Shelford Hall

Little Shelford Hall

Shelford Hall was the family seat of the Wale family who were the principal landowners in  Little Shelford for 300 years.


The first Shelford Hall, or the Old House, was built  on land off Bridge Lane in 1640. It was altered in 1764 by Thomas Wale and then largely demolished in 1852.


A new Gothic style house (pictured left), known at the time as the New Hall, was erected around 100 metres north of the current Wale Recreation Ground. It had six bedrooms. The servants' quarters were on the third floor.

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 of a 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.


Press reports suggest that there were 9 people in the hall at the time of the fire. None of them was injured.

The Lodge to Shelford Hall still stands on the corner of Bridge Road and Whittlesford Road (in 2021, it is the distinct yellow building). This building was the north wing of the original 17th century Old 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 Museum of Cambridge though it is not currently on display. (You can ask to see it.) Photos of the model can be seen here.

The original gates to the New Hall can still be seen on Whittlesford Road (See photo below) . Several outbuildings from the New Hall including the former stables can also be seen from the road. They have now been converted into two homes off Bridge Lane, Little Shelford.

Click here to see photos of the New Hall and drawings of the Old Hall.

Click here to read about what life was like at Little Shelford New Hall.

Click here to see photos after the fire at the New Hall               

Click here to see photos of a model of the Old Hall - it is currently in the possession of the Museum of Cambridge but not on display.

View below of the remains of the Hall from Whittlesford Road


Painting of Shelford New Hall from what is now Little Shelford Rec, with the former ice ponds in the foreground.

Plans of the New Hall drawn from memory by 
John Altham, who lived there as a boy. Read some of his 
memories about growing up in the Hall.

This is a painting of the New Hall.

This is a painting of the wedding of Adelaide Wale in 1881.
It features the north side of the New Hall.

This painting of Shelford New Hall was painted by Fanny
Wale in 1897. It features the north side of the hall.
The painting was unknown until it was put up for sale on
Ebay in May 2020.

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.