Thursday, 25 January 2007

Nocton Hall - 2nd World War and beyond

Nocton Hospital

In 1948, Nocton Hall and about 100 acres of adjoining land were requisitioned by the Air Ministry. The Hall (used as the living quarters for the female officers of the RAF Medical staff), wards and other buildings were fully renovated. Married quarters for officers and men were also built. This General Military Hospital became part of a 740-bed RAF medical facility until 1984.

The hospital was then leased to the United States Airforce as a wartime contingency hospital during the Gulf War. More than 1,300 US medical staff were sent to the hall - many were billeted at RAF Scampton. In all that period, only 35 casualties had to be treated.

RAF Nocton Hall was finally handed back to the British Government in September 1995. It was then bought by a private owner who turned the hall into a residential home.

Nocton Estate

The Nocton Estate came under the ownership of a company - Agricultural Estates Ltd. F Le Neve Foster advised on 9th July 1962 (in a letter to one Mr Ireson):
“So far as I recollect, the Estate, with other large farms, was sold by Dennis and Sons to a public company floated by Hatry in 1920 to which the public were invited to subscribe on the basis of a valuation by Knight, Frank and Rutley. This flotation has particular interest because I believe it was the only occasion on which the Public were invited to subscribe to a purely farming enterprise. It was not a success and never paid a dividend.”

From 1948 the Company commenced to renovate and repair the houses and buildings, which over the years were brought into good condition. The horses were replaced by a fleet of sixty tractors, twelve combines, pick up balers, a fleet of lorries, sugar beet harvesters, mechanical potato planters, and other modern machines and this fully mechanised the Estate.

The light railway was later removed and some twenty miles of roadways laid, thereby enabling potatoes to be loaded direct from field to factory. Indoor potato stores were erected and buildings altered for controlling chitting of seed potatoes. Two corn dryers were erected which with the storage capacity of the Mill could hold 4,500 tons.

The company has also paid particular attention to the development of the social amenities in the village and large halls, each with a Club licence for serving drinks, were provided in Nocton and Dunston.

Nocton, it is very evident, has seen more changes than many an English village so deep in the heart of the country. Formerly bound up in the fortunes of the Hall, Nocton witnessed large-scale commercial farming. It was part of a progressive era in agricultural history, though to see its cottages, a gracious farm or two, a tiny post-office, the quiet stone walls and colourful cottage gardens, one might imagine it to be olde-worlde, peaceful, and untouched by the modern spirit of change.

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