also concur with the smaller but nonetheless stylish stairway to be found in the house at the head of the former Deer Park ~ Park House. Thought perhaps to be by the architect, John Carr for Sir Thomas Gascoigne in the last decades of the eighteenth century. The stairs in part if not all, being cantilevered out of the wall and the balustrade on the inside turn being in a hardwood and wrought iron mix, such as mahogany handrail with ironwork in the balusters and newels, the stairs may have been from limestone, the most likely material. Examples which fit with my imagination, albeit modern can be seen here: Natural Stone staircases Domain no longer available! An alternative site with superb designs made in the UK is here: Ian Knapper, Stonemason, Cheadle, Staffordshire [Added June 20th 2017]


My observations are simply that... observations, we are unlikely to discover how the staircase was arranged in the Hall, or if indeed it ever existed! But I think there are some reasonable assumptions herein!

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