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Stoney Grove--People
Prepared by Emma Knytleigh
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The Blake Family

William’s Blake origins are unclear-- as is the source of his income-- but by the 1770s he was successful businessman and trader. Such was his success that he could afford to create Stoney Grove and to commission one of the leading lights of the time, Culpability Heath, to design it. Blake moved in with his young wife Fanny in 1782 when their daughter Mary was born, but sadly he died two years later.

Mrs. William Blake (nee Fanny Rawlins)
Fanny Rawlins Blake in 1782

Fanny evidently lived in the house until 1804
when, still distraught by the death of her husband, she disappeared into the woods. It was generally presumed that she had drown in the lake. Rumours of her ghost wandering the grounds have persisted for years. In 1999, her tomb was rediscovered in the Temple of Venus adjacent to the lake. More recently, it has been discovered that she did not die in England, but returned to Nevis in perished there in 1814. Research into her history is on-going.

Mary Blake, mistress of Stoney Grove following her mother’s death, married late in life. Little is known of her husband John Beadle. Mrs. Mary Blake Beadle proved very long-lived and was reportedly a strong presence in the house until her eventual death in 1879.

In 1819, Mary Blake gave birth to a
daughter, Hope. As a young woman,
Miss Beadle married  a local boy,
Mr. Thomas Hall.  After the loss of
several children, the couple produced a son and heir in 1849.  Named for the founder of the family estate, William Blake Hall (1849-1909) was raised under the tutelage of his grandmother
following his mother's untimely death in 1852.

Hope Beadle Hall, c. 1850



Mrs. Thomas Hall, c. 1850

William Blake Hall 1892The second great Stoney Grove entrepreneur, William continued in his great grandfather’s business of shipping and trade. He renovated the house during a prosperous period from 1870-1875, constructed a greenhouse behind the stables, and built a gatehouse.
Stoney Grove was a lively social centre from the 1860s through the 1890s.  William Hall entertained lavishly, and in 1882, was co-captain with the famed W.G. Grace at a game between the 'Friends of Stoney Grove' and Australia held on the property.  The young man enjoyed good company, and mixed with bold men and beautiful ladies, before marrying his lovely young secretary, Elizabeth Kent (1874-1939), in 1897. The couple had three children: Ellen (1899-1973), Basil (1901-1962), and Montgomery (1909-1995), the last generation to live in the house.

The young Hall family: William, Elizabeth and baby Basil in 1903

The Hall family_1903_

William Hall died twelve years later, and the widowed Elizabeth lived quietly with her family at Stoney Grove until her death in 1939.

Ellen Hope Hall  was educated at Roedean in Brighton. Active socially; she hosted annual charity balls at Stoney Grove with her mother from 1920-1939.  These were interrupted by the War, but continued for many years thereafter until the passing of her brother in 1962.  Ellen is remembered as a passionate naturalist, and  her 1953 book Robins, Sparrows and Barn Owls, a Guide to West Sussex Walks was a popular addition to many local libraries.

Ellen passed away after a after short illness in 1973.


Miss Ellen  Hall in 1941

Ellen Hall in Puckering, 1946

Of the children, it was Basil Blake Hall who showed the earliest promise. Educated at Eton and Christ College, Cambridge from 1919-1922,  he took a degree in History and was an star cricketer for his College. After his fiancee tragically perished in a boating accident, Basil remained a bachelor for the remainder of his life. During the 1930s he was politically active, but following the outbreak of the Second World War he became quite reclusive.

Basil  Hall greeting guests to a spring party, Stoney Grove 1939.  His brother Monty is the young man leaning against the column on the north portico of the house. Stoney Grove 1941

During the Post War years, Basil Hall developed a keen interest in history, and authored a book on Puckering's past.  Sadly, the manuscript has been lost.  Basil Hall died in 1962.

Montgomery Kent Hall also attended Eton, but did not go on to University. Instead, he spent his entire life at Stoney Grove, enjoying the company of his family and neighbors, and involving himself in the life of the villages.  The last of the Blake line, he died in 1995, in the home he where he was born.  He stipulated in his will that "the house, contents and landscape remain intact, staff remain employed for life, and that Stoney Grove should be lived in as a happy family home."

In 1999, Simon Tinsley and Ann Simmons purchased the house and grounds. The couple intend to research its history more thoroughly and to restore the property to its former glory. A guidebook on Stoney Grove is forthcoming.

Supplemental Material

Notes on William Blake Hall and Elizabeth Kent Hall
Notes on Basil, Ellen and Monty Hall
The Rawlins Family
Oral Histories of Twentieth-Century Residents