History of Sinai Park House

Sinai Park House goes back to Roman times, maybe even earlier. The hilltop site, was always of great strategic importance, with its commanding views over the Trent Valley both north and south making it an ideal outpost halfway – and a day’s march – between Derby and Lichfield.

The Saxons also used the location as a stronghold and, in Medieval times, the fortified manor of the de Schobenhale family held sway over the neighbourhood. This house preceded the timber-framed building on the site today and, although there may be some remaining evidence of its existence in the cellars of the present house, all that’s really left of this period in Sinai’s history is the 13th century moat that still surrounds it.

From this site the de Schobenhales dispensed local justice, collected titles and generally ran the neighbourhood!

The de Schobenhales gave Sinai Park to the monks of Burton Abbey, built in 1004 and at the time one of the most significant monastic seats in England. In 1334, Abbot William Bromley of Burton Abbey “gave five days indulgence from the bloodletting… in that place surrounded by a dyke in the park of Shopenhale with increased allowance of bread and beer.” The monks were responsible for bringing two timber houses to the site – now the two wings of the present building – to use for rest and recuperation after their bloodletting activities. This may account for the odd name – Sinai could be a derivation of saignée, the French word for bloodletting.

Rest and recuperation seems to have gained quite a wide definition by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s. By then, the Abbot had his own parlour in the northeast wing, his monks were hunting for deer in the park and getting up to quite a number of other interesting activities while there, including the odd murder, giving rise to one of Sinai’s 45 different ghost stories!

William PagetAs a result of the Dissolution, Sinai was acquired by William Paget, the first Baron of Beaudesert and one of Henry VIII’s chief ministers. The Paget family tree continued to own Sinai for almost 400 years, later becoming earls of Uxbridge and marquises of Anglesey.

Sinai was never the Pagets’ main house, these being the manor in Burton, their country house at Beaudesert and eventually their grand new home in Anglesey, Plas Newydd, designed in the 18th century by James Wyatt. So Sinai was used as a hunting lodge and later as a farm. To make the house more grand and presumably to provide accommodation suited to the family’s grand visitors (one of whom was Elizabeth’s Earl of Essex, recorded as shooting deer in the park), the Pagets had the central section built in 1605, to complete the building we see today.

In the 1700s there was more building work with the originals of the Tudor-style chimneys being erected, again to make the house more grand.

Also from this period is what was then a very fashionable plunge pool, built in the grounds, using as its source the Chalybeate well below the house. The 1732 bridge over the moat is also an aggrandisement of an earlier bridge, originally one of four similar access points and the site of a ‘skirmish’ between the Paget men and the Bagots of neighbouring Blithfield during the English Civil War! James Wyatt

All this building activity during the 18th and early 19th centuries may have been to do with Sinai’s increasingly well known tenants. While the architect, James Wyatt, was being commissioned by the Pagets to build Plas Newydd, his brother William was the tenant of Sinai.

William’s daughter was married there to John Smith who was working with James Brindley on the canals. His son who took over the tenancy and stewardship of the house, was eventually fired and asked to leave for spending too much unauthorised money on its development!

Henry PagetPerhaps not really so inappropriate, however, as the Pagets’ most famous son, Henry Paget, was only a few years away from making his name in folksong and story as the English hero who, as second in command to Wellington at Waterloo, lost his leg to a cannon ball on the battlefield. “By god sir,” said Wellington, “you have lost your leg!” “By god, sir, so I have!” replied Paget, later to become embroiled in an equally high profile divorce scandal involving Wellington’s sister-in-law.

The last Paget to own Sinai was the ‘The Eccentric Earl’, a great indulger in amateur theatricals on a grand scale, who died in 1905. Sinai was then sold as part of the settlement of family debt and the house began a new life as six cottages. It also provided a billet for RAF personnel and then finally, after being condemned for human habitation, it provided shelter for pigs, sheep and hens.

Bringing the history up to date

Sinai Park House was bought in 1994 by secret tender. In 1999 the present owners moved in having restored the North East wing.