Little Shelford Hall was the family seat of the Wale family who were the principal landowners of the village for 300 years.
The first Shelford Hall, or the Old House, was built in 1640. It was altered in 1764 by Thomas Wale and then largely demolished in 1852.
A new Gothic style house was erected (pictured left) around 90m north of the current Wale Recreation Ground. The hall burnt down in 1929. As the insurance covered only the value of the mortgage, rebuilding was not an option.
The owner at the time of the fire was Fanny Lucretia Wale, the compiler of the book “A Record of Shelford Parva”. She had not lived in the Hall for a quarter century, having let it to a relative for much of that time.
Mrs Eaden was living there at the time of the blaze - 24th February 1929 - when a fire, believed to have originated in the pantry, gutted the entire building. The roof caved in and there was little chance to retrieve any of the contents.
The Lodge to Shelford Hall stands on the corner of Bridge Road and Whittlesford Road. This building was the north wing of the original 17th century Hall and it was retained to be used as an entrance lodge to the new house. There is a model of the original building in the possession of the Cambridge and County Folk Museum though it is not currently on display. Photos of the model can be seen here.
Click here to see the hall fire photos
Click here to see Shelford Hall photos
Views of the remains of the hall today from Whittleford Road
From the Victorian County History of Cambridgeshire
A considerable estate was built up in Little Shelford from the early 18th century by the Wale family. Gregory Wale (d. 1739) bought from Gilbert Wigmore a house and land there which he left to his son Hitch Wale (d. 1749), with remainder to his other son Thomas. (fn. 76) In 1765 Thomas leased the house from Hitch's widow who had a life interest. (fn. 77) Thomas, a Riga merchant, bought other land in the parish, and on his death in 1796 at the age of 95 was succeeded by his son Charles, later General Sir Charles Wale, (fn. 78) who after inclosure in 1815 held c. 380 a. in Little Shelford. Thomas had left his estate to his daughter, Margaretta Philippina, who after 1815 held c. 140 a. (fn. 79) Her estate, known as King's farm, passed on her death in 1841 through her niece Isabella Willis to Robert Gregory Wale, and then to Isabella's son-in-law J. F. Eaden. (fn. 80) Sir Charles Wale's eldest surviving son Alexander Malcolm succeeded his father in 1845, and in 1850 sold his Little Shelford estate to his brother Robert Gregory Wale (d. 1892). The latter's son R. F. Wale died in 1893 and was succeeded by his five sisters whose estates eventually descended to Miss Norah Cecil Wale Powell (fl. 1962). R. G. Wale's brother Charles Brent Wale (d. 1864) also held an estate in Little Shelford, known as Saintfoins. It passed in turn to his son Frederick and grandson C. G. B. Wale (fl. 1937). (fn. 81)
The Wale family's house, known as Shelford House or Hall or the Old House, south-east of the church, was of 17th-century origin. It was altered in 1764 by Thomas Wale (fn. 82) and largely demolished c. 1852. The north wing, which has walls of 18th century brick but has been much altered, was left as an entrance lodge to a new house built in a Gothic style for R. G. Wale by W. J. Donthorn. (fn. 83) Much of that building was burnt down in 1928 (sic). The north wing and parts of the mid 19th-century stabling, converted into private houses, survived in 1980. Between 1775 and 1845 a family mausoleum, designed by William Wilkins, stood west of the house in Camping Close. (fn. 84) The house stood in a small park adjoining the Whittlesford road.