There are at
least two folk stories about this building. One is that the estate was originally
acquired from Richard Lloyd by the Lombe Family
Sir John Lombe died in 1817, and left money to be held in trust with the instruction that a mansion be built on the highest part of the estate. Towards the middle of the century, nothing had been done, and so the Court of Chancery instructed the family to get on with it!
The house was built by Charles
Barry jnr. (son of Sir Charles of Houses of Parliament fame) and R.Banks, and
is reputed to be one of the first steel framed buildings in Europe. Evidence
of this frame is visible today and presumably explains why so much of the
house remains. Despite lavishing money on the construction of the Hall, there
were still funds remaining which were ultimately spent on the building of
three lodge houses (Elsing, Swanton Morley and Bawdeswell ) and some eight
miles of estate walls. Regrettably, much of these walls are now in a sad
state of repair.
By 1883, at 13,343 acres, the Estate was the fourth largest in Norfolk (Holkham with 44,090 acres, Raynham with 18,343 acres and Houghton with 16,995 acres) , but like other landowners at the time, was suffering from the effects of the Agricultural Depression that began about 1875. The Evans-Lombe family finally sold up in 1917, when the house was acquired by the Marsh Family from America, and was last occupied by Mrs Marsh until 1935. Mrs Marsh, nee Wilkinson, originally came from Yorkshire.
During the last war, the house was requisitioned by the R.A.F., and subsequent to its de-requisitioning was sold to a builder who sold the interior fittings and the lead from the roof in about 1950 - just one hundred years after its construction.
From January 1944 until December 1945, the Hall was the headquarters for No.100 (Special Duties) Group, Royal Air Force.
In 1948 the house was sold to a new owner who unsuccessfully tried to turn it in to a nursing home. By 1950, it was in disrepair and in June of that year a 350 lot demolition sale was held which stripped the house of its lead roof and interior fittings leaving it an abandoned ruin.
In 1999 the house (and a lodge) was sold to a local sculptor who dreamt of fully restoring it to its former glory.
By July 2009 the house and outbuildings were the subject of ongoing financial and legal problems that resulted in their complete repossession and the apparent loss of deposits by a number of people.
In February 2013 the banks by now in possession put the unfinished house up for sale.
* In March 2014 the house and outbuildings were purchased by Ben Budworth, owner of The Lady Magazine published in London.
Auctioneer's Particulars of the house and Estate in 1917
The little church of St Mary's, Bylaugh