Stanley Palace is a 16th Century Grade II listed building located in the heart of Chester. Formerly called Derby House, it stands on, or near, the site previously occupied by the Dominican Friars (The 'Black Friars') in medieval times.
The First Owner
It was built for Peter Warburton, a Chester Lawyer, who advanced to become a sergeant-at-law and MP for Chester, a county finance manager, a judge and a Knight. Derby House then passed as his daughter Elizabeth's dowry to the Stanleys of Alderley. On the death of her husband Elizabeth married Sir Richard Grosvenor of Eaton Hall, she died in 1627 at her Black Friars home (probably Stanley Palace) & was buried with the Grosvenors' at Eccleston.
James the 7th Earl of Derby campaigned for the Royalist cause, but was captured, held in Chester Castle and finally executed in Bolton by Cromwell's followers.
Chester - a sea-port
As Chester was a sea-port the Derby family were custodians of the old Watergate and were paid the tolls collected from merchants off the ships. A large ship's timber is still in place as the main support of the fireplace in the foyer of the building. It is uncertain when the family parted with the house and to whom.
Subsequent Owners & Deterioration
It is known that Hesketh, a sporting gentleman who held parties for the race-goers, once occupied it.
By 1831 the house had deteriorated and had been divided into three shabby cottages, it's out buildings and land gone for housing development by the then owners, two builders named Hodkinson & Boden. These cottages passed from owner to owner and in 1866 Americans wished to buy the house to have it transported to the United States; fortunately the Chester Archaeological Society prevented this.
The Rescue of the House
In 1889, Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby, came to the rescue by buying it to have it preserved for the community. In those days he was Foreign Secretary and a Knight of the Garter, and the house was called Derby House.
In 1911 the house opened as a Museum & curio shop by a Manchurian gentleman, E. Booth-Jones. As the house was still three cottages, and after some restoration work to open up the building, tunnels to both the Watergate & the Castle were discovered, possibly by the trap door, that was situated in the floor of the entrance.
In 1928 the 17th Earl of Derby passed the house over to Chester City Council on a 999-year lease. The Council commenced work to restore and extend the building.
In 1935 the elaborate stained glass window was installed on the second floor. It depicts the Coat of Arms of the 7th Earl of Derby, and quartered on it, the Arms of his wife, Charlotte de la Tremoille. The French motto is that of Knights of the Garter honi soit qui mal y ponse, 'Evil he who thinks ill of it'. 'The Eagle & Child,' forms part of this Coat of Arms.
On the ground floor, the ceiling in the Queen Anne Room has the Stanley's Coat of Arms, bearing Three Stags Heads & the Eagle & Child, with the words Sans Changer, 'without changing'. Sir Peter, the second Baronet, who died in 1683 is supposed to have added this room.
Unexplained happenings & Ghosts.
Stanley Palace is reputed to be haunted and over the years, footsteps & low murmurings have been heard together with illogical happenings. Paranormal groups have made investigations and new groups are welcomed.
Elizabeth, Sir Peter Warburton's daughter died in her Black Friers home in 1627. On two occasions her presence has been observed. A visitor to Stanley Palace reported seeing a lady dressed in a manner related to the 17th century and though it was a volunteer, to welcome visitors to the building. The Lady then disappeared through a doorway, which on later inspection the visitor found this doorway to be an interior paneled wall. A paranormal group, who recently investigated the building, were aware of a lady, who although welcomed them, demanded formal etiquette and respect and was clearly the Lady of the House.
Betrayed by the servants
James the 7th Earl of Derby campaigned for the Royalist cause, but was captured held in Chester Castle &was executed in Bolton by Cromwell's followers. It is said that he was betrayed by his trusted manservant, a sympathizer of Oliver Cromwell.
The Earl whilst held in Chester Castle, escaped but was recaptured on the riverbank and spent his last few days writing letters to his wife who resided at Stanley Palace.
A lady attending a social function at Stanley Palace noticed a man dressed in a fashion to that worn by servants in the 17th century, pass her in the foyer and enter the Queen Anne room.
Footsteps in the Gallery
Over the years footsteps have been heard in the Gallery and a report in a local newspaper tells of two ladies who not only heard the footsteps, but have been told a number of people have also been aware of the Gallery footsteps and other unexplained noises.
By 1831 the house had deteriorated and had been divided into three shabby cottages. Paranormal investigators were aware of a giggling atmosphere and children. A girl with waist-length dark hair,wearing a pinafore dress, was frightened by an old man with a walking stick,who swore at children and gave chase waving his stick; perhaps he was a resident of the neighboring cottage, who disliked the children's chatter and giggles.
The Gentleman Officer & the Lady playing the Piano
In the second world war Stanley Palace was a place of recreation for the armed forces that were stationed in Chester. Upstairs by the staircase entrance to the Gallery, one paranormal group a noticed figure of a gentleman, dressed in the uniform of a second world war army officer was in command of the entertainment. At the far end of the Gallery a grey haired lady was playing the piano and seamed to have a preference for Brahms.
Dogs at the Palace
A King Charles spaniel who often was brought into the building, on occasion would run into the Gallery as though happily greeting someone. Whilst a Jack Russell terrier, on numerous occasions, showed fear and distress at the far end of the gallery by a certain floorboard, frantically trying to dig it up. When this floorboard was lifted nothing was seen, although it is understood that another older part of the gallery had once stood on this spot.
The Family Legend
The stained glass window on the second floor depicts " The Eagle & Child". The story is that Sir Thomas Lathom, an ancestor of the Stanley family had a daughter but no son. Getting a son by a lady other than his wife, he pretended to find the baby under an eagle's nest, as if fetched by the eagle for him and his wife to adopt. When the boy grew up, he lost favour with his father and Sir Thomas Lathom left most of his fortune to his daughter.
Stanley Palace Today
Stanley Palace has a welcoming atmosphere, despite these reported happenings.
Sincere appreciation to Bernard Wall of Chester whose notes of 1991 were invaluable for putting together the potted history of the building, Thanks to all who related their version of unexplained happenings connected with Stanley Palace.