Brownsover Hall Hotel

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June, 2018

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We stayed a night at Brownsover Hall Hotel on a return home trip from Northumberland.

It certainly is an impressive building with a lot of character and well maintained grounds, located only ​1 1⁄2 miles north of Rugby town centre and its shopping precinct. It is just 10 minutes from the M6

With ample parking capacity we climbed the steps of the Grade II listed Victorian Gothic mansion to book in at reception after passing a skeleton of a Megaloceros Giganticus….known as an Irish elk or Giant Deer. This has been a permanent fixture at the entrance of the hotel for many years after previously occupying space over the fireplace. The first one of these creatures appeared about 400,000 years ago.

Once inside you are confronted with a dramatic interior with a sweeping staircase and fireplace. We received a warm welcome at reception and assigned to a very nice, spacious bedroom, individually decorated with style and elegance. The large windows gave an impression of almost nestling in the branches of the tree opposite.

The restaurant has views across the parkland and woods and offers modern British cuisine. I sampled a salmon dish for supper and it was really delicious. Breakfast was self-service with a variety of choice.

In the 1850’s the original Brownsover Hall was pulled down and Sir John Ward-Boughton-Leigh whose origins date back to the 15th century, commissioned Sir George Gilbert Scott to design a new house in the Gothic Revival style with intricate blue brick patterns.
Some of the former out-buildings still exist as well as the walled kitchen garden.

The Gilbert Scott Restaurant was originally the chapel of the house, hence the arched windows and high paneled ceiling.

The Boughton family appear to have played an active role in the Civil War.

Brownsover Hall ceased to be a family home after almost a century. The English Electric Company used the building from 1949 until the late 1960’s where they housed the headquarters of their Diesel Division. It was in the 1970’s when the Hall was converted into a hotel.

The Whittle Connection is one of the Hall’s claims to fame. Frank Whittle rented rooms while he worked on his plans for the jet engine. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1923 and became a Pilot Officer in 1928. In 1930 he applied for, and was granted, a patent on a Turbo-jet engine. The Air Ministry was not interested however and Frank was unable to renew the patent. As a consequence, the details were published worldwide.
In 1936 he secured financial backing and the Air Ministry gave approval to enable him to develop the engine. His rented rooms at Brownsover meant it was a convenient place to work being located between the BTH factory in Rugby and the test facilities at Lutterworth.
Power-jets were nationalised in 1946. Frank resigned and retired from the RAF in 1948. He was knighted by King George VI in the same year. He then moved to the USA in 1976 and died at the age of 89 in August 1996.

There are many legends concerning ghosts at Brownsover Hall.

Going back 400 years to the time of Queen Elizabeth 1, a male member of the Boughton-Leigh family had his hand severed. The Old Library once boasted ‘The Sign of the Bloody Hand’ – a reddish stain on the wall which could not be removed or covered up. He became known as ‘One Handed Boughton’ and would drive around the estate in a coach with six white horses. Following his death, his ‘ghostly’ coach and team could still be heard galloping around the driveways of the hotel. An exorcism was attempted in 1755 by 12 clergymen.The spirit was conjured into a bottle and thrown into the lake. The bottle was later retrieved and kept in the family manor. Legend has it, that every time the bottle is moved, a family member will die. The bottle still exists today……..somewhere in Rugby!
Despite the exorcism, ‘One handed Boughton’ is still said to haunt the estate, including the hotel. Various night watchmen have said to have heard footsteps, groans and voices coming from the tower.

Another story happened in the 18th century.
In 1771 Dowager Lady Boughton’s daughter met a Captain John Donellan. In 1772 they eloped. Eventually the family forgave them and they moved back home. Lady Boughton’s son was a sickly young man who had to take special medicine. He detested the Captain and one night, after having his medicine, he felt worse. He died the next day. A post mortem determined he had been poisoned and it was suspected that the Captain had washed out the medicine bottle to hide the evidence. Captain Donnelan was charged with murder and executed in Warwick on 2nd April 1781.
His wife later re-married and had 2 children. Her daughter became Lady Boughton-Leigh of Brownsover Hall.

I was also told of a Grey Lady who people have seen gliding down the main staircase…and Edward the Naughty has appeared in the bar on occasions.
Many guests have reported strange happenings in several rooms in the main house in recent years, but the ghosts are reported to be friendly, if not a little mischievious at times!

I was re-assured our room was not one of those which had been reported ….although I did jump at one stage when the large wooden wardrobe door slowly opened on it’s own accord!

Quite an experience all round………worth staying and soaking up the atmosphere!

Caroline Hutchings

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