Quenby Hall, “Home” to Stilton Cheese

Quenby_Hall_Historical_PaintingQuenby Hall is a Jacobean house in parkland near the villages of Cold Newton and Hungarton, Leicestershire, England. It is described by Pevsner (Pevsner, Nikolaus; Williamson, E (revision) (1984). The Buildings of England – Leicestershire and Rutland. Penguin. pp. 351–3.) as: the most important early-seventeenth century house in the county (of Leicestershire). The Hall is Grade I listed, and the park and gardens grade II, by English Heritage.

Quenby Hall is just south of Hungarton, about 7 miles (11.3 km) east of the centre of Leicester and is best reached from the A47 road by taking the turn towards Hungarton at the village of Billesdon.

Descent of the Manor
Ashby Family
The Ashby family acquired an estate in Quenby in the 13th century. By 1563 they had acquired the whole Manor, and soon afterwards moved to enclose and depopulate it.

Quenby Hall was built between 1618 and 1636 by George Ashby (1598–1653), High Sheriff of Leicestershire for 1627. The village of Quenby was held by the Ashby family from the 13th Century and remains of the village are in the present park. The village population was at least 25 in 1377 based on poll tax data. There may have been a house on the site before building of the current house, which began in 1618. A clock on the west front is dated 1620. Building finished in 1636. The house is ‘H-shaped’ and on a hillside location. It has three storeys and a very shallow pitched roof.

George Ashby was succeeded by his son, also George, who married the daughter of Euseby Shuckburgh of Naseby, Northamptonshire. Their son George, MP for Leicestershire, was known as ‘Honest George Ashby the Planter’ because of the large number of trees he planted at Quenby. He died in 1728, and in the mid-18th Century Quenby Hall passed to his great-nephew Shukburgh Ashby (died 1792), MP for Leicester and Fellow of the Royal Society. Quenby Hall remained in the Ashby family until 1904.

The house was bought in 1904 and restored by Rosamund (née Lloyd), second wife of Lord Henry Grosvenor, who restored much of the Jacobean interior. Her son sold Quenby Hall in 1924 to Sir Harold Nutting.

Gerard Whitlock then bought Quenby Hall in 1926, selling his then house Grace Dieu Manor. The Whitlocks made extensive restorations at Quenby, which was eventually turned into Cheese making business on the estate in 2005 in order to bypass planning regulations banning the family from inhabiting the home full time. The business failed in July 2011 with debts of £250,000 caused by over-expansion. The business had then a turnover of about £1.8m and employed about 40 staff. In April 2011 administrators were brought in to find a buyer, but none was forthcoming, perhaps due to problems with the export market caused by a recent incident of listeria in the Quenby product. In late 2013, the family put up Quenby Hall for sale for £11.6 million.

Stilton Cheese
Stilton cheese originated here and was first made by the housekeeper. After a break of 250 years, production began again in 2005 but the business folded in 2011. [Stilton is an English cheese, produced in two varieties: Blue known for its characteristic strong smell and taste, and the lesser-known White. Both Blue Stilton and White Stilton have been granted the status of a protected designation of origin by the European Commission, two of only ten British cheeses currently produced to have such protection. The PDO status requires that only cheese produced in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire and made according to a strict code may be called “Stilton.”]

Film Location
Part of the British film A Cock and Bull Story (2006) was made at the Hall.


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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7 Responses to Quenby Hall, “Home” to Stilton Cheese

  1. Anji says:

    Fascinating article, Regina, especially with respect to my personal history.

    It’s a part of the country I know well. I was born in Leicester and grew up in the suburb of Evington on the eastern side of the city. For many years, my Aunt was a district nurse in the rural part of the county where Quenby Hall is situated. She and my paternal grandmother lived in the village of Billesdon that you mention above. My family eventually moved to the village of Houghton-on-the-Hill, between Billesdon and the city and that’s where I was married.

    I can’t remember anything about Quenby Hall from that time, but I did know about the cheese-making history, it’s recent revival and subsequent failure. Stilton cheese may be an acquired taste for some, but I love it, which is quite approriate for a native of the area, and my late father couldn’t get enough of it.

    Apparently the Hall was sold only in August of this year, possibly for a lot less than the £11.6 million they were orginally asking. The estate agent’s website I’ve just looked at gave a guide price of £5,500,000, around half of that!

    • Anji, I love it when one of my articles strikes a chord with others, especially when they can add to my knowledge with a personal anecdote. Thank you for sharing your tale.

  2. Don’t you just love the names of those towns and villages, where else in the world can you find such quaint names but England? I suppose too that originlly the rally did mean somethng important.

  3. carolcork says:

    My husband loves Stilton. We always have some at Christmas accompanied by a glass of port although it is not my favourite cheese. I’m a cheddar person.

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