History of Grantley Hall

Grantley Hall’s past is colourful and varied with a myriad of tales to tell from Members of Parliament, artists, entertainers and royalty who have all walked through its doors. Originally built as a private home, the building has served as a training facility for the local community and there was once even a mill house on the land.

Today Grantley Hall is privately owned by Valeria Sykes who bought the property with a vision of creating a legacy for her family and this magnificent, historical building. Three generations of the Sykes' family were involved in the restoration project to transform Grantley Hall into a luxury five-star hotel and wellness retreat. 

The Norton Family

Grantley Hall was built by Thomas Norton towards the end of the 17th Century, in a Palladian style of architecture and construction would have been finished shortly before the reign of Queen Anne. 

He built a simple rectangular block, seven bays long and three bays high which faces South towards the River Skell. The lower floor of the original building is now Norton’s Lounge with Norton’s Courtyard having been the original entrance to the private residence. 

Thomas Norton's grandson, Fletcher Norton, inherited Grantley Estate at the age of 3. He became Solicitor General for England and was knighted in 1762; he was subsequently elected Speaker of the House of Commons in 1770. Whilst not always a popular figure, Fletcher was elevated to the peerage in 1782 and titled 1st Lord Grantley, Baron Grantley of Markenfield. 

Fletcher is responsible for altering the original small private residence into a grand Country House. Fletcher added two new rooms to the east side of Grantley Hall around 1740; these areas are represented today as Norton Bar and the Morning Room. Continued extensions took place throughout the 18th Century including the addition to the East Wing of an Entrance Hall (now the Reception Foyer), a new Drawing Room and a Music Room/Ballroom (now Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall).

Grantley Estate remained in the Norton Family’s hands for almost another 200 years, with many notable figures inheriting the Estate. These include the 2nd Lord Grantley, William Norton who was a British MP and Peer, the 3rd Lord Grantley, Fletcher Norton who fought in the Battle of Waterloo and Lady Caroline Norton.

The Furness Family

In January 1900 the Grantley Estate was sold by the 5th Lord Grantley and bought by the multimillionaire shipping magnate Sir Christopher Furness. Sir Christopher was born in 1852 and when he was just 18 expanded his father’s grocery and provisions business into a shipping company, the famous Furness Line of Steamers. 

Sir Christopher was not only a businessman, but a keen gardener, a politician and a member of Parliament. He was knighted in 1895 and elevated to the peerage in 1910 where he was titled 1st Baron Furness of Grantley.

Sir Christopher made extensive additions and alterations to the house and gardens; it was during this time that Grantley Hall took on the main features of its appearance today. An extension to the Music Room was added as well as a Billiard Room above the Entrance Hall. A new southwest wing, now comprising Fletchers Restaurant, the Brook Room and Parklands, was built to complete the small courtyard by the River Skell.

His wife, Lady Jane Furness was also a very keen gardener and designed the Japanese Gardens around 1910. It was constructed and formed using rocks from the nearby Brimham Rocks, which is now a National Trust site. This was one of the earliest Japanese Gardens in the country and is well worth visiting during your stay. The leat was also added during this time to divide the River Skell around the immediate property and reduce the risk of flooding.

After Sir Christopher’s death in 1912 his son, Marmaduke, inherited the Grantley Estate as the 2nd Baron Furness who sold the Grantley Estate in 1925.

The Aykroyd Family

Sir William Aykroyd purchased the Grantley Estate in 1925 along with Brimham Estate and the villages of Grantley, Winksley and Sawley, a total of 45 Farms, 6,710 acres in all for the sum of £12,000. He was made High Sherriff of Yorkshire in 1926 and had a fondness for the local community inviting local people to cinema nights in what is now Norton’s Bar and building Grantley Village Hall on 1929.

On September 14th, 1937 Sir William and his wife, Lady Emma Aykroyd, entertained Queen Mary at Grantley Hall in the company of the Princess Royal where they had tea in what is now Norton Bar, admired the paintings and walked the gardens. They would later be revisited by the Princess Royal in 1944. 

With the outbreak of World War II, Sir William loaned the Grantley Estate to the war effort and it opened as a convalescent home caring for American, Jamaican and Canadian airmen and soldiers. The Grantley Estate saw a total of 6,571 patients cared for under its roof during World War II, the last patients left on February 16th, 1946. 

The Dining room was used for meals and dances, and entertainment was provided regularly by the Entertainment National Service Association including a visit by Dame Vera Lynn who sang to the troops. 

Sadly, with the death of Lady Emma in 1946 and Sir William in 1947, the continuous era of private family ownership of Grantley Hall ended. The Grantley Estate was sold and the Estate was transferred to a financial syndicate and broken up, the Hall and its immediate grounds were then sold to West Riding County Council for the sum of £13,500. 

Grantley Hall was re-opened in 1949 under the wardship of David Hopkinson and was used as an adult education training and residential college for the next 50 years. Many people who trained during this time hold much affection for Grantley Hall.

The Sykes Family

2015 brought a new lease of life to Grantley Hall when local Yorkshire woman Valeria Sykes bought the property with a vision of creating a legacy for this magnificent building, provide employment and career opportunities within the local area, and to support the local economy in the procurement of supplies and services. 

Grantley Hall was the perfect canvas for Valeria’s passion for arts, history, old buildings, interior design and innovation and soon plans were underway for the building to be respectfully restored. Valeria is passionate about history and the arts, having a successful track record of restoring beautiful old country houses to their former glory and ensuring their history lives on, whilst also being equally passionate about her home county of Yorkshire. 

After four years of renovation works, Grantley Hall has been re-born, blending traditional elegance and outstanding state-of-the-art facilities, opening as a 5* luxury hotel and wellness retreat in July 2019. Valeria's son, Richard Sykes, is Managing Director.