The Stables at Marske Hall are a fine mid-eighteenth century quadrangular layout of stone, built by John Hutton II (1691-1768) circa 1741. The Huttons lived at Marske from the sixteenth century when the estate was bought by Matthew Hutton Archbishop of York until the 1950s when they died out and the estate broken up. (It had already gone through the female line to the Darcy Huttons in the nineteenth century). The Huttons were a leading Yorkshire gentry family in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The stables are listed Grade II. The house itself is an Elizabethan house, attributed to Robert Smythson, and was classicized by John Hutton circa 1730, when the third storey was added and the windows sashed. The modernised house was inherited in 1731 by his son John Hutton II who was one of the leading Yorkshire horse-breeders of his day, and rebuilt the stables. (It is now in separate private ownership).
The stables were slightly altered in the nineteenth century, but the general form survives. Following the break-up of the estate in the 1950s, they were sold off separately from the house, and part converted to residential and parish hall. Today they are a mixture of empty and unused areas and makeshift conversion. They have recently been acquired by Roger Tempest, well-known for his conversion work of stable and farm buildings including the grand Victorian stable block at nearby Aske Hall, and the eighteenth century Home Farm at Harewood House. The proposal is to restore the buildings and to convert them for holiday lettings. The plans have been drawn up by the respected Yorkshire firm of architects, Francis Johnson & Partners.
The stables at Marske are of special interest for their historical connection with Yorkshire eighteenth century horse-breeding and equestrian enthusiasms, and for the architectural ambition and distinction as a fine classical design.
Marske is situated in fine country near Richmond. Viscount Torrington found himself ‘in rapture at the first view’ when he visited in 1792. It remains a Georgian estate landscape, though Marske Hall was sold in the 1950s, and the estate broken up.
The estate had been inherited by John Hutton II in 1731. He was among the leading horse enthusiasts in Yorkshire in the eighteenth century, a period when there was great interest in the breeding and racing of horses, with the development of the race courses at York, Doncaster and Richmond, and stud farms and ambitious new stable blocks at many country houses. Horace Walpole when he visited the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, the leader of Yorkshire society, at Wentworth Woodhouse, recorded that ‘this Lord loves nothing but horses, and the enclosures for them take place of everything.’ Rising standards of stable design, with larger stalls for the horses, and more emphasis on ventilation and drainage, was a reflection of this equine interest. As well as accommodation for horses for racing, riding, hunting and carriages, facilities were provided for the breeding of horses.
Horse-breeding and racing were a favourite occupation of landowners like John Hutton II. Until the nineteenth century most horse-breeding took place on gentlemen’s estates, not at special stud farms. Eighteenth century country house stables that included a stud differed little in layout arrangement and design from country-house stables in general. But the strong enthusiasm of the principal horse owners and breeders was reflected in the scale and splendid design of their buildings. Such eighteenth century stable blocks were often grander than the houses of the owners themselves as at Studley Royal, and at Hovingham where the stables and riding school formed part of the house itself. Thomas Worsley designed his own house-stables- riding school at Hovingham, for he was an amateur architect as well as a horse enthusiast. The two interests were closely inter-woven, as the profit from selling horses paid for building his own stables and riding school. He was a friend of John Hutton II, and designed the stables at Marske for him, as model of Georgian stables layout.
Samuel Buck’s engraving of Marske in the early-eighteenth century shows a large collection of stables and outbuildings with a clock tower to the south of the house. John Hutton II demolished these, and built his fine new stable block in 1741 on a new site higher up the hill to the southwest which was chosen for better ventilation, always a high priority with planned Georgian stable blocks. The new block is two-storeyed and forms a quadrangle entered through a central arch with a tall stone clock cupola above. Marske is a typical well-planned classical stable design. The attribution of the design to Thomas Worsley was made originally by Giles Worsey, a descendent, who wrote an Oxford BA thesis on the architecture of Thomas Worsley (1711-1778).
Thomas Worsley of Hovingham Hall was a Yorkshire landowner, horse-breeder and amateur architect who was Surveyor of the Office of Works from 1760 until his death in 1778. He was educated at Eton and the Swiss Riding Academy at Geneva, before travelling widely on the Continent. He succeeded to Hovingham in 1751. Horace Walpole described him as ‘a creature of Lord Bute, and a kind of riding master to the King.’ He was an equerry to George II and George III. His interest in architecture went back to childhood and he was a competent draughtsman making his own drawings. His own house at Hovingham, the eighteenth century Riding School at Buckingham Palace (remodeled by Nash in the early-nineteenth century) and the stab les at Marske are his principal executed architectural works of importance.
The stables were altered internally in the nineteenth century when many of the original timber stalls were removed and replaced with loose boxes, as happened in most English stables. The cupola with a lead ogee roof and wrought iron weathervane were also added to the original clock tower at that time. In the twentieth century, the stables ceased to be used for their original purpose.
After being sold off in the 1950s the complex was part converted to residential, and the upper floor used as a Village Hall. Many of the stalls and loose-boxes were removed as part of these conversion works. The buildings have latterly been empty.