Building work on Ellenborough Park was started in the early 1500s by Thomas Goodman, and it was known for many years as Southam House. Goodman’s coat of arms and initials can still be seen today on the hall door.
Around 1520, Thomas sold his unfinished house to Sir John Huddleston from Cumbria, and it was he who completed the original Southam House. This remains as the heart of the now extended building and includes the Great Hall and the two-story cross wing to the south with two bay windows.
In 1554, Sir John Huddleston’s granddaughter, Eleanor, married Kinnard de la Bere. The coat of arms that can still be seen above the mantelpiece in what was the ‘parlor’ represents the marriage of the two families. In 1609, the house descended to Eleanor and Kinnard’s son, Richard de la Bere, who made major changes to show his new status. These included a new cross wing at the southern end and the magnificent staircase, as well as many rooms being panelled in oak. To mark these improvements, the de la Bere coat of arms was displayed on the panelling in the library, where it can still be seen today.
The house stayed in the de la Bere family until it was sold in 1833 to Edward Law, who became 1st Earl of Ellenborough and was best known for being Governor General of India from 1842 to 1844. Earl Ellenborough made further improvements to the house, extensively rebuilding the north range of buildings, adding two towers, and building a new porch on the site of the original one. This created the historic Southam House as it stands today, and during this time, in 1865, it became known as Southam Delabere.
On Earl Ellenborough’s death in December 1871, all his lands passed to his extended family but Southam House was bequeathed to his son, Edward. After Edward’s death, Southam House and the landed estates were rented out until the estate was broken up in 1927. In 1947, a Miss Bellamy opened The Oriel Private School for Girls on the site, which existed for 25 years. The house was then sold and became the Hotel Delabere until that closed in 2008. And the next chapter in the life of this stunning historic building is now unfolding...