Nuthurst is a small but ancient place, one of the earliest mentioned in the records of Warwickshire. The name means ‘nut wood’ and in 709 Coenred, the Anglo Saxon king of Mercia gave ‘the woodland aet Hnuthyrst’ to Worcester Cathedral. Later, in 872, the then Bishop of Worcester gave Nuthurst to Eanwulf, a servant of the King.
By the time of the Norman Conquest, Nuthurst formed part of the manor and parish of Hampton in Arden, nine miles distant. The new Norman overlords were the de Mowbray family, who granted Nuthurst to the Hasting and, by 1272, the Trussell family. It was Sir William Trussell of Nuthurst who, in 1326, informed King Edward II that he was deposed in favour of his son. The Trussell manor house was on the site of Nuthurst House, nor Nuthurst Farm, wherein 1331 a park was established. An area enclosed with a bank and palisade, it contained game, wild boar, deer, rabbits etc. where the family and their friends could hawk and hunt. The Trussells remained at Nuthurst until about 1640 when the manor was sold; by 1750 it had become absorbed into the manor of Knowle, the manor lands ultimately passing to the Umberslade Hall estate.
Because it was too far to travel to the parish church, Nuthurst was permitted, by the 12th century, to have its own chapel and resident priest, but under the control of the vicar of Hampton in Arden. In the early 17th century the Hampton vicar attempted to destroy Nuthurst chapel by neglect and then by removing the chancel roof. He was obliged to repair it but, by 1730, the building was a ruin. Meanwhile, Nuthurst people worshipped at neighbouring Lapworth church until 1834 when a new small chapel was built on the old chapel site, close to Obelisk Farm. This is thought to be the site of the medieval priest’s house.
The obelisk from which the farm takes its name is a prominent landmark. It was erected by Thomas Archer of Umberslade Hall in 1747, it is thought to celebrate his being raised to the peerage, though this is not certain as such structures were a fashionable addition to a gentleman’s estate. Lord Archer was very proud of the honour, and also of the obelisk which was meant to be topped by a copper globe and gilt cross.
For centuries Nuthurst was a sparsely populated farming community but as travelling increased, the ancient road to Stratford was turnpiked in 1726, the Old Warwick Road in 1767, and the Stratford upon Avon canal reached Hockley Heath in 1800. From this time Hockley Heath started to develop with a wharf, inns and other commercial enterprises. The advent of the railway in 1852 with stations at Dorridge and Lapworth made the wider area attractive to Birmingham businessmen who improved old or built new houses. Nuthurst Grange was one of these.
In 1878, a new parish, Nuthurst-cum-Hockley Heath, was formed from Nuthurst and parts of neighbouring parishes and a new church, St Thomas’, built. At last, Nuthurst was released from its long connections to Hampton in Arden. Also erected at this time was Umberslade Baptist church, endowed by Mr G.G. Muntz who acquired Umberslade Hall in 1857 and who was a staunch Baptist.
The 20th century saw Hockley Heath grow with random groups of houses, shops and services for the passing trade. Since 1945, more houses have been built and it has become a desirable place to live. Nuthurst however, despite some changes and the intrusion of the M40, remains mainly rural.
The house on the site of Nuthurst Grange was begun by Mr William Dugard of Lapworth House, Wharf Lane, Lapworth sometime before 1882 on condition that Mr Dugard would complete the building. This he did and Mr Deeley was the first tenant but he died the following year. A succession of tenants followed including Mr and Mrs Edwin Clutterbuck and Mr and Mrs W.H. Wale, both of whom later moved to other houses within the area.
The Ordnance Survey map of 1886 shows the house at the end of a long drive which started much closes to the Nuthurst Grange Lane/Stratford Road corner than now. It also shows that, at that time, it was called Nuthurst Lodge. By 1896, however, the house was called Nuthurst Grange, the tenant then being Mr John W. Matthews. Two years later Mr Frank Pyle Taunton took up the tenancy and stayed until 1904. In that year the house was purchased from Mr Dugard by Mr Harry Gilman, a widely known midland industrialist who lived there until his death in 1934. Mr Dugard is said to have always planted an avenue of chestnut trees at houses he built; sadly the Nuthurst Grange Avenue has long disappeared. He also owned a smallholding to the east of the drive and another house which had taken the name of Nuthurst Lodge. Both were purchased by Mr Gilman a few years after he bought the Grange.
In 1934 the estate was sold to Mr C.J. Newey who died in 1938. The following year it was bought by Mr Walter F. Higgs and his wife. Mr Higgs, the Conservative M.P. for West Birmingham, was Chairman of Higgs Motors Limited, Witton, Birmingham and, in 1948, President of Birmingham Chamber of Trade. His hobby was farming and he extended the estate by purchasing land from the Umberslade estate.
As may be expected, over the years, the house was altered by the various occupants to make a very comfortable family residence with a pleasant wooded garden and fine views over the fields and Nuthurst valley.
In the early 1960’s Mr Higgs sold the property to Mr & Mrs Rex Hardy, the farm being run by Miss Pool, Mrs Hardy’s sister, who most successfully bred prize-winning Hereford cattle. Throughout the 1960’s the threat of the M40 and the various proposed routes greatly concerned the district’s residents. When the line of the road was finally determined, many farmers found access to distant fields compromised. Mr & Mrs Hardy decide to retire from full-time farming and move to a smaller house.
Nuthurst Grange then became a small country house hotel. Subsequently, under the successful ownership of David and Darryl Randolph, the building was enlarged by duplicating the front façade to add the present dining room and conference rooms with bedrooms above.
The current owner, Mr Paul Hopwood, having taken over the hotel in 2006, has made many changes, upgrading many of the bedrooms and including the addition of four superior rooms on the 2nd floor of the hotel, one of which, ‘The Bridal Suite’, has patio doors opening out onto a balcony overlooking the well-tended gardens and comes complete with table, chairs and sun lounger. The completion of the tasteful refurbishment to the old stable block to add an additional wine bar, conference and private function suites has now added that final touch to bring the hotel up to date to allow the Hotel to keep up with the demand for bookings whilst still maintaining the County House Hotel look and appeal.