History of Moor Hall:
Moor Hall was built in 1905 by William Skinner and has had many different occupants all with their very own interpretation of the space. It started as a Regency Grange House which then grew into a Victorian Stately Home before becoming a convalescent nursing home. It was then even used as a second world war evacuation site, a film studio and then finally a headquarters for a professional Marketing body and training establishment.
Cookham itself got started nearly 2 millenniums ago when the Romans established a river crossing over the shallows and islands where the River Thames bends around to run along under Cliveden Woods. A few centuries later, a Saxon Cok clan rowed upstream and settled their ham where Cookham rise now sits and thereby formed the village of Cookham. Cookham even then had a commuter belt and in the late 1880s it was fashionable for people to travel into London by train and the rich purchased properties in the countryside. A rich businessman purchased Moor Hall and looked to move it away from its grange heritage.
The site in the early days was widely used for farming and a farmhouse was built on the land for many years. It was the Aldridge family that originally owned the land and the farmhouse, but it was the rich businessman of William Augustus Skinner who built the Manor house as a place for him to retire to. It was 1805 when the Manor House was built, and Skinner would live in the property until he died a few years later in 1814. The property remained part of the Skinner family and was rented out to another family who lived there for 23 happy years.
Moor Hall exchanged hands with a few different families until Francis Devereaux Lambert purchased the house. He was a very wealthy man who had amassed his fortune as a coal broker and had earned himself the title of King Coal Lambert. If you look closely at the roofs of Moor Hall today you will notice an abundance of chimney stacks as every room in the building had an open fire due to Lambert's rich connections with the coal industry.
Lambert was a very rich man but continued to support the community and was noted as a local benefactor and allowed many local games of cricket and football to be played in the grounds. He was also a founder of the Upper Thames Sailing Club.
Lambert came to realise that the upkeep of the site was a drain on his resources and in 1939, it was sold to Odeon Cinemas. It was to become Odeon Theatres Head Office and accounts department. There were three wooden dormitory bunkers built out on the back lawns which played host to 250 World War 2 evacuees as the war continued with bombings ever present in London. The three houses were managed and looked after by Freda Salberg who was the Maitre d’hotel, headmistress and house mother for all 250 children. She would carry out this role for 20 hours every day and was very much the heartbeat of Moor Hall for many years.
In 1946 after the war had finished, Moor Hall took on its largest transformation from administration for Odeon Cinemas to film studio. Walt Disney’s chief assistant David Hand had been convinced to come over from Hollywood to assist in getting this off the ground and create a uniquely British cartoon style. Moor Hall’s main building was used for administration, dining and recreation and the rest was converted into the eight studio functions, script unit, scene layouts, sound effects and recording.
In 1949, the House changed hands again after the animation business was not successful. The hands then changed once more to The British Tabulating Machine Company. This was very much the start of the microchip and computer technology which we see in our lives today. There was training throughout the 50s and 60s and they were very much the forerunners in the technology industry. In as little as 20 years, over 100,000 operators underwent their training and the majority of these were all cared for again by the ever-present Freda Salsberg who had been there through all of the different companies. In 1969 the industry was starting to boom, and Moor Hall was no longer big enough to cope and they then went to Beaumont School in old Windsor.
It was then bought in 1970 by the Institute of Marketing and was to be used as a training centre for teaching top marketing executives and super salesmen. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the institute applied for its Royal Charter and became The Chartered Institute of Marketing in 1989. Throughout the 80s and 90s rapid investment was put into the site and the Thames House was the first building to be built followed shortly by the Edinburgh Suite and bedroom block in 1992. The Berkshire Conference centre and Redgrave Suite came in the late 1990s.
So, what of the late Freda Salsberg, who spent most of her life at Moor Hall? Well the stories are told that if you are alone at night in the upper levels of the Manor House, you can still hear her roaming about to this day…
**Information taken from the book written by Roger Parkes: Moor Hall: A History of the place and its people