Hesslewood House, which is sometimes referred to as Hesslewood Hall, was the main feature of the Hesslewood Estate and the grandest of the several mansions built in Hessle. The house took its name from Hessle Wood, an area of ancient woodland that provided extensive views over the Humber and north Lincolnshire. As Baines recorded in his directory (1823) the house faces south and “commands a fine view of the Humber, but less extensive than from the house of Mr Cooper, and others on top of the hill”.
Hesslewood House is built from cream brick, which was very fashionable at the time, and has stone details. The hipped roof is of slate. In the centre of the main block is a fine south facing doorway looking down towards the river. This has pilasters on each side and a richly decorated pediment showing festoons and rosettes. The main block of the house has five bays and two stories with an attic floor above. To either side of the house there are single storey wings and two storey pediment pavilions. Inside there were many elegantly furnished rooms and a beautiful mahogany staircase together with a magnificent marble fireplace in the drawing room.
The main entrance to the house was from Hesslewood crossroads whilst a second entrance was half a mile along the road towards Ferriby. The lodge cottage at the entrance to the estate still stands at the crossroads.
A house on the estate was owned by Leonard Chamberlain in 1716 and this was leased (by the Chamberlain Charity Trustees) to Joseph Pease, the fpunder of the merchant and banking family of Hull, in 1749. Joseph Robinson Pease (grandson of Joseph and nephew of the unmarried Robert, who predeceased his father) came into the house in 1778, when he inherited his grandfather’s estate. He was the son of Mary Robinson, and had taken the name of Pease (by Royal Sign Manual on April 29th 1773), according to his grandfather’s wishes. There is now no trace of this earlier house, which may have been built in the early eighteenth century, but the stables have a sundial which bears a date of 1765.
The Pease family were, first merchants, manufacturers, shippers and traders with a variety of interests, and later bankers in Hull and, as befitted their station needed a residence away from town, though they did not live at Hesslewood permanently until communications between Hessle and Hull improved. Hesslewood was very much a residence for the warmer and drier months of the year. Joseph Robinson Pease (snr) also engaged Charles Mountain (snr) to design a row of houses on Charlotte Street, now George Street, in Hull one of which (number 12 – now demolished) was used as the family’s winter residence and where his widow lived from 1807 until her death. The house was described as the finest house on the most desirable street in Hull. In 1816 Joseph's mother died and the following year he removed to Hesslewood. With the development of the Hull-Hessle turnpike road, in 1825, the journey into town became easier, and later the Hull and Selby railway, 1840, made it quicker.
Joseph Robinson Pease, jnr
Under the Window Tax of the 1770s Hesslewood House was taxed on 27 windows. When Joseph Robinson Pease (snr) came into possession of Hesslewood in 1778 it seems that he decided to replace it with a newer, finer residence. The timings of this work are clouded because Pease did not yet own the property, but he again employed Charles Mountain, to design and oversee the redevelopment. Mountain’s accounts suggest that this work took around six years to complete at a cost of around £4,500, which was the value of the house in 1793. Much of this development can be seen today, though there have been further alterations and improvements. Living in the family’s town house in Hull whilst the work took place Pease often rode out to see how the work was progressing and, no doubt, chivvied the builders to work faster! It would seem that the prime reason for moving from Hull to Hesslewood was not for the attractiveness of the estate but for business reasons connected with the chalk quarry below the estate in order to supply his paint and whiting works.
The property did not formally come into the ownership of the Pease family until 1788 when the trustees of the Chamberlain Trust exchanged Hesslewood for property elsewhere. Pease was a man of considerable local influence and he took advice and help from William Wilberforce in obtaining an Act of Parliament which allowed him to exchange lands elsewhere for the Hesslewood estate. Even then there was some speculation about the legality of the exchange, though the matter was never brought to court: the clerk of the Chamberlain Trust, a Mr Newton, was also in the employ of Pease. Having successfully become the owner of Hesslewood Pease now developed it into a mansion that befitted his growing wealth and status. He also set about buying up other parcels of land in the area to extend his estate.
Hesslewood continued to be occupied by the Pease family throughout the nineteenth century with Joseph R Pease (jnr) residing there until his death in 1866 and Colonel Joseph Walker Pease becoming a great benefactor to the Church of All Saints in the second half of the nineteenth century. Francis Pease also lived there in 1879 and 1888 whilst Joseph R Pease also lived there. In the 1911 census Joseph and Horey Pease are recoded in Chelsea but he gives his home address as Hesslewood. It seems that he may have been the last of the family to live there. As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Garrison Artillery he was killed in May 1915.
Joseph Walker Pease
In 1920 the Hull Seamen’s and General Orphanage purchased the house and grounds to provide accommodation for the orphan children of seafarers. The children visited the House in 1920 and the girls moved in January 1921 with the boys following in February. This was an appropriate move as JR Pease (jnr) had been the first Chairman of the Mariners’ Church Orphan Society which was the forerunner of the HSGO. Some changes to the building were made but the main central block of the house remained intact and still is. However, the house proved costly to run and keep in good repair, and despite economies by the 1980s Hesslewood proved to be too expensive for the organisation and closed in 1985.
Towards the end of the twentieth century the house was used as a hotel and a residential home, and it is now used for business purposes. This, at least, has ensured its survival.
Of course such a house required a large staff of servants to manage it, to keep it clean and in good repair and to provide for the needs of the Pease family. Further staff were required to look after the gardens and stables. The census returns from the nineteenth century show us who lived at Hesslewood and the number of servants needed to keep the house spick and span. In 1841 six members of the family were in residence and one visitor whilst seventeen live-in servants worked there. Ten years later there were ten members of the Pease family were resident together with thirteen staff including Sarah Pratt (who was featured in Newsletter No 66 and served the family for 49 years). By 1861 there are eight family with five visitors and fifteen servants. 1881 shows there to be only four family members with fourteen staff, five visitors and fifteen servants. In 1891 we see four family and thirteen staff present. In all years there were further servants and staff who came in daily or worked on the estate.