A Hall Built For Purpose

Its original  intentions came to fruition.
Its original intentions came to fruition.

In the 1921 copy of the Penn Parish Register in the list of houses to note it states:
Foremost among the buildings is Penn Hall, an early Georgian house  which both in situation and appearance commands approval.

A rather poor veiw of the house is given in Shaw’s history vol., It being then (1800) the property of Mrs Ellen Pershouse (who married into a Wolverhampton family of that name.) She was the daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Bradney J.P. D.L,. (1710-82) formerly also of Wolverhampton and High Sheriff in 1752, and it was to his wealth that this building is owed.

Dr Wilkes(d.1760)

In Over penn, Thomas Bradney has completed a good house designed by his predecessor Dr. Sedgewick and his wife for a Hospital, The situation is very pretty and pleasant, though open to the North.

(Shaw ii 218) On the death of  William Bradney Persehouse, the Hall was let first, John W Sparrow the Ironmaster( Who later built (ÒBeckminsterÓ), and afterwards to Mr William Underhill.

Situated on the hill of Penn this fine Georgian mansion has commanding views across to the Tettenhall ridge.
Situated on the hill of Penn this fine Georgian mansion has commanding views across to the Tettenhall ridge.

It’s history is irretrievably bound up with St Bartholomew’s church, for its owners were men of importance in the parish as the wall memorials testify.

With the death of the last Pershouse of Penn  and the expiry of the lease, the Hall and its 388 acres of land in Upper and Lower Penn were put up for sale. in 1899.
George Harry Bradney Persehouse, the owner, lived in Manchester and had little time or interest in his Midland estate.

The fully Licensed House in question being the Old Stags Head in the occupation of Mr George Smith. it is let on an annual tenancy at a very low rent of £28 9s 2d the tenant also paying a royalty of 6d per load for the gravel worked at the pit.

Tithe for the year 1899 is  8s, 8d.

Residential-Sale-2-S

Admirably situated in the Parishes of Upper and lower penn, and of Wombourne, all Mines and Minerals thereunder. The whole farming Estate of the late JOHN PERSHOUSE, Esq and covering an area of 388 acres and 25 and a half perches.

Printed by John Steen & Co Printers, Old Grammar School Works, St John’s Street. Wolverhampton.

The accomodation includes inside:

Contents-inside
Penn Hall which is the residence of a really good stamp has been occupied for many years by the Underhill family , and the lease to the late mr Underhill expired at Michaelmas last. Mrs Underhill, the present tenant, is an annual tenant and notice has been given for her to quit at Michaelmas, 1900.

The Out buildings near to Include:

Contents-outside

Angus Dunphy Penn Historian relates.
Angus Dunphy Penn Historian relates.

The Hall itself  was bought in 1902 by Thomas Francis Waterhouse. and he immediatly engaged the architect, H. T. Hare to remodel and improve the building.

It appears that by 1907 Thomas Waterhouse was already in financial difficulties and living beyond his means, but this was not yet public knowledge and bankruptcy proceedings would not begin until 1922.
He was committed for trial for fraudulently appropriating clients’ funds for his own use. However, in 1914 all this was in the future and his war history was to be impressive. It was he who went, with the rank of major, to France with the Sixth Battalion of the South Staffordshire regiment. It was one of the first territorial battalions to serve in France and by 1915 Thomas had been made up to Lieutenant Colonel and put in charge. At the battle of Vermelles he was cut down, severely wounded by shrapnel and not expected to live. It says something of the man, for a year later at the age of fifty-one he was again ready for duty.

On the site of The Retail Park.
On the site of The Retail Park.

In 1924 with his now public financial disgrace the Hall was sold to a local industrialist. Francis J Gibbons of the Wolverhampton lockmaking and ornamental ironwork firm.  For those who are’t old enough to recall The Lock makers of Church Lane in the 1950s, it was on a site were St Johns Retail Park, stands today.

He had been living at The Beeches, in what had been the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century Upper Penn farm.
As Francis moved to Penn Hall the Penn hospital moved from St. Catherine’s Crescent to the Beeches.
Older residents remember Francis as a kindly man and he stayed at the Hall until his death in 1948.

Vicarage Road,Penn Road corner 1957.
Vicarage Road,Penn Road corner 1957.

After the war accommodation of any sort was at a premium and many of Wolverhampton’s larger houses found alternative roles e.g., Muchall Grove as accommodation for the town planners, Claremont as an old people’s home.

So it was to be that Penn Hall was bought by the expanding borough police service.

A friend of mine ex policeman sent me this photo and note:

I am attaching a photograph from 1957, taken to show the lack of vision at the junction of Vicarage Road and Penn Road, Penn.   at that time there were 2 hundred year old cottages on the corner, which have now been demolished.

Up Vicarage Road, on the left from Penn Road, is Penn Hall, which was used as a single mens quarters for probationary constables for about ten years.   I lived there from 1950 for about five years.   It later became a school for disabled children and it was knocked about to suit that purpose.

Concrete ramps front and rear, internal walls knocked down and a lift installed, which altered the beautiful old staircase.
I was dismayed to say the least when I saw it.

Penn Hall Drawing 1974.
Penn Hall Drawing 1974.

In 1974 and with the creation of a West Midlands Police Authority, the Hall was again sold.

It was bought by the education committee and developed and expanded as the Penn Hall School.  and some disagree with John when they say; There is much tasteful new building, which complements the Georgian mansion on this site.

As for Raphael Sedgwick I am sure he would be pleased that his plans for a hospital almost 300 years ago, have today, in spirit, become a reality.
Penn Hall School serves the needs of students with physical handicap.

The wheel has thus turned full circle.

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