Front of Plumtree Hall with Red Door

History of Plumtree Hall

Notes compiled by Jennie Sisson (secretary to Mr Bowman and Miss Lilian Watson in their later years and on the first committees) and the early information is from the History of Heversham with Milnthorpe by John F Curwen

1815 – Present Day

Plumtree Hall was built in 1815 upon a portion of the land belonging to Plumtree Bank (i.e. the present two cottages behind the Hall). (This was the headmaster’s residence when the old grammar school was on Heversham Head and it was built before 1698). The large garden and orchard, stable, shippon and barn all originally belonged to Plumtree Bank.

In August 1823 the local papers advertised:

“Plumtree Hall for sale consisting of a
spacious hall, large kitchen, 2 large parlours
to the front, housekeeper’s room and
servants’ hall, dairy, brew house, over which
are 7 good bedrooms, drawing room and a
large room over the kitchen. There are also
spacious wine and ale vaults, one large
stable, 2 coach houses, shippon with haylofts
and gardens, the whole containing one and a
half acres of land. There is excellent and
convenient sea bathing and several stage
coaches pass the front of the Hail”

Plumtree Management Committee begins…

Plumtree Hall was sold privately to Thomas Morland Williamson and after being tenanted by various people, in 1911 it was purchased by 71 yr old Thomas Carrick Watson, who lived there with his wife and two daughters – Constance and Lilian. They taught embroidery to the village girls and metal work to some of the men and boys from the village. (The classes were held in the Old School and articles of brass and copper were made – many houses in the village still contain these hand made treasures).

Constance died in 1946 and then H Bowman Watson and his wife moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to live with his sister Lilian at Plumtree. He died in 1970 at the age of 94 and his sister died in 1971 at the age of 98 and left Plumtree to be an Abbeyfield type of home for people from Heversham in the first place and then Westmorland or elsewhere. The house and gardens and carpets were left but no furniture and no money.

A small steering committee was formed to carry out Miss Watson’s wishes and Mr Philip Thomson was in charge. The first meeting of this committee was 6th April 1971. Eventually the Plumtree Management Committee took over and Mr Philip Thomson was the first chairman, his son Mr Peter Thomson was treasurer and Mr Tony Hesmondhalgh was the secretary for many years. Mrs Noreen Mellor became chair person after Mr Thomson.

A great deal of alteration to the buildings was needed and the main problem was how to raise the money to carry these out. Part of the garden and orchard were sold for £8,000 and two houses were built there. The ancient apple trees in the orchard were practically covered with mistletoe. Some very generous donations were made and Mrs Mellor bought some of the furniture to remain in the home. Mr Ashworth was the architect and Fred Hall of Kirkby Lonsdale was the contractor – Mr Fabian installing all the plumbing.

Money raising efforts and much voluntary work was done by the committee, such as scrubbing out after the alterations and mowing the lawns and cutting the hedge etc. There was an open day for the public to look around the building on the 28th February 1973.

The old electricity generating building was converted into Plumtree Mews and Mr Alec Fildes and his wife Winifred were the first tenants. The yard below had a big glass roof which was demolished. The old buildings at the back of the Hall were wine and ale vaults and one was used for storing hams and another was a wash house. The two flats which were built more recently replaced a general store. In the main building Miss Monro was the first tenant and her room was formerly used for storing apples. The servants’ staircase leading to the kitchen was demolished and a staircase to the flats was built. The heraldic metal screen in the entrance hall
was found in the attic.

The very first warden stayed only a week or two and then Mrs Alice Grisedale from Leasgill took over until she and her husband Tom moved to New Zealand in 1974.

In the course of time when Mrs Nan Chinn was chairman the Plumtree Housing Association came into being and when Mrs Daphne Pickthall was the chairman a conservatory was added to the dining room and was officially opened by Mr Harold Campnett, who originally suggested the idea, in collaboration with the warden Hazel Derrick and the committee.

A succession of devoted chair persons have done much in conjunction with hard working committees, wardens and domestic staff to ensure that Plumtree goes ahead as Miss Watson wished.