Brocket Hall

Report on a talk given to the Society by Andy Chapman on 24th September 2019.

By Jean Gardner

Photo:Brocket Hall - built

Brocket Hall - built


Photo:John Brocket, Lord High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, 1553

John Brocket, Lord High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, 1553


Andy Chapman of Lemsford Local History Group took us through a highly entertaining account of the people who lived at Brocket Hall through the centuries. From the days when the first Brocket family settled around Wheathampstead in the 15th century various families have occupied the house. A lack of male heirs caused many changes of ownership. The original Brockets died out in 1598 when Sir Thomas Read who had married Mary Brocket inherited the estate. The Reads held the estate until 1710 when Thomas Winnington inherited it. He began great changes. The River Lea was dammed to form the lake and the remains of the walled kitchen garden that he built are visible near the ‘Long and Short Arm’ public house. Winnington was responsible for much of the landscaping. Sadly, he had no children and the estate was sold in 1746.

Photo:The Palladian bridge

The Palladian bridge


The new owner, Sir Matthew Lamb, commissioned work on the house and improvements to the grounds. The Palladian bridge was built and a new entrance from Brocket Corner. His son who inherited in 1768 became the 1st Viscount Melbourne after his wife's liaison with the Prince Regent who was a frequent visitor to Brocket. His brother William became 2nd Viscount Melbourne in 1828.

Photo:Lady Caroline Lamb (1785 - 1828) by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Lady Caroline Lamb (1785 - 1828) by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Photo:Lord Byron (1788 - 1824, George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron)

Lord Byron (1788 - 1824, George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron)



His unstable wife Caroline had a notorious affair with Lord Byron and they separated. He plunged himself into politics guiding the young Queen Victoria when becoming her Prime Minister.

He left no direct heir so his sister Emily, who was married to the 5th Earl Cowper of Panshanger, inherited Brocket. The house was surplus to their needs and was eventually inherited by the 7th Earl Cowper. His younger brother Frederick came to live in Brocket and is remembered as a kind man who provided food and clothing for poor children. The Cowpers built St John's Church and the village school. His wife paid for the Cowper Cottages in the village with the crest and initials CC on the front.

Photo:George Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen (1829 - 1921)

George Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen (1829 - 1921)



After Francis died Brocket went to his sister Annabel who only survived him by a year; then it passed to her husband Walter. He rented it to Lord George Mount Stephen a wealthy Scottish philanthropist who had made his money in Canada. He and his wife improved the life of the villagers in many ways right through the first world war until his death in 1921. They are buried in the churchyard at St John's.




In 1921 Brocket was bought by Sir Charles Nall-Cain, a wealthy philanthropist. He took the name Brocket of Brocket Hall when he was knighted in 1933 and so the original name reappeared.

His eldest son Arthur inherited the title. Known to be a Nazi sympathiser he entertained their supporters and was unpopular with the local people. He installed the wrought iron gates on the Marford Road in memory of his parents. They stand across an avenue of trees but there is no drive through them. 

Photo:Red Cross nurse with mother and newborn

Red Cross nurse with mother and newborn


During the Second World War Brocket became a maternity hospital when the London Maternity Hospital was bombed. Over eight thousand babies were born. As recently as 2016 a memorial was erected in memory of the stillborn babies who had no known burial place.

The present Lord Brocket inherited the title directly from his grandfather when he was fifteen as his father had predeceased him. He converted Brocket into a hotel cum conference centre with golf courses. A collector of fast cars he attempted an insurance fraud which resulted in a prison sentence and the loss of the house. It was leased to CCA International who went into administration. In 2016 Brocket Hall Ltd bought the lease.

Photo:The central staircase

The central staircase


Andy showed slides of the people and the house. The ballroom is its best feature, with a painted ceiling which can be seen by visitors to the many events held there.

Andy's talk was interspersed with anecdotes of Lady Caroline Lamb's affair, Lord Brocket's insurance fraud and, most far fetched, Lord Palmerston's death by billiard table. Altogether a most entertaining evening.

See also the Lemsford History Group website:

This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 04/02/2020.

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