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Grove House: A Short History and its association with R.A.O.B.

Grove House: A Short History of the House and its Association with the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.

From notes prepared by Brother W. A. C. Hartmann, Grand Master of the Ancient Order of Buffaloes for Councillor John Fox when Mayor of Harrogate (2008-9).
Edited for Harrogate Civic Society by Paul Jennings.

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Grove House

The building now known as Grove House has a long history. Malcolm Neesam in his Harrogate Great Chronicle 1332-1841 gives the date of the first surviving reference to a house on the site as 1728. This was when it was an inn known as the World’s End. It was advertised that year as having 25 acres of good land. He suggests it may date back to the reign of Charles II, since inns of that name often have associations with the troubled Civil War period and the execution of Charles I. The name World’s End was also often used for inns in isolated places, which it would have been at that time. There is of course also the more local connection with Mother Shipton and her famous prophecy (There is still a pub with that name in Knaresborough). The inn was built at the time when Harrogate was developing as a spa town and served visitors alongside larger establishments like the nearby Granby Hotel. It was rebuilt in the late 1740s and this structure was retained as a central core when later additions were made. By the close of the eighteenth century, for some reason, it had ceased to be an inn, been renamed Grove House and converted for use as a school. It was then taken in 1809 by Barbara Hoole, also known as Hofland, the celebrated authoress of A Season at Harrogate, published in 1811.

Over the succeeding years it was then a lodging house and again a school before being acquired by Samson Fox in 1882. Fox, a direct ancestor of Edward Fox, the actor, was a Victorian industrialist and benefactor to the nation and the local community. He donated, for example, sufficient monies to build the Royal College of Music in London. He served as Mayor of Harrogate for three successive years. His architect, T. Butler-Wilson, added flanking wings to the original building, a stone porte cochere and heavy crenellation. The Royal Stables were erected with an ornate clock. By purchasing further portions of land in the immediate locality, the estate eventually was increased to some 40 acres. For example, the land that accommodated the gatehouse at the entrance to the estate, where a bungalow was built. The grounds housed a science laboratory and observatory.

Most of the stained glass and oak panelling came from the old Dragon Hotel on the opposite side of Skipton Road, just over the bridge. The clock tower for the stables, together with most of the stone used in building the east wing, tower and stables also came from that Hotel. The glass screen by the dining room had dragons encompassed in the design of the glasswork. The house was equipped with gas lighting and central heating, generated from a water gas plant within the grounds. The west wing which provided bedrooms 3, 4, 5, and 6, in the later premises of the R.A.O.B., the first floor TV lounge and the Grand Secretary's office and Lodge room was originally built to provide a suite of rooms for the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and his entourage when visiting Yorkshire, and included a library, billiard room and small gallery. The east wing, on the site of the former Grove House Winter Gardens was built to provide a music and ballroom (bedrooms 1, 2, the annex and library) together with an art gallery on the first floor (bedrooms 7 to 16). A special souvenir Christmas card of 1902 from Mr. Samson Fox, CE., JP, measuring almost four feet across, depicting the picture gallery is held in the custody of the Grand Secretary as is a photograph album showing Grove House as a residence before the east wing was built. It was discovered in a dustbin by a refuse collector who was a member of the Order.

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Dining Room

Fox died in 1903 at Walsall and for a number of years the house lay empty, although staff were retained to administer the estate and keep the house clean. During the Great War, Grove House was used as a hospital. The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes purchased the premises in 1926 for £10,000 for use as an orphanage, because of the prolonged arguments at Grand Lodge over the question of the legal ownership of the R.A.O.B. Orphanage at Aldridge. These latter premises being paid for, but not owned, by the Order. Grove House Orphanage was opened at Easter 1927 and the parade of members took three hours to march from Harrogate Railway Station with four brass bands. The opening souvenir booklet’s cover and its photos of the house, a dormitory and the dining room are reproduced here courtesy Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council. To raise funds for the purchase of Grove House, and more importantly to furnish the Orphanage, members were urged to "buy" a brick or yard of turf at a cost of one shilling (5p) and were presented with a certificate, which was not, however, intended as a deed of ownership. Although occasionally these certificates were produced by descendants of members in the hope that there might be some monetary value to the estate.

Grove House Orphanage operated from 1926 until Christmas 1947, even though some army units were stationed here during World War II. With the introduction of the new welfare state, widows and other guardians were, understandably, reluctant to be parted from their children. The Order changed its policy by returning the children to their families and provided cash benefits to enable the children to be looked after at their home. The Harrogate Convalescent Home in Valley Gardens was sold and Grove House was converted to become a Convalescent Home to provide rest, recuperation and a change of air. ln 1966, to mark the centenary of the Grand Lodge of England, Grove House was adapted to provide permanent residential care for aged members without family or dependants. ln 1980 female dependants of members were admitted as convalescent patients and in 1988 joint husband and wife patients were admitted for rest and recuperation. Later that year fee paying holiday guests were admitted helping offset the huge costs of maintaining the premises.

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During major repair work to the roof on the east wing in 1998/9 it became necessary to remove a considerable amount of weight from the roof and to re-build much of the parapet wall. When the roof void was opened a number of ornate plaster panels in deep relief were discovered from the ceiling of the former art gallery. Rather than be destroyed, they were carefully removed and re-sited in the Lesser Hall, the Grand Staircase and first floor landing. The most recent alterations were to convert the ten single rooms in the east wing to twin bedded en suite and it then meant that every room apart from three were twin-bedded and en suite.

The R.A.O.B. eventually sold the premises which were acquired by Springfield Healthcare.

The opening souvenir booklet’s cover and its photos of the house, a dormitory and the dining room are reproduced here courtesy Harrogate Museums and Arts, Harrogate Borough Council.

(Information also from Malcolm Neesam, Harrogate in 50 Buildings.)

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