We understand that the main part of the hotel was built in 1762. The only tangible evidence for this date is a wellpreserved ram’s horn with “1762” scratched on it which is reputed to have been discovered in the foundations a number of years ago when some alterations were being carried out.
There is an excellent etching of the east side of the house in Harrison’s Picturesque Views of the Principal Seats of the Nobility and Gentry, published in 1788.
This shows a lake in front of the house which was fed from rain falling on the roofs; evidently, and not surprisingly, this was found to be an unreliable source and the lake was converted into the present sunken garden.
The hotel was purchased in April 2005 by businessman Tony Lavin who many believe restored the hotel to it’s former glory by renovating the hotel, bedrooms and landscaping the grounds which was one of his passions. Mr Lavin sadly passed away in 2011 but the hotel remains in the family who are continuing to invest and grow the business.
The first owner, and builder, of the house was Alexander Emerson, who was born at Caistor and inherited the West Retford Estate under the will of G. Wharton, Esq. Emerson was a member of a rather fashionable masonic lodge in London and helped to found a lodge in Retford which met at Amcott House in Grove Street for a number.of years. Emerson’s grandson, who lived at Ulverscroft Abbey in Leicestershire, appears to have sold West Retford House after his father’s death in 1834 to James Lee, Esq.
There are a number of references in local books published at this time to the fact that the Prince Regent, later King George IV, stopped and admired the house on a journey from Scotland, saying that the north-west front had struck him from its pleasant situation, more than any other house he had noticed in his journey from the North. We have commemorated this story by naming one of the rooms “The Prince Regent Room” now known as the “Dukeries Suite”.
We know from the census records for 1851 that James Lee, his wife and daughter were then living in the house together with twelve, servants and they probably had a few others living out. How times have changed! It was at this time that the ballroom was built as an extension on the north-east side of the house and at the same time the balustrade was removed from the east roof of the centre block so that today you have a fine Georgian elevation on the west side and a rather mixed Victorian style on the east side facing the lawns. This was the last important alteration to be made to the house for a hundred years as it passed from the Lees to the Suttons to the Milners, and in 1926 to the late Dr. J. C. Teasdale.
During this time the many fine trees in the grounds matured and today include three cedars, several tall beeches, many chestnuts and elms, and the almost legendary tulip tree. Most of these trees are as old as the house and some of them, like the tulip tree and the mulberry tree, are dying of old age. Last year we planted a young tulip tree which should be mature enough to bear its remarkable flowers before the present one has to come down – or falls down.
Lastly, I would like to quote once more from Harrison’s Views, which concludes by saying : “The apartments are elegantly fitted up and furnished; and the surrounding grounds are laid out with great taste and judgement.” I think we may justly claim to be upholding the tradition established two hundred years ago.
M. H. CLARK
More details can be found here :- https://www.nottshistory.org.uk/piercy1828/westretford1.htm
Photograph showing RAF members during World War II when the hotel was used as an RAF base.