Situated on the hill of Penn this fine Georgian mansion has commanding views across to the Tettenhall ridge. A plate in Shaw's history of Staffordshire for 1802 gives an earlier uncluttered view of the Hall.

Its history is irretrievably bound up with St Bartholomew's church, for its owners were men of importance in the parish as the wall memorials testify.

There had been a building called Penn Hall before Dr. Raphael Sedgwick and his wife, Anne, carefully drew up the plans for a hospital, but the Sedgwick's journey was overtaken with grief. Their two children, John and Anne Bache both died in infancy. The mother, too, did not reach old age. Anne, the Lower Penn heiress, died in 1728 leaving Raphael, her estates for his lifetime. She charged him with setting up a charity for the poor. Raphael's memorial stone reflected his commitment to medicine, to the treatment of the poor without charge and his loyalty to his friends. On his death all the Penn estates passed to Thomas Bradney, probably Anne's brother.

Penn Hall. Courtesy of St. Bart's Church.

It is Thomas Bradney who is credited with building the Hall as we know it, to the designs of the Sedgwick's. William Baker (1705-71) was the architect, a man much employed in Staffordshire. Thomas appears to have been less charitable than the Sedgwick's as he failed to honour his duty to build five almshouses. It took an order in Chancery in 1760 to force his hand and the result can still be seen in Pennwood Lane.
He was a well respected Georgian Squire, a justice of the peace, High Sheriff of the county in 1752, and a deputy lieutenant and nothing in Penn could happen without his approval.

Thomas's coat of arms can be seen on his wall memorial in the church. He died in 1782. The Hall then comprised of two principal downstairs rooms with fine fireplaces and detailed features over the doors and on the walls. The large dining room and well-proportioned drawing room are today's lecture room and staff library. Other rooms used by the family were the schoolroom and eight bedrooms on the first floor, together with dressing room, boudoir, studio and bathroom. The servants' rooms included, on the ground floor, servants' hall, knife and boot house, kitchen and scullery, coal and wood stores and butler's accommodation.

The building housed its own wine and beer cellars and the outside ranges included stables, brew house and dairy. Beyond these were the well laid out gardens. The squire and his family's needs were well catered for. Thomas had married three times, his last wife giving the estate its heirs, Ellen and Esther. Ellen married William Persehouse and they made Penn Hall their home. Esther married John Marsh of The Lloyd. Their son, Richard Bailey Marsh, and Ellen were responsible for the rebuilding of the Church chancel in 1799.

Another view of Penn Hall. Courtesy of St. Bart's Church.

Those at the Hall and at The Lloyd were certainly near to God, at least, in the eyes of eighteenth century society!  Ellen died in 1829, the estate passing to her son, William Bradney Persehouse.

Unlike his mother he was absent from Penn for long periods and after his death in 1843 the Hall was let to William Underhill. We know William paid £146 every Michaelmas for the privilege of living there. It was a perfectly situated gentleman's residence for a Wolverhampton iron stockholder; near enough to business and trade and yet away from the dirt and grime of a fast expanding industrial town.

With the death of William and the expiry of the lease the Hall and its 388 acres of land in Upper and Lower Penn were put up for sale. George Harry Bradney Persehouse, the owner, lived in Manchester and had little time or interest in his Midland estate.

Lot one;

The Hall itself  was bought in 1902 by Thomas Francis Waterhouse. He engaged the architect, H. T. Hare to remodel and improve the building. It appears that by 1907 Thomas Waterhouse was already in financial difficulties and living beyond his means, but this was not yet public knowledge and bankruptcy proceedings would not begin until 1922. He was committed for trial for fraudulently appropriating clients' funds for his own use. However, in 1914 all this was in the future and his war history was to be impressive. It was he who went, with the rank of major, to France with the sixth battalion of the South Staffordshire regiment. It was one of the first territorial battalions to serve in France and by 1915 Thomas had been made up to Lieutenant Colonel and put in charge. At the battle of Vermelles he was cut down, severely wounded by shrapnel and not expected to live. It says something of the man, for a year later at the age of fifty-one he was again ready for duty.

In 1924 with his now public financial disgrace the Hall was sold to a local industrialist. Francis J Gibbons of the Wolverhampton lockmaking and ornamental ironwork firm. He had been living at The Beeches, in  what had been the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century Upper Penn farm. As Francis moved to Penn Hall the Penn hospital moved from St. Catherine's Crescent to the Beeches. Older residents remember Francis as a kindly man and he stayed at the Hall until his death in 1948. After the war accommodation of any sort was at a premium and many of Wolverhampton's larger houses found alternative roles e.g., Muchall Grove as accommodation for the town planners, Claremont as an old people's home.

So it was to be that Penn Hall was bought by the expanding borough police service. It was used as a residential and training hostel for the next 25 years.

In 1974 and with the creation of a West Midlands Police Authority, the Hall was again sold. It was bought by the education committee and developed and expanded as the Penn Hall School. There is much tasteful new building, which complements the Georgian mansion on this site. Raphael Sedgwick would be pleased that his plans for a hospital almost 300 years ago, have today, in spirit, become a reality. Penn Hall School serves the needs of students with physical handicap. The wheel has thus turned full circle.

Angus Dunphy

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