Currently The Lawns Estate of Holt is run by the Kretchetov family – Evgueni and Gillian, who moved there in 2003. Gillian is a great niece of Jane Hales OBE, who lived at The Lawns Estate all of her long life of 94 years. Evgueni spent time working in the City of London, and is a qualified Chartered Accountant. Gillian has a degree in Russian and French, and teaches Special Needs at the local Greshams Preparatory private school.
‘The Lawns’ is listed by the Government as a building of “architectural and historic merit” (Grade II). It was the former home of Miss Mabel Alice Jane Hales who, in December 1982, was “Granted the dignity of becoming a Member of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire” by the Queen. This award was in recognition of her service to the British Red Cross over a period in excess of 50 years.
Many years ago two rooms of her adjacent property at 41 Norwich Road were given over to fund-raising activities for the Red Cross. She also used ‘The Lawns’ and the adjacent land for Red Cross fundraising activities including annual Garden Fetes. Jane Hales (1904-1995) was also a writer of stories about Norfolk people, places and place names and in all wrote or co-authored 16 titles. Her last publication was “Ninety years in one House”(published 1996, ISBN 0 948 4000 47 1) which is her story of her life spent at ‘The Lawns’ where she was born and where she died. A new reprint of this book has recently been made, and copies and available for purchase at the house or on Amazon. Profits from these sales will go to the Red Cross. After 27 years, as of July 2013, the shop has been closed and converted into the Lawns Spa Apartment. This was done to reflect needs of the estate.
There are three stained glass windows in Holt Church to commemorate three of her Hales predecessors – the most famous window is the depiction of the pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales which was placed in memory of her father. The 1881 census of ‘The Lawns’ shows that the Hales family employed a housemaid, a parlour maid and a cook, but by the 1901 census, Jane’s father, Robert Hales (a local GP) had added a further employee – a governess to look after his then three children. Jane Hales was never to marry and have children of her own. She would recognise the house today as it retains its historic features including the original marble fireplaces, cornices and impressive staircase.
Ancestral portraits going back to Sir John Turner MP Bart of Warham whose daughter Ann Turner married Robert Hales in the mid-eighteenth century are still held by family members.