A house fit for a Queen
A work still in progress.....!
CHARLES BARNARD (1804 - 1871)
In the Post Office Directory of 1869 and the 1871 census (below), the Hall's resident is Charles Barnard, aged 67, 'Engineer & Ironfounder', born Bracon Ash. Charles was the son of George & Mary Barnard who had lived at Mergate Farm until George's death in 1842. Charles was returning to his roots - to the somewhat more prestigious Mergate Hall next to where he had been brought up!
Charles Barnard opened an ironworks in Pottergate, Norwich in 1842, and 4 years later went into partnership with John Bishop. In 1859, Charles Barnard's sons Charles and Godfrey joined the partnership making 4 Bs: Barnard, Bishop and Barnards - using the trade sign of 4 bees, 2 larger and 2 smaller for the sons! Aware of the problems caused by stray animals, Charles snr. set about experimenting with a weaving machine that could make wire netting. Unfortunately he did not live to see the firm's new premises 'over the water' where they moved in 1871. These included a large foundry and a netting mill with powered looms. The netting was sent world-wide and rabbit-proof netting for Australia helped make the Barnard fortune. Their ornamental wrought iron-work designed by Jeckyll also gained the firm national attention - the intricate 'Norwich Gates' exhibited at the 1862 International Exhibition won ecstatic praise. Their work can still be seen at Thorpe Station - and in Mergate Hall, where he lived until his death in 1871.
EDMUND BROUGHTON KNOWLES LACON (1842 - 1899)
Eldest son of Sir Edmund Henry Knowles Lacon (1807 - 1888), businessman and baronet, brewer and banker, and MP for North Norfolk. Laycon's Brewery had been a successful Yarmouth business from the mid-18th century. Edmund B K Lacon is listed as a resident of Mergate Hall in 1877 (Harrod's Directory) and 1881. In 1888 (after he had left Bracon Ash) he succeeded his father as the 4th Baronet Lacon of Great Yarmouth. The Lacon family were involved with the Kemps in Norfolk Bank Lacon Youll & Kemp which later became part of Lloyd's Bank.
SIR KENNETH HAGAR KEMP (1853 - 1936)
When Sir Kenneth came to live at Mergate Hall, he was probably the first owner to live there after several centuries of tenants. He was the son of Nunn Robert Prettyman Kemp, and took his unusual middle name from his mother's maiden name. He was only 6 when his father died and he was sent to the Clergy Orphan School in Canterbury. He had barely graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge when he inherited the baronetcy and estates of Gissing in 1874 through the death of two uncles who had no children. Thus he became the 12th - and as it turned out, the last Baronet.
Sir Kenneth was a cricketer (he played with the MCC and for England on a few occasions); he joined the army and served with several Norfolk Regiments; he trained as a lawyer and was called to the bar in 1880; and he stood (unsuccessfully) for election as the MP for N Norfolk in 1895 and 1899. He was also a partner in the Norfolk Bank of Lacon Youll & Kemp - Lacon being a tenant at Mergate before Kemp arrived (see above).
The first mention of Sir Kenneth as resident at Mergate Hall is in White's Directory of 1883 and he was still there with his family and a large staff in 1901. The Hall was convenient for commuting to Norwich where he had his legal and banking interests. Whilst resident, he restored both Mergate and Flordon Halls and modernised his estate workers cottages. Sadly, his only son, Richard, was killed in the Boer War, and hope of the baronetcy continuing died with him. Did this encourage Sir Kenneth to move? In 1904 & 1908 the tenant at Mergate Hall was Edward Fraser; by 1912 it was Robert Wade-Palmer. In 1911 Sir Kenneth and Henrietta were living in The Close, Norwich. Soon after World War 1 he was awarded the OBE for 'valuable services rendered in connection with the War'. He died in Sheringham in 1936 but is buried in Gissing churchyard.