History of Swafield Hall 1466 – 2014

 Lime washed Georgian South elevation of Swafield Hall

The History of Swafield Hall can be traced back to 1466 when it was mentioned in the will of William Burgey, who was lord of Swafield Hall at that time.

William Burgey stated that Swafield Hall, his only manor, was to be sold by his executors so that a priest might sing for his soul for seven years in the church of St Nicholas at Swafield. He wished to be buried at St Nicholas beside the grave of his wife Alice.

The thirteen poor men who were to attend William Burgey’s funeral were to have gowns and food and drink, and every pauper of Swafield and of five other adjacent town-ships were left a penny. Twenty mark was to be spent on new tabernacles for the images of the Blessed Virgin and of St Nicholas church in Swafield, and a hundred masses were to be celebrated for him by the orders of friars at Norwich.

 Tudor North facade with traditional Norfolk red brick and flint walls

The existing house was built in Elizabethan times, in the late 16th century. Swafield Hall was altered in the 17th and 19th centuries and as the result the house received two facades in different styles: a Tudor North facade with traditional Norfolk red brick and flint walls and a lime washed Georgian South elevation, with stunning French windows in the ground floor (not so common in Norfolk) and a black glazed pantiles roof.

Part of the map of Swafield dates back to 1839. St. Nicholas Church is on the left, Swafield Hall estate is on the right.

It is interesting that Swafield Hall was built in line with the church of St. Nicholas at Swafield, so parishioners always sat facing the hall during the service. Like the church, the hall is oriented parallel to the West-East axis. Swafield Hall, its Grade II listed barn and the church of St Nicholas, which you can see across the field from the windows of Swafield Hall,  are a part of North Norfolks’ heritage. The history of Swafield Hall has always been closely related to the history of St. Nicholas Church in Swafield.

St Nicholas church at Swafield dates from the late 15th century. The tower is from 14th century and the nave has a thatched roof

Local legend reports that Admiral Nelson stayed in Swafield Hall, and some believe that the house is inhabited by a friendly ghost.

The house is mentioned in “The Buildings of England” by Nicolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson.

In 1836 Swafield was described in the book “History, gazetteer, and directory, of Norfolk, and … the city of Norwich” by William White, as “a parish and small village, on the north side of the canal, between two sources of the river Ant, 1 ½mile N. of North Walsham”. It was mentioned that Swafield  “has 155 inhabitants, and about 800 acres of land, belonging to a number of proprietors, some of whom have neat houses here”.

A retired army officer and a hero of the Peninsular War, Captain Robert Blake (1795 – 1886) was the owner of Swafield Hall estate at that time. Robert’s life story is amazing. He was born at Horstead in Norfolk and baptised in Norwich, his father was a barrister.

In 1813 at the age of 17 Robert Blake was an officer in the 3rd Regiment “The Buffs” and served in the Peninsular War under Wellington. At the passage of the Nive (November 13th) he was directed to take the command of a company of the 57th, all the officers of which had been wounded. While doing duty with this company, Robert Blake was exposed to severe fire of artillery and was badly wounded in both legs above the knee.  His left leg had to be amputated. He wrote in his diary: “I had strength and good spirits to bear up through the operations with cheerfulness and without flinching. Dr. Shekelton paid me compliment saying “It was like operating on a dead body”. Again, he was just 17 years old.

After the war, Captain Robert Blake returned to London. He received a good pension and in 1814 moved back to Norwich to join his brothers and sisters, who lived in the family’s old residence in Queen street. In 1835 Robert with his sister Judith moved to his own Swafield Hall.

An article about Swafield from the book “History, gazetteer, and directory, of Norfolk, and … the city of Norwich”, 1836.

Heggatt Hall at Horstead, where Robert Blake was born. Watercolour by Robert Blake, 1832

Robert Blake. Portrait by Frederick Howes, 1853

Charlotte Blake (Harvey), Robert’s wife. Portrait by Frederick Howes, 1853

In August 1838 at the age of 42 Robert Blake married Charlotte, the daughter of Colonel Harvey of Thorpe St Andrew (she was 29 years old) and in November, after a honeymoon trip to France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Switzerland, they took up their “abode at Swafield”.

Marriage certificate of Robert Blake (Swafield) and Charlotte Stephens (Thorpe St Andrew)

Charlotte and Robert occupied the Hall with its courtyard, garden, lawn and park.  The arable land of Swafield Hall estate was leased to a farmer John Warnes.

On the picture: A fragment of a Map of the parish of Swafield (1839) showing the Swafield Hall Estate when Captain Robert Blake lived there.

Purple line – land owned and occupied by Captain Robert Blake: 127 – Homestead (Swafield Hall) & Garden, 128 – Lawn, 198 – Plantation/Park

Green line – arable land owned by Robert Blake but occupied by John Warnes: 120 – Bolts Close, 121 – Middle Bolt Close, 122 – Upper Bolts Close, 123 – Lady’s Pightle, 124 – Dove House Close, 125 – Upper Dove House Close, 126 – Dove House Pightle

Blue line – Land belonging to the “Charity for the relief of Widows and Orphans of Clergymen”.

Captain Robert Blake lived in Swafield Hall with his family until August 1847. Five of his seven children were born there (Margaret b. 1841, Robert b. 1843, Tomas b. 1844, Eleanor b. 1846 and John b. 1847).

A gifted watercolorist, he depicted Swafield Hall with his family on the Main Lawn, and this watercolour is filled with quiet rural happiness and peace.

Watercolour of Swafield Hall by Robert Blake, with his sister Judith, wife Charlotte and  children on the Main Lawn: 6-year-old Margaret, 4-year-old Robert (on the horse), 3-year-old Tomas (walking)  and one-year old Eleanor -1847

Robert Blake’s lifelong passion was to research the ancient post, which dates from the reign of Richard the Lionheart and King John. While living at Swafield Hall, he continued to create his two handwritten books “Sheriffs of Norfolk”, charting well-known historic names over seven centuries and painting hundreds of armorial bearings and heraldic designs. For at least 250 years, the king’s man was sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. The first was Robert Fitz Roger in 1199. Sir William Boleyn, was sheriff in 1511. His granddaughter was a certain Anne, late queen of England. Sir William Paston, of Paston, was sheriff and the book noted that this eminent lawyer was granted an annuity of £40pa in 1516 by the Corporation of Yarmorth. Robert Blake devoted 70 years of his life to this work. His last entry in 1880 recorded the arms and quartering of the 43rd High Sheriff of Norfolk in Queen Victorias reign – Harmon L’Estrange,of Hunstanton Hall.

Cover of the first volume and some inner pages of the book “Sheriffs of Norfolk”, created by Captain Robert Blake

In 1847 a major turn took place in Robert Blake’s life, when he even had to change his name. His wife’s relative Rev John Humfrey A.M. died in June 1847 aged 82, and Robert inherited from him Wroxham House. Leaving no issue, Rev John Humfrey bequeathed his mansion in the parish of Wroxham and all his estates in Norfolk, Suffolk, &c. to Robert Blake of Swafield, by his will requesting him “to take the name of Humfrey after and in addition to his own, and bear the arms of Humfrey quarterly with those of Blake”.
Robert Blake moved from Swafield Hall to Wroxham House and did indeed add the name of Humfrey to his own and accepted the arms of Humfrey.
Wroxham House was altered in 1848 and 1849. Robert remained on the electoral role in Swafield until 1849, even though he spent a lot of time in Wroxham. Swafield Hall was empty for  almost 8 years, but in 1857 the estate was finally sold to a new owner.

On the right:  Stained glass window with the heraldic arms of Robert Blake Humfrey (left) and wife Charlotte Harvey (right) in the Church of St Mary, Wroxham, Norfolk

Wroxham House, owned by Captain Robert Blake-Humfrey –  a large Georgian mansion that used to be one of the most significant buildings in Wroxham. 
In C20 Wroxham House was the main residence of the Charles family. In 1950, when Col Stephen Flockton Charles died, the land had been sold, and in 1954 the house was demolished. By 25 March 1961 new houses were built with the show home at 65 Charles Close. 

In 1857 Tomas Dolphin (1811-1866) bought Swafield Hall from Captain Robert Blake-Humfrey and moved there with his family. After that Thomas proudly called himself “Thomas Dolphin of Swafield Hall”. But what kind of person was he?

His father John Dolphin (1774 – 1830) was a rector for two village churches near Colchester in Essex. He died in 1830 (Thomas was 19 years old). After that Thomas’s older brother John Dolphin (1804 – 1889), educated at Eton, was appointed as Vicar of Antingham and Thorpe Market in Norfolk.
So, in 1830 John, Thomas and their mother Martha Dolphin (1782 – 1864) moved from Essex to Norfolk.
Thomas’s parents could not give him the same good education as his elder brother John, so in Norfolk Thomas began to build his fortune working as a farmer, renting land in Swafield.

St Mary Church Antingham

St. Mary’s church in Antingham

John Dolphin was the vicar of Antingham and Thorpe Market for 59 years and lived in Antingham Rectory.

There is a memorial window in St. Mary’s church in Antingham, dedicated to Martha Dolphin, erected in 1868 by her relatives. The Dolphins seem to have been people of taste, because the windows were commissioned from the rising firm of William Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & co. The cartoon for St Mary Magdalene is by William Morris himself. The Blessed Virgin is Burne-Jones’s work. St Martha was done by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Another window was erected in St. Mary’s church in Antingham in 1891 to the Rev. John Dolphin B.A. (with St Peter, St John, St James).

Memorial window in St. Mary’s church in Antingham to Martha Dolphin (St Mary Magdalene, Blessed Virgin, St Martha )

Memorial window in St. Mary’s church in Antingham to the Rev. John Dolphin B.A. (St Peter, St John , St James).

But let’s return to 1836. In the book “History, gazetteer, and directory, of Norfolk, and … the city of Norwich” we can see that Dolphin Mr & Mrs (Thomas Dolphin and his mother Martha) lived in Swafield.  In 1839, according to the map of Swafield, Martha was a tenant, occupying a Georgian house known as “The Old House”, and Thomas as an occupant farming quite a lot of arable land, attached to The Old  House.

A fragment of a Map of the parish of Swafield (1839).
Purple and Green lines – Swafield Hall Estate. Red line – land occupied by Thomas Dolphin. Blue line – land owned by “Charity for the relief of Widows and Orphans of Clergymen”  (about 200 acres).

In the Census of 1841, 30-year-old Thomas Dolphin was mentioned as a farmer (living in Swafield in the Street). Ten years later, in the Census of 1851, Thomas Dolphin’s “Rank, Profession or Occupation” was described already as a “Land Proprietor”, who lived as a tenant in Swafield House with two servants.

So, Thomas Dolphin was a real self-made man. In 1853 in Henley, Thomas married Charlotte Stephens (1825 – 1917) from Oxfordshire. He was 42 years old and Charlotte – 28.

On the right: A fragment of 1841 census, Swafield

A fragment of 1851 census, Swafield

For the first 4 years of their marriage the Dolphins lived in the village in a rented home and 4 of their 5 children were born there. But in 1857 the family finally moved to their own place – to Swafield Hall.
Thomas Dolphin spent only 9 years in his first own home. He died in 1866 at the age of 55. The Dolphins lived in Swafield Hall for 90 years, until 1947.

South elevation of Swafield Hall, circa 1880. The Dolphin family in front of the house: Charlotte Dolphin (1825 – 1917) in a black dress, and her children Thomas William (1855 – 1924), Katharine Ellen (1855 – 1932), Henry (1856 – 1881), Edgar (1857 – 1889), Martha Frederica (1864 – 1952).

Life wasn’t easy for Mrs Dolphin of Swafield Hall. When her husband Thomas Dolphin died, Charlotte’s youngest daughter Martha Frederica was just 2 years old. Three years later her eldest son Thomas William at the age of 15 left the family home. Thomas became a priest after his graduation from Oxford and lived separately from his mother.
Two other sons Henry and Edgar joined the army.
In January 1881 Henry was killed at the Battle of Laing’s Nek during the First Boer War in South Africa. The British lost 84, most of the casualties were in the 58th Regiment. Henry was only 24 years old.
Charlotte’s youngest son Edgar served as a captain of the 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Royal Regiment, in South Africa, India and Pakistan. In September 1889 Edgar, who was on leave of absence and was staying at Swafield Hall,  accidentally drowned in Norfolk, on Wroxham Broads, at the age of 32.

The Dolphin family on the Main lawn in front of Swafield Hall (South Elevation).

Memorial to Captain Edgar Dolphin, Second Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, erected by his brother officers in Lancaster Priory (St Mary Churchyard), 1889

St Nicholas Church of Swafield, 1898.

Interior of St Nicholas Church of Swafield, 1898.

Rev Frederic Simpson Thew, rector of St.Nicholas  1886 – 1922

Charlotte become a church warden at St. Nicholas. She donated money to build a magnificent Victorian stained-glass window of the chancel on the south side, above the choir stalls, where her sons had sung as choir boys. The glass was made in 1904 by Jones & Willis, one of the biggest firms in the latter part of C19 who manufactured church furnishing and stained glass. There is Jesus Christ the shepherd in the middle of the window, on the left – St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians, with a portable organ, and on the right – St. Nicholas with his symbol of three golden balls (late used by pawnbrokers!).

Charlotte Dolphin lived in Swafield Hall for 60 years and died in 1917 at the age of 92. She was buried beside her husband Thomas next to the entrance porch to Swafield church.

The grave of Thomas Dolphin (1811-1866) and Charlotte Dolphin (1825 – 1917) at the entrance to St. Nicholas church, Swafield

Stained glass window in the church of St. Nicholas in Swafield

Written in the bottom of the window: “For the glory of God and in loving memory of Henry Dolphin who was killed at Laing’s Nek in Jan 28 1891 & Edgar Dolphin accidentally drowned Sept 21 1889 This window is erected by their Mother”.

Charlotte Dolphin (1825 – 1917), who was the mistress of Swafield Hall for 60 years, from 1857 until 1917.

Charlotte’s youngest daughter Martha Federica (1864 – 1952)known as Freda, lived at Swafield Hall until 1947

Violet Beryl Packard (1886 – 1975), known as Beryl, and James Ernest Edgar Packard (1890 – 1954) – Freda’s children who were brought up at Swafield Hall.

Charlotte’s oldest daughter Katharine Ellen Dolphin (1855 – 1932) lived with her mother at Swafield Hall and was responsible for teaching village children at the Sunday School in the Village School building (now the Village Hall).

The youngest daughter, Martha Frederica (1864 – 1952), known as Freda, was married to John Harrison Packard (1859 -1910?) on 8th August 1885 at St-Nicholas church in Swafield by her uncle the Rev John Dolphin.  John Packard worked abroad, so Freda traveled a lot. Their first daughter, Violet Beryl Packard (1886 – 1975) was born in Middlesex,  son James Ernest Edgar Packard (1890 – 1954) – in Germany.

In the 1890s John Harrison Packard was in Lower California Mexico. Freda traveled across the ocean to be with her husband. She made the journey at least three times, from Swafield Hall to America and back to Norfolk. Most of the journeys were with her two very young children, but not her husband John, who continued to work in Mexico.

The legendary Hotel Iturbide in Ensenada, Lower California, Mexico. Photo taken in the luxurious years of the Hotel, from a book Baja California Ilustrada”, 1899. Freda Packard stayed there during first visits to her husband John Packard, who was a general manager.The Hotel was built in 1887 of wood, with three floors, spacious galleries, a gym for guests, and magnificent views of the bay. It was considered to be equal to the best hotels on the Pacific coast. The hotel was completely destroyed by fire in 1904.

In 1898 John Harrison was appointed as general manager of the English Mexican Land and Colonisation Company, developing Ensenada in Lower California Mexico. Packard’s third child Mary Carmen was born there in 1899. She was named after the wife of Porfirio Diaz who was the President of Mexico at that time and John Harrison Packard knew him very well. Porfirio Diaz has been characterised as a “republican monarch”, his 31-year-long regime – as “a synthesis of pragmatic [colonial-era] Bourbon methods and Liberal republican ideals”.
There were demonstrations in Ensenada in which the English Mexican Land and Colonisation Company was accused of discrimination against Mexicans in the access to land being colonised. In fact, a petition with 600 signatures for the removal of Packard as manager was filed. At the same time, the Hotel Iturbide (built in 1887 of wood, with three floors and magnificent views of the bay), once a prosperous business for the company, was operating at loss. In 1904 the hotel was completely destroyed by fire. John Harrison Packard had to resign in 1905 and focused on farming and ranching.
He was trying to find new areas for his business and advertised his services extensively in 1907 in the magazine “Out West” describing himself as a “Banker and Broker, Ensenada Lower California Mexico”.
The last time Freda traveled from Liverpool via USA to Ensenada Mexico to see her husband was in 1907. She returned back to England in April 1908.
At the end of the first decade of the 20th century the 31-year-long regime of president Porfirio Díaz in Mexico was close to failure. All attempts at developing Ensenada, made by the English Mexican Land and Colonisation Company, were interrupted by the Mexican Revolution, which left the area devastated. John Harrison Packard died at that time and was buried in Mexico.

Ads published by John Harrison Packard in “Out West” magazine, January 1907

After returning to England in 1908, Freda and her daughters lived most of the time at Swafield Hall. Her eldest daughter Beryl (1886 – 1975), sister Katharine and mother Charlotte were looking after young Mary Carmen Packard (known as Carmen). Every Christmas there was a party at Swafield Hall for the village children and there was an enormous Christmas Tree standing in the middle with a gift for each child.

Charlotte Dolphin died in 1917 and Freda become a new mistresses of Swafield Hall. She owned it for 30 more years, until 1947, when Dolphins decided to sell their family home. And these 30 years have been full of happy events.

In 1919 Freda’s daughter Beryl married General William Alan Blake (1878 – 1959), who served on the Staff, 1914-18, in the European War. The marriage was registered in Smallburg (7 miles from Swafield). William Alan Blake was mentioned in Despatches, and was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (London Gazette, 23 June, 1915J: “W.A. Blake, Major, Wiltshire Regt. For distinguished service in the field”). He was Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel from June 1915, and subsequently became Brigadier-General. In 1918 he was created a C.M.G.

Beryl’s first daughter Particia was born in 1920 Alexandria, second daughter Rosemary – in 1922 in Norfolk. William and Beryl lived here in Elderton Lodge (Gunton Arm ristorante and Elderton Lodge hotel now) at least until 1940. Their residence in Gunton park, the eight-bedrooms former shooting lodge is famous for been regularly used by King Edward VII – at a time when he was the Prince of Wales – as a meeting place for liaisons with his mistress Lillie Langtry, a well-known beauty of the 1800s.

After the war Beryl lived in Overstrand near Cromer (7 miles from Swafield).

Beryl newer forgot her grandmother Charlotte Dolphin and her happy childhood at Swafield Hall. She and her husband wished to be buried in Swafield at St.Nicholas church, not far from Charlotte’s grave. The cross reads: “William Alan Blake 1878 – 1959. Served his King and Country in the regular army & the home guard 1899 – 1944, and Beryl, his beloved wife (1886 – 1975), granddaughter of Charlotte Dolphin”.

William Alan Blake by Lafayette whole-plate nitrate negative, 5 July 1930 NPG x70490

William Alan Blake (photo by Lafayette)5 July 1930. NPGx70492. Given by Pinewood Studios via Victoria and Albert Museum, 1989. 

Freda’s son James Ernest Edgar Packard (1890 – 1954) followed in the footsteps of his uncle Edgar Dolphin. He went to the Royal Military College and in 1910 was appointed second Lieutenant in the Kings Own Royal Lancaster regiment, the same 2nd battalion. By 1911 he was serving as a Lieutenant in the Fort Regent, Channel Islands and in 1915 he was appointed captain. James Ernest Edgar spent a lot of time in China and India.

An interesting picture can be found in the museum of the King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster):
“The wedding of Captain James Ernest Edgar Packard,  the son of Mrs Packard of Swafield Hall, Norfolk, to Miss Joan Worship, daughter of Hugh Worship, the well known former Ceylon Planter, of Earsham Lodge, Suffolk. January 1925”.

James Packard (MC, an officer of the King’s Own Royal Regiment) was at the time an instructor at the staff college in Quetta, India.  The bridesmaid at his wedding was Miss Mary Carmen Packard, the groom’s sister, also from Swafield Hall.

James Ernest introduced to Mary Carmen his army colleague Vivian Leslie De Cordova (1899 – 1967), who was a Captain in the same regiment, the Kings Own Royal Regiment.

The wedding of Captain James Ernest Edgar Packard,  the son of Mrs Packard of Swafield Hall, Norfolk, to Miss Joan Worship. January 1925.

On the 6th July 1926 Mary Carmen and Vivian Leslie were married at St Nicholas church in Swafield. The celebration took place at Swafield Hall and James Ernest Edgar Packard with his wife Joan were there.

The Dolphins were owners of Swafield Hall for 90 years. From 1920 to 1947 Swafield Hall belonged to Martha Frederica Packard, her sister Katharine Ellen Dolphin (she lived in Swafield Hall until her death in 1932), brother Rev. Thomas William Dolphin (lived in Lincolnshire) and to Harry Edmund Dolphin.

Mary Carmen and Leslie De Cordova on the day of their wedding at Swafield Hall, July 1926

In the Second World War Swafield Hall was used by the army. The 4th Battalion of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was located there. The battalion acted in a training capacity, sending drafts of replacements overseas. In 1943 the battalion had sent 46 officers and 1,524 other ranks as replacements.

The 4th Battalion stayed at Swafield Hall until the end of 1946. During the renovation 2015-2018 the current owners found under the floor-boards army uniform buttons, cigarette boxes and old glass medicine bottles from that time.

Officers and Non-commissioned officers (N.C.O.s) – staff of the 4th  Battalion of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry at Swafield Hall, Norfolk, 1944

In September 1947 Swafield Hall was sold by auction through Harrods (London) and W. Vincent & sons (Norwich). The catalogue from that auction with all Swafield Hall particulars can be seen at the bottom of the page. Five years later Martha Frederica Packard died at Saxlingham Hall Nursing Home, Norfolk, leaving effects valued at £5,661 to her three children and legacies to three grandchildren.

The new owners came to Swafield Hall after the auction in 1947 – the Barratt family.

The new master of Swafield Hall Mr James Stanley Knevett Barratt (1885 – 1955) earned his fortune in the 1930’s and 1940’s managing shipping business between America and England. In late 1930’s he moved with his family from Manchester to Norfolk sea cost area. In 1939 they lived in Cromer. In 1947 James Barratt bought Swafield Hall for his big family with tree sons and two daughters. His sons received agricultural education. Peter lived separately in Bedfordshire but Brian  (1926 – 2005) and Desmond (1921 – 2013) wanted to do farming at parent’s estate.

Barratt family in the Drawing room at Swafield Hall. The end of the 1940’s – early 50’s.
Bottom line from right:  Julia Lyndel Flint (now Richards), Betty Robinson (maiden name Barratt) and her daughter Susan, Eva Grace Barratt (1890 – 1975), her husband and master of Swafield Hall James Stanley Knevett Barratt (1885 – 1955), Andrew Barratt, Daphne Flint (maiden name Barratt), Tina Flint. Top line: Angela Flint, Peter Lockwood Barratt, his son David, Brian Knevett Barratt (1926 – 2005), Desmond Bridgeman Barratt (1921 – 2013), Arthur Flint, Mr Robinson,  Sylvia Barratt (Peter’s wife), Philippa Flint.

James Barratt spent only 8 happy years living with his wife Eva in Swafield Hall. For her James made “a dell”-  a tiny valley in a wooded area of Swafield Hall estate, tucked away from the rest of civilisation, starting up near the Morning room and ending in the forest meadow.  Around this romantic forest path  James put a lot of snowdrops, daffodils, hyacinths, blue bells, primulas and cyclamens. Even now you can see this flowers coming every spring.

James Barratt became a warden of St Nicholas Church and joined Swafield parish council. He contributed a lot to village life, and after his death in 1955 the commemorative plaque dedicated to him was placed inside the new bus stop in Swafield.

In 1955 Swafield Hall received Grade II listed status. For centuries Swafield Hall hosted village fairs and other events, and the Barratt family continued this tradition.

Each year Swafield Village fete was held in the grounds of Swafield Hall (early 1950s pictures).

The large Barratt family lived happily in Swafield Hall for 27 years. Eva’s and James’s grand children remember fun family gathering, festive Christmas celebrations with wonderful presents and a lot of games around the house.

Barrat family Christmas party at Swafield Hall, in the Drawing Room. 1950’s.

Eva Grace Barratt (1890 – 1975) in front of the Hall with her daughter Betty and grandson James. 1950’s

In 1974 the Barratts sold Swafield Hall, because the old mansion became increasingly expensive to maintain. It was a difficult change for Eva Grace Barratt. She moved to the Muse (a converted old coach house which used to be a part of Swafield Hall estate) and died one year later after selling the Hall. Her and James Barratt grave is on St. Nicholas church yard, next to Thomas and Charlotte Dolphin’s greave stone.

The Barratts could not imagine a life away from their favourite Swafield Hall estate. Eva’s sons Desmond, Brian and his wife Elizabeth built a new small “Park house”, (which slightly resembled some aspects of Swafield Hall) on the land next door where Swafield Hall Park used to be. Elizabeth was a church warden at St Nicholas. They lived together and they rest in peace together in the north part of St. Nicholas churchyard.

The Park house was completely demolished by the new owners in 2016.

Retired diplomat John Gabriel Tahourdin (1913-2007) become the new owner of Swafield Hall after the Barratts, in 1974. In the 60’s John Tahourdin was British ambassador to Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and Guinea, in the 70’s – to Bolivia, he travelled assiduously throughout West Africa and South America and earned much respect. He finished his career in the British Embassy in 1973 and in 1974 moved to North Norfolk with his wife Margaret Michie (married in 1957), his son and daughter.
Perhaps rural Norfolk after Africa and South America was too calm for John Tahourdin. He lived separately from community life, and the tradition of holding village fairs at Swafield Hall ceased. Educated at St. John’s College in Oxford, John Tahourdin always wanted to return to the land of his jolly student youth, and at the age of 71 he downsized – sold Swafield Hall and started another chapter of his life in Oxfordshire.

In 1984 Brian Victor De Savoie-Carignan De Soissons (1929–2009) bought the estate from John Tahourdin. Brian moved here from London with his wife Daphne Evelyn (they married in 1955 and had 6 children).
Brian’s father Louis Emanuel Jean Guy de Savoie-Carignan de Soissons was the well-known London architect, the younger son of Charles, the Count de Soissons.

The De Soissons family had connections to Norfolk for over 100 years.  Brian’s sister Jeanne (married capt. Arthur Neville Rolfe) lived not far from Kings Lynn at Heacham Hall estate, the Rolfe family home. Heacham was very popular as a seaside resort, and during the 1960’s – 70’s the de Soissons enjoyed many summer holydays at the West Norfolk coast. At the age of 55 Brian sold his house in Notting Hill, London, and moved with his family to Swafield near North Walsham. Swafield Hall is 50 miles East of the Heacham Hall estate, but De Soissons fell in love with the beautiful old house, its location and the wonderful sandy beaches nearby.

Swafield Hall estate at the time when De Soissons family lived there.

Brian de Soissons lived at the hall until 1999. Swafield villagers remember Brian as a very warm and friendly person. His wife Daphne passed away in 1995, their children grew up and lived separately, and in the late 1990’s Brian moved to Norwich.

His eldest son, real estate specialist Louis Thomas de Soissons with his wife Anna and three sons moved to his father’s country estate and developed the property.

The interiors of Swafield Hall were redecorated, and in front of the South elevation de Soissons created a box framed parterre, which was put in place by Norfolk garden designer Martin Perry.

Brian de Soissons died in 2009 in Norwich, but according to his wishes, he was buried at St. Nicholas Church of Swafield next to his wife Daphne. From that place on the church hill you can see beautiful fields and their favorite Swafield Hall.

Parterre at the South facade of Swafield Hall, 2003

In 2002 the estate was sold to John Charles Augustus David Buchan of Auchmacoy (b. 1963) and his wife Sharon J Buchan (married in 1998).

As Buchan clan chief Charles Buchan is a member of the Standing Committee of Scottish Chiefs. The Buchan’s family history and its connections with Auchmacoy in Aberdeenshire go back to the 15th century. Although Charles Buchan spent most of his time in the south, he is an avid supporter of the clan and a defiantly loyal Scot.  His family has a fascinating genealogy. His grand mother, Lady Olivia Buchan, was the eldest daughter of the 18th Earl of Caithness. Lord Caithness, born Sinclair, took the surname of Buchan in 1911, after inheriting the Auchmacoy estate from his cousin, Louisa Buchan, 15th of Auchmacoy.

With their four children George (b. 1994), twins William & Olivia (b. 1999) and Charlotte Rose (b. 2001). Charles and Sharon Buchan spent a lot of happy time in Swafield Hall.

George, William, Olivia and Charlotte Buchan at Swafield Hall. An art work commissioned in 2004 to Brian Lewis, one of Norfolk’s best-loved, working artists.

In 2002 – 2004 keen gardener Sharon Buchan created at Swafield Hall the stunning Summer Garden, Secret Islamic garden, Autumn Garden, Duck pond, Pear Tunnel and Apollo Promenade.

Summer Garden and the beginning of the Pear Tunnel, 2003.

Summer Garden (right) and the Pear Tunnel (left) in Autumn 2018.

Formal hedging in 2003 (Apollo Promenade).

Formal hedging in 2018 (Apollo Promenade).

The Buchan’s moved to another larger house in North Norfolk in 2012. Swafield Hall was sold to the current owners in 2014. The renovation of Swafield Hall started in May 2015 and finished in 2017.