IN 1933 Ernest Turner, a builder from Keighley, bought the Sutton Hall Estate at auction for £3,000. It consisted of a large mansion house, a separate stable block, three lodges and twenty five acres of garden and parkland.

The Hall and surrounding estate is said to have cost £40,000 to build less than 40 years earlier. Within another ten years the house had been demolished and the extensive gardens cleared to make way for what is now the Hall Drive and Way housing estate.

Sutton Hall was the project of mill owner John William Hartley, known in the village as John Willie. He was a reclusive and dedicated bachelor whose interests were business and poultry breeding.

He was born in Sutton at Prospect House in Low Fold in 1851 and was the second child and only son of William Hartley who owned Greenroyd Mill. After the death of his father in 1883 he inherited the business and continued to live in Prospect House, a modest dwelling with an adjoining coach house and stable block.

In 1892 he bought the Sutton House Estate and conceived the idea of using the land to build himself a grand mansion house and gardens. To design the hall and grounds he employed Samuel Jackson, a Bradford architect with close connections to the village. Samuel was a Sutton lad and had been born at the Black Bull Inn where his father was the landlord.

John Willie was a frequent wool buyer at the Bradford Wool Exchange and after completing his business was well able to visit Samuel at his offices nearby in Piccadilly to discuss the project.

The Hall was approached from the village High Street through a castellated gate flanked on either side by lodges.

The wrought iron gates themselves were made by the village blacksmith, Wilson Davy, and are now on the entrance to Cliffe Castle in Showfield. The drive was lit all the way to the Hall by gas lamps and the beck had to be crossed twice.

The first bridge had stone dogs surmounting the pedestals and is still known today by the older villagers as Dog Bridge. A second lodge stood at the tradesmen’s entrance to the Hall in West Lane.

At the front of the Hall two tiers of steps led down to lawns, with a tennis court to the far left. Beyond the lawns, down further steps, was a kidney-shaped boating lake with a central fountain: the lake is said to have had an artificial swan floating on it.

Behind the Hall stood the stable and alongside the beck was a circular walk through woodland in what is now the lower part of Sutton Clough.

John Willie was so obsessed with his privacy that he bought and pulled down all the farms and houses that overlooked the estate.

He replaced some of the houses with two short rows of terrace houses at the bottom of West Lane, the upper one of which had no rear windows to prevent any view across the estate. It was known locally as Blind Row.

The Hall itself was designed in the Jacobethan, or Jacobean Revival, style with a central entrance hall and a reception room on left and a dining room on the right.

To the rear of the dining room were the kitchens and other service rooms. The staircase rose centrally from the entrance hall and above it was a tower from which John Willie could look out across his gardens and parkland.

When John Willie died, after a long illness, at the age of 59 in 1909 parts of the hall were still unfinished and the stable block had only been completed in 1907. His elder sister, Elizabeth, had died childless two years earlier and therefore he left the estate to a cousin called Emma Hartley.

The probate valuation was just in excess of £100,000 and although Emma moved into the Hall she was never totally comfortable in it and eventually built herself a modest house opposite the village park in Holme Lane, Sutton.