The Changing Uses of Sprowston Grange
The Building of Sprowston Grange
Throughout its life this building has seen many different owners and tenants as well as changes of name. Although it is a problem to know exactly when the Grange was built it certainly pre dates 1845. In that year of 1845 the Directory of Norfolk lists the owner as being Captain H J Stracey although it is doubtful that he ever resided at the Grange as his family home was at nearby Rackheath Hall. Ethel Smyth wrote that Sprowston Grange was dower house belonging to the Stracey family.
A dower house is usually a moderately large house available for the widow of the estate owner or could be simply rented out to a tenant. The later seems to have applied in the case of the Grange as there were a number of different tenants over the years.
Staffing of The Grange as a Dower House
When not occupied tenant members of staff were often placed at these houses to live in and to look after the property and grounds until a new tenant moved in or some member or friends of the family needed accommodation or for a holiday, shooting weekends or some other social event. This appears to be the case in 1851 as Thomas Ives a gardener and his family were found living in the house and again in 1861 when William Warner also a gardener and his family were listed there. Although the list below is not complete these are some of people found who at some time were residing at the Grange.
Residents in the late 1800’s
Marianna Lubbock a widow was residing there in 1863 her status described as living off income from land. By 1875 she had moved to Catton, in 1881 a Samuel Westgate probably an employee of the Stracey family was listed as being in charge of the house.
In 1890 Godfrey Trevelyan Fawcett was staying at the house, he was employed by the Home Office as H M Inspector of Factories his stay only lasted for a short time obviously moving elsewhere when his work in this part of the country was completed.
Colonel Hugh Eastwood of the Kings Dragoon Guards had been transferred to Norwich along with his regiment in 1893 he was to take up residency at Sprowston Grange staying there until his unit was posted to India.
Residents in the early 1900’s
Edward George Keppel 1847-1934 a Colonel in the Army had served with the Highland Light Infantry and later His Majesty`s Bodyguard had moved into the Grange by 1900. His name was listed there until at least 1915, as he also had a home in Kensington where he died in 1934 therefore it is not known how much time he actually spent living at the Grange.
Charles R A Hammond 1855-1959 a director at Barclays Bank in Norwich became the next person to own Sprowston Grange. In all probability nearby Hammond Way was named after him when it was built during the 1930`s. Mr Hammond by all accounts was a very keen gardener and spent much time and resources in creating gardens at the Grange.
It was on the 9 July 1940 that the wife of one of his gardeners Mrs. Kate Lovett aged 60 years became the first person to be killed in a bombing raid in the Norwich area. She and her husband were living at the Grange which was hit by a bomb from the raid on Barnard`s factory on Mousehold Heath. Damage to one end of the house resulted in having to have that part of the house rebuilt.
Change from residence to gaming and leisure venue
In Sept 1965 Sprowston Grange was bought at auction by A R Stringer only for him to sell it in November for an undisclosed sum to Roy Dashwood. Mr. Dashwood had previously bought the adjoining land which included a golf course. Having secured the building Roy Dashwood was to open what was then the only modern style nightclub in and around Norwich calling it the Washington Club 400. Offering entertainment including strippers one being the well-known Tropical Linda, there had never been such a venue before and it certainly drew the crowds in, the club was also unique in its day by having its own casino. Many well-known entertainers were to appear at the Washington including Bob Monkhouse, Frankie Howard, Danny La Rue, Englebert Humperdinck etc. the entertainer and singer Tony Weston was a popular regular performer at the club.
As hotel, pub and eatery
In June 1970, the club was closed having lost its licence after a change in the gaming laws. The Washington was then put up for auction and sold for £40,000 to William Chapman a farmer from Martham. Roy Dashwood retained 28 acres of land which included the golf course, he was to try later for planning permission to develop the site for housing but the application was refused.
Over the years Srowston Grange has had numerous owners which in turn gave way to the establishment being renamed on several occasions. The Hotel Eiger managed by Chris Baumann from Zurich was in existence for a while. It was also to trade under the names of The Georgian Hotel as well as Eberneezers. In 1995 it became the Racecourse Inn and was to remain as such under the ownership of Horizon Inns and its parent company the Richardson Group before being sold to Anglian Restaurants. The Racecourse is currently one of the Castle Carvery restaurant outlets, reopening in 2013 after a short closure for refurbishment. It remains a popular family venue with the added attraction of an extensive play area for children.
Location of Sprowston Grange on Salhouse Road from a 1926 OS map.