All posts by David Poole


Fowey Hall (Family Holidays)
Fowey Hall – former seaside residence of Sir Charles Augustin Hanson (Family Holidays)

Built: 1899

Architect unknown
Owner: Luxury Family Hotels
Hotel and Spa
Grade II listed

Roughcast render with Portland Stone dressings; red tile roofs over stone modillioned eaves cornices; pedimented dormers and large stone axial stacks with moulded cornices; lead domed central bellcote with turned wooden balustrade and a weather vane; ogee lead roofs to corner towers. Built in a large nearly symmetrical plan with 2 cross wings plus square corner towers projecting at the front plus parallel range at the rear plus C20 extension to ground floor of right-hand return. Queen Anne style. Built as 2 storeys plus attics. (Historic England)

Fowey is fêted for long-established families. In Victorian times the names of Hanson, Rashleigh and Treffry were uppermost in the growth of this picturesque little Cornish town. Their names still evoke pride amongst the locals who realise that, without their intervention, the town’s present day prosperity might never have happened.

The Treffry family are still resident at Place, a wonderful house, hidden within Fowey’s narrow streets and a stone’s throw from the harbour. The Rashleigh’s have retreated to Menabilly, a country house now more famous as being the former home of Daphne Du Maurier. However, the Hanson family have gone but can take pleasure that they are not forgotten.

Fowey Hall is a lasting reminder to one of the town’s most famous sons. It echoes the story of a young boy who left Fowey to make his fortune. He travelled afar and returned home an extremely wealthy man.

His legacy is Fowey Hall, one of the last country houses to be built in England, and constructed with such grandeur that suggests it was built in earlier times.

Our story starts in 1889 when the businessman Charles Hanson looked to build a new house in his beloved Fowey. He found a plot of land in a commanding position with fine views of the harbour. The land was owned by the Rashleigh family and overlooked Place, the ancestral home of the influential Treffry family, and no doubt cost Hanson a lot of money to buy.

It would be another ten years before the house was completed. According to deeds the land was far more extensive than the grounds which exist today and it is likely that much of this was sold off in later years.

Fowey from Hall Walk c1950 (Francis Firth)
Fowey Hall perched above the ancient Cornish town c1950’s (Francis Firth Collection)

Charles Augustin Hanson (1846-1922)

Charles Augustin Hanson was born in Polruan, across the river from Fowey, in 1846.  He was the eldest of five children of Mr Joseph M.A. Hanson, a master mariner, and Mary Ann Rogers Hicks who lived at St Catherine’s Street in Polruan.

The family moved to Fore Street in Fowey and Charles completed his education at Fowey Grammar School. He nurtured ambitions to work in finance and, on leaving school, worked as an assurance office clerk in Plymouth. He stayed for two years or three years before moving to Canada. It would appear that his parents also made this perilous journey across the Atlantic.

Charles Hanson The Sketch 14 Nov 1917
Charles Hanson. A photograph from The Sketch, 14 November, 1917. (British Newspaper Archive)

In Canada he initially worked in the lumber trade before entering the finance markets. He was joined by two brothers and became stockbrokers in utility investment. Hanson Brothers Montreal eventually became one of the largest firms of private bankers in Canada.

Charles Hanson was a pioneer in introducing Canadian Government, municipal and railway securities to the London market, and one noteworthy result of his many trips back to England was his entry into partnership with Messrs. Coates, Son and Co, of Gresham Street, London, and the Stock Exchange.

In 1868 Hanson married Martha Sabina Appelbe (1849-1924) of Trafalgar, Halton, in Canada. She was a wealthy heiress and they would have one son, Charles Edwin Bourne Hanson, and a daughter, Alice Maud Appelbe Hanson, both born in Ontario.

He remained in Canada for 22 years and was a member of the Wesleyan Ministry. His business interests were identified with Canada and Newfoundland, but he increasingly controlled his financial undertakings in London. On the rare occasions when he was released from business pressures he often returned to Fowey.

Hanson returned to London in the late 1880’s and gave the go ahead to build Fowey Hall.  At the close of the century he was living at 9 Wilton Crescent, in Belgravia Square. By 1899 Fowey Hall was ready to receive its roof and shortly after he moved in with his wife. The Royal Cornwall Gazette described it as ‘a fine mansion looking from the harbour’. Today the date is inscribed on drain pipe headings around the property.

Fowey Hall Aerial (Such Good Pictures)
Modern day aerial view of the  Fowey Hall Hotel  and grounds (Such Good Pictures)

Fowey Hall was extremely grand, built of the finest materials by master craftsmen. It boasted electric lights, Baroque plasterwork, a vaulted kitchen, elaborate marble fireplaces and warm air central heating.  According to records the main painting in the dining room was by Canaletto and is now displayed at the Walpole Gallery in London. The house was bedecked throughout with wooden panelling, much of which still exists to this day.

The road leading to the house was specially constructed and known as the Ropewalk. It still exists and has been renamed Hanson Drive.

In the grounds of Fowey Hall stood an ancient windmill which had originally been built in 1290. The tower was dilapidated and in danger of falling down but Hanson paid a considerable fortune to have it restored and strengthened.

His return to England heralded the golden period for Charles Hanson. He became a Justice of the Peace in 1904 and was High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1907.

His business activities also included the chairmanship of the Gresham Life Assurance Society and the Gresham Fire Insurance Society, the latter formed under his guidance. He was also interested in the China Clay Corporation Ltd which carried out activities at Redlake, near Ivybridge, and of which he was chairman.

Hanson found time to serve the corporate life of the City of London, becoming an Alderman in 1909 and Sheriff in 1911-12. He was also one of the representatives of the City on the London County Council.

In 1916 Hanson won Bodmin for the Conservative Party where he served as M.P. until his death. His introduction into Parliament rejuvenated the 70-year-old although he was never to raise his voice in the House of Commons. Observers noted that Hanson was more interested in other people’s talks rather than his own conversation.

Charles Augustin Hanson c1918
Sir Charles Augustin Hanson as Lord Mayor of London c1918

In 1917-18 he became Lord Mayor of London and was given a Baronetcy in the latter year. While in office he was awarded a gold chain and badge of office, the chain bearing ornamental shields upon which were enamelled the arms of the Worshipful Company of pattern-makers (of which he was master on three occasions), and also those of Cornwall, Canada, Newfoundland, and Fowey, with a view to the entrance to the Stock Exchange, while in the centre of the badge were Sir Charles’ arms, crest and motto. (This was presented to Fowey in 1921 and is today on display at the Fowey Museum). His services to the county were highlighted when he was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Liskeard in 1919.

Hanson travelled considerably and visited practically every part of Europe, as well as most of the British colonies. In 1908 the Emperor of Austria conferred upon him the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Franz Josef, with permission to wear the decoration being granted by King Edward VII.

He was also a Knight Commander of the Grecian Order of the Saviour, a Commander of the French Legion of Honour, a Grand Officer of the Crown of Italy, and possessed the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, third class honours conferred upon him by the heads of the Allied nations in recognition of his valuable work on behalf of the nation and the Allied cause during the First World War.

While he might have been highly regarded in business and political circles it was not the case with members of the suffragette movement. Presumably his views were more traditional and, in the early 1900’s, his beloved Rolls-Royce was set on fire by protestors while parked in the coach house at Fowey Hall.

Correspondence relating to his time at Fowey Hall suggests that Hanson was particularly keen to attract royalty to his Cornish home. These documents are now in the hands of Fowey Hall Hotel which says:-

‘As a suitable backdrop from which to promote his political career, by the time it was completed, Fowey Hall was truly a place in which to welcome royalty who visited during the early part of the century – although perhaps not as regularly as Charles Hanson would have liked!  We have inherited correspondence which includes a wealth of telegrams from Sir Charles to members of the Royal Family at Sandringham, Buckingham Palace and Marlborough House – all of them extravagantly worded invitations which place Fowey Hall at the disposal of King Edward and Queen Alexandra and latterly, the Princess Victoria.  Members of the Royal household may have wished that Sir Charles had been rather less assiduous in his attentions as each invitation necessitated an elegantly worded refusal.  Throughout the early part of the century, Sir Charles kept the post office busy with a constant stream of telegrams to the Royal Family, needing only the slightest rumor of a Royal indisposition or news of an anniversary to renew his attentions’.

Sir Charles associated himself with many charitable enterprises and was on the governing bodies of several charities including Christchurch, Bridewell and St Thomas. Even when Fowey Hall was unfinished he used the grounds to host a hospital bazaar, raising funds for a new cottage hospital.

A charming spot commanding magnificent views of the picturesque harbour, and the blue waters of the English Channel beyond,’ said a local newspaper. ‘The bazaar was held in a large tent, and the grounds were gaily decorated with strings of flags’.

In 1916 Hanson held a fundraising event in aid of the Great War at Fowey Hall.  Postcards celebrating the event were sold in Fowey for months afterwards and the dining room was used as a sewing room, used by the ladies of the town, who created garments for the soldiers.

By 1921 Sir Charles Hanson was in failing health. His last public appearance was in November when he was made the first Freeman of Fowey.

He referred, with pride and joy, at being able to spend the “clouded evening of my life in Fowey.  My last days will be spent in my old home, and where my remains will be buried forever.”

He died on 17th January 1922 at Fowey Hall.  The funeral took place the following week and the town of Fowey descended into mourning. All shops and premises closed for the duration, flags on various public institutions and ships in the harbour and river were flown at half-mast all day.

‘It was a simple but impressive procession which wended its way through the narrow, silent streets of the old world town. First came members of the local lodge of Freemasons, and a few visiting brethren, wearing white armlets and sprigs of acacia. Then followed a lorry buried under a wealth of beautiful wreaths, and immediately behind was the hearse, containing the coffin shrouded in a Union Jack, on which rested a cushion bearing the deceased’s orders and decorations. The immediate mourners were Major Sir Charles Edwin B. Hanson, deceased’s only son and heir, with his wife, and Major General Frederick Poole (son-in-law), Mr and Mrs H. Brent Crotrian and Mr and Mrs Appelbe (nephews and nieces) followed on foot, together with the Mayor – wearing in addition to his robe of office – the magnificent gold chain worn by Sir Charles during his year of office as Sheriff of London, and now the property of the Corporation of Fowey – aldermen and members of the council, borough officials, and mace bearers, the rear being brought up by members of the Cornwall County Constabulary, two of whom carried the ancient white staves emblematic of the arm of the law, to which were affixed black bows’.

Sir Charles Hanson was buried in the little cemetary overlooking the old harbour.

Charles Hanson Funeral
Mourners at the well-attended funeral of Sir Charles Augustin Hanson in 1922

Following his death the three codicils of his will were Sir Charles Edwin Bourne Hanson, now of Fowey Hall, his son-in-law, Major-General Frederick Poole, of Cotswold House, Fowey, and Mr Herbert Brent Crotrian, Recorder of Scarborough, and residing at Leighton Buzzard.

According to his will It was suggested that Charles Hanson had intended to bequeath certain legacies to members of his household staff at Fowey Hall, all of whom he had great regard. However, the impact of the First World War had been so severe that he regretted to find that he was not in a position to do as he had hoped.

He left £2,000, his motor cars, and garden effects to his wife, certain jewellery to his son, household effects to the value of £5,000 and a reasonable selection of personal effects to his daughter, Dame Alice Maude Poole, and the residue of his belongings to his wife during widowhood.

Fowey Hal was inherited by Sir Charles Bourne Hanson and the residue of his properties were shared between his two offspring.

His wife, the Dowager Lady Hanson, died at Fowey Hall in 1924. She also suffered ill-health during her later years. Unlike her late husband she did not take a prominent part in public life although she was the inspiration which guided him. She preferred to take interest in poorer people and during World War One supported the Red Cross movement and received the Red Cross Medal for her efforts.

Fowey Hall (House and Heritage)
Fowey Hall Hotel  photographed in 2014 (House and Heritage)

Charles Edwin Bourne Hanson (1874-1958)

Sir Charles Edwin Bourne Hanson, 2nd Bt, (1874-1958), followed his father into finance. He might not be as well remembered but nevertheless lived a busy and prosperous life.

Hanson graduated from Clares College, Cambridge University, with a Master of Arts (M.A.). He became a military man gaining the rank of Captain with the 4th City of London Volunteers serving in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902.

In June 1902 there was a large gathering at Fowey Railway Station for the return of Captain Hanson from South Africa. A carriage drawn by willing hands paraded through the streets, decorated with bunting, and headed by a brass band. The procession climbed the hill to Fowey Hall where refreshments were handed out to those taking part in the homecoming.

He later served as Lieutenant for the  3rd  Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment and was promoted to Major in the Great War.

Away from the battlefield he succeeded his father as a partner in Coates, Sons and Company and became a member of the London Stock Exchange.

In 1908 he married Violet Sybil Johnstone (1881-1966), the third daughter of Mr J.B. Johnstone of Coombe Cottage, Coombe, and lived at The Manor House, Old Malden, in Surrey. In 1910 Hanson became Lord Lieutenant of the City of London.

After his father’s death he moved into Fowey Hall while retaining his city residence at 14 Cranmer Court in London. He was appointed High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1939.

Fowey Hall Cornwall (The Telegraph)
A country house built by master craftsmen using the finest materials (The Telegraph)

In 1940, a year after the start of World War Two, the War Office requisitioned Fowey Hall and, in 1943, it became a base for American officers.

The Hanson family remained in residence for the duration of the war and watched as accommodation huts were built in the grounds (these would remain until 1946).

In  April 1944 Rear Admiral Alan Kirk, Commander of the task force, and Rear Admiral John Wilkes, Commander of the landing craft, stayed at Fowey Hall in preparation for the massive D-Day landings of which many ships had amassed in Fowey Harbour. The following month forty war correspondents were accommodated at the hall and were briefed on forthcoming events.

It is likely that the war had a devastating effect on Fowey Hall.

Constant use and riotous officers’ parties probably damaged much of the interior. The Hanson family remained at the hall but it is likely that, after the death of Charles Edwin Bourne Hanson in 1958, the decision was made to finally sell.

 A change of use and return to former glory

Much of the land was sold and it is thought that Fowey Hall was unloaded to a property developer who, in turn, sold it to the Co-operative Holidays Association.

This organisation specialised in holidays for working class walkers, bird lovers and lovers of the countryside. However, Fowey Hall was seen as offering more than the average hostel.

The late 1950’s and 60’s had seen an unprecedented tourist boom. Increasing car ownership led to a growth in caravanning, independent and self-catering holidays.  In an attempt to tap into this boom and attract a wider clientele, the CHA had decided to move away from the working class attachments of the co-operative movement, rebrand itself and broaden its holiday provision.  (The official name of the Association was changed to Countrywide Holidays Association in 1964).

Fowey Hall was key to the CHA’s changing strategy but it meant that much of the interior was altered to accommodate holidaymakers. The bedroom floors were reconfigured with shower rooms at the end of the corridors although most of the ground floor remained in its original layout.

Fowey Hall Postcard (CHA)
Fowey Hall. A vintage postcard published by the Countrywide Holiday Association

By the early 1990’s the CHA was in decline and was keen to dispose of some of its properties. Fowey Hall was deemed surplus to requirement and sold in 1992.

In 1998 Fowey Hall was taken over by Luxury Family Hotels who began refurbishing throughout.

Most importantly the library, morning room, drawing room and billiards room were returned to their original uses.

The driving force behind the restoration was Nigel Chapman, owner of the hotel group, who later sold the company to Von Essen Hotels in 2006. After they went into administration in 2011 he  bought back the Luxury Family Hotels chain, including Fowey Hall.

Fowey Hall (Find Your Perfect Venue)
Fowey Hall. Enjoying a renaissance as a luxury hotel  and spa (Find Your Perfect Venue)

Charles Edwin Bourne Hanson was succeeded by his son Charles John Hanson, 3rd Bt, (1919-1996).  He married twice but did not live at the Hall beyond his childhood, spending much of his time in Suffolk where he ran a book shop.  However, he did return to Fowey to dedicate a memorial to his grandfather which can be found at the end of St. Catherine’s Parade.  The inscription dedicates the lane to the Borough of Fowey in memory of Charles Augustin Hanson, for the use in perpetuity of the people of Fowey as a footpath.  At his request, Charles John Hanson’s ashes were scattered in Fowey cemetery.  Upon his death in 1996, the title passed to his son, Charles Rupert Patrick Hanson, 4th Bt, (b.1945) who lives in Brighton.

There are many who believe that Fowey Hall was the model for ‘Toad Hall’ in Kenneth Grahame’s. ‘The Wind in the Willows’.  Grahame was a frequent visitor to the Hall at the time he was writing letters to his son, which were to be immortalised in his enduring classic, in which the town of Fowey is depicted as ‘The Little Grey Seaport’.  It is likely that he visited Fowey Hall as a guest of his great friend, Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, later famous for his interpretation of The Oxford Book of Verse.  Quiller Couch married Charles Hanson’s cousin, Louise Amelia Hicks.  The Hicks side of the family was a close-knit group and we can be sure that they were frequently entertained at the Hall.

Many details have been obtained from archive editions of the Royal Cornwall Gazette, the Cornishman and the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser. I am in indebted to the Fowey Hall Hotel who provided vital missing information from documents inherited with the hall, research at the Fowey Library, details provided by the Corporation of London and from Who Was Who.

Fowey Hall Hotel,
Hanson Drive, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1ET


Point Neptune, a marine villa, built in 1862 for William Rashleigh

Built: 1862
Architect: Unknown
Owner: Dawn French
Country House/Marine Villa

Grade II listed

Coursed slate with granite dressings. Low-pitched hipped slate roofs with deep bracketed eaves. Slate stacks with moulded granite caps and louvred yellow clay pots. Original mid C19 house is of painted brick, partly slate-hung and with low-pitched slate roof with deep eaves and verges to gable ends. (Historic England)

This entry has been updated with new information since original publication.

The small boat rocks gently as it tours the landmarks along the River Fowey. Here are buildings of all shapes and sizes. Each property is immersed with history and romance. As the boat heads towards the mouth of the river it cuts it engine and is left to float against the incoming tide. The skipper tells us that the Victorian house nestling above Readymoney Cove is called Port Neptune, built by the Rashleigh family, who lived for most of their time at nearby Menabilly.

This is about as much as we learn about the house. It looks splendid, an accumulation of different buildings moulded into one impressive residence that appears to rest on granite buttresses rising from the sea. It is set against a backdrop mature trees that sharpen the features of the house.

Before we know it the engines have restarted and we are sailing towards the opposite bank and other treasures yet to be discovered. But as we move away from Point Neptune it calls after you wanting to share some of its secrets.

The house is undoubtedly seen at its best from the River Fowey. Here you can appreciate the elegance of its design but a short coastal walk to Readymoney Cove reveals more of the house.

Point Neptune seen from the beach at Readymoney Cove (House and Heritage)

Very little has been written about Port Neptune which is surprising considering its dominant position overlooking the open sea. Here the occupants will have been able to watch the boats come and go and witness the growth of Fowey’s maritime history.

It was built on the site of an old Napoleonic gun battery that guarded the harbour. The remains are the rising buttresses that remain today.

Point Neptune was built in the mid nineteenth century for William Rashleigh of Menabilly. He came from a long line of Rashleighs who originated from Barnstaple across the county border in Devon.

Philip Rashleigh settled in Fowey in the 16th century as a trader. His son’s marriage to Alice Lanyon resulted in the acquisition of Cornish properties and soon became prolific merchants and ship owners.

In time they would own property at nearby Menabilly as well as a new townhouse in Fowey (still survived as The Ship Inn).

According to research they benefited from the dissolution of the monasteries by scrupulously buying land and re-selling at a profit. By marrying into wealthy Cornish families the Rashleighs became huge landowners with significant influence across the county. Many became MPs and it was Menabilly, on the Gribben Peninsula, that provided the stable family home.

William Rashleigh (1817-1871) was the eldest son of Mr William Rashleigh of Menabilly, by Caroline, the daughter of Sir Henry Hinxman, of Ivy Church, Wiltshire. He was educated for the army and, on reaching 21, travelled throughout Europe, Turkey, the Holy Land, and Egypt, extending his travels to Nubia, along the Nile, at a time when such excursions were few. On his return he was elected as an M.P. for East Cornwall between 1841 and 1847.

In 1843 he married Catherine Stuart, the eldest daughter of Robert Walter Stuart, the 11th Lord Blantyre of Erskine and Blantyre.. He would become a volunteer with Admiral Plumridge aboard HMS Leopard in the Baltic expedition and, in 1854, found action in that ship during the capture of Bomarsund in the Crimean War. He would serve as a Justice of the Peace, a Deputy Lieutenant for Cornwall and would oblige with the Royal Cornwall Rangers Rifle Militia.

When Rashleigh inherited Menabilly in 1855 he was a man of substantial means. However, he was a man of the sea and eventually turned his back on Menabilly, preferring to live by the shoreline. The grand house was left under the stewardship of his brother Jonathan while he looked to build a new home by the sea.

His chosen location was the old fortification at the high above the entrance to Readymoney Cove. The cove had once been used as a watering place for shipping in the 18th century.

In 1792 pilchard cellars were built (52 feet long and 24 feet wide with walls over 2 feet thick). These were erected on the site of a former gun emplacement. The beach was later used for shipbuilding and ship breaking and, in 1833, the schooner, Catherine, was launched from the beach by the shipbuilder George Nickels.

We can only speculate as to what state and condition the old gun battery was in. An old cottage, of painted brick with a low pitched slate roof, existed to the north-east of the site, and this was retained in Rashleigh’s plan for a new marine villa.

Work began in the early 1860s and completed by 1862. What emerged was a large L-shaped range to the south west, an entrance front to the west, an extension to the south and a new wing to the south east. The original cottage became part of the servants’ wing.

A single-storey hall was built with a drawing room projecting at the southern sea-facing front. There were extensions to Point Neptune, after Rashleigh’s death, in the late nineteenth century and further alterations during the twentieth century. However, what remains is largely Rashleigh’s stone Italianate marine villa, seemingly sitting at different levels, with slate roofs, sash windows and granite dressings, all with an elegant grace that cannot be bettered.

The perfect idyll overlooking the River Fowey. Behind the house are unspoilt fields with the original carriageway meandering across them. The trees are fledglings and have yet to make their mark on the landscape. Below the house are scattered the estate buildings in Readymoney Cove

On the 10th October 1862, Rashleigh presented six men from Tywardreath Church with £1 for a peal of bells that marked his arrival at Point Neptune.¹

A few weeks later there were major celebrations at the opening of an ornamental carriageway from the Fowey and Tywardreath turnpike road, through his grounds at Lewhire, to the gates of Point Neptune. It was reputed to have cost Rashleigh £500 to build.

It provided an extension of the Fowey Esplanade and Rashleigh allowed townsfolk to use it for recreational purposes. He named the carriageway St Catherine’s Parade after his wife and partly in response to the old castle near the entrance of Fowey harbour.²

The original carriageway leading down to Point Neptune

At the entrance to the house were large granite piers where the words ‘Point Neptune’ can still be seen inscribed either side of the large cast iron gates which had originally hung at the four-turnings entrance at Menabilly.³ The stables and carriage house were built below at the head of Readymoney Cove.

Point Neptune
The cast iron gates that originally stood at Menabilly (House and Heritage)

As is so often the case Rashleigh had little time to enjoy his marine villa. He died on 31 October 1871, aged 54, at St Leonard’s Hill in Windsor. His London address was recorded as 17 Hill Street, off Berkeley Square.

Today he lies in a white silk lined coffin at the Rashleigh Mausoleum above Readymoney Cove. He lies alongside his wife, Catherine, who died a year later at Woodhill, Hatfield, in Hertfordshire. The Rashleigh Mausoleum had been built in 1866, cut into the face of the cliff, on the crowning summit known as St Catherine’s Hill. The actual site had been a former gun battery and the mausoleum was excavated into the ground complete with an arched vault made of white fire-bricks.

Rashleigh Mausoleum
The Rashleigh Mausoleum. Today hidden in undergrowth and not easy to find (Trip Advisor)

In 1874 The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser paid tribute to Rashleigh:-

“That the late Mr Rashleigh liked the open sea as much as his neighbours we have proof in the rocky proximity of his dwelling to that element, his admiration being further shown by the appropriate choice of its name, borrowed from the title of the trident god himself; a devotion that, like the true loyalty to a liege lord, went beyond life, and lodged him, when he departed, in a rock-hewn grave, to be near and overlook, as it were, in death the azure realm he had made the close friend of his life.”

Walls and gates shown from the old carriageway drive which is now a public footpath

Point Neptune passed to the Rashleigh’s only child, Edith Frances (1849-1905).

A wealthy woman, she would marry Sackville George Stopford-Sackville, the MP for Northamptonshire North, in 1875. His work at Northamptonshire County Council and as a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for that county meant he split his time between the ancestral home at Drayton House and London. The 1881 census shows her husband in Northamptonshire while Edith is ensconced at Port Neptune with 8 servants. On her death in 1905 the house would revert to her husband and remain unoccupied.

Sackville George Stopford-Sackville (1840-1926)

According to writer Hilary Macaskill, ‘a guidebook of 1892 describes Point Neptune as the “beautiful and pleasantly situated marine residence of William Rashleigh esq”, commending its fine view of the harbour, the carriage road leading to it that wound its way alongside the high slate wall, and the footpath at its side. “the use of which Mr Rashleigh and his lady have generously and opportunely presented to the respectable inhabitants of Fowey of all classes”.

Point Neptune 1891 (The Francis Firth Collection)
Point Neptune in 1891 (from the Francis Firth Collection)

The next owner of Point Neptune was the Reverend William Eastleigh Henry Cotes (1857-1935).

Educated at Cambridge he spent a lifetime in the church serving in Worcester, Kent and London. He rose from modest beginnings and would soon have a house in Portland Place, London, with his wife, Maria Anne, and their son, John Charles Cecil Cotes (1890-1925).

In 1911 Cotes employed 7 servants to attend the household. Two of these, the cook and kitchen assistant, were brought up to London from Cornwall. A man of wealth he would use Port Neptune for many years as a summer retreat.

His son, John, would eventually move to Readymoney Cove with his wife, Dorothy, and live below Point Neptune in the Beach Cottage. He had served with the Royal Naval Air Service but would die of heart failure following a bout of influenza. His father would outlive him by ten years.

In 1921 Cotes put the Point Neptune estate up for auction. It was described as a granite residence of 14 rooms, seven cottages, gardens, timbered grounds, and covering an area of 12 acres. There were no bids for the estate but the marine villa attracted offers from £3,000 to £4,300. At this figure the property was withdrawn but there were interested parties keen to enter private negotiations.⁴

Sale Notice
The next owner of Point Neptune was John Grenville Fortescue (1896-1969), the son of John Bevill Fortescue of Boconnoc, Lostwithiel and Dropmore, at Burnham in Buckinghamshire.

John Grenville Fortescue had been educated at Eton, fought in the First World War, where he was wounded, and gained the rank of Lieutenant in the Reserve of Officers, Coldstream Guards. In 1917 he had married Daphne Marjory Bourke.

The Fortescue’s lived at Point Neptune with their three children until 1931 and would later live at Penarwyn in nearby Par. (It might be suggested that John Grenville Fortescue fell out of favour with his father. His brother George Grenville Fortescue inherited Boconnoc when John Bevill Fortescue died in 1939. There appears to have been little provision for John Grenville and he only inherited Boconnoc after his brother’s death in 1967. Two years later Boconnoc would pass to his son John Desmond Grenville Fortescue.)

The land surrounding Point Neptune had also passed into new ownership. By 1929 the woods had been bought by Mr and Mrs Stenton Covington, popular conservationists, and handed to the National Trust. The old pilchard cellars, later used as a lime kiln, were purchased by Mr Jesse Julian who handed them over to the people of Fowey. These were converted into a shelter with toilets in 1935 and a lawn seating area was built above to celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V.

Sale Notice 1931
After Point Neptune was put up for auction in 1931 it fell into the hands of Mrs Hester Parnall (1868-1939), a Cornish lady with a remarkable history.

She had been born Hester Hicks, the daughter of Walter Hicks, founder of the St Austell Brewery. She appeared content to live the life of an Edwardian lady and married Thomas Rogers Parnall in 1904.

He was the son of Edward Parnall, who founded one of Cornwall’s leading drapery business. Parnall has been described as a man of leisure although he did serve as a director of the St Austell Gas Company. He was first married to Mary Catherine Parkyn who died in 1897.

When Hester became his second wife he was 64-years-old and she a relatively young woman of 36. They would live at Belfield, the family home, in St Austell.  Parnall died in 1915.

Hester Parnall (Western Morning News)
Hester Parnall (1868-1939) (Western Morning News)

Walter Hicks recognised a quality in his daughter and exploited this following a family tragedy in 1911. Her brother, Walter Hicks Jr, had been running the St Austell Brewery but was killed in a motorcycle accident at Helston. Hicks turned to Hester and made her a director while teaching her the skills to become Chairman in 1916. Under her management the brewery acquired 79 pubs and hotels and replaced horse-drawn wagons with steam-powered ones. The brewery thrived and she is regarded as one of the first British women to take the helm of a large company.

A worker at the St Austell Brewery described her as “ruling the company with the grace of a duchess combined with the aplomb of a successful businessman.”

St-Austell-Brewery (Beach Retreats)
St Austell Brewery, established in 1851, and managed by Hester Parnall (Beach Retreats)

Stories are part of Hester’s legacy. It is said that the first worker to spot her chauffeur-driven Daimler arriving at the brewery each morning would tap on the water pipes. This would echo throughout the brewery and warn workers to get to work. She was also known to place her two Pekingese dogs either side of her as she sat in her office. These were carefully placed on pieces of blotting paper laid out by the office boy.⁶

Hester Parnall invested a considerable amount of money at Point Neptune. Between 1936 and 1939 she modernised and redecorated the house and lowered the lounge windows to provide better views of the sea. She was no doubt preparing the house for her retirement.

Hester handed over control of the St Austell Brewery to Egbert Barnes in 1939, only three weeks before her sudden death.

Point Neptune was immediately offered for sale with the contents offered for auction in 700 lots. With war looming it was not inconceivable that buyers were unwilling to invest in property. The house didn’t sell and by August 1939 it was offered for let.

Auction Notice (1939)
During World War Two it is likely that Point Neptune remained largely unoccupied. At the end of the war it was once again offered for sale. By now the former stables and carriage house had been converted into Point Neptune Cottage but known locally as Readymoney Cottage. It had been author Daphne Du Maurier’s home between 1942 and 1943 before turning her attentions to the Rashleigh’s Menabilly.

Readymoney Cottage (Beautiful England Photos)
Readymoney Cottage (Beautiful England Photos)

In 1949 St Catherine’s Parade was leased to Fowey Borough Council for 50 years and gifted to the Borough of St Austell and Fowey in 1970.

For many years Point Neptune was the home to Mr and Mrs Hughen Welch. He had been a chartered accountant in South Africa and Rhodesia for 60 years before retiring to Cornwall in 1983. After this time the marine villa was converted into luxury holiday flats with the Welch family living on the ground floor. It was awarded Grade II listing in 2001. He describes Point Neptune as “a wonderful place to live” but chose to sell it in 2006.

It was marketed at £2.8 million and bought by comedian Dawn French and her then-husband Lenny Henry.

It is derisive that, at the time of the sale, Point Neptune was described as being ‘”‘next door to the house where Daphne Du Maurier once lived”. Time has somehow crafted Readymoney Cottage into being more famous than the estate house to which it once belonged.

The house has been tastefully renovated and, despite an amicable split with Lenny Henry in 2010, it continues to be an attractive family home for French and her second husband, Mark Bignell.

It is here that French has written her memoir, Dear Fatty (2009), as well as her novels, A Tiny Bit Marvellous (2011), Oh Dear Silvia (2013) and According to Yes (2015). With a roguish twist of fate Point Neptune has now become the home of a writer maintaining the literary romance that Cornwall is celebrated for.

Point Neptune Modern
Modern day Point Neptune seen from St Catherine’s Hill (House and Heritage)

St Catherine’s Parade survives as a public pathway but shows little evidence of its past glory. It is now a public footpath of compact earth, gravel and tarmac, bordered by advancing hedgerow and growth. Banks and walls remain but survive in poor condition. A footpath once ran down the side of the carriageway but this has all but disappeared with the advance of nature. At the seaward end old holm oaks still survive but there is little evidence that this was once the grand approach to Port Neptune.

¹West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser (17 Oct 1862)

²West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser (31 Oct 1862)
³Western Morning News (21 May 1932)
⁴West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser (28 Jul 1921)
⁵Western Morning News (31 Mar 2014)
⁶Cornish Guardian (25 May 2011)

Point Neptune,
St Catherine’s Cove, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1JH


Lenton Hall c1925 (Lenton Times)
Lenton Hall, Nottingham. Pictured around 1925 (Lenton Times)

Built: 1804 with alterations in late C19 and C20

Architect: William Stretton
Owner: The University of Nottingham
Now known as Hugh Stewart Hall
Warden’s residence
Grade II listed

Ashlar, with lead and slate gambrel roof and 5 ridge stacks. Gothic style, with plinth and crenellated parapet. Slim octagonal corner turrets with crenellated tops. 2 storeys. (Historic England)

Lenton Hall was a country house that found itself consumed by the expansion of Nottingham during the 20th century. It also had a change of name but outlasted many properties which endured similar circumstances. It was built in the-then agricultural village of Lenton, located to the west of Nottingham.

The Wright years
The house was built for John Wright (1758-1840) in 1804.  He was descended from the eminent Wright family whose standing around Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is still fabled today.

His grandfather, Ichabod Wright (1700-1777), had been a merchant and ironmonger who made his fortune founding a Nottingham bank. This, in turn, passed to his two sons and eventually arrived at the hands of John Wright and his cousin Ichabod. John also inherited land close to Nottingham as well as Derbyshire estates at Ripley, Hartshay and Riddings¹.

John Wright married Elizabeth Beresford in 1791. A year earlier her father, Francis Beresford, had started an iron producing business with Benjamin Outram. The influential John became a part owner in this enterprise that eventually became the famous Butterley Company.

John Wright (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)
Portrait of John Wright (1758-1840)

John Wright married Elizabeth Beresford in 1791. A year earlier her father, Francis Beresford, had started an iron producing business with Benjamin Outram. The influential John became a part owner in the enterprise that would eventually became known as the famous Butterley Company.

John and Elizabeth lived at Willoughby House, at the top of Low Pavement, in Nottingham. In 1798 he purchased around 130-acres of land at Lenton with the purpose of building a new family home. John appointed architect William Stretton (1755-1828) who, with his father Samuel, were principal builders and architects in Nottingham. Lenton House was completed about 1804 but there are some suggestions it may have been finished as early as 1802¹.

John and Elizabeth Wright moved to Lenton House with their only son and four daughters. After the move two more boys were born, the eldest being Francis Wright (1806-1873).

Francis looked destined for a career in banking until an extraordinary chain of events.

In 1828 his older brother, also called John, died and Francis became heir to the family fortune. Two years later his father gifted all his shares in the Butterley Company to him. They were worth £110,000 and allowed him to marry Selina FitzHerbert (1806-1888), from Tissington Hall, and set up home in The Park at Nottingham¹.

Lenton Hall (Lenton Times)
Lenton Hall with its formal gardens (Lenton Times)

By 1840 Francis Wright was resident at Lenton House as well as being custodians of Langar Hall to the south-east of Nottingham.

John Wright had moved to nearby Lenton Firs and died in April. He left estate worth £18,000, a paltry amount for a man of his standing, but the probability was that his wealth had already been dispersed amongst his children¹.

Francis Wright 1 (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)
Early portrait of Francis Wright (1806-1873)

Francis Wright’s stay at Lenton Hall (as it was now known), was somewhat brief. He desired a grander and more up-to-date house and so commissioned the architect Henry Isaac Stevens to build him a new property near Ashbourne in Derbyshire. Francis moved to Derbyshire in the early part of 1845 where he was able to supervise the construction of Osmaston Manor.

Lenton Hall was left unoccupied and stripped of its furniture but, as we will see, the Wright family hadn’t quite turned their back on it.

The Middleton years
The estate was bought by Digby Willoughby, 7th Baron Middleton (1769-1856) from Wollaton Hall. He had no wish to live at Lenton and doubtless saw the neighbouring estate as protection from Nottingham’s rapid expansion. Willoughby set about renovating Lenton Hall and lined up a tenant, Captain Anlaby Legard, to move in as soon as repairs were completed.

However, in July 1845, a fire nearly caused the destruction of Lenton Hall while the property was being decorated.

“At half past ten o’clock, Thomas Smith, a groom in the employ of Mr Wright, but living in Lenton, happening to look from his chamber window towards the Hall, saw great light and flames bursting from the windows. He instantly set out, and in breathless haste gave an alarm. The fire by this time had burnt the window shutters, and caught the ceiling, and was raging with great fury, threatening entire destruction. Fairfield actively set about putting out the fire, and Mather jumped upon a horse and rode off to Wollaton Hall, from whence two engines were instantly despatched, accompanied by the whole of the servants. Following help from the Nottingham town engine and a plentiful supply of water, the fire was completely extinguished by two o’clock in the morning.²”

In the aftermath it was discovered that windows and shutters, and about fourteen feet of ceiling had been completely destroyed. The fire had also spread along the whole of the bedroom floor and up the walls to the attic.

The following year James Anlaby Legard (1805-1869), a descendent of the long-established Legard family of North Yorkshire, finally moved in. He was a Captain in the Royal Navy but also an expert agriculturalist, a practice he put to good effect on the estate. He rented  Lenton Hall until 1853 before moving to his Yorkshire estate at Kirby Misperton.

The next tenant was John Morley, a cotton spinner and doubler, who resided at Lenton until 1860.

Between 1861 and 1867 the estate was leased to Lady Preisig Wildman (1801-1877). She was the daughter of F. Preizig of Appenzal in Switzerland and in 1816, aged 15, had married Thomas Wildman.

Colonel Thomas Wildman (1787-1859), a military man of the 7th Hussars, had inherited his father’s estates in Britain and sugar plantations in Jamaica. In 1817 he purchased Newstead Abbey from Lord Byron, an Eton school friend, and was reputed to have spent £100,000 restoring the house and gardens. On his death his widow was obliged to sell Newstead and rented Lenton Hall from Lord Middleton until 1867.

Lonsdale, James; Louisa Wildman (1800-1879); Newstead Abbey;
Louisa Wildman. By James Lonsdale (Art UK)

The Middleton estates were now run by Henry Willoughby, 8th Baron Middleton (1817-1877), who’d been considering the sale of a number of properties, including Lenton Hall, Lenton Firs and Lenton Abbey. The properties finally went to auction in June 1867.

Lenton Auction (BNA)
Mr. Pott, the auctioneer, told a packed audience at the George the Fourth Hotel in Nottingham that it was impossible for any gentleman to approach this fine estate without being struck by the entire beauty of the place. “It was beautiful not only as it stood, but from its surroundings, from the splendid timber, and the style of the houses which are not to be surpassed in the county.”

The spectators were under no illusion that the land would ultimately be used for building purposes. Mr Pott wanted to offer the greater portion of the estate for agricultural purposes but he realised that a locality so near a town would command high prices. He praised Mrs Wildman for the improvements she had made while at Lenton Hall and described it as a first-class mansion with every convenience for a gentleman’s family, together with entrance lodge, park, with wood, arable and meadow land to the extent of 155 acres. The lot was put up for £20,000 but there were no bidders and the estate remained unsold³.

The Wright family returns
In 1869 Henry Smith Wright (1839-1910) bought Lenton Hall from Lord Middleton.

He was the son of Ichabod Charles Wright of Mapperley Hall, his mother being the Hon. Theodosia, daughter of Thomas Denman, 1st Baron Denman of Dovedale. He had been educated at Cambridge and then called to the bar. Henry was also a banker with I and I.C. Wright and Co and would become an M.P. for South Nottingham. He married Mary Jane Cartledge in 1865 and later Josephine Henrietta Wright, his first cousin, in the same year he purchased Lenton Hall.

Henry was also a relative of Francis Wright, now living out his years at Osmaston Manor.

Herbert Smith Wright (Notts History)
Herbert Smith Wright (Notts History)

Lenton had been part of the County of Nottingham but in 1877 was absorbed into the town. It would seem that nothing could stop its enhusiastic growth.

Henry Smith Wright, approaching retirement from the bank, decided to leave Lenton Hall and move to Hampshire in 1878.

He sold the house and around 58 acres of estate to his brother, Frederick Wright (1840-1916), a partner with I. and I.C. Wright and Co, who was married to Ada Joyce Bateman.

Frederick was a godly man and well known throughout the Southwell Diocese. Throughout his life he was identified with commercial, philanthropic and religious life throughout Nottinghamshire. He worked on behalf of the Church of England improving the lives of fellow citizens with education, social and religious means. He was a vicar’s warden at Lenton for 25 years and conducted  a weekly bible class for young men.

In 1886 he had been appointed Justice of the Peace and became one of the oldest serving members of the magisterial bench.

Frederick disposed of certain portions of the estate before attempting to sell Lenton Hall in 1902. He failed in attempts to find a private buyer and offered it for public auction which failed to reach the reserve price.

One bidder was Albert Ball (1863-1946), a former plumber and then estate agent, who managed to convince Frederick to sell it  privately. His intention was to split the land up for building purposes and erect houses of ‘excellent superior character’ with half an acre of land to each house.

Davis, Noel Denholm; Albert Ball, JP, Mayor of Nottingham (1909-1910); Nottingham City Museums and Galleries;
Albert Ball as Lord Mayor (Art UK)

The purchase was made in 1903 and Ball managed to sell a number of building plots. Lenton Hall and its reduced seven-acres of land remained unsold and would remain this way until the following year⁴.

Ball became Mayor of Nottingham in 1909, was knighted in 1924 and became Lord Mayor in 1935. He had expertise in buying old country houses for redevelopment. Amongst his purchases were Sedgley Park, Bunny Hall, West Hallam, Kirk Hallam, Papplewick Hall, Tattershall castle, Willesley Castle, the Stanstead estate, Bulwell Hall, Upton Hall and Rufford Abbey. He was also the father of Captain Albert Ball, V.C., of the 1914-18 war.

The new century
The new owner of Lenton Hall was George Creswell Bond (1863-1939), who specialised in the development and management of iron-ore quarries in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. In his own practice he negotiated the development of coalfields on the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border but his greatest success was agreeing the purchase of one of the largest iron-ore bearing areas in England, in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.⁵

In 1905 he remodelled the south façade of Lenton Hall with Greek, Baroque and Jacobean features. However, Bond’s stay at the hall was tainted by ongoing disputes with neighbours over rights of access. He lasted until 1909 before selling it to Edward Powell, a man who similarly enjoyed confrontation, in particular with William Hemsley of nearby Lenton Mount.

The quarrels took their toll on Powell and he put Lenton Hall up for auction in July 1910. Bidding started at just £3,000 but was withdrawn when bidding stalled at £5,500.⁶


Lenton Hall remained unoccupied and suffered a robbery in 1911 when burglars, with the aid of battle-axes, obtained from the entrance hall, wrenched off valuable brass and copper fittings, broke a valuable statuette, cut down huge chandeliers, and carried off brass knobs from the drawing room grate. The fittings were found abandoned in a field close to the hall.⁷

The hall was finally sold to Charles Alfred Hingston (1875-1959) in the same year. He had previously lived at The Cliffe House at Radciffe-on-Trent and was a Nottingham lace manufacturer linked with Gifford, Fox and Co, specialising in the production of brown lace. He became a director in 1910 (the Fox in the company title was his uncle William Francis Fox) and found Lenton Hall ideal for a man of his standing.

Hingston became councillor for Castle Ward in 1914, was on the Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club committee, became Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the county in 1944 and was a Major in the territorial army.

He remained at Lenton Hall until 1921 when he sold the house and moved to Barton Lodge in Ruddington.

The Boot years
By 1921 the remaining parts of the Lenton estate were bought by Sir Jesse Boot (1850-1931), who had built The Boots Company into a national chain of chemists. Boot had money available after selling the company to the American-based United Drug Company in 1920.

Jesse Boot The Alliance Boots Archive & Museum Collection
Sir Jesse Boot (The Alliance Boots Archive & Museum Collection)

Boot would soon gift a large park, known as the Highfield estate, as a site for a proposed East Midlands University. The nearby Lenton estate clearly formed part of these plans. For a while he rented Lenton Hall to John Wright, a director of the London Northern Railroad Company, and in 1926 it became the temporary home of Major J. D. Barnsdale.⁹

John Davison Barnsdale (1878-1960) had married Helen Bowden, daughter of Sir Frank Bowden, the founder and chairman of the Raleigh Cycle Company, where he served as a director. Barnsdale had fought in the Great War with the Lancashire Fusiliers and was a prolific sportsman playing amateur football for England and cricket for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. He remained at Lenton Hall until 1929.

In 1930 it was announced that Lenton Hall had been purchased by University College, Nottingham, and was to be converted into a hostel for 50 male students. The more expensive matter of converting the building for student use was covered by Sir Jesse Boot (he had been made 1st Baron Trent in 1929). He instructed Mr Morley Horder, the architect of the college, to prepare necessary plans and promised to pay for alterations, additions and furnishings for the new annexe. The new university had opened in 1928 and its existing student accommodation at Mapperley Hall was already proving inadequate. Lenton Hall, a few minutes away, was the perfect solution and more than doubled the number of rooms.¹°

Three years later the university announced ambitious plans to extend Lenton Hall even further. The extensions included 125 single-study bedrooms, dining hall, common room, kitchens and staff quarters. Building work started in 1935 and would not be finished until 1937.  The enlarged building was formally opened by the Duke of Portland, president of the college, in January 1938. He was assisted by John Boot, 2nd Baron Trent, whose father had done so much financially for the institution.

By this time the university had renamed Lenton Hall as the ‘Hugh Stewart Hall of Residence’, in recognition of the late principal, Hugh Stewart (1884-1934), who had been Principal of University College, Nottingham, between 1929 and 1934.

The Hugh Stewart Hall of Residence was extended again in 1969. Today the original Lenton Hall, known as the Warden’s House, forms part of the Nottingham University campus with little evidence of its former glory as a country house.

Hugh Stewart Hall c1930s (Lenton Times)
Hugh Stewart Hall in the 1930s (Lenton Times)
Hugh Stewart Hall c1940s (Lenton Times)
A further view, this time in the 1940s with ivy taking hold on the original hall (Lenton Times)
Hugh Stewart Hall c1960s (Lenton Times)
Hugh Stewart Hall, probably taken in the 1960s (Lenton Times)
Hugh Stewart Hall (Nottingham University)
Today. The ivy-clad frontage of old Lenton Hall (Nottingham University)

¹Lenton Times
²Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties (25 Jul 1845)
³Nottinghamshire Guardian (7 Jun 1867)
⁴Nottingham Evening Post (18 Jul 1905)
⁵Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History
⁶Nottingham Evening Post 14 Jul 1910)
⁷Sheffield Daily Telegraph (18 Apr 1911)
⁹Derby Daily Telegraph (16 Dec 1921)
¹°Nottingham Evening Post (12 Apr 1930)

Hugh Stewart Hall,
University of Nottingham,
Lenton Hall Drive, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD


Dunsley Hall (Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel)
Dunsley Hall. Built in 1900 for Frederick Haigh Pyman, a man dedicated to the sea

Built: 1900
Owner: Wood and Stone Developments Ltd
Country house hotel

There is a certain mystery about Dunsley Hall. This late Victorian building is prominently situated in the small hamlet of Newholm-cum-Dunsley, a few miles outside Whitby. It offers distant sea views which made it an idyllic spot for Frederick Haigh Pyman to build his holiday home back in 1900. Its location at the heart of the village rather flew in the face of his contemporaries who were much happier hiding away from prying country folk.  Today, it sits blissfully beside a handful of cottages, a former chapel and the odd farmstead, altogether the perfect rural setting.

To understand why he chose Dunsley we must first look at his family background. Frederick Haigh Pyman (1858-1932) was the seventh child of George Pyman (1822-1900) of Sandsend, a small fishing village close to Whitby.

George Pyman (The Pyman Story)
George Pyman (1822-1900) (The Pyman Story)

At the age of ten George Pyman joined the family fishing boat and immediately developed a competency for the sea. By the time he was 21 he was captain but had far greater ambitions. He married Elizabeth English (1821-1893) in 1843 at Whitby Parish Church but realised that money could be made elsewhere. He uprooted his young family to West Hartlepool in 1850 and started a new career as a ship-chandler going into partnership with Thomas Scurr and later setting up a business with his brother-in-law, Francis English.

Pyman and Scurr later became ship brokers and coal fitters for the Weardale Coal Company and operated several collier briggs. After Thomas Scurr died in 1861 George continued to run the company which became George Pyman & Co. He moved into steamships and accumulated significant wealth allowing him to diversify into timber, farming and coal mining. However, it was the intricate web that George developed in shipping that provided his biggest assets. He became the largest steam-ship owner in the north east, was elected a Poor Law Guardian for West Hartlepool in 1861, an Improvement Commissioner in 1868, and became a Justice for the Peace for Durham in 1872. He was even appointed Vice-Consul for Belgium in 1879.

With two daughters and seven sons it was not surprising that his offspring would use his fortune to set up similar ventures around the country. George retired to Raithwaite Hall at Sandsend in 1882 and died in 1900. He left a substantial fortune of £135,000 as well as Raithwaite Hall, Moss Brow House and significant agricultural land around Whitby and Sandsend.

Frederick Haigh Pyman, his sixth son, was born in West Hartlepool in 1856. He was typical of George’s sons and, along with his brother Francis, set up Pyman Brothers in London in 1882 and later the London & Northern Steamship Company.

Frederick Haigh Pyman (The Pyman Story)
Frederick Haigh Pyman (1856-1932) ( Pyman Story)

In 1885 he married Blanche Gray (1862-1896), the daughter of William Gray, a family friend and extremely successful shipbuilder from West Hartlepool. Between them they had ten children and it is likely that Blanche died during the birth of Blanche Gray Pyman in 1896.  Three years later Frederick married Edith Mary Browning and would go on to have another three children. They chose to live in Enfield and later at 82 Fitzjohns Avenue in Hampstead.

While spending most of his year attending to business in London Frederick was eager to own a holiday home. In 1900 he chose a plot of family-owned land at Dunsley which stretched almost to Raithwaite Hall at Sandsend. It is not without possibility that Dunsley hall was built on part of the original Home Farm estate. Indeed, early maps suggest an older property stood on the site with the most likely use being a farmstead.

The architect is unknown but it is likely that the original property was smaller than appears today. The modest house was built of stone with two stories and an attic in Y-shaped fashion. The rear of the property stood higher while the unassuming main entrance was at the side of the property where a date stone is still visible above the door. Without doubt the masterpiece of the house would have been its unsymmetrical north prospect with then unobstructed views of the sea. Its three bays, containing the family rooms, led onto a small terrace with descending steps into the formal gardens.

Dunlsey Hall (The Pyman Story)
The family rooms had north facing sea views towards Sandsend (The Pyman Story)

Throughout the house was oak panelling hand-crafted by ships’ carpenters. According to legend the same craftsmen who worked here went on to do the interiors for the Titanic².

Without doubt the pinnacle of today’s house is the lounge. This may have originally been the drawing room or even used as a library. However, its grandeur suggests that this was once a room designed to impress and would have been used for entertaining.

Two features exist that make it one of the most remarkable rooms.
The first is a stained glass window depicting a classic seascape – obviously commissioned by a sea-faring person – and providing privacy from the village lane outside. The second is an inglenook fireplace, quite magnificent, with green tiles and marble surround. It is encased with carved oak and crowned with the Pyman coat-of-arms awarded to Frederick’s father.

Stained Glass Window at Dunsley Hall (House and Heritage)
The original stained-glass window with maritime scene (House and Heritage)
Fireplace at Dunsley Hall (House and Heritage)
The Victorian fireplace with family coat-of-arms above (House and Heritage)

The coat-of-arms appears almost Arabesque suggesting connections with far-off exotic places. However, according to a family descendent, who uses a later version of the family crest for the Pyman Pâté company it is rather glorified:-

“It was first matriculated in the 1880s for my great-great-great Grandfather George Pyman. The most striking feature of the coat of arms is the ‘savage affrontee proper garlanded about the loins and temples holding in the dexter hand a scroll’. During the nineteenth century the College of Arms seems to have been the habit of granting savages to those with business in foreign part – hence also the crescent and the stars. That George Pyman mainly did his business in Europe and around the British coast seems to be taking this somewhat to excess. It has met with slightly ribald comment from the family over the years.”³

Frederick Pyman was an enterprising man all but forgotten today. We can determine that he was particularly fond of singing, and a vocalist of no mean ability. He was a J.P., would become a Chairman of the London Chamber of Shipping, Commodore of the Whitby Regatta, a President of the Whitby Yacht Club (he kept his yacht ‘Stalwart’ at Whitby), and of Whitby United Football Club. In his later he years he, along with his brother Walter Herbert Septimus Pyman (1858-1931), was responsible for the reconstruction of the Pyman Institute at Sandsend, built on the site of their father’s birthplace.¹.

Frederick named one of his new ships for the London & Northern Steamship Company after Dunsley Hall. The steamship Dunsley was built in 1913 but had a short life. It was travelling from Liverpool to Boston when it was torpedoed off the south coast of Ireland in 1915. Newspapers report that it was hit by U-24, the same submarine that had already sunk the White Star liner SS Arabic. Pyman’s boat managed to stay afloat and rescue a number of the liner’s passengers. Two crewman from Dunsley were killed but we can assume that the rest of the crew and the Arabic survivors were transferred to safety before the ship plummeted to the depths.⁴

Dunsley 1913 (Hartlepool Ships & Shipping)
The steamship Dunsley named after Pyman’s holiday home (Hartlepool Ships & Shipping)

Frederick Pyman’s year followed a fairly predictable pattern. The winter would be spent attending to business at Mountgrove, his London town house, at Fitzjohns Avenue. During the summer he would relocate the family to his much-loved Dunsley Hall.

It was here, in the summer of 1932, aged 74, that he was taken seriously ill and died. He left £270,132 and properties to his family. Most interesting was that he put aside £2,000 to be distributed amongst his servants and employees.⁵

F.H. Pyman at Dunsley with eight of his children (The Pyman Story)
Frederick Haigh Pyman at Dunsley with eight of his children (The Pyman Story)

On his death the Dunsley Hall estate passed to a consortium of his eldest children. The most likely summer resident was Captain Frederick Creswell Pyman (1889-1966), the managing director of William Gray and Co Ltd, the West Hartlepool shipbuilders. He lived with his wife and children at Oval Grange in West Hartlepool and served with the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment in World War One.

In 1944 the whole of the Dunsley Hall estate was put up for sale by the executors. It comprised 728 acres and described Dunsley Hall as “a modern residence with luxurious and up-to-date equipment placed in a sunny and sheltered position with Mulgrave Woods to the North and commanding views over Sandsend and Whitby”.

The sale also included six farms, including Home Farm.

“The principal feature of the estate (apart from the beauty of its situation) is the excellence of the farm buildings. The late owner was not so much concerned with rental as with contented tenants and pride in a particularly well ordered estate, and the substantial comfortable and spacious character of the various steadings reflects this attitude to a remarkable degree, and entirely removes the usual anxieties of a Purchaser as to heavy repair and future capital expenditure”.⁶

In the end the estate was purchased privately by Frederick Pyman’s children with only a handful of outlying lots offered for sale.

Frederick Creswell Pyman (The Pyman Story)
Frederick Creswell Pyman shown with his first cousin

According to authors Peter Hogg and Harold Appleyard in their book The Pyman Story the family owned Dunsley Hall and its farms until 1949.  Legatees, led by Frederick Creswell Pyman, eventually sold the estate to a wealthy Leeds businessman called Joshua Raynor.

Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel in 2015 (House and Heritage)
Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel, pictured in 2016 (House and Heritage)

Dunsley Hall became isolated from the rest of its estate but survived under several different owners. During the seventies and eighties it appeared to have suffered from an identity crisis. The house was obviously expensive to maintain and the building was sub-divided into flats for a time. A number of changes of use were proposed. In 1978 it was granted planning permission to convert the main building into a school while, in the same year, was refused consent for conversion into a country club. Not to be deterred the owners applied for change of use from flats to a hotel. Once again this application was rejected by the North Yorkshire Moors National Park⁷.

Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel (House and Heritage)
North and east facing elevations of the 1900 house (House and Heritage)

Dunsley Hall’s recovery came in 1995 when it was acquired by William and Carol Ward. Their persistence with  planners resulted in the house becoming the Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel with significant, but sympathetic changes, to the interiors and the creation of a new bedroom block.

The business flourished for many years but suffered in the nadir of the economic recession. The year 2014 is regarded as the one where financial hardship finally hit the hospitality industry. It must have been a catastrophic day when the hotel was forced to call in administrators and all the hard work lost.

Happily, but not without irony, the house was bought by Wood and Stone Developments in 2015. With challenges overcome by others the hotel once again appears to be thriving with plans for further refurbishment afoot.

Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel 1 (House and Heritage)
Dunsley Hall seen from the road. The house is at the centre of the village (House and Heritage)

Other children of Frederick Haigh Pyman:-

Frederick had thirteen children across two marriages. Apart from Frederick Creswell Pyman the most notable were his eldest son William Haigh Pyman (1887-1983) who became a director of Pyman Brothers. Margaret Joyce Pyman (1891-1986) married John Campbell Boot, the son of Sir Jesse Boot of Nottingham, in 1914. They would later become Lord and Lady Trent. Lieutenant Alan Pyman (1895-1915) was killed by a bullet while serving with the 3rd Yorkshire Regiment at Givenchy in France.

¹Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (18 Jul 1932)
²Yorkshire Post (4 Mar 2009)
³Pyman Pâtés (
⁴Stevens Point Daily Journal, Wisconsin (20 Aug 1915)
⁵Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (17 Oct 1932)
⁶Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (18 Jul 1944)
⁷Planning applications to the North Yorkshire Moors National Park

Further Reading:-
‘The Pyman Story – Fleet and Family History’ by Peter Hogg and Harold Appleyard (2000)

Dunsley Hall,
Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 3TL


Osmaston Manor (Asbourne-town)

Built between 1845 and 1849. Demolished in 1965

Stone; coarse ashlar of carboniferous limestone from Kniveton and dressings of Ashover Grit from Stanton Moor. Roof: flat and slate. An irregular house of massive appearance in the neo-Tudor genre. There was a 150ft tower in army barracks style, a second smaller campanile, mullioned and transomed windows and a spacious palm house loggia. The Derbyshire Country House (Maxwell Craven and Michael Stanley)

There is usually limited information available when writing about a demolished house. However, with Osmaston Manor it was different. This house threw up different challenges. When researching the house and its people the amount of material proved almost overwhelming. The outcome was one of the longest pieces I have written but as the story took shape the eventual outcome was inevitable.

If Osmaston Manor had survived it would now be considered one of Derbyshire’s finest houses. Alas, for this country house, it suffered highs and lows, the result of ‘boom and bust’ circumstances, which in turn created a love-hate relationship for its owners.

Osmaston Manor 3 (Lost Heritage)
Osmaston Manor, now demolished (Lost Heritage)

Francis Wright (1806-1873)
Osmaston Manor was built for Francis Wright (1806-1873) who inherited the estate from his mother’s family (she was a daughter of Francis Marcus Beresford of Compton House, Ashbourne and Osmaston). The Osmaston estate had originally belonged to the Meynell family of Bradley.

The Wright family were Nottingham bankers but made their fortune from iron and coal production. Francis Wright was the head of the Butterley Iron and Coal Company from 1830 until 1873. When he became senior partner the company was valued at £30,000 and to underline its success its assets amounted to £436,000 by 1858¹ He was also connected to Codnor Park and several other large collieries in Derbyshire.

According to the Sheffield Independent he might have been termed a Christian in the broadest sense of the term. He was a supporter of the Church Missionary Society, the Church Colonial Aid Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. In his time he would build a new church, new schools and properties at Osmaston and become a benefactor of the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary². His biggest achievement was his involvement in the foundation of the Trent College, a public boarding school for boys in Long Eaton.

Wright had married his cousin Selina (1806-1888), the daughter of Sir Henry FitzHerbert of Tissington Hall, in 1830. They made their home at Lenton Hall in Nottinghamshire but saw the land at Osmaston as their future.

Francis Wright 1 (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)
Early portrait of Francis Wright (1806-1873)

Looking to build a new home worthy of his position Wright appointed Henry Isaac Stevens (1806-1873) of Derby to oversee the work. The architect was a brave choice as Stevens’ previous work had mainly been church designs but it would become his greatest commission. The house was built by Messrs. Ford and Co of Derby and was completed in 1849 in Victorian Tudor style with more than a passing resemblance to Tissington Hall.

Osmaston Manor had 70 rooms, a bake-house, wash-house as well as a brew-house. It had a subterranean railway, hot-air central heating and a central tunnel carried smoke from the house to a communal garden chimney, 150 feet high in Italianate style¹. The house was 330 feet long and a height of 192 feet. The terraces covered 4 acres of ground.

It was set within 3,500 acres of parkland with lakes and trees. Sir Joseph Paxton is believed to have advised on the layout of the park.

 Osmaston Manor (The Builder)

Francis Wright 2 (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)
A later portrait of Francis Wright (A Tale of Social Downward Mobility)

Francis Wright would live at Osmaston Manor until his death from bronchitis, aged 66, in 1873. He left 5 sons and 5 daughters – the oldest of which was John Wright of Eldensley House² who inherited his father’s estates. Another son, Francis Beresford Wright, lived at Aldercar Hall.

While Osmaston Manor enjoyed the trappings of success under Francis Wright the same could not be said under the guardianship of John Wright.

Osmaston Manor 5 (Lost Heritage)
The terrace at Osmaston Manor (Lost Heritage)

John Wright (Osmaston) (1831-1901)
John Wright (1831-1901) had been married twice. He married Emily Sophia Plumptre in 1853 and, following her death, was wedded to Florence Mary Rice in 1861. In his lifetime he would become Deputy Lieutenant of Derbyshire and Justice of the Peace for Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

Wright was eager to build upon his father’s legacy and just six months after his death had negotiated the purchase of the Old Dalby Estate in Lincolnshire for £19,100. The sale included Old Dalby Hall with its beautiful grounds and gardens and 343 acres of land. A month later he offered the property for lease ‘on the border of the great Vale of Belvoir, within easy access to all the meets of the Quorn and Belvoir Hunt’.³

The following year, in 1874, he was entangled in a legal battle concerning the purchase of Dearham Colliery in County Durham. Wright believed he had bought the colliery through an intermediary for £90,000 only to find that the purchase had actually cost just £60,000. The aggrieved Wright initiated criminal proceedings against a Mr Henry Osborne O’Hagan (who had bought the colliery), Mr Isaac Armstrong, Mr James Saunders, the Cumberland Union Banking Company, the London and Provincial Bank and the London and Liverpool Financial Association, all of whom he believed implicated in the fraud. In the end only O’Hagan and Saunders were tried at the Central Criminal Court where the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

It was a harsh lesson for John Wright and, with large estates to support, suggests the family wealth was not what it was. Something needed to be done and the first signs of change came when John Wright rejected his patronymic and changed his name to John Osmaston in 1876. He stated that there were several magistrates of the same name in Derbyshire⁴ but it is more likely he had a long term plan.

In 1883 it was announced in a London newspaper that the estates of the late Francis Wright at Osmaston, Shirley and Ednaston, in Derbyshire, and at Langar and Barnston, in Nottinghamshire, were to be sold at auction⁵. Victorian property owners had begun to realise that there was a natural decline in property values if they were not carefully attended to. To ensure that wealth remained for future generations many ‘impoverished’ landowners resorted to the Settled Estates Act which effectively set them free of unwanted and unsustainable properties. Income raised from the sale could then be used for them to live in relative comfort for the rest of their lives.

Auction notice for Osmaston Manor (BNA)
1883 auction notice for Osmaston Manor

The Osmaston Manor Estate, comprising 3,400 acres, with a rent roll of £6,000 per annum, failed to sell at the August auction. The main problem was Osmaston Manor which was thought to be out of proportion to the value of the property and could not be kept up in adequate style on less than at least twice the rental of the Derbyshire and Nottingham estates put together⁶.

Despite its failure to sell at auction there were interested parties willing to take on the financial burden of Osmaston Manor.

In November 1883 it was reported that the estate had been bought by Sir Samuel Wilson (1832-1895) who had made his fortune by sheep farming in Australia. On returning to England he had leased Hughenden Manor from Lord Beaconsfield and his vast fortune was more than enough to cover the upkeep of Osmaston Manor.

Wilson was understood to have paid £206,000 for the Osmaston Manor Estate, including the entire contents of the house, with the exception of the pictures. This was thought to be a low price for such fine estate with many experts stating it was worth at least £25,000 more than that⁷. At the time of the sale it was estimated that Francis Wright and John Osmaston had spent close on £250,000 to build and upgrade the house and grounds.

However, Sir Samuel Wilson was to be frustrated and the potential sale didn’t receive the necessary consent or ratification. The likelihood was that the sale didn’t meet the necessary formalities specified in Lord Cairns’ Settled Estates Act, under the enabling powers of which alone the property could only be sold.

Smoke Room (Ashbourne News Telegraph)
The smoke room (Ashbourne News Telegraph)

No sooner had the sale fallen through when, just twelve hours later, Sir Andrew Barclay Walker stepped in to buy Osmaston Manor. The deal was completed in January 1884 with the Liverpool businessman paying £206,500 for the mansion, including the furniture and contents, excepting the pictures⁸.

Before John Osmaston could sever his ties he had the final task of disposing of the entire collection of valuable paintings from Osmaston Manor.

Art auction notice (BNA)
From the Derby Mercury 1884 (BNA)

The collection, enriched with bronzes and statutory, had been brought together by Francis Wright and his son and was said to have cost £150,000. The auction took place at the Lecture Hall at Wardwick, Derby, in March 1884. Commentators of the day questioned why so extensive a collection had not been sent to the rooms of Christie, Manson and Co in London.

The auction catalogue claimed that two well-known works were included in the sale. These were the ‘Monna Lizza’ by Leonardo da Vinci, and ‘The Magdalen’, by Murillo, purchased direct from the Queen of Spain.

Also included were ‘The Annunciation’ by P.P. Rubens; ‘The Fight for the Standard’, the engraved work by R. Ansdell, R.A.; ‘A River Scene’ by Constable, R.A.; three grand works by J.M.W. Turner⁹.

The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald gave a word of caution:

“Old masters are dubious things to buy from an auctioneer unless he knows something about art. It is difficult, above all things, to estimate the real value of works by the old masters. Experienced picture-buyers sometimes fall into pit-falls ruinously expensive, victimized by false work which has the irresistible charm of plenty of brown varnish employed by scientific swindlers, who, by their clever counterfeits obtain rashly artificial prices.”

On the day of the auction John Osmaston answered his critics by stating he had offered the pictures in Derby because he thought many of his friends in the country would be glad of an opportunity of purchasing some of them. Mr Huggins, the auctioneer, said that one of the conditions of the sale was that he could not guarantee the authenticity of any of the lots and that considerable doubt was cast upon their genuineness¹º.

In the end the bidders were unconvinced. Proceeds from the entire auction raised a paltry £7,000 – ‘The Magdalen’ sold for 1,900 guineas and the ‘Monna Lizza’ scraped a mere 50 guineas!

So ended John Osmaston’s shorts and ill-fated tenure at Osmaston Manor. We can only speculate as to his character and business acumen but evidence suggests he spent far more than he could afford and the only solution was to dispose of the estates.

John Osmaston, lighter in pocket, was now free to move to another country house, Hawkhurst Court, Billingshurst, in West Sussex. In time he would become a J.P. for Sussex and would remain there until his death, aged 70, in 1901. At the time of his death his estate was sworn at £2,826¹¹. By sharp contrast his father, Francis Wright, had left personal estate worth £700,000. His mother, Selina Wright, would live in the Dower House at Yeldersley Hall and died in 1889.

Osmaston Maor 4 (Lost Heritage)
The imposing Osmaston Manor (Lost Heritage)

Andrew Barclay Walker (1824-1893)
Andrew Barclay Walker was the second son of Peter Walker of Auchingflower who had been the head of the Fort Brewery in Ayr. His father had removed to Liverpool and after completing his education at Ayr Academy and the Liverpool Institute Andrew Walker was taken into partnership in his father’s brewing business.

In the course of his early career it is told that, at one time, becoming aware that foreign brandy would probably become scarce wowing to the failure of crops, he at once applied himself to buying up all the brandy that he could get control of. His anticipations proved accurate and he made a sum of money¹³.

In 1853 he had married Eliza, the daughter of John Reid, of Limekilns, Fifeshire.

Walker had served as a magistrate for Ayrshire and sometime afterwards was made a magistrate for the county of Lancashire. His chief residence was at Gateacre Grange, Liverpool, and joining the municipality had risen to the position of alderman.

Gateacre Grange (Liverpool City Group)
Gateacre Grange, Liverpool (Liverpool City Group)

He had first been elected Lord Mayor in 1873, and the day after his appointment he had announced his intention of presenting the city with an art gallery at a cost of £20,000. For many years he had been in the habit of gathering numbers of poor men and women about him to enjoy a Christmas treat, which he provided for them in Toxteth.

A highlight of his career was a visit by the Duke of Edinburgh to lay the foundation stone at the Walker Art Gallery. As it was approaching its completion in 1876 the council thought it right that Walker be re-elected as Lord Mayor. To celebrate he presented the council with a handsome jewelled badge to be worn by future mayors on state occasions.

Walker had spent a number of years cruising with Lady Walker who had been suffering a lingering illness. She died in 1882, leaving behind her six sons and two daughters, the eldest being Peter Carlaw Walker (1854-1915).

Sir Andrew Barclay Walker (Brewery History)
Sir Andrew Barclay Walker (1824-1893)

By the time Andrew Walker purchased Osmaston Manor he was the head of Peter Walker and Sons and a very wealthy man†. It was understood he owned half the public houses in Liverpool. His main brewery was at Warrington with a second one added at Burton-on-Trent. Walker was also the proprietor of coal mines in South Wales.

In the same year the Liverpool Corporation built an extension to the art gallery, and Walker generously covered the cost of £12,000.

In 1885 he was awarded a baronetcy and would become known as Baronet Walker of Gateacre in the County of Lancaster. He was also appointed Deputy Leiutenant of the same county.

A reporter from the Liverpool Mercury visited Osmaston Manor in June 1887 and described the house and the popularity of its new owner:-

‘The entrance hall is a spacious and pleasant chamber, as are the principal rooms, but the smoke room is evidently much appreciated. Though its appointments are good, and its panelled ceiling of timber very fine, it has an essentially cosy appearance. Like the rest of the house, it is lit with the electric light. I found Mr Richard Keene, the well-known photographer of Derby, taking a variety of views of the mansion and its surroundings. For many years Sir Andrew Walker had known Sir Henry Wilmot, by whose advice, rumour has it, he bought Osmaston Manor. Be that it may, ever since that never to be forgotten garden party, to which the whole county was invited for Sir Andrew by Lady Wilmot, the popularity of its owner has gone on increasing with all classes. Only at the last county ball at Derby the guests were equally astonished and delighted at the sumptuousness of the supper and the excellence of the wines, and it only accidentally oozed out that the supper was the generous gift of Sir Andrew. He is a munificent subscriber, I heard, to all charitable and religious agencies for good, but withal he gives with discretion. He is a familiar presence at county gatherings, and with the middles classes and poor he has made his name a household world no less than with the county gentry’.

In October 1887 he married for a second time. His bride was Maude, the second daughter of Mr Haughton Charles Okeover, a family of very old standing and who had held the lordship of Okeover for over 700 years. Maude had served Queen Victoria in the capacity of Maid of Honour and was rewarded with several wedding presents including a beautiful diamond, ruby and pearl brooch, with a piece of hair and a photograph of her majesty in a silver frame.

Sir Andrew Walker made a number of improvements at Osmaston Manor. Kelly’s Directory 1891 described it as ‘a noble mansion, of dark blue limestone, with dressings of gritstone, situated on an eminence commanding extensive views of the picturesque scenery around, and is surrounded by large and well-kept pleasure grounds covering an area of about 35 acres ; considerable improvements have been made within the last few years, and in 1887 a billiard room was added : there are four lakes with islands within a short distance of the manor frequented by flocks of wild fowl.’

Andrew Barclay Walker (William Quiller Orchardson) BBC Your Paintings
Sir Andrew Barclay Walker Warrington Museum & Art Gallery (The Public Catalogue Foundation)

Sir Andrew Walker was a private man but an extremely generous one. He had contributed £1,000 towards the rebuilding of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, of which he served as president in 1886. He also sat on the committees of the Derbyshire Agricultural Society and Derby Charity Organisation Society as well as becoming vice-president of Derbyshire County Cricket Club. He was also vice-president of the Derbyshire Natural History and Archaeology Society, a patron of the Derby Burns’ Club, and a director of Francis Wright’s Trent College.

While Sir Andrew was a popular and kindly landlord his stay at Osmaston Manor was relatively short. He had suffered ill-health and even his wedding to Maude Okeover had to be delayed several months while he recuperated on his yacht and a visit to Scotland¹².

During early 1892 he was confined to his room at Gateacre Grange for several weeks with a severe illness. It was a sickness he would never recover from and he died in February leaving estate worth £2,876,781¹⁴.

Walker left the Osmaston estate, together with its contents,as well as the Belle Vue estates and adjoining property at Little Woolton, near Liverpool, to his eldest son, Peter Carlaw Walker¹⁴.

Gateacre Grange was left to another son, William Hall Walker, and another property, The Knoll, at Barton-under-Needlewood, to John Reid Walker¹⁴.

In 1895 Lady Maude Walker would marry Lort Phillips, of Lawrenny Park, Pembrokeshire, Master of the Pembroke Hounds.

Osmaston Manor 2 (Lost Heritage)
Osmaston Manor (Lost Heritage)

Sir Peter Carlaw Walker (1854-1915)
Sir Peter Carlaw Walker, 2nd Baronet, was just 38-years-old when he inherited Osmaston Manor. With the huge burden of maintaining his father’s popularity he wasted no time taking on Sir Andrew’s affairs.

As the head of the Walker and Sons he looked to expand its portfolio of public houses. In 1894 he formed a property company for the purpose of opening new sites and to carry on the business of brewers, maltsters, ale, beer, porter and corn merchants¹⁵.

Sir Peter Carlew Walker 1 (Old Antique Victorian Print)
Sir Peter Carlaw Walker (1854-1915)

Unlike his father he had been educated at home, proceeding to neither public school nor university. Instead he had developed a prowess at sport. Big game fell to his rifle in Norway, Ceylon, Assam, Colorado, Wyoming and British Columbia. He was also a keen sailor, being a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes and spending six months in the south seas sailing around in a 30-ton coasting schooner. Walker  was a strong supporter of the National Hunt and later appointed the trainer, Johnny Latham, to oversee his jumpers.

Sir Peter Carlew Walker (Vanity Fair)
Caricature of Sir Peter Carlaw Walker from Vanity Fair

His business interests would be divided between Derbyshire and Lancashire. He was a Deputy Leiutenant and Justice of the Peace for Derbyshire, and a Deputy Lieutenant for Lancashire, of which county he was also High Sheriff in 1896-7. Although a staunch unionist he had little time for politics, nor indeed public life in general. He would be remembered as a generous landowner and country gentleman, an ardent follower of the hounds, a consistent patron of the turf, and perhaps above all as a keen officer in the auxiliary forces seeing out 35 years of service in the Lancashire Yeomanry and Derbyshire Yeomanry. He would reach the rank of Colonel in 1906 before handing over to Lord Henry Bentick, in 1912.

He was President of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary in 1903 and presented the institution  with a complete Finsen light apparatus for the treatment of Lupus. He also invited the inmates of the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphanage to Osmaston Manor every year.

Osmaston Manor (Ipernity)
Outdoor entertaining at Osmaston Manor (Ipernity)

One of Peter Walker’s most interesting innovations at Osmaston Manor was a selection of Wyoming elk, which he purchased during one of his expeditions to the ‘Wild West’.

In 1895 Peter Walker gave away his stepmother at her wedding to Lort Phillips which took place at St. Peter’s Church in Eaton Square.

There was no doubt that the bond between Walker and his stepmother was close. Where similar relationships had failed it was through Maude Okeover that Peter Walker met his future wife. This turned out to be Ethel Blanche Okeover, his stepmother’s younger sister (d.1935), and the new Lady Walker of Osmaston Manor.

The wedding took place at Okeover Church in May 1899. Peter Walker’ was 44-years-old and his best man was Mr Nugent Howard of Broughton Hall at Malpas. It was an elaborate affair with the couple leaving Ashbourne by train for London en route to Paris, where their honeymoon was spent

Ethel Blanche Okeover, the step-daughter-in-law to her own sister, proved to be an able marriage partner. She became actively involved with the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital and was vice-president of the Derbyshire Red Cross Society. She also owned a number of National Hunt horses and raced under the name of Mr Shirley Park, taking the title from a neighbouring Walker estate.

In 1900 the couple celebrated the birth of a daughter, Enid Walker (1900-1988), who would marry Count Cosmo Diodono de Bosdari in 1928 but it would end in divorce in 1949. She later remarried to Bernard H. Lofts-Constable in 1958.

Osmaston Manor Courtyard (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)
The courtyard at Osmaston Manor (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)

Despite his liking for privacy Peter Walker opened the gardens at Osmaston Manor to the general public for the first time in the summer of 1900. It was the start of an annual event that lasted many years with entry charges donated to worthy causes. The occasion was always a highlight of the calendar with specially arranged daytrips from Nottingham and Derby.

In November 1902 Sir Peter and Lady Walker celebrated the birth of their son and heir.

Ian Peter Andrew Monro Walker (1902-1982) was christened at Osmaston Church with the Countess of Kingston acting as godmother¹⁷. While Ian Walker enjoyed a charmed childhood his life would change dramatically in 1915.

His father had been suffering from internal ailments for some time before entering a London nursing home in September 1915. The baronet underwent an operation and recovered sufficiently to be moved to Osmaston Manor. However, once settled in his own bed he suffered a relapse and died aged 61. On his death he left unsettled estate of £255,096 with net personlty £174,612.

At the age of 13 Ian Monro Walker inherited the Osmaston Manor estate along with the death duties associated with it.

Osmaston Manor 1 (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)
The front hall at Osmaston Manor (A Tale of Downward Social Mobility)

Ian Peter Andrew Monro Walker (1902-1982)
Ian Walker fell into his father’s mould with a love for the outdoors. Under the watchful eye of his mother he shouldered the responsibilities as the 3rd Baronet at Osmaston Manor.

He marked his coming of age with the purchase of the Glen Avon deer forest in Banffshire from the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. The estate comprised 40,000.acres producing about 90 stags a season as well as grouse, shooting and fishing¹⁸

His biggest contribution to Osmaston Manor was the creation of a polo ground within the grounds along with a riding school built for the purpose of housing polo ponies. The annual polo weeks would prove to be one of Derbyshire’s principal summer attractions. He became a prominent breeder of polo ponies and Ayrshire cattle.

While enjoying his sporting pursuits the young baronet showed expertise running estate affairs. In 1931, aged 29, he formed a new unlimited company, the Shirley Park Estate Company, ‘to acquire, manage certain estates in Derbyshire, and to purchase certain chief rents, to construct, improve, and alter roads, railways, watercourses, parks and streets’¹⁹

This measure of turning the estate into a company was designed to ease the burden of heavy taxation and one that the Duke of Devonshire and Duke of Bedford had already adopted.

NPG x122801; Sir Ian Peter Andrew Monro Walker-Okeover, 3rd Bt by Bassano
Sir Ian Walker (National Portrait Gallery)

The following year Ian Walker bought Beresford Dale for £15,500, not for the Shirley Park Estate Company, but out of his personal wealth. The Dale, one of Derbyshire’s beauty spots, was well known for its excellent fishing and came with 576 acres.

In 1935, the person who had protected his childhood from the pressure of baronetcy died. Lady Ethel Blanche Walker died at Osmaston Manor after a short illness.

By now it was evident that Osmaston Manor and its estates were becoming a millstone. It was a problem shared with many large houses and, in 1937, the Derby Daily Telegraph lamented the loss of country houses and praised the county’s remaining properties:-

“It is fortunate that very few Derbyshire estates have shared the tragic fate of Drakelow Hall, its glories consigned to the housebreaker and timber merchant. Keddleston Hall, Osmaston Manor, Foremarke Hall, and, of course, Chatsworth and Haddon, remain unsullied by modern changes²º”

For one of these houses the future was not certain at all.

NPG x122800; Sir Ian Peter Andrew Monro Walker-Okeover, 3rd Bt by Bassano
Sir Ian Walker (National Portrait Gallery)

Sir Ian Walker married Dorothy Elizabeth Heber-Percy (1913-2005) of Guy’s Cliffe, Warwick, in June 1938. She was the granddaughter of Lord Algernon Malcolm Arthur Percy, the second son of the 6th Duke of Nortumberland, and a former chairman of Warwickshire County Council. The best man was Ralph Curzon²¹.

Despite the pressures of running a large country estate Sir Ian Walker remained a popular landlord. He had built new cottages and a village hall in Osmaston with traditional thatched roof and half-timbered style.

Sir Ian Walker Wedding (Leamington Spa Courier)
The wedding of Sir Ian Walker and Dorothy Heber-Percy 1938 (Leamington Spa Courier)

The outbreak of World War Two saw Osmaston Manor handed over to the Red Cross to attend wounded soldiers. It also coincided with the birth of the couple’s first child, Elizabeth Anne Walker, born in 1940. She would be joined by Jane Katherine Walker (1942-2012) and Captain Sir Peter Ralph Leopold Walker (1947-2003). King Leopold of Belguim was one of Peter’s godparents explaining the use of his name for the future 4th Baronet.

In 1942 Sir Ian Walker purchased the estates of Slains, including the picturesque village of Collieston and the historic Old Slains Castle. The estate, bordering on the rugged Aberdeenshire coast, extended to 8,000 acres, and included 54 farms and crofts²².

As second-in command of the Derbyshire Yeomanry he saw active service throughout the North African campaign and eventually took over as commanding officer in 1944. The following year he was awarded the D.S.O. ‘for distinguished service’ in Italy.

Osmaston Manor (John Bain)
Lost forever. Osmaston Manor seen in its glory days (John Bain)

The end of the war highlighted the many problems facing many landowners. In 1946 Sir Ian Walker announced his intention to leave Osmaston Manor and take up residence at Okeover Hall which had recently come into his possession. He told the Derby Daily Telegraph that the decision was “entirely due to heavy taxation.”

A string of would-be purchasers looked around Osmaston Manor but the house was not officially on the market. The most viable plan was to convert the manor into a girls’ school while retaining the estate. However, his departure depended on essential repairs being completed at Okeover Hall. In 1947 the Shirley Park Estate Company auctioned Yeldersley Hall further reducing their assets.

Okeover Hall (Gareth Hughes)
Okeover Hall. The family seat of the Walker-Okeovers (Gareth Hughes)

The move away was a prolonged affair with Sir Ian Walker still associated with Osmaston Manor. According to Giles Worsley in ‘England’s Lost Houses’ (2002) Sir Ian Walker didn’t actually inherit the Okeover estate until 1955 and didn’t actually move there until 1962. This is perfectly viable and explains his decision to obtain a Royal licence to change the family name to Walker-Okeover in 1956. The title befitted his role as Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire which he had assumed in 1951

However, with the future of Osmaston Manor seemingly doomed, he continued to develop his property portfolio elsewhere. In 1948 he had set up a new company, along with Lady Dorothy, called The Walker Scottish Estates Co, based at the House of Glenmuick in Ballatar, with the purpose of running estates in Aberdeen and Angus²³.

By this time Osmaston Manor was a problem that would not go away. With little in terms of maintenance the house was left to decay and the inevitable occurred in 1965 when the Walker-Okeovers made the irrevocable decision to demolish the house. It was raised to the ground but not before the neo-Tudor main staircase was transferred to Wootton Lodge in Staffordshire²⁴

The Winter Garden
The Winter Garden at Osmaston Manor shortly before demolition

Sir Ian Walker-Okeover died in 1982, aged 79, and Lady Dorothy died in 2005 reaching the grand old age of 91.

Osmaston Park Wedding Venue (Stones Events)
The terraces and staircases still survive (Stones Events)

The Osmaston Estate is still owned by the Walker-Okeover family as well as the House of Glenmuick, Ballatar, in Aberdeenshire. It is managed by Sir Andrew Peter Monro Walker-Okeover, 5th Bt (b.1978), and Lady Philippa Walker-Okeover.

The foundations of Osmaston Manor still exist and the grassed terraces, ponds, stone steps and balustrades have been restored. Today it is called Osmaston Park and serves as a wedding venue where elaborate marquees stand on the site of Henry Stevens’ now forgotten masterpiece.

Osmaston Park Marquee (Stones Events)
A wedding marquee stands on the site of Osmaston Manor (Stones Events)

By coincidence the original plans for Osmaston Manor have recently been discovered by Mark Smith of Derbyshire Records Office:-

“It happens this way in archives sometimes.  One minute, you are moving a roll of plans from one shelf to another, and carefully keeping a record of its new location; the next, you are rediscovering some long-lost treasure.

“It was in 1978 that we acquired collection D1849, the archives of the Osmaston Estate.  The collection includes rent books, tenancy papers, some plans and photographs, and family papers of the Walker family, which acquired Osmaston Manor after the death of Francis Wright (1806-1873).  A list for the collection was circulated soon afterwards. However, entry D1849/14 on that list, (“Osmaston Manor plans”) had no descriptive details, and our internal record to say which shelf held the plans said only ‘number not used’.”

The plans are in a poor condition and conservation work will be needed.

Osmaston Manor Plans (Derbyshire Records Office)
Previously thought lost. The original plans for Osmaston Manor (Derbyshire Records Office)

¹Bygone Derbyshire
²Sheffield Independent (25 Feb 1873)/Morning Post (25 Feb 1873)
³Morning Post (12 Sep 1873)
⁴Derby Mercury (13 Sep 1876)
⁵Derby Mercury (30 May 1883)
⁶Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (21 Nov 1883)
⁷Derby Mercury (28 Nov 1883)
⁸Sheffield Independent (24 Jan 1884)
⁹Derby Mercury (13 Feb 1884)
¹ºDerby Mercury (19 Mar 1884)
¹¹Sheffield Daily Telegraph (14 Feb 1902)
¹²Sheffield Independent (12 Oct 1887)
¹³Lancaster Gazette (1 Mar 1893)
¹⁴Leeds Mercury (29 Mar 1893)
¹⁵Liverpool Mercury (30 Jul 1894)
¹⁶Lichfield Mercury (2 Jun 1899)
¹⁷Derby Daily Telegraph (19 Feb 1903)
¹⁸Nottingham Evening Post (30 Aug 1923)
¹⁹Derby Daily Telegraph (28 May 1931)
²ºDerby Daily Telegraph (10 Feb 1937)
²¹Derby Daily Telegraph (28 Jun 1938)
²²Aberdeen Journal (11 Apr 1942)
²³Dundee Courier (30 Oct 1948)
²⁴The Derbyshire Country House (Maxwell Craven & Michael Stanley)

†Peter Walker & Son
The original brewery was started by Peter Walker, father of Andrew Walker, at the Fort Brewery in Ayr. Through investors the business expanded to Warrington and Burton on Trent. Andrew Walker took over the business in 1890 and is credited with pioneering many production, distribution and management systems that are still in place within the industry. The group had a chain of pubs around Liverpool and the north west. The company merged with Cairns Brewery in 1921 and the Tetley’s Brewery of Leeds in 1960, to form Tetley Walker.

In 1961 Tetley Walker merged with Ind Coope of Burton and Ansells of Birmingham to become Allied Breweries. This later became Allied Lyons in 1978 following a merger with J Lyons and Co. The business merged with Carlsberg in 1992 to become Carlsberg-Tetley and is now known as Carlsberg UK.

Further Reading:
A Tale of Downward Social Mobility
Lost Heritage


Fawsley Hall (Fawsley Hall)
Fawsley Hall, Northamptonshire. Saved from destruction (Fawsley Hall)

Built:  C16 with later additions in 1732 and 1867-68
Richard Knightley, Francis Smith, Thomas Cundy and Anthony Salvin
Owner:  Hand Picked Hotels
Country house hotel and spa
Grade II* listed

It is of coursed, square ironstone, with limestone dressings. Surviving from the house constructed by Richard Knightley , or representing additions of only a little later, is a five-bay hall, a south-facing parlour with two-storeyed oriel, the kitchen and bakehouse west of the parlour, and the long range known as the brewhouse (but perhaps originally lodgings) which runs parallel with the hall range, from the bakehouse to the north. The fourth, north side of the inner court is closed by a range dated 1732 and attributed to Francis Smith of Warwick (d 1738) but altered by Thomas Cundy (d 1825) in 1815 and then extended by Anthony Salvin in 1867-8 into a three-storey range. (Historic England)

The land around Fawsley Hall has belonged to the Knightley family since the early 16th century. The family entertained Elizabeth I and were supporters of Oliver Cromwell.

Fawsley Hall comprises builds from several periods. Parts of Sir Edmund Knightley’s 16th century house were added to in 1732 when the north wing, attributed to Francis Smith, was built. This was remodelled by Thomas Cundy in 1815 and again by Anthony Salvin at the same time as building the south-east wing of 1867-68. It stands within 2,000 acres of gardens and landscape partly designed by Capability Brown in the 1760s.

Fawsley Hall 1908 (Hand Picked Hotels)
Fawsley Hall pictured in 1908 (Hand Picked Hotels)

Fawsley Hall was last lived in by Lady Louisa Mary Knightley until her death in 1913. She is remember for befriending John Cary Merrick, ‘The Elephant Man’, and provided him with a cottage on the estate for the only three holidays he ever had.

With the house empty the last Knightley Baronet died in 1938 and the estate was inherited by a nephew, the sixth Viscount Gage of Firle Park, Lewes, in Sussex.

The house was requisitioned in World War Two and suffered terribly at the hands of the military – “the worst wreckers of country houses since Cromwell,” says Simon Jenkins.

By 1949 the house was in poor condition with lead stripped from its roof and with crumbling ceilings. Soon the Great Hall would lose its roof and The Northampton Mercury reported its woeful neglect:

“Its 70-odd rooms echo hollowly as one walks, for the Hall has been empty since troops billeted there left in 1944. Notices on doors still bear witness to the last occupants – ‘Common Room’, ‘Sergeant’s Only’, ‘Company Office’.

“Many thousands of pounds would be needed for repairs. The paintings and furniture were sold and what was once a home became a shell.”

Lord Gage never lived at Fawsley Hall but in 1948 he formed a joinery firm that two years later merged with the Over Timber Company of Byfield which moved its workshops into the crumbling house. A sawmill was later built in the grounds behind the house.

A reporter from the Northampton Mercury made a return visit to the house:

“I walked around the echoing halls and passages and found them piled high with shavings and stacked with timber.

“Where Cromwell, Pym, Hampden and Haselrigge once conversed as they dined, the falsetto scream of a circular saw awoke the echoes. The tall mirrors of the ballroom, the carved tracery above the great mullioned windows, looked down on wood, wood, and more wood being turned into crates, gates, fencing, feeding troughs, and pig huts.

“Near the foot of the great staircase, with dust gathering in the toothless gaps of the sweeping bannisters, someone was operating a ‘four-cutter’ – one of the most modern of machines that cuts and planes four sides of a plank simultaneously.

Fawsley Hall (Northampton Mercury)
Fawsley Hall being used as a carpentry workshop in the 1950s (British Newspaper Archive)

“In front of the great stone fireplace in the long banqueting hall, encrusted with coats of arms whose quarterings tell the story of the marriages of the Knightley’s through the centuries, workmen sat warming themselves in their lunch-hour. Around the walls stretches the oak panelling which Lord Gage decided to leave as it had stood so long.”

When Pevsner visited in 1972 the house was woefully derelict. The Saunders family bought the house and converted it into a hotel and reinstated the missing roof. Simon Jenkins called it ‘a happy restoration’.

Fawsley Hall (Daily Mail)
Fawsley Hall, now a luxury hotel (Daily Mail)

After passing into the hands of entrepreneur Simon Lowe and Indian conglomerate, the Poonawalla Group, it was put up for sale for £15million in 2013. It was acquired for an undisclosed sum by Hand Picked Hotels a few months later. The hotel underwent a £4.5 million restoration in 2014-2015.

Fawsley Hall (fivestarhotels)
Fawsley Hall, Northamptonshire (Five Star Hotels)

Fawsley Hall Hotel and Spa
Fawsley, Daventry, Northamptonshire, NN11 3BA 


Potternewton Hall, Leeds.

Built about 1720.  Demolished in 1934-1935

A group of history students in Australia claim to have uncovered evidence that the Duchess of Cambridge’s family once had links to a forgotten stately home near Leeds.

Olive Lupton

Art historian Michael Reed, of Hallam College in Melbourne, and his students discovered that the Duchess’s great-grandmother, Olive Lupton, was born and grew up on the Potternewton Hall Estate near Leeds.

The story is not exactly new as there were reports of her Yorkshire connection as far back as 2006. Her great-grandfather, Noel Middleton, married Olive Lupton, the daughter of Francis Martineau Lupton, one of a number of the Lupton family who were influential in Leeds throughout much of the 19th century and up until the mid-20th-century. The Lupton family have been described as ‘Landed Gentry; a business and political dynasty.’

More interesting is the Duchess of Cambridge’s connection with Potternewton Hall – long gone – but once one of several country houses in the area – Potternewton Park Mansion, Newton Lodge and Scott Hall.

Potternewton Hall stood on land once owned by the Earl of Mexborough. In the early 1700s the Barker family bought a large parcel of land and around 1720 built the three-storey country house.  From 1860 the family had split their estate and sold Potternewton Hall along with 13 acres to Frank Lupton, a wool merchant and mill owner, and the father of politician Francis Martineau Lupton. The Lupton family had been landowners since the 18th century and Frank’s brother, Arthur Lupton, a wool merchant in the family firm, owned the adjacent Newton Hall Estate. Arthur had nurtured ideas for subdivisions on his adjoining estates since the 1850’s and in 1870 decided to sell Newton Hall to Frank and his other brother, Darnton Lupton. Darnton had lived at Potternewton Hall from the 1830’s and had been Mayor of Leeds in 1844.

By the end of the 19th-century the Luptons did not live at Potternewton Hall. The house was now lived in by the Nussey family who are likely to have taken out a long lease and remained there until 1933.

In 1910, the New Briggate Development Company bought half the shares in the Lupton-owned estates and after World War One, with the demand for housing increasing, came the realisation they were sitting on a potential cash windfall.

By 1927 the estates had been sold to United Newspapers who were investing in new markets. The sale of land, and a hefty profit, was obviously their motive because, in 1933, Potternewton Hall was being advertised for sale as “valuable building land”. The Yorkshire Post was already reporting that the Newton Hall Estate was “the largest private building enterprise in Leeds”.

Potternewton Hall was bought by Max Rabinovitch, a wholesale jeweller, of Nassau Place, in Chapeltown. The house and 13 acres had clearly been bought for redevelopment.  Just over twelve months later Potternewton Hall and 5 acres at the front was sold for a hefty loss to Pickard and Co, a Leeds building contractor, who confirmed they would demolish the house and build on the land.

By 1935 both Potternewton Hall and Newton Hall had vanished and the land further sub-divided. At the outbreak of World War Two a new housing development, Riviera Gardens, flat-roofed white painted houses, had replaced the house and surrounding gardens.

Following the demolition of Potternewton Hall a York antiques dealer, G.F. Greenwood, offered for sale old panelling from Potternewton Hall. Much of this is lost but some was bought by Lt Col Gowans and reassembled at Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest, as a morning room

Sutton Park, Yorkshire

While Leeds may not have played a major part in the Duchess of Cambridge’s life she does have a strong connection. Michael Middleton, her father, spent his first two years (until the age of two) living at Moortown in Leeds.

Olive’s cousin, Baroness von Schunck (née Kate Lupton), also spent her early years with Olive’s family at Potternewton Hall. In fact, Baroness von Schunck’s daughter, Baroness Airedale, lived on the nearby estate – Gledhow Hall – which was once painted by J.M.W. Turner.

Beechwood, Yorkshire

Undoubtedly, the Lupton’s were a very distinguished family. Olive Middleton’s two uncles were both Lord Mayors of Leeds – Sir Charles Lupton in 1915 and his brother Hugh Lupton in 1926. Her cousin, Miss Elinor Lupton, was Lady Mayoress in 1943 in her own right. Apart from Potternewton Hall and Newton Hall, the Lupton’s owned a large number of grand houses in the area. These included Beechwood, in Roundhay, Mount Pleasant in Harehills and The Acacia on Oakwood Garden. Beechwood was a Georgian mansion on a large farming estate. It was purchased by Frank Lupton, Olive Middleton’s grandfather, in 1860 and eventually became the Lupton family seat. It stayed in the family until 1998. Much of the Beechwood farming land had been sold by the 1950’s to create a large council estate.