Stoke Rochford Hall is a 19th-century country house in Lincolnshire, that last year lost the NUT teaching union more than a million pounds.
The union sold what was once a jewel in its crown.
As the organisation embarks on its new identity as part of education’s new superunion, the National Education Union (NEU), Stoke Rochford serves as a cautionary tale that owning impressive real estate is not always the boon it appears to be.
Used as a teacher-training college after the war, the NUT bought the 91-bedroom stately home when the college closed in 1978.
Fred Jarvis was the general secretary who signed off on the purchase. “At the time, it was a very good investment,” he recalls.
Previously, the union was forced to spend huge amounts on venues to host courses. The use of Stoke Rochford as a hotel and as a conference venue also generated revenue for the NUT.
However, in the noughties the stately home had a run of terrible luck. First it was hit by a fire in 2005. The house was renovated at great expense; it reopened in 2008.
“The effect of the place being out of action for two or three years while it was being restored, combined with the recession, meant you then didn’t get back to the level of training you were doing before,” says Jarvis.
Last December, the NUT was forced to sell the stately home. “With some regret, the executive came to the conclusion that it needed to sell the lease and the business as a going concern at Stoke Rochford Hall,” says the union’s 2017 conference report.
The sale of the leasehold interest to the Talash Hotels Group for £2.3 million netted half a million of profit for the NUT, but the union’s Stoke Rochford fund finished the year with an overall deficit of £1.2 million.