THE HISTORY OF BRAUNSTONE HALL..


 Braunstone Hall was built in 1776 for  the Winstanley family, lords of the  manor and the main landowners in the  village of Braunstone. In many ways  the Hall resembles town houses like 17  Friar Lane. It is built in similar  materials and has similar Classical  proportions and decoration. But, while the Friar Lane houses were lived in by wealthy merchants and professional people or were used as town houses by landed families, Braunstone Hall was the centre of a country estate passed on through the Winstanley family from generation to generation. As country houses go, Braunstone Hall is fairly unassuming. It was not designed by one of the many fashionable country house architects of the day but by local builder and Leicester politician, William Oldham. He used red brick and Swithland slate, common local materials. The central doorway and windows are emphasised just as they are at 17 Friar Lane. Here they are set in an arched recess reaching up to the top of the facade. The Hall has a slightly less elaborate frontage to the Park at the back and, inside, Classical columns in the entrance hall and an elegant staircase. Building has always been a dangerous occupation and the building records show that a stonemason and a labourer were killed in the construction of Braunstone Hall. Around the Hall, the Winstanleys had a park laid out with a lake and gardens.. As a wealthy family they had horses and carriages which were kept in the stable block next to the house.. These buildings did not share the refinement of the house and were more like farm buildings, but they were still carefully designed, with fine brickwork arches and decoration at the eaves. The walled garden, restored and beautifully planted by the city council, once contained fruit trees, serving the household both as a source of food and as a place to stroll. There are also reminders of the Winstanleys in the village. They commissioned one of the most famous of Victorian Architects, William Butterfield, to design cottages for estate workers at Cressida Place and in Main Street. Both groups of cottages were built in 1859. Butterfield modelled the houses on traditional buildings and used local materials but their design has a deliberate, thought-out quality which suggests that it was the work of an architect. The parsonage, built in 1864, and the village school of 1867 were paid for by the Winstanleys. Braunstone was greatly changed in the 1930s when the Winstanleys estate was bought (compulsory purchased) by the Leicester Corporation, partly as land for new housing. The Winstanleys' park and buildings came to serve people from the crowded centre of Leicester. The Hall was turned into a school and the gardens and the stable block formed part of the modern day Braunstone Park..


The Ghost of Braunstone Hall..


Braunstone Hall and the park have long been associated with ghost stories with too many sightings for them to be dismissed or ignored. Stories of ghostly carriages drawn by black horses that disappear into the bleak spinney at the dead of night, a forlorn boy dressed in Victorian clothing whose shady figure stares out of an upstairs window. The young groom who died a tragic lonely death hanging from a beam in a room above the stables. One of the most famous stories relates to a young girl in white who walks the corridors of the hall. Her appearance was so regular that the apparition was almost thought of as normal. The apparition frightened the young Winstanley family and their servants. They would have had nothing but a candle for light as they made their way along the murky corridors to their quarters on the top floor passing the governess room where most of the sightings occurred. The young girl could be one of two sisters who left the Hall to join a Roman Catholic convent, tragically the youngest, May, died of tuberculosis at the age of 18 while still a novice. Her sister Georgina died thirty-four years later in 1933..


A Ghost hunters View:- The first time i saw the Hall in 1991, I was somewhat struck by its foreboding appearance. I had heard rumours of a ghost or two so decided to examine the site. I remembered my first day at a junior school and recalled the blind terror, this place had a very unwelcoming appearance and must have terrified a multitude of five year olds. It wasn't untill i went inside the place did i experience the marvellous transformation. Ornate mouldings, elegant marble pillars and many other fineries a total contrast. I spent a night in the hall in 1994 with several other parapsychologists in order to see if indeed there was any truth in the claims of ghostly activity. The plan on this occasion was to group up early in the evening then have a period of absence with tape recorders running in the empty building. The school secretary. Shirley and caretaker jeff let us out, set the alarm and locked up. We all departed to the shakespeare pub for an hour or so. We managed to 'lose' two persons who had been shown the areas they would have to sit around in alone throughout the night i think they found the place a bit intimidating! On our return we began the tour in the darkness. I personally found it most pleasant and relaxing but certain areas such as the narrow passage to the servants stairs on the first floor seemed to have a tangible energy wich made my scalp tingle. On an earlier visit i had left something in the room at the end of this passage. The highly skeptical Dave Holt who was videographer on this evening came up with me to obtain the item. Just as we neared the end of the corridor i felt a strange sensation like static charge. "Christ..can you feel that?" i murmered. "yep" dave replied looking a bit grey around the gills. We got the article and rapidly came away. After the tour everyone settled down for the labourious business of waiting for nothing to happen (as is usually the case). The only notable occurrence during the night was whilst the majority of the party were in the staffroom on the first floor having a break. Two of the team, ian and steve, were positioned at the top floor landing. They were almost dozing when a loud scream echoed throughout the place closely followed by an invisible "something" rushing past them and into room 13. This scream was heard by all present who came out of the staffroom to see what was going on. Steve was a bit shaken as a device that registers electromagnetic fields that he had held loosely became hot as if a massive surge had passed through it. Over the years i managed to glean various reports and tales with a massive ghost population residing within and one or two outside the hall. A stern looking women, a large red faced man, a pig (yes i know), a large black dog, two men playing cards (card table included in the vision), a poacher or gamekeeper with musket, a "blackish thing", a'toff like figure, a child, a lady in a rich ballgown (seen inside and moving along the roof) and a fine looking coach and horses. The most enduring phantom is the 'lady in white' thought to be the ghost of May Winstanley who succumbed to TB in southampton in the early part of the last century. A novice nun. She was only 19 when she died and has returned (as have many) to their beloved pile. I, as many others was saddened when i heard the school would close then become a shell and target of the moronic few who would no doubt descend on it hellbent on destruction. Where are the ghost when you need them..? it is high time they rattled their chains and defended their castle! - By Andrew James Wright.


The History of Braunstone Hall Junior School..


 Following refurbishment in 1932,  Braunstone Hall was "recycled" into a  School and was originally opened as a  Senior School. However, once younger  families moved into the new Housing  Estate the need for a Junior School  proved more urgent. Thus, Braunstone  Hall Junior School was opened a year later in 1933, an establishment that served the local community until it was closed in 1996. The Leicester City Council then acquired the property from the Leicestershire County Council under Unitary Status in 1997. However, since they never had any plans of their own for it the property was left to go to wrack and ruin and quickly became a target for vandals and arsonists. Around 2001 the Hall was marketed for disposal by way of a 125 year lease. The leicester city council received interest from the Braunstone Community Association who wished to use the property for a variety of different uses. However, none of their proposed plans came to fruition and the Hall was later put back on the market again for disposal. Sometime between 2006-2008 a well known property developer, Mr Naresh Parmar, expressed an interest in renovating the property into a Hotel, Wedding and Conference venue but despite him already having an excellent track record for restoring other Historic Buildings the Leicester City Council was extremely slow in moving the proposed plans forward. In late 2009 we, the 'Braunstone Hall Campaign Group' fully supported the plans and therefore decided to continuously bring the property into the focus of the Leicester City Council. On the 24/06/2015 the plans were finally approved by the City Councils planning committee and work started on site in 2016.


 Although Braunstone Hall had been used as a school since  the 1930's, it was not until 1948, after the wartime building  restrictions had been lifted, that any alterations and  improvements could be carried out and then only with the  Ministry approval, as this building is known as a protected  one owing to its age and architectural character. I understand that its planning was typical of a design of a French Chateau that was seen by a member of the Winstanley family when visiting France; the vaulted arches and barrel ceiling of the large cellars seem to carry out this theory. The main stone staircase from the ground floor finished at the first floor and a new section was added to the second floor about 1948. The only means of access to the second floor was, prior to this alteration, a narrow wooden staircase leading originally to the servants' bedrooms and store rooms. It will be noticed that the mahogany curved handrail is a masterpiece of craftsmanship considering that it was carried out using only hand tools and although the new extension of the handrail was executed by a local firm of cabinet makers using modern mechanised aids, the result is not to be compared with the old section. A large central heating boiler was installed in the old wine cellar after the removal of the wine racks around the walls, but the old brick thralls on which the beer barrels stood still remain. New floors were laid in several rooms and the whole roof was re-laid with Swithland slates and chimneys and walls were repointed. Alterations were carried out to the kitchens and servants' hall; this is now used as a dining room for school meals. One interesting fact came to light when the green baize brass studded door leading out of the main hall to the kitchen was repaired, as under the old cover was discovered a bill from a local draper's shop, dated 1904; it stated that 51/2 yards of best quality green baize was supplied at 83/4d. per yard. The Whole Alterations were spread over a period of Two years and finished with a new electric light system and installing a new water main, as the old one burst one weekend and flooded the cellars.. - H.E.HOWARD, Clerk of Works, City Education Department, 1944-1968.



Recollections of Braunstone Hall Junior School..



Head Teachers - Mr John Oldfield, Miss C.J Shaw & Mr William Crofts..

Fond Memories of Braunstone Hall School by Marian Spencer. So Braunstone Hall is going to close. I went there in 1978 to teach. The moment i stepped into the cool, oak floored front hall, with its ornate marble columns, i felt i had come home. This was the home of the Winstanley family and from the accounts they wrote about Braunstone Hall they loved it dearly. That love is still there in the very fabric of the place and i felt it wrap me round like a warm cloak as i made my way up the spiral staircase for my interview. I had no doubt i would be the successful candidate for the job and spent the rest of my teaching career there. In the summer we could have the door open and drift in and out, doing our work. We sketched the magnollas when they were in bloom, or the house itself. We looked for spiders and webs for a project and picked leaves and flowers and fruit in season, for art or maths or science lessons, i read The Secret Garden to the class and waited for the right place in the story to take them into the walled garden shortly after it opened. Their faces were a delight as we unlocked the door and went in. Even the door was green, the same colour as the one in the book, and partly covered with ivy too. We watched the squirrels come for crumbs after playtime and identified the birds amongst the trees. Once we built nest boxes with the help of the parks dept, who fastened them up in the trees, then we watched them being occupied by the different species from the vantage of the upstairs windows. We put on many very successful christmas pantomimes and once took the whole school out on coaches for a day out. The parks dept gave us the use of the stable for our christmas nativity. It wasnt like a job, more like going home every day to be with the family. Everyone connected with the school, teachers, ancilliary staff, dinner ladies and cleaning staff, seemed to stay forever. Very rarely did anyone leave. Parents would help with football coaching and teams, groups within the classroom, and gave us support in fund raising and other school activities. In the Springtime the snowdrops drifted under the trees, followed by crocus and then daffodils. But it was hard work with classes on three floors, connected by spiral staircases. When computers came, we were hard pressed with moving them about a house built for servants carrying nothing more then jugs of water and logs for the fires along the many corridors. But theses same corridors afforded the pupils space for painting or making models or many other projects work outside the classrooms, which were too small to accomodate such enterprises. The butler would certainly have been surprised to see what various uses his pantry was put to sometimes! And now it is all to close. I am sure the vast majority of ex Braunstone Hall pupils will be as sad as me to know that it will be a school no more. The vandals were so few in number. It is sad that they caused so much damage, but technology marches on and the Hall built for a Georgian family with numerous servants has increasing posed problems for a modern school. So Braunstone Hall is closing, i would like to say a big thank you to the pupils i taught there and tell them that really they taught me far more than i could ever teach them..



Braunstone Hall Teachers in the late 1950's early 60's..

 Recollections about Braunstone  Hall School and the American  Army base there during the  1939-1945 war struck a chord  with Helen Sanderson, nee  Boulton, of Ashby Folville. Helen  writes: When I attended, the  headmaster was Mr Ofield (who  always reminded me of Father  Christmas because he had a mop of white hair and a moustache). My class (no forms in those days) teacher was a Miss Tansley who was very strict. We had ink monitors who used to fill up the ink-well on your desk and a milk monitor who handed out a small bottle of milk to each pupil. Milk was delivered to the school daily by Co-op Milk, of Glenfield Road. There was also a Miss Brand who seemed to be a PE teacher but this bit is a little vague. There were nature walks down the pathway between the walled garden on one side and a spinney on the other. This led to the Rhododendron Garden and then up the other side back to the school. I seem to recall that at the end of the day we went to the big Hall (just inside the main entrance and said a prayer always ending with the hymn God be with us till we meet again. I well remember the entrance hall with its huge pillars and a sweeping staircase to the next floor. Before the Americans arrived at the camp, the British Tommies were located there and it was strongly rumoured that they were there to test the camp before the GIs arrived, and this brings me to another story. One morning, there was a convoy of trucks lined up alongside the park in Gooding Avenue (where we lived) and some of the mothers (including my own) began making tea for those soldiers as it was a freezing cold morning. What mother had omitted to tell the two who came into our house was that we had a Captain Halliday billeted with us for a spell. He came down for breakfast, the soldiers jumped up and you can probably guess the rest - the tea went everywhere. Capt Halliday said: At ease men, and mother made tea all round and cleared up later! Back to school. On leaving school for the day, we always walked in caterpillar fashion and on some days, two GIs would be standing there, and as Dorina Carley mentioned in her recent memoirs, we would be treated to donuts, chewing gum (which mother immediately confiscated!) and fruit which was always welcome. The GIs played baseball on the park and living where we did, my sister and I used to watch from our front garden but could never quite understand the rules, but it was exciting to watch as we had never seen it before. Incidentally, does anyone remember wheat being grown on the far side of the central path, and sheep grazing there - my sister and I once found a frozen sheep in the arbour - but it quietly disappeared later that morning. Finally, some time ago, my nephew (who also attended Braunstone Hall) and I made a nostalgic visit to see exactly the state the hall was in and we were both appalled. Of course I had seen the various articles and photographs which have appeared in the Leicester Mercury from time to time but even so the reality was so different.



Young dancers at Braunstone Hall School in the 1940s.. The item about Braunstone Hall written by Helen Sanderson, nee Boulton, was of interest  to another former pupil of the school there, Margaret Ulasonoks, nee Crompton, of Glenfield. Margaret writes: I lived two doors away from the Boultons in Gooding Avenue. My brother and I both went to Braunstone Hall Junior School and the Miss Brand she mentioned was not only a PE teacher but a music teacher as well, and she was also a ballet dancer and appeared at the Opera House. Her parents had a chemists shop in King Richards Road. She had a dog called Peter who was blind and we as a family used to look after him at our house when she went away on holiday. Her cousin was the actress Flora Robson. The sheep on Braunstone Park got out one night and we had a garden full of sheep in the morning and they had eaten all my dads flowers and he was furious. Margaret has sent me this photograph taken outside Braunstone Hall. Margaret is second on the right hand side in from the front. It was one of Miss Brands productions and taken in about 1945 or 1946, Margaret says. The princess was Mary Hockney, and the prince Sheila Cooper. I believe Mary became a well-known ballet teacher.. (Leicester Mercury: October 20th, 2011)




This photo was most of the staff that left Braunstone Hall and went on to work at Queensmead school.. - Photo via Julie Harman.



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