“ Address: Cusworth Lane / Doncaster / DN5 7TU / England „
Cusworth Hall is an example of a fine English country mansion house, located a couple of miles to the north of Doncaster town centre in South Yorkshire. If you drive out of Doncaster town centre over the Great North Road Bridge and find yourself stuck in traffic (the road works around here have been ongoing for decades) then have a glance to your left and you will have a wonderful view of Cusworth Hall in the distance. As you drop over the bridge the hall disappears and since the land around here is so flat you do not catch a glimpse of it again until you are almost upon it.
Cusworth Hall sits on the top of a small grassy hill. A large green, landscaped park with scattered woods surrounds it and when it was built in the 18th century the views from here would have been wonderful. Today, the views are mainly of Doncaster, but don't let that put you off, it is still a fantastic view nonetheless. There are also a series of lovely lakes and fishing ponds within the grounds, but these are a more recent addition, having been completed in 1909.
This building was originally constructed during the 1740's as the family home of the Battie-Wrightson family. The house itself was built in a Georgian style and was the focal point of the 50-acre estate. The Battie-Wrightson family occupied Cusworth Hall until 1961 and had held the lordship of the parish of Cusworth since 1669, but by the end of the Second World War the house had already fallen into a sorry state of disrepair.
Historians generally regard Robert Cecil Battie-Wrigtson as being responsible for the downfall of Cusworth Hall. By most accounts he was a philanderer and threw extravagant parties, quickly squandering away the family's inheritance. By the time he died in 1952 most of the contents of the house had been sold off to pay for his excessive lifestyle. Following his death the house passed to his only surviving relative, an elder sister, Barbara Isabella Georgiana Battie-Wrightson but by this time she was old and frail and never actually lived at Cusworth Hall. When Barbara Isabella Georgiana Battie-Wrightson died in 1961 the house was derelict.
In 1961 Cusworth Hall and its estate went up for auction but due to the vast repair bills required demand for it was not strong and eventually Cusworth Hall was purchased by Doncaster Rural District Council. They then faced a dilemma with what to do with it and eventually it was decided to restore both the land and house and to turn the house into a museum. Unlike similar grand country mansion houses, like the nearby Brodsworth Hall recreating the former internal glory of Cusworth Hall was never really an option. The council had purchased an empty house and its original contents had long been split up and sold off, scattered across the four corners of the world. Instead it was decided to create The Museum of South Yorkshire Life.
Today Cusworth Hall is a magnificent Georgian Grade 1 listed building and The Museum of South Yorkshire Life that it houses tells the story of local life, placing a strong emphasis on the communities that have lived in this region over the past 250 years.
The museum officially opened on the 30th September 1967 and in 2007 it underwent a refurbishment program that included a £7.5 million renovation of the grounds. During this time tea rooms were created in the former stables of the grounds that adjoin the house and the house itself was restored. This included the construction of a new roof, repairs to the painted chapel ceiling and the cleaning of the existing stonework as well as the replacement of some of its damaged stones. During this refurbishment Cusworth Hall was closed to the public. It re-opened its doors on the 23rd May 2007.
Cusworth Hall is four storeys tall but only the two lower floors are accessible by the public. Entry into both the house and its grounds is completely free but there is a charge to park in the car park, which is a pay and display car park. The entrance is at the front of the building but since the car park is at the rear this is slightly confusing, as visitors have to walk all the way around the building. Initially I thought I was looking at the front of the house and could not find the entrance but all became clear when I spotted a small sign pointing to the entrance. I then realised that what I thought was the front of the house, overlooking the lakes, was actually the back of the house.
The main entrance is accessible by a short flight of steps but there is an alternative entrance for wheelchair users, which the staff at the reception will open if you request. The reception is located immediately inside the front entrance in a small anteroom that also doubles up as a gift shop.
The ground floor contains six different rooms that each lead off a central corridor and at either end of this corridor there is a staircase leading to the second floor. This second floor contains a further eight rooms that again lead off a central corridor. These rooms were the original rooms of the house and include the meeting rooms, library and bedrooms.
Each of the rooms has a plaque informing the visitor of the original use of the room but I had expected each of the rooms to contain items that were relevant to this. For example it would have been logical to assume that the former nursery would be full of authentic toys but this is not the case. The only area that does contain relevant items is the kitchen, which still has its original built in wood burning stoves. I guess that these were one of the few items that Robert Cecil Battie-Wrigtson did not sell off.
The interior of Cusworth Hall is much more like a museum than an old house and each room has a different theme with display cabinets packed full of relevant articles. There is a room dedicated to the First and Second World Wars that depicts what local life would have been like during these times. There is also a room dedicated to Doncaster's sporting links and in particular its links to horse racing and the famous St Leger.
Other rooms feature local pottery and there are also costumes on display but there are also some more modern articles on display too. These include an area packed full of office related items that range from early typewriters through to the early computers of the early 1980's and the first laptops.
Cusworth Hall also features temporary exhibitions and when I visited here there a whole room dedicated to The Spice Girls. At first I thought that it was a little bit odd that a recent pop act from the 1990's should have a display in a museum but in actual fact I quickly warmed to it and I actually found it very interesting. This exhibit entitled "Spice up your life" was the private collection of a local girl called Liz West who claims to be the Spice Girl's biggest fan. Items on display included several stage costumes, gold discs and even personal letters written by the band members. After perusing all of these items, many of which must have been very valuable I will not dispute that this girl really probably is The Spice Girls biggest fan.
In summary I really enjoyed my visit to Cusworth Hall and I hope to return again one day. It is completely free to enter, which is a bit of rarity these days and it is the sort of place that you could easily spend the best part of the day.
If you are planning a visit to Cusworth Hall the opening hours are:
Monday to Friday: from 1030am until 5pm
Saturday: from 1pm until 5pm
Sunday: from 1pm until 5pm
Telephone - (01302) 782342
Fax - (01302) 782342
Now open after extensive restoration. The hall is home to exquisite architechture and hosts art displays. In summer there are many rally's displaying classic cars.