Sutton Scarsdale Hall may have provided the nucleus of the idea for D H Lawrence’s characters Clifford and Constance in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, because the marriage of William Arkwright, the last owner, was blighted by the consequences of a hunting accident.
Sutton Scarsdale is not, however, Lawrence’s “Wragby Hall” – “a long, low old house in brown stone, begun about the middle of the eighteenth century, and added on to, till it was a warren of a place without much distinction”. It’s generally agreed that Lawrence was visualising Renishaw Hall, in the north-east corner of Derbyshire, though the actual house is anything but lacking in distinction.
The late eighteenth-century owner, Sitwell Sitwell (his name is another story) built the elegant apsed dining room in 1794, and the grand east wing, with plasterwork by the local sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey, in 1803-8. When it was finished the Prince Regent visited, and made Sitwell Sitwell a baronet.
Lawrence and his wife Frieda met Sir Osbert Sitwell, who invited them to call at Renishaw on one of their rare visits to Derbyshire in the 1920s.
When they eventually visited there was no-one at home but the butler, who took against the odd-looking couple: it’s likely that their accents wouldn’t quite fit the bill, he the son of a Derbyshire miner, she the daughter of a German baron.
Consequently, all they saw of the house was the front hall. They were shown in the front door and straight out the back into the garden – with the result that Wragby Hall is based on, but is only a shadow of, the actual Renishaw Hall.
The gamekeeper called Mellors, by the way, worked at Welbeck.
UPDATE: The Observer of November 13th 2011 contained an edited reprint of Dame Edith Sitwell’s account of the Lawrences’ visit. Evidently they met only once.
“He talked to us a great deal about our parents, explaining their characters to us. Mrs Lawrence…explained the natives of Bloomsbury to me…”
Afterwards, in a lecture she gave in Liverpool, Dame Edith described Lawrence as the head of the Jaeger school of poetry – hot, soft and woolly. The Jaeger company took exception, saying that their clothes were indeed soft and woolly, but not hot. Dame Edith was contrite, and told Messrs Jaeger that “their works were unshrinkable by time, whereas the works of Lawrence, in my opinion, are not”.
Renishaw Gardens, Museum and Galleries are open regularly through the summer. The Hall can be visited only on pre-booked tours. Details are at http://www.sitwell.co.uk.