In 1901, the Manor House was then bought by the Franciscans, with plans drawn up to convert the house to a convent school, after Mother Francis was approached by Bishop Bagshawe of Nottingham to accept ministry in Melton Mowbray. Initially the sisters moved to a small convent in Sherrard Street, but it soon became clear that the house was too small, so they moved to 9 Thorpe End while the purchase and renovation of the Manor House was undertaken. Four Catholic children enrolled, but Sunday school instruction sparked active interest and the sisters required more space. The back premises on Mill Street was converted into a laundry for the convent school, Manor Lodge, and the laundrette stands there on the same site still. However, the school soon relocated to Tower House on Dalby Road where the sisters remain to this day. Tower House is the Mother House of the congregation and there is also a thriving primary school dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi on the site.
In 1911 the house was sold on again, this time to Albert Bonham, a local butcher, and Elizabeth Bonham - a Sunday school teacher. It was then lived in as a family house for the first time in its history for a period of 12 years. Most interestingly about the family is that son Frank Bonham and his sister, Joan, who had lived in the Manor House as children, later purchased the side of the building (now known as Sorsky's hairdressers at 1 Mill Street), after it was split into three commercial units in the 1950s, and opened a bottled 'fizzy pop' shop called Melton Mineral Water Company.
It was during the period of the Bonham's residence that the most well known tenant of the Manor House resided - internationally renowned conductor and composer, Sir Malcolm Sargent, boarded with the Bonham family at the Manor House property between 1914 and 1924. At the time he worked as Organist and Choirmaster at St Mary's Church just across the street, except for eight months in 1918 when he served as a private in the Durham Light Infantry during the First World War. He was actually chosen for the organist post over more than 150 other applicants.
At the same time as he lived at the Manor House, he worked on many musical projects in Leicester, Melton Mowbray and Stamford, where he not only conducted but also produced the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan and others for amateur societies. The new Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, and his entourage often hunted in Leicestershire as their ancestors had before them, and watched the annual Gilbert and Sullivan productions there, together with the Duke of York and other members of the Royal Family. At the age of 24, Malcolm Sargent became England's youngest Doctor of Music, with a degree from Durham.
A stained glass window in St Mary's Church, Melton Mowbray, is dedicated to Sir Malcolm Sargent, and a commemorative blue plaque is sited on the Manor House.
In 1922, Burton Street flooded severely again, and the Bonham family moved out, when the property became accommodation for the hunt season once again.
In 1924 it became the seasonal home of one Lady Augusta Fane, another frequent visitor to Melton Mowbray since the 1880's and the era of the 'Marlborough Set'. Her name is synonymous with yet another great Melton Mowbray story - that of the midnight steeplechase of March 10th 1890.
"Lady Augusta Fane looked around the room at the 25 people dining with her at The Old Club, Burton Street, the men in red dining coats and white breeches. The hunting set. Latecomers stood around the walls, chatting quietly. It was her birthday and she was now 33 and attractive. Everyone there was drawn by the thought of an exciting and different evening ahead.
Last Friday the conversation had drifted around to the fact of her coming birthday. Augusta was pressed to choose a way of their celebrating this event with something novel – and fun. It was to be a full moon that Monday, so she suggested a Moonlight Steeplechase. The idea was immediately seized upon and an outline of what was needed was decided.
At about 9.30 a message was sent into the room that the sky had become overcast and clouds obscured the moon. This was a setback, but there was no thought of cancelling the event. Colonel Baldock slipped down to the Midland Railway’s station at the bottom of the street, having called for the stationmaster Mr Beddington on the way. Here they borrowed a horse-drawn van, and with the help of a porter, a number of the station’s lamps were loaded inside. Off they all went to the proposed course, and hung a lamp at each end of every fence. A further lamp was hung high in the tree at the homeward turn.
Eleven riders prepared for the coming race, and it was perhaps again concerns for visibility that caused them to decide to ride wearing nightshirts. For those who were wintering at the Bell Hotel, Colonel Wilson, Algy Burnaby of Baggrave, and Colonel Hill Trevor, and those who lived locally, this was simply resolved, but for those who lived further out, they had to borrow something. One rider struggled into a pink gossamer item donated by Lady Augusta herself.
It had been resolved that the event would be carried out in secret, but it was a vain hope. As the time approached the lanes all around were alive with people, carts and carriages. A hum of excited chatter got stronger as the time approached. When 11.30 came, a horn was blown and the riders gathered at the start, and away they went, the riders’ nightshirts helping the spectators pick out where they were. After the turn, the riders rode hard for the finish. One, Count Eliot Zborowski, a famous American racing car driver, was neck and neck with Algy Burnaby. A stumble by the other horse let Burnaby through and the Count had to settle for second place.
After the excitement, all the riders, and their friends, joined Augusta at Coventry House, just down Burton street from the Manor House - the newly acquired Zborowski home in Melton Mowbray - for a ‘splendid supper party’. Algy Burnaby was presented with a silver mounted ivory cup donated by the Count, and although Zborowski must have half hoped he would win it himself, there were no hard feelings – it had been an exceptional night that would be remembered for decades - the night of the Midnight Steeplechase."
Following Lady Augusta's residency, the property was resided in on a seasonal basis throughout the 1920's and 1930's, with only domestic servants and grooms showing as resident on historical documentation. Who stayed at the Manor House during these years during the hunt seasons is anyone's guess, but due to its history and prior status it is somewhat likely that it was yet again the abode of the wealthy during the months of December and March.