SAUGHTON HOUSE

Saughton House 2 (Canmore)
Saughton House was one of the finest old Scottish architectural mansions. (RCAHMS)

One hundred years ago, yet another mansion was lost to fire. The Daily Record reported that Saughton House, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, had been destroyed in a blaze that had broken out in the early hours of the previous day. Only the walls were left standing and a considerable number of valuable paintings and furniture had been lost. The house was occupied by Mrs De Pree whose husband, Major Hugo De Pree, was away on war service. ¹

Mrs Ruth De Pree, her three daughters, and servants, had been asleep when they were aroused by the smell of smoke at about four o’clock in the morning. It originated from a room in the third-storey and help was immediately summoned from adjoining farms. When the Edinburgh Fire Brigade arrived, the roof was blazing and soon fell in. A scarcity of water complicated efforts to rescue the house but allowed enough time to save a selection of valuable items. Among them was a painting of Field Marshal, Sir Douglas Haig, the uncle of Mrs De Pree, and a selection of much-prized letters from him. The Scotsman speculated on their future value: ‘They may some day form interesting historical documents of the great war’. (It was right. These letters survive in the archives at the National Library of Scotland). Only the blackened walls and a vaulted stone roof were left standing. ²

Saughton House - Daily Record - 2 Feb 1918
From the Daily Record. 2 February 1918. (The British Newspaper Archive)

The fire effectively erased Saughton House from history. It shouldn’t be confused with Saughton Hall, in Saughton Park (demolished 1954), but has caused confusion to historians ever since. The ancient manor was approached from the south by an avenue leading from the Calder, or Old Glasgow, Road. The estate of Saughton was transferred in 1537 to Richard Watson, and passed from father to son, in direct line until 1837, when William Ramsay Watson, the last male heir succeeded his brother Charles. Four years later, on his death, succession opened to his sister Helen. In 1844 she married Sholto John, Lord Aberdour, who in 1858 became the 12th Earl of Morton. In 1893 Saughton House came into the possession of Mr William Traquair Dickson of Edinburgh who restored and added to it.

Old Suaghton House - Daily Record - 2 Feb 1918
After the fire. A photo from the Daily Record. 2 February 1918. (The British Newspaper Archive)

The house, made up of two floors with attics, was built in an L-plan of Scottish architecture. In the high-pitched roof were dormer windows, terminating in stone thistles. The staircase carried right up to the roof and gave access to a small level space, where commanding views of the countryside and the Firth of Forth were obtained. A small room to the right-hand side of the entrance, formed part of an ancient hall, the main feature of which was its roof, and which was still intact after the fire. About 1878 this roof was covered in a very thick layer of whitewash. On being cleaned off, the stone arch was found to be covered over with quaint old paintings in oil, most of them in good preservation. On a blue ground, sprinkled with stars, was painted a conventional sun, filling the centre of the roof of the old hall, with the twelve signs of the zodiac encircling it. Along the springs of the arch on one side was a line of ships in full sail.

William Traquair Dickson (1845-1926), the son of John Dickson of Costorphine, was well-known in church and antiquarian circles and one of the oldest members of the Society of Writers to the Signet. He was a solicitor at Traquair Dickson and MacLaren, a company that had been founded by his uncle. For over 52 years he was a member of the West Coates Church and a member of the Ecclesiological Society. His love for antiques and literature meant that Saughton House was embellished with many fine pieces and books. ³

Saughton House 1 (Canmore)
Saughton House was rented by Major and Mrs De Pree. She was the daughter of Mr Hugh Veitch Haig of Ramornie, and niece to Field Marshal, Sir Douglas Haig. (RCAHMS)

Traquair Dickson eventually rented the house to its last occupants, Major and Mrs Hugo Douglas De Pree.

Hugo Douglas De Pree (1870-1943) was a British army officer who had been educated at Eton and the Royal Military College, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1890 and served on the North West frontier of India in 1897. Promoted to captain in 1900 he fought in the 2nd Boer War in South Africa, volunteering with the Imperial Yeomanry. After serving in World War One he eventually became the Commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, until his retirement in 1931.

Major-General Hugo_de_Pree_in_1931
Major-General Hugo De Pree (1870-1943)

In March 1918 Saughton House was put up for sale, but not until any of its salvageable contents had been removed. The following month The Scotsman carried an advertisement for the sale of an oak mantelpiece and wood panelling taken from the house. ⁴

It appears that Saughton House remained an empty shell and was eventually demolished (date unknown). It stood on the site of the present-day Broomhouse Primary School.

Notes: –
In 1928 newspapers reported plans to convert Saughton House into a Scottish Chelsea Hospital for disabled ex-servicemen, as a memorial to Earl Haig. ‘There they have a building that had lain derelict until it was in a state of obvious disrepair’. It was hoped that the council might hand over Saughton House if an offer was made through the Haig Fund to take it over and restore it. It is easy to link this property, with it Haig connection, to our house, but there is every likelihood that the stories may have related to Saughton Hall instead. ⁵ 

References: –
¹ Daily Record (2 Feb 1918)
² The Scotsman (2 Feb 1918)
³ The Scotsman (27 Nov 1926)
⁴ The Scotsman (20 Apr 1918)
⁵ Falkirk Herald (15 Feb 1928)

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GLYNWOOD HOUSE

Glynwood House
On 1 February 1918, a few lines in the Belfast News-Letter stated that Glynwood House, Athlone, the family mansion of the Dames-Longworth family, had been destroyed by fire. The newspaper coverage might not have been weighty, but it had a devastating impact on the country house. ¹

In 1837, the Glynwood estate had been described as ‘a large and beautiful seat with extensive premises, having on its eastern, southern and western sides extensive ornamental grounds’. The mansion was constructed in 1790 and rebuilt about 1860 by John Longworth (1798-1881). Around this time the Longworth estate amounted to 3,000 acres in County Galway, as well as land at Roscommon and Westmeath. The family descended from Francis Longworth of Creggan Castle, although the family seat was at Glynwood House. ²

When John Longworth died in 1881 he was succeeded by his cousin, Francis Travers Dames-Longworth (1834-1898). This distinguished character was the second son of Francis Dames-Longworth, Deputy Lieutenant of Greenhill, and educated at Cheltenham and Trinity College, Dublin. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1855, created Queen’s Counsel in Ireland in 1872 and elected Bencher of the King’s Inns in 1876. In a memorable career he was a Commission of the Peace for six Irish counties – Westmeath, Dublin, Donegal, Kildare, King’s County (now Co Offaly) and Roscommon. Two years after inheriting the Longworth estates he was also made Lord-Lieutenant of King’s County. Francis rebuilt Glynwood House between 1883 and 1885 at a cost of £16,482, employing the services of architect George Moyers (1836-1916) with ornate plasterwork completed by J Caird and Co of Glasgow. Glynwood House was a three-storey Italianate house and, in 1887, Moyers returned to make further additions, this time spending £10,702 on building work.

The Dames-Longworths might have thought that their Irish utopia would last forever. However, the death of Francis Travers Dames-Longworth in 1898 was arguably the beginning of Glynwood House’s downfall. His son, Edward Travers Dames-Longworth (1861-1907) was only 37 when he took over the estates. He became Deputy-Lieutenant for Co Westmeath as well as being a JP for Westmeath and Roscommon. But his occupancy lasted just seven years. One Sunday afternoon in March he decided to go for a walk in the grounds of Glynwood House. When it started to rain the household expected him back, but when he hadn’t returned by dinner some uneasiness was felt. After a search of the grounds the police at Creggan were informed and they, in company with servants, continued the search. An examination of the grounds by lantern endured through the stormy night until the body of Edward was found in a little copse in the wood. He was found clutching his pipe and walking stick and had suffered a fatal heart attack. In his will he bequeathed the Clontyglass and Kilheaskin estates and real estate in Co Monaghan to his wife, while the Glynwood estate passed to his son Travers Robert Dames-Longworth, a mere eleven-years-old. ³

Because of his young age, the Glynwood estate was put in the hands of trustees, among whom was Thomas Hassard Montgomery (1872-1953), an agent for the land. Montgomery effectively ran estate affairs while the adolescent Travers completed his education. The young inheritor went to Military College, Sandhurst, in 1914-15, around the same time that Montgomery married his sister, Frances. The outbreak of war saw them both fighting overseas; Travers was a Lieutenant in the Irish Guards while Thomas Montgomery returned as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

It was shortly after Montgomery’s return that Glynwood House was ‘accidentally’ burnt down. The house had been leased, may not even have received its new tenants, and the cause of the fire remains a mystery to this day.

Travers chose to spend time in England while Montgomery, his wife and staff, relocated to Creggan House, also burnt down in 1921 by the Irish Republicans. This forced Thomas Montgomery to leave the Glynwood estate and move to Hampton Hall in Shropshire.

It was the end for the mansion and was left in ruinous condition. The surviving estate was sold to William Nash in 1921 and was largely demolished to supply bricks for local houses, while stone balustrades were cut to ornament their gardens.

Travis Robert Dames-Longworth (1896-1925) became a well-known figure in Cheltenham, famous in sporting circles, and celebrated for being the owner of White Cockade, a famed racehorse. He died in February 1925 at Brockten Hall, Shropshire, aged only 29. Lt-Col Thomas Hassard Montgomery died in 1953, aged 80, at Cadogan House, Shrewsbury. ⁴

Glynwood House survives as a crumbling shell, its walls reclaimed by nature as each year passes.

Glynwood House (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 1 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 2 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 3 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 4 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 5 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 6 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 7 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 8 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 9 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 10 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 11 (Abandoned Ireland)

Glynwood House 12 (Abandoned Ireland)

References:-
¹ Belfast News-Letter (1 Feb 1918)
² Ballymena Weekly Telegraph (7 Mar 1925)
³ Irish Times (19 Mar 1907)
⁴ Gloucestershire Echo (7 Mar 1925)
Family timeline, thanks to Sally’s Family Place
Images, courtesy of Abandoned Ireland

ARABIN HOUSE

Arabin House 1 (Savills)
The original central entrance, now screened by an extension, has traceried fanlight, pilasters, entablatures and open pediment. (Savills)

In January 2018, Arabin House, a Grade II listed country house set in 11 acres of mature parkland, was valued at £10 million. This house appears to have existed by 1848, underwent extensive alterations and additions during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and was later subdivided. The house stands on what was once the Manor of Woodredon, bought in 1834 by William St. John Arabin and succeeded in 1842 by Richard Arabin (1811-1865), a wealthy landowner, who built Beech House (later renamed Arabin House) at High Beech in 1848. It is attributed to Frederick Octavius Bedford (1784-1858), an English architect better known for his ecclesiastical works, including four Greek Revival churches in South London.

Richard Arabin-by Thomas Richard Williams (NPG)
Richard Arabin (1811-1865). A portrait by Thomas Richard Williams. (National Portrait Gallery)

In 1977 listed building consent was given for major alterations, including the replacement of the old roof with a flat roof. In 1984 the house was split to form two separate dwellings. Beech Hill was created to the west of the three-storey core of the house, and Arabin House was formed from the existing historic central core and later east wing.

Arabin House 2 (Savills)
Arabin House, where Tennyson is said to have stayed with ‘Judge’ Arabin in December 1861. (Savills)

The house today has lost most of its original features and the plan-form has been significantly altered, with most architectural historians agreeing that its current appearance lacks cohesion. It is a far-cry from Bedford’s original design with only the original surround to the front entrance surviving.

After the death of Richard Arabin the property went through the hands of Arthur John Arrowsmith, Arthur Morrison, Frank Pegler, R.T. Stone and others, right up to the present owner who has been able to reunite the original Arabin estate. Planning permission has been granted to bring together the two houses and once more create a single residential property.

Arabin House 3 (Savills)
Arabin house is set in about 11 acres of private mature parkland in Epping Forest. It is an elegant white stucco fronted three story home. (Savills)
Arabin House 4 (Savills)
Arabin House used to be called Beech House, Today it is split into two properties – Beech Hill and Arabin House. (Savills)
Arabin House 6 (Savills)
Planning permission has been granted to bring together the two houses to create an elegant home with bespoke modern luxury. (Savills)

References: –
Arabin House Heritage Statement – April 2015 (Built Heritage Consultancy)

HAWARDEN CASTLE

Hawarden Castle 2 (RCAHMW)
The core of present house is formed by a mansion built in 1752–57 for Sir John Glynne, 6th baronet, to the designs of Samuel Turner, the elder, of Whitchurch. It replaced the 16th century Broadlane Hall, the seat of the Ravenscroft family, which stood some way to the south. (RCAHMW)

Hawarden Castle, was the estate of the former Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), having previously belonged to his wife, Catherine Glynne. It was built in 1752-57 for Sir John Glynne, 6th Baronet, to the designs of Samuel Turner. When W.E. Gladstone died in 1898 it passed to his grandson, William Glynne Charles Gladstone (son of W. E. Gladstone’s eldest son, William Henry Gladstone, who had died in 1891). After he was killed in the First World War the estate was purchased by his uncle Henry Neville Gladstone, later to become 1st Baron Gladstone of Hawarden.

220px-Portrait_of_William_Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone was a British statesman of the Liberal Party. In a career lasting over 60 years, he served for 12 years as Prime Minister , spread over four terms beginning in 1868 and ending in 1894.

In January 1918 the house was at the centre of this vast Flintshire estate. However, 100 years later we can see that all was not well. Hawarden provided an interesting model that would prove to be the downfall of many country estates during and after the First World War.

In a letter to tenants, Mr Henry Neville Gladstone (1852-1935), pictured below, explained of the trustees’ decision to offer considerable portions of the Hawarden estates for sale. It aroused considerable interest in Flintshire and no little regret among the tenants. ¹

Mr Gladstone explained at some length the circumstances under which the course taken was decided upon.

Mineral revenues had come to an end about ten years previous, and estate affairs were now mainly based on agriculture. Recent Acts of Parliament had imposed a system of valuations and rates of duty on agricultural properties which had made it impossible to continue the management of estates. Deducting the charges of taxes, rates, tithe, maintenance, upkeep, and other outgoings, the income at the disposal of Mr William Glynne Charles Gladstone (1885-1915), the grandson of of former Prime Minster, William E Gladstone, for his personal use, and for the payment of annuities charged on the estates, had amounted to something less than one-fifth of the gross revenue.

Then came the war, and the young squire was killed in action near Laventie. The financial consequences to the estates were simply told. War taxation on income derived from the estates already amounted to nearly four times the annual charge in 1913-14, and no relief was anticipated in years to come. But the effects of pre-war taxation made the position more formidable. Death duties under the Finance and other Acts had totalled six times the amount chargeable on the death of Mr William Henry Gladstone in 1891. This was a serious financial burden. The margin existing before the war had been swept away, and a serious deficit on the working of the estates had to be faced. This was an impossible position alike for landlord and tenant.

Mr Gladstone added that his nephew and he were anxious to preserve as far as possible the historic associations of the castle and the traditions of the Glynne and Gladstone connection, and this would only be achieved by a sale of land.

As it was, the actions taken by the trustees did indeed safeguard the future of the grand house.  Hawarden Castle and the remains of the estate are still owned by the Gladstone family today.

¹ The letter was reproduced in the Nantwich Guardian on 22 January 1918.

The_Lord_Gladstone_of_Hawarden_in_1932
Henry Neville Gladstone, 1st Baron Gladstone of Hawarden was a British businessman and politician. He was the third son of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.
Hawarden Castle 3 (RCAHMW)
In the early nineteenth century, Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, 8th Baronet inherited the estate. In 1809 to 1810, he had the house enlarged, and the exterior completely remodelled in a crenellated Gothic Revival style, by the London architect Thomas Cundy the elder, although the Georgian interiors were preserved. (RCAHMW)
Hawarden Castle (Daily Post)
The house is designated as a Grade I listed building by Cadw because of its architecture, especially the 18th century interiors, and for its exceptional importance as the home of W. E. Gladstone. (Daily Post)

ST. NICHOLAS

St Nicholas 1 (KF)
St. Nicholas passed to the James family in the late 19th century. The Honourable Robert James (1873-1960), who laid out the gardens, was in contact with leading horticulturists and garden designers of the day, including Lanning Roper, Lawrence Johnston and many others. (Knight Frank)

St. Nicholas sits on the fringe of the historic market town of Richmond. With elevated  views across the pastures towards the ruins of Easby Abbey and the River Swale its origins date back to 1171 when St. Nicholas was owned by the Crown. It has been remodelled over the centuries and has been in private ownership since around 1585, making it the oldest structure in Richmond in continuous use as a habitation. The property is on the site of a Benedictine hospital, founded in 1171 by one of the Earls of Richmond. There are still graves from the era underneath large parts of the grounds.

St Nicholas Hospital by Thomas Girtin (Wahoo Art)
St. Nicholas was constructed in the 17th century using materials from the medieval hospital and possibly incorporating part of a 16th century building. It was altered in the early 18th century by Ignatius Bonomi and others. This painting of the hospital is by Thomas Girtin. (Wahoo Art)

St. Nicholas was the home of much-loved Richmond character Lady Serena James, who lived in the house with her husband, Bobby James, who in 1905 planted the gardens as they currently exist.

She was born Lady Serena Mary Barbara Lumley on March 30 1901, the only child of the 10th Earl of Scarbrough. As an only child, and as a girl, Lady Serena was in a position comparable to that of Vita Sackville-West at Knole; had she been born a boy, she would have been heir to a great inheritance – in her case the medieval Lumley Castle in County Durham and the Palladian Sandbeck Park, near Rotherham in Yorkshire.

Lady Serena James (The Peerage)
A stalwart of North Yorkshire life who for 40 years ran the gardens created by her husband Bobbie James at St Nicholas. (The Peerage)

Her marriage in 1923 to Robert James, third son of the 2nd Lord Northbourne, brought her to the entrancing St Nicholas. The marriage was unexpected: Bobbie James’s first wife Lady Evelyn – nee Wellesley, daughter of the 4th Duke of Wellington – had died young, and he was almost 30 years Lady Serena’s senior. Lady Scarbrough, moreover, was mortified that St Nicholas was not a great country seat. “She’s going to live in a little cottage by the road,” was how she described her daughter’s future.

Lady Serena continued to live there after the death of Bobby James. The eponymous “Bobby James” rose still grows throughout the gardens, and on the walls of the house. Richmond residents were welcomed to tour the gardens at any time, and were often invited in for tea. Lady Serena died in 2000, and is still fondly remembered by many in the town.

St Nicholas was then purchased in 2001 by Keith Schellenberg. He is a Yorkshire businessman who made his fortune in shipbuilding, livestock feed, glue, and agricultural chemicals. He was also a sportsman, playing rugby for Middlesbrough and Yorkshire, and was part of the British Olympic bobsleigh team.

St. Nicholas (St. Nicholas Gardens)
St Nicholas is on the site of a Benedictine hospital which was founded before 1171 by one of the earls of Richmond. In 1448 it was granted by Henry VI to William Ayscough who renovated the buildings and founded a chantry chapel on the site. It was dissolved in the 1540s and refounded under Mary c 1553,  but subsequently sold by Elizabeth I in 1585 from which time it has been in private ownership. (St. Nicholas Gardens)
St Nicholas 12 (KF)
In 1813 St. Nicholas was bought by the Marquess of Zetland . After several changes of ownership it passed to the James family in the late 19th century. The Honourable Robert James (1873-1960), who laid out the gardens, was in contact with leading horticulturists and garden designers of the day, including Lanning Roper, Lawrence Johnston and many others. (Knight Frank)

MOOR PARK

Moor Park - The Sphere 10 Dec 1949
Moor Park. Probably built for Sir Francis Clarke in the early 17th century and called Compton Hall. (The British Newspaper Archive)

These shocking images from the late 1940s showed Moor Park, Farnham, in a perilous state of repair. The fate of Moor Park was uncertain. Occupied by Canadian troops during the war, it was out of repair, and in 1948 its property developer owner had applied to the local council for a demolition order. The Farnham Urban District Council applied to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning to have it listed as a monument of special architectural or historic interest under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. This gave it a two-month breathing space in which it was hoped to find some use for Moor Park, which would have ensured its preservation (it was eventually listed in 1950).

Moor Park 3 - Illustrated London News Aug 28 1948
The east front, showing the main entrance in its damaged state: alterations were made in 1733 and it was stuccoed in Regency times. (The British Newspaper Archive)
Moor Park 1 - The Sphere 10 Dec 1949
To save the house from demolition a sum of £14,500 had to be paid down. Repairs were expected to cost another £12,500. (The British Newspaper Archive)

Sir Harry Brittain, in a letter to The Times, had been campaigning for its preservation.

Sir Harry wrote: “May I through your columns make an appeal for Moor Park, a historic building of far more than local interest? It lies in a beautiful setting near Farnham, facing Waverley Abbey across the River Wey. To this house Sir William Temple, statesman and man of letters, and his lady (Dorothy Osborne) came in 1684 to spend 15 years of their married life, the remaining 15 being taken up in embassies abroad. Temple called the house Moor Park after the Hertfordshire place belonging to his cousin Franklin.

“Jonathan Swift joined Sir William Temple as his secretary in 1684 and lived with him for four years. After a sojourn in Ireland he returned and remained until the death of Sir William, whose last instructions were that his heart should be buried under the sundial in the gardens he had laid out. It was in this very house that Swift wrote his first book, ‘The Tale of the Tub’, followed by ‘The Battle of the Books’. It was here that he met Esther Johnson – later immortalised in his famous ‘Journey to Stella’. The house was stuccoed in Regency times, and certain rooms on the south side centre block rebuilt in 1733. I am, however, assured by a well-known architect that nine-tenths of Moor Park is actually the house Sir William Temple knew. Many notable people stayed there, including King William III, Addison and Steele.

“Moor Park was badly treated by troops during the war and is somewhat out of repair, and the owners have applied for a demolition order. It is indeed to be hoped that this order may be averted before it is too late. I am assured that the local authority and everyone concerned are anxious that if possible this old house, with its unique associations, should be preserved for the nation. The capital involved is not large. All that is required is to find some use for Moor Park, either divided or as a whole.

“All who know it will agree that this beautiful valley, watered by the River Wey, is as fair a landscape as one could wish to see. When in addition, it holds not only the remains of England’s first Cistercian abbey, but across the stream an old home filled with literary and historical memories, as is Moor Park, every effort should be made to keep unbroken this special link with the past.” ¹

Moor Park 2 - Illustrated London News Aug 28 1948
The garden front of Moor Park as it was before World War 2: originally known as Compton Hall, it was renamed Moor Park by Sir William Temple when he bought it in 1684 and came to live there with his wife, Dorothy Osborne. (The British Newspaper Archive)
Moor Park 3 - The Sphere 10 Dec 1949
The room at Moor Park where Jonathan Swift, Secretary to Sir William Temple, engaged on his literary labours. (The British Newspaper Archive)
Illustrated London News - Aug 28 1948
Showing its dilapidated condition after occupation by troops: a room in Moor Park, the mansion where Swift met his Stella. (The British Newspaper Archive)
Moor Park 1 - Illustrated London News Aug 28 1948
A room in Moor Park before the war, when the mansion was known as ‘Swift’s Club’, a country club: the lounge hall. (The British Newspaper Archive)
Moor Park 4 - The Sphere 10 Dec 1949
The clock tower at the entrance to the stable-yard. It bears the date 1890. (The British Newspaper Archive)

It wasn’t until the following year that a use was found for Moor Park. It was to become the first in a chain of colleges for adult Christian education, under supervision of Canon R.E. Parsons, formerly the Secretary of the Churches’ Committee for Religious Education among men in the forces and Canon and Prebendary of Warthill in York Minster. The Moor Park College for Adult Christian Education was supported by financial gifts, volunteer help and grants from Surrey County Council and survived a financial crisis in 1953 from which it was handed over to an educational trust. The chapel, library and spacious conference room provided accommodation for assemblies of up to 50 students. The top floor of the house was used by the Overseas Service, as offices and a college for persons about to embark on voluntary or business ventures abroad. The Christian college vacated in the late 1960s and it was used as a finishing school, a cookery school and later the Constance Spry Flower School. More recently it was converted back into residential use as 3 luxury apartments, with 8 new mews houses and 12 new apartments in the walled garden. ²

Illustrated London News - 1 Sep 1984
An advertisement for the Campana Finishing School in 1984. Moor Park had a variety of uses before being converted into luxury apartments. (The British Newspaper Archive)
Moor Park (Francis Firth Collection) 1913
Moor Park, seen in 1913. £60,000 was needed to convert it into Moor Park College for adult Christian education in 1950. (Francis Frith Collection)
Moor Park (Rightmove)
Moor Park. The Grade II listed country house is believed to date from 1630 and is now split into luxury apartments. (Rightmove)
Moor Park 1 (Rightmove)
Moor Park and Ivy Cottage are conjoined homes in 60 acres of riverside grounds. (Rightmove)


References: –
¹ Surrey Mirror (27 August 1948)
² The Sphere (10 December 1949)

WROTHAM PARK

Wrotham Park (High Living Barnet)
Wrotham Park, built by Admiral John Byng, in 1754, from the designs of Isaac Ware, the architect. (High Living Barnet)

The Neo-Palladian country house, near Potters Bar and Barnet, was built in 1754 by Isaac Ware for Admiral John Byng. Unfortunately, he was court martialled and executed during the ‘Seven Year’s War’ and never got to live at Wrotham, named after the original family home, near Sevenoaks, in Kent. He’d never married, and the estate passed to the eldest son of his brother, Robert, who’d already died in Barbados. It was through him that the house descended to its present owner.

Admiral John Byng
Admiral John Byng, born in 1704, who, in 1757, fell a victim to an unjust sentence. (Wrotham Park)

The house, which was in the Classical Italian Style was described in James Thorne’s Handbook to the Environs of London (1876) as “a spacious semi-classic structure, of the style which prevailed towards the middle of the last century; it consists of a centre and wings, with recessed tetrastyle portico, and a pediment, level with the second story, in the tympanum of which are the Byng arms.” The third storey was erected by the 2nd Earl of Strafford in the 19th century. It bore a strong resemblance to Southill in Bedfordshire, another seat of the Byngs during the 18th century. The principal front of the mansion looked to the west, commanding views across the park, towards Elstree and Watford.

Wrotham Park The Illustrated London News March 17 1883
Wrotham Park, Barnet (south-west front), seat of the Earl of Strafford, destroyed by fire in 1883. (British Newspaper Archive)

It was during the tenure of George Stevens Byng, 2nd Earl of Strafford, that the house was nearly lost. In the early hours on 6th March 1883, a fire broke out in a box room over the central hall causing much alarm to the servants. The fire brigade from Barnet arrived at 2am, an hour after the fire started, and were soon joined by crews from New Barnet, Hendon and Finchley. However, strong winds and ‘massive woodwork’ caused the fire to take hold of the top floors. It did allow enough time for household staff to remove family deeds and plates to the stables, while valuable paintings were stored in adjoining buildings. A quantity of furniture and the contents of the library also managed to be saved. While the fire destroyed the bedrooms above, the Earl stayed in his library until 3am until he was reluctantly forced to leave. The greater part of the hall and the main ceiling collapsed soon afterwards. The interiors were rebuilt exactly as they were but using ‘new’ Victorian building practices. ¹

It may have been these building methods that saved Wrotham Park from a second blaze in 1938. A servant discovered that plush curtains in the first-floor bedroom of the 6th Earl and Countess had caught alight. She quickly raised the alarm and a ‘chain of buckets’ prevented the fire spreading before the fire brigade arrived. Nonetheless it was enough to destroy tapestries and wall panelling, as well as causing windows to break due to the intense heat. As one newspaper pointed out, “the mansion contained many priceless heirlooms saved from the fire 55 years ago.” ²

These days Wrotham Park is the property of William Robert Byng, 9th Earl of Strafford (b.1964) and is used as an events and wedding venue. Its distinguishing exterior has been used over 60 times as a filming location including Gosford Park, Vanity Fair, Great Expectations, Inspector Morse, The Line of Beauty, Jeeves and Wooster and Sense and Sensibility.

References:-
¹The Globe (7 March 1883)
²Gloucester Citizen (15 Dec 1938)

COUNTRY HOUSES WITH A STORY TO TELL

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