The Earl of Mountrath

Charles Henry Coote, 9th Earl of Mountrath (c1725-1802) was an eccentric aristocrat of Irish descent. He bought much land in England and by 1756 his Norfolk estates included Weeting with Bromehill and West Dereham. He had a dread of smallpox and when travelling would avoid Inns. He solved this problem by building five houses between his estates in Norfolk and his seat at Strawberry Hill in Devon. Weeting Hall was built about 1770. The house and grounds occupied what was formally the Manor of Weeting All Saints. The original house, built in the Italian style in white brick, stood in some 40 acres. The estate was enclosed by a high wall, constructed mainly in stone, taken from the site of nearby Bromehill Priory. It was an imposing house, its grandeur was described by two travellers soon after its erection. Alexandra de Rochefoucauld wrote of his visit to the eastern counties, that he started out from Brandon on the 15th March 1786 and "two miles after crossing Brandon Bridge, we passed in front of Lord Montross's (Mountrath) house - newly and very well built, and with an air of comfort, despite being small". During a visit in 1810, Dr Hake describes the house in his 'Memoirs of Eighty Years' as, "in point of decoration...a gilded palace, the most superb in it's interior that I have ever seen".

Mountrath grew to appreciate the sporting opportunities provided by his Weeting Hall estate and maintained a permanent staff there. He was a friend of George, 3rd Earl of Orford, founder of the Swaffham Coursing Club, of which he was a member. Later in life his fear of smallpox became obsessive and he became an almost total recluse. When he died in 1802 "failing the heirs male of his body", to quote Burkes Peerage, his title and estates passed to his cousin Orlando Bridgeman, Earl of Bradford.

Gerry Moore 2004