One hundred years ago, this week. A large part of Dalchenna House, two miles from Inverary, was destroyed by fire.
The greater part of Dalchenna House was destroyed by fire on the night of 30 January 1919. The house was built in 1891 as a hunting lodge and residence for the Sheriff-Substitute of Argyll, and the late Duke of Argyll had made it his residence while in Inverary.
John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll (1845-1914) had several costly additions made to the mansion in 1908-09, which eventually “assumed the appearance of a castle.”
This mansion occupied a beautiful position on the west shore of Loch Fyne, and commanded one of the finest views of the picturesque district. Since 1903, the Duke of Argyll had resided at the house for weeks at a stretch.
After his death, the entail on Dalchenna House was conferred to his wife, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, Duchess of Argyll (1848-1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who, according to the Pall Mall Gazette, had a great affection for the beauty of the surroundings and often stayed here.
At the time of the fire, the house was being occupied by members of the Women’s Land Army, who were engaged in woodcutting in the neighbourhood. The previous autumn, Princess Louise had visited the house and removed several valuable pieces of furniture.
The house was restored and occupied by tenants, but suffered a further fire, although less serious, in 1928.
In 1930, after being diagnosed with a chronic duodenal ulcer, the author A. J. Cronin was told he must take six months complete rest in the country on a milk diet. At Dalchenna House, he was finally able to indulge his lifelong desire to write a novel, ‘Hatter’s Castle’.
During World War 2, Dalchenna was requisitioned by the Admiralty but, according to Historic Environment Scotland, the house has since been demolished. Its location was probably north-east, but close to the surviving Dalchenna Farm.
After a period as Borocourt Hospital this Victorian mansion has been completely restored to its original appearance both inside and out.
Wyfold Court, the Grade-II listed Gothic mansion at Rotherfield Pepppard, in Oxfordshire, was built between 1872 and 1873, during the reign of Queen Victoria, for Edward Hermon, Conservative MP for Preston and a partner in Horrocks, Miller and Co, cotton merchants. It was designed by the architect George Somers Clarke, who was a pupil of Sir Charles Barry, and the visionary behind the Houses of Parliament.
In the late 1990s, Wyfold was converted into eleven apartments by English Heritage. The four bedroom apartment that’s currently on the market at Hamptons International for £1.85 million occupies one of the mansion’s most impressive corners.
An ornamental carriage entrance with timber doors leads the way into a communal reception hall. The inner hall, with chequerboard floor tiles and marble pillars is said to be a copy of a similar corridor found at the House of Commons. Resplendent with period grandeur the feeling is enhanced by an impressive 43 ft high grand stair case, crafted in teak with beautiful stained glass windows featuring past Kings and Queens of England.
The apartment is arranged over three floors. Access to the apartment is from the ground floor where the entrance hall provides access to principle reception rooms and kitchen/breakfast room all of which have breath-taking views over formal gardens and surrounding countryside.
There is much to be admired in the drawing room; the 20 ft high ceiling, ornately decorated with painted plaster mouldings, an outstanding carved timber fireplace housing a wood-burning stove and full height windows providing wonderful views and a door to a private area of garden.
January 1919. Lilleshall House is going to auction. These days we know it better as Lilleshall Hall, a famous name in English sport.
One hundred years ago, a notice appeared for the sale of Lilleshall House in Shropshire. The selling point for the property was that for many years it had been the home of the Dukes of Sutherland. However, by this time, the house was surplus to requirement. It had been sold privately for £45,000 in 1917, and was now being offered for £20,000. At the June sale it became the property of Sir John Leigh for the next few years.
Sir John Leigh, 1st Baronet (of Altrincham) (1884-1959) was a British mill-owner, who used his fortune to buy the Pall Mall Gazette and launch his career as a Conservative Party politician. He had made his money in the Lancashire cotton industry and was made a baronet in 1918. He was rumoured at the time to be worth £14 million. He was elected as MP for the Clapham division of Wandsworth at a by-election in May 1922, and held the seat until he retired from politics at the 1945 general election.
The Lilleshall estate’s origins went back to the 12th century when Lilleshall Abbey , an Augustan foundation, was built. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the land was awarded to James Leveson, a Wolverhampton wool merchant in 1539. The estates later passed to Richard Leveson, a distant cousin who was a prominent Royalist in the English Civil War and fortified the Abbey, inviting a severe bombardment. As he too failed to produce heirs, Lilleshall then passed to Sir William Leveson-Gower, 4th Baronet, founder of an illustrious political dynasty, who married Lady Jane Granville, daughter of the Earl of Bath.
The first of the family to be ennobled, in 1703, was John Leveson-Gower, 1st Baron Gower. His son and grandson, John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower, and Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford, progressed further up the ranks of the English peerage. The title of the Duke of Sutherland was created by William IV in 1833 for George Granville Leveson-Gower (1758-1833), 2nd Marquess of Stafford.
An existing mid-18th century mansion at Lilleshall was considered too small, but it was not until the 1820s that George Granville Leveson-Gower instructed the architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville to start work on the present house. It was completed in 1829, four years before the newly elevated Duke of Sutherland’s death.
In 1914, a year after George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (1888 -1963), 5th Duke of Sutherland, had succeeded to the title, he decided to break up his estates. During his father’s tenure there were several properties, including Stafford House at St. James’s, Trentham Hall in Staffordshire, Tittenson Chase, Stoke-on-Trent, Dunrobin Castle and the House of Tongue in Sutherland. Trentham Hall had been offered to Stoke-on-Trent Council, but it had refused it, and was subsequently sold to contractors for demolition.
His father had started to sell his Shropshire lands in 1912 – £281,000 worth of them. In 1914, the 5th Duke pocketed £116,000 and, in July 1917, he sold Lilleshall House for £45,000, and 6,200 acres besides in small lots. About 1,150 acres of land were purchased by the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of a farm colony for soldiers and sailors. In total, the Duke of Sutherland raised over £300,000 for the sale of the estate.
The identity of the 1917 purchaser was shrouded in mystery. The Tatler reported that Lilleshall House had gone to “a great north country munition millionaire who hails from Birmingham.” By October, his identity had been revealed as George F. Heath, head of George Heath Ltd, automobile engineers and motor car dealers.
Whether he intended to live here or not is a matter of speculation, or perhaps he sensed a quick profit on his investment. But, by the end of 1917, George Heath had unexpectedly put Lilleshall House back on the market.
The House went to auction in 1918, but failed to sell. A years later, in 1919, Lilleshall House did find a buyer, this time it was Sir John Leigh.
“Estate-selling proceeds apace. Lilleshall and the Sutherland family are no longer connected, except as a memory. Sir John Leigh is the owner of the Duke of Sutherland’s Shropshire property, and so another ‘stately home of England’ has changed hands. There are no better specimens of Elizabethan architecture in the country than Lilleshall, where King Edward was a frequent guest when the beautiful wife of the late Duke was one of the hostesses for invitations to whose entertainments Society itself was not ashamed to scramble. The place is rich in historic associations, and it is therefore satisfactory to know that Lilleshall Abbey, a gem of Norman architecture, will still be open to the tourist and antiquary, and Sir John has already announced that he has no intention of curtailing any of the privileges hitherto enjoyed by the public.” – The Sketch, June 1919.
Lilleshall House was sold in 1927 to Herbert Ford (1893-1963), a local man with a shrewd eye for business. He’d acquired his wealth from the industry of the Ironbridge Gorge and from a wealthy wife, who was a member of the Lea and Perrins family, famous for their Worcestershire Sauce.
Like many others before him, Herbert Ford believed that Lilleshall House might make money for him. Although resident in the house he turned the estate into a tourist attraction, and from 1930 until 1939 the hall had pleasure gardens for the public, including an amusement park, a narrow gauge railway, tea dances, and children’s playgrounds. There were even motor-cycle races in the grounds. He added an additional nine holes on the existing nine-hole golf course, designed by the noted golf course architect, Harry Colt, which later became the Lilleshall Hall Golf Club. However, it was not played on for 20 years owing to a rent dispute with farmers that resulted in cattle on the course. He even increased attendance by advertising that the German airship Hindenburg would fly over the estate even when its route was nowhere near; he explained that the lack of an airship was due to bad weather in a self-sent telegram.
The pleasure gardens closed at the outbreak of World War Two and the house and parkland were occupied by the Cheltenham Ladies’ College and later Dr Barnardo’s, who used the facilities as an orphanage.
When war ended, Lilleshall House faced a precarious future. The house had fallen into decline and the cost of repair was far greater than Herbert Ford could manage. In 1949 he sold house and 10 acres for £30,000 to the Central Council of Physical Recreation who wanted to build a National Recreation Centre for the north of England. The sale was made possible by the ‘Aid to Britain’ scheme, sponsored by South Africa, a financial gift to Clement Attlee’s government.
It was probably about this time that Lilleshall House became better known as Lilleshall Hall, although the house had been called both names over time. Ford later gave the facility an extra 10 acres of land, on condition that his family could stay in a flat within Lilleshall Hall for at least another ten years or until his death. He passed away here in 1963.
During the 1960s, Lilleshall’s connection with Association Football brought the centre to the attention of the nation. The England team trained for two weeks at Lilleshall prior to their success in the World Cup of 1966.
The centre passed to the Sports Council in 1974 and many different sports established Lilleshall as their own national and regional coaching centre. The Football Association’s School of Excellence was established at Lilleshall in 1984 and closed in the summer of 1999. Today, Lilleshall Hall is operated by Serco Leisure Operating Ltd on behalf of Sport England, as one of three National Sports Centres, alongside Bisham Abbey and Plas y Brenin.
A Victorian Scots Baronial-style ‘castle’ dating back to 1865, on sale for the first time in more than 100 years.
An asking price of £2.3 million is being asked by Savills for the Gilford Castle Estate in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. It is a residential, agricultural and sporting estate with amenities extending to about 207 acres in total. It is for sale as a whole or in five lots. The historic, Category B1 listed castle occupies a commanding position within the heart of the estate and dates from circa 1865. It is constructed in the Scottish baronial style and includes well-proportioned principal accommodation, plus two flats. Adjoining the castle is an extensive range of traditional outbuildings, including a former farm yard, sawmill and kennels.
The house is built of Portland stone and Scrabo sandstone, multi-gabled, with a slate roof. Its most striking feature is the portico, which is topped in the same way as its bay windows with two stone urns resting on the two corners.
The present castle superseded another dwelling dating from the seventeenth century. In 1635, John Magill, a Scottish settler, acquired land around the present-day village of Gilford from the Magennis clan.
John Magill strengthened his position locally and the village began to develop around ‘Magill’s Ford’, from which the name of Gilford was derived.
The Magills based themselves at Gill Hall near Dromore, but a branch of the family – the Johnstons – resided in Gilford and developed the village. The will of Sir John Johnston Magill had left his estates to the heirs of his two sisters, Mary and Susanna. Gill Hall went to Mary, and Gilford passed to Susanna, who married her first cousin Richard Johnston of Emyvale, Co. Monaghan. On coming to the property, the Johnstons built the original Gilford Castle and the property remained in the male line of Richard Johnston for five generations. The original castle is believed to have been built by the Johnston family close to the present-day bridge (situated at the north-west of the estate) which passes over the River Bann.
His great grandson, also Richard, was a pioneer of free-range pig farming. He succeeded to the family estate in 1758 and commenced pig farming in 1760. In those days pigs were more valuable than cows, Ireland had a good export of corned and salted pork.
He also took a prominent part on the landlord side in the Hearts of Steel men. In 1772, the castle was the scene of an attack by the disaffected group, who were suffering from failure of the harvest and a rise in taxation. Richard just escaped with his life, but the castle was sacked and set on fire. Richard was made a baronet, but died a bachelor in the 1840s, his property divided between his two sisters.
In the 1860s, the Gilford portion granted to one of the sisters, Catherine, was purchased by Benjamin Dickson, who at that time was a partner in the prosperous local linen thread company of Dunbar McMaster.
As well as being a successful businessman, Dickson was also a keen farmer, keeping a celebrated herd of shorthorn cattle and an accomplished horse breeder.
When Dickson bought Gilford Castle, the old property had fallen into decay, and he engaged the fashionable architect William Spence, based in Glasgow, to design the present-day mansion on a new site in the Scottish Baronial style, creating a majestic grouping of river, park and house. A year later, Spence also built nearby Elmfield House for Benjamin Dickson’s brother James.
The cost to build Gilford Castle was reported to be £42,000, but Dickson never lived here, with Percy Jocelyn McMaster, younger brother of Hugh Dunbar McMaster (proprietor of Gilford Mill), believed to be the first occupant, leasing the house between 1887 and 1891.
After Dickson’s death in 1894, the property passed to his trustees and was bought for £15,000 by Miss Katherine Carleton, a spinster, in 1902, and subsequently sold in 1914 to James F. Wright. It has remained in the Wright family’s ownership ever since.
James Wright was the son of a mill owner from Ballinode, Co. Monaghan who had become a successful Hong Kong and Manila merchant and stockbroker. His wife, Mary Menary, was the niece of Sir Thomas Jackson, third Chief Manager of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (now known as HSBC), who was responsible for financing the development of Colonial Hong Kong under the first large scale bank.
James and Mary furnished their Gilford home with memories of Manila and Hong Kong, also furnishing it with keepsakes and memories of the histories of their families, both of which had roots in Ireland going back at least 400 years.
A news account at the time of James Wright’s marriage said he had service in South Africa, where he was badly wounded, but had “forged his sword into a pruning hook”. In his decades at Gilford, it seems that James got his wish. On his death certificate, his profession was recorded as farmer.
In 2004, the Belfast Telegraph reported that GML Estates agreed to buy the site and convert the mill into a 132-bed luxury hotel and the grounds into a golf course in what was expected to be a £30 million “world class resort”.
Open winner Darren Clarke was called on board to realise the golfing aspect of the site, but the project never materialised.
From generation to generation Sheffield has made an annoying habit of destroying some of its most notable buildings and features.
‘Lost to suburbia’. Once upon a time, this country house was in idyllic countryside, but the growth of Sheffield as an industrial town quickly devoured it. Its name would turn out to be a contradiction, considering the surroundings it eventually found itself in. Nowadays, it is hard to believe that The Farm ever existed at all, its close proximity to the city centre obliterating every trace of it.
Sheffield once had a dual history, for it was at the same time a town and (eventually) city, and also a great landed estate belonging to the Duke of Norfolk.
Dating back to the 18th century, The Farm was rebuilt on an even grander scale in 1824 to provide accommodation for Michael Ellison, local agent for the 12th Duke. Henry Granville Fitzalan Howard (1850-1860), the 14th Duke of Norfolk himself moved to The Farm three decades later, but not before it had been rebuilt once again to the designs of Matthew Ellison Hadfield (nephew of Michael Ellison). It marked a new beginning in the ducal attitude towards Sheffield. As a major landowner he took a close interest in local affairs and was to be in residence for part of every year. A new wing was built, containing the offices.
The Farm contained a square, lead-covered tower ‘with oriel turret stair, surmounted by a lofty vane, and flanked by a grand stack of chimneys’. There was a domestic chapel over the gateway, and the kitchen offices ‘very capacious and complete’. The tower was adorned with figures carved in stone, representing the four rivers – Don, Sheaf, Loxley and Rivelin – which flowed through his estate.
By this time, the tunnel of the Sheffield-Chesterfield railway passed beneath the grounds.
When his son, Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847-1917), 15th Duke of Norfolk, inherited in the 1870s his estates produced over £100,000 gross per annum and his income increased throughout his life. Over half came from Sheffield, not just from rents but also from mineral rights and the markets, which he owned as lord of the manor until 1899 when he sold them to Sheffield Corporation.
He was a British Unionist politician and philanthropist. He served as Postmaster General between 1895 and 1900, but is best remembered for his philanthropic work, which concentrated on Roman Catholic causes and the City of Sheffield. (He was the first Lord Mayor of Sheffield).
The Duke of Norfolk’s estates in Sheffield survived until the 1950s, before gradually reverting to the council. After the Duke of Norfolk, the mansion became offices for British Rail Eastern Division, before being demolished in 1967, when the area was used for the building of Granville College. Today the site is occupied by the futuristic City Campus of Sheffield College, but former parkland once adjacent to The Farm, is now known as Norfolk Heritage Park, enjoyed by the public for generations.
“Graffiti has been daubed over the walls, and beer cans and broken bottles are strewn across the floors along with discarded sleeping bags.” A country house built on the proceeds of opium and ruined by cannabis.
Flass, also called Flass House, is a large Grade II* listed country house near the village of Maulds Meaburn in Cumbria. At last, and not before time, it is going to be auctioned by Harman Healy with a guide price of just £460,000+ on 30 January.
Someone is going to get a bargain, considering this was marketed for £1.5 million in 2014. Someone is also going to get a shock. There are no interior images from the auctioneers, probably deliberate, as it’s now described as “being in an utterly wrecked, vandalised condition.”
Flass House was rebuilt in 1851 for wealthy merchant brothers and tea and opium magnets Lancelot and Wilkinson Dent, possibly incorporating parts of an 18th century house. No expense was spared in the house, with door handles fashioned out of ivory and balustrades made out of French wrought iron. It was designed by architects Mr Grey and later by Mr G. Mair and included furnishings by Gillows of Lancaster and London.
Lancelot Dent, the senior partner of Dent & Co, headquartered in Canton, had taken over the business when his older brother Thomas departed in 1831. The company had established trade with China, and after the break up of the East India Company, rendered their services to the British Government during the first Chinese War.
Afterwards, branch houses were established at all the open ports, and it was the first company to run a line of steamers from Calcutta to Hong Kong. Lancelot held a powerful hold over some agency houses buying opium from the Calcutta auction, including Carr, Tagore and Company, managed by Bengali merchant Dwarkanath Tagore. He died at Cheltenham in 1853. His younger brother, Wilkinson Dent, joined the firm in 1827 and twenty years later, on the death of their sister in 1847, both had succeeded to the Flass estate.
The unmarried brothers, Lancelot and Wilkinson, both retired to Flass Park. The business passed to their nephews, John Dent and Alfred (later Sir Alfred) Dent, while the Flass estate passed to another nephew, Thomas Dent.
Flass remained in the Dent family until 1973, when it was sold to banker, historian and writer Frank Welsh for £17,000. It was purchased from Welsh in 1982 for £115,000 by the retired solicitor Malcolm Whiteside, who ran the property as a care home with his wife, Mary. A change in fire legislation meant that this was no longer possible, and the house was put up for sale again; Whiteside still owned the house in the late 1990s, when it was put up for sale for around £750,000.
It was sold in 2000 to singer-songwriter Christine Holmes and her husband Paul Davies who ran it as a performing arts school.
After the couple divorced, Davies took control of the mansion and became implicated with a gang of drug dealers in 2011. Davies and his five cohorts were able to grow cannabis with a street value of £5.26 million undetected until a neighbour became suspicious. He was jailed for his role in the crime for three years and eight months in September 2015.
Christine Holmes subsequently took back control of Flass House and after trying and failing to sell the house for £1.5 million, spent £200,000 on renovations to put right the damage done by the drug operation.
Since then it has been a magnet for urban explorers. Said Christine Holmes;- “I think people have been staying in the building and have even been there hiding while I’ve been there. I’m petrified. These are evil people who are breaking into my home. I think it’s becoming a game to them. They are breaking in every day.”
A century ago, a newspaper article mentioned Lord Lambourne’s country house in Essex. It was demolished in 1936, and one hundred years later, is all but forgotten.
On this day, one hundred years ago. ‘This Morning’s Gossip’ in the Leeds Mercury mentioned Lord Lambourne, the newly appointed Lord-Lieutenant of his native Essex. This rather unobtrusive column mentioned that Lord Lambourne possessed an interesting residence near Hainault Forest. By name, Bishop’s Hall derived its episcopal title from Henry Le Despenser, who was curiously rewarded by the Pope for military services in Italy with the Bishop of Norwich.
“A mitred ruffian was Henry, for he suppressed with hideous cruelty the rising of the wretched peasants of the district, described by William Morris, another man of Essex, in his ‘Dream of John Ball’. The 14th century mansion, which King Edward VII once visited is, of course, much modernised.”
The newspaper article provided an insight into a country house that we have since forgotten.
The manor of Bishop’s Hall passed from the Bishop of Norwich to Sir Thomas Audley in 1536 as a consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. From there it passed to the Hale family and by 1606 it belonged to Clement Stoner. The site of the original manor-house was described as being “wasted and overgrown”. In the 18th century it was held by the famous dandy, Edward Hughes Ball, or ‘Golden Ball’.
The Bishop’s Hall mentioned by the newspaper was built to the west of Bishops Moat by William Waker, or his son Thomas, in the early 18th century. It subsequently became the seat of the Lockwood family. It was much enlarged by Lord Lambourne in 1900.
Colonel Mark Lockwood, created Lord Lambourne in 1917, died at Bishop’s Hall in 1928. The barony became extinct with his death, but the estate passed to a cousin, John C. Lockwood, a barrister and MP. Its new owner found he couldn’t afford to maintain the large estate under the same conditions, and he formed a private company with a London florist to market the flowers from the gardens. By this venture he was able to keep his staff of gardeners, as he made them all shareholders in the company.
However, whether the business was successful or not, the old Tudor mansion was demolished in 1936 and a smaller property built about 150 yards to the east. The present house incorporates a number of architectural fixtures and fittings from its predecessors.
This was the home of the Rushout family until the 20th century. After a period of use as a drug rehabilitation centre, the house suffered fire damage and was vacated. Now it has been renovated and converted into apartments.
An opportunity has arisen with Pritchard & Company to buy an apartment within Grade I listed Northwick Park, at Blockley, in Gloucestershire, for £1.1 million. The country house is the former family seat of the Rushout family, the Barons Northwick.
Northwick Park belonged to the Childe family from about 1320 to 1683. The estate was bought by Sir James Rushout, the son of a Flemish merchant who had made a fortune in London, in 1683, who remodelled the old house in 1686.
The next remodelling was completed by Sir John Rushout, 4th Baronet, in 1728-30 to a design by Lord Burlington complete with a Palladian east front and entrance hall in the 1730s.
The 5th Baronet, later 1st Baron Northwick, employed architect John Woolfe to carry out further improvements in the 1770s and William Eames to landscape the parkland. It passed down the family line, with a further remodelling in 1828-30, until George Rushout, 3rd Baron Northwick, whose widow, Augusta, left the estate to her grandson, Captain George-Spencer Churchill in 1912.
Northwick Park remained the property of the Spencer Churchill family until 1966, when it was finally sold to a syndicate headed by the Hon Michael Pearson, then the 22-year-old heir of Viscount Cowdray, one of Britain’s leading landowners. He paid close to £1 million for the estate, but had no intention of living here. “We shall have to decide what we do with the house,” he said at the time, “It will be looked after by the estate agents and run as an investment.” It actually became a drug rehabilitation centre and was later damaged by fire.
Northwick Park fell into decline and was empty from 1976 until the early 1980s. The house was then bought by developers who got permission for rebuilding the mansion and surrounding historic area, in the first phase of the development of the estate as it is today. Other development companies completed the work, adding the houses of William Emes Garden, Julianas Court, Churchill Square, John Woolfe Court and The Lodge. The Estate was taken over from Clarendon, the final development company, in 2003 by Northwick Park Ltd and thus passed into the joint ownership of the residents.
The apartment in question is known as 3, The Mansion, and approached through the grand reception room of the main house, The Hall by Lord Burlington with marble floor, Inigo Jones style ceiling and a fine pedimented Corinthian doorcase leading to a circular inner hall featuring a fine cantilevered staircase reputedly by John Woolfe. The impressive gallery landing gives access to the private entrance to the apartment.
The principal room of the apartment is the fine drawing room with dedicated study and kitchen areas enjoying a westerly aspect and forming the main façade of the house. It boasts a central fireplace with impressive chimney piece, and panelled walls featuring a Vitruvian scroll design.
The master bedroom, housed in one of the distinctive bays on the north elevation, provides a substantial and most impressive bedroom suite with dressing cupboard and en suite shower room.
The south wing of the apartment provides versatile living accommodation with a further double aspect reception room, currently a sitting room, and two additional guest bedroom suites.
Each of the rooms has deep sash windows providing wonderful proportions and some have magnificent views across the parkland. There is also a luxurious bathroom with a traditional roll-top bath. In addition the property benefits from substantial secure cellarage and an excellent double en bloc garage within the grounds.
Blockley lies some three miles north-west of Moreton-in-Marsh, in Gloucestershire. If you think you’ve seen the church and 15th century vicarage before, that could be because they appear in each episode of ‘Father Brown’, the BBC TV series, loosely based on GK Chesterton’s novels. Filming also takes place around the village, which doubles as the fictional Cotswold village of Kembleford.
This country house was once the English home of the exiled King Manoel II of Portugal. It was swallowed by urban development and eventually lost.
On this day, one hundred years ago, events in a distant country brought an English mansion into the headlines. Newspapers reported that the ex-King Manoel, who had been forced to flee from Portugal in 1910, and lived in England, had been proclaimed King of Portugal in Porto and other places by monarchist elements in his country.
However, the press also reported that Dom Manoel had condemned any attempt to restore the monarchy, even suggesting that he had refused the throne.
These were troubling times for Portugal. A monarchist revolt was spreading through several towns in the north of the country, while a Royalist Government had been formed in Porto, with Senor Paiva Couceiro at its head. The Government, however, claimed to be master of the situation.
Away from the unrest, enquiries by journalists at Dom Manoel’s residence at Twickenham were told that “he was not at home.”
Fulwell Park, where ex-King Manoel had lived since he brought his bride to Britain, was an historic mansion, built mainly in the Georgian style. A part of it dated back to James II, but it had been considerably enlarged from time to time, and now contained a magnificent suite of six entertaining rooms.
Fulwell Park had been the home of many famous people, and Twickenham itself abounded with historic memories. In 1800, Orleans House had been the residence of Louis Philippe, then Duke of Orleans; and among other famous inhabitants of the area had been Alexander Pope, Horace Walpole, Francis Bacon, John Donne (the poet), Kitty Clive (the actress), Tennyson, Dickens, Archbishop Temple and Henry Labouchere.
The mansion was built in 1623 and was acquired by Sir Charles James Freake, a London property developer, in 1871 and renamed Fulwell Park from Fulwell Lodge. It passed to his wife Eliza in 1884, then after her death in 1900, to Count Reginald Henshaw Ward , an American millionaire, born of an English family.
Count Ward was born in Massachusetts in 1872 and had been a clerk in a Boston bank at seventeen. He eventually started banks of his own in Boston and New York, and by the time he purchased Fulwell Park, he was a representative of Clark, Ward and Co in England. Ward was also known as ‘The Copper King’, in reference to his large business interests in the copper market. The bachelor moved into Fulwell Park in 1903 and took himself up to the city every morning in one of his five splendid automobiles. His title of Count, by the way, was of Papal creation.
As the years progressed, Ward spent months away from Fulwell Park and by the time it was sold to Manoel in 1913, had been used as a residential country home for paying guests.
Dom Manoel (1889-1932) was the second son of Don Carlos, the King of Portugal, and his wife, Marie Amelie, daughter of the Comte de Paris. She had been born at York House, Twickenham, in 1865. Manoel was born in Lisbon in 1889, barely a month after his father had succeeded to the throne.
King Carlos I and his eldest son, Luiz, were both assassinated in 1908. 18-year-old Manoel, training as a naval cadet, succeeded to the throne as Manoel II, but his reign was brief, a revolution broke out in October 1910.
Manoel and his mother fled to Gibraltar, and from here to England. They settled at Abercorn House in Richmond in early 1911. Manoel married the German Princess Victoria Augusta of Hohenzolern in 1913, and on their return to England settled at Fulwell Park. King Manoel had a liking for the area, and was already a well-known figure in the Richmond, Teddington and Twickenham neighbourhoods.
One of the attractions of Fulwell Park was the nine-hole private golf course laid out in the grounds. But the chief attractions were charming grounds of some fifty acres, where there were shady lawns, extensive flower gardens, peach houses and vineries. There were also several tennis courts in the grounds, especially agreeable for a man who excelled at the game. There was also good fishing in the River Crane, on which boating was also possible.
Manoel found solace in his books, and in his library, he built up a unique assembly of ancient Portuguese works, and then, to show he was no mere bibliomaniac, proceeded to write an authoritative book on them. It was his hobby and life’s work, shared only with his love of grand opera and watching lawn tennis at Wimbledon and on the Riviera.
Manoel had an aversion to the colour blue, and he made sure that the decoration at Fulwell Park excluded any shade of it. The drawing-room was redecorated in rose shades, while a delicate pink was to be found in his wife’s boudoir.
In July 1932, Manoel attended Wimbledon. The following day he suffered a sore throat, a doctor was called, but he died of oedema of the throat.
Manoel left English property valued at £26,447, and to King George V he bequeathed two large vases of lacquer with the Royal Arms of Portugal, which had been in the dining room at Fulwell Park, “in testimony of profound gratitude for all his kindness and friendship.”
His widow left Fulwell Park in December 1933 and took up residence at Fribourg in Switzerland. King Manoel’s collection of books was sent to Portugal, and his widow sold the house in 1934, with an undertaking that it should never again be used as a private residence. The house was sold to Edward Wates, a building company, and soon demolished to make way for suburban housing. A four-ton safe that was used to hold the Royal jewellery at the house is now in St Mary’s Church, Hampton.
The names of Manoel Road, Augusta Road, Portugal Road and Lisbon Avenue in Twickenham commemorate the royal residents. The original housing has since been supplemented by a great deal of infilling, but the legacy of Fulwell Park is long forgotten.
This country house is no stranger to fire. It was still unfinished in 1913 when suffragettes set it ablaze. Elms Cross House became the Granby Hotel and was later destroyed by fire for a second time.
Situated in idyllic countryside, this substantial family home sits at Westwood, moments from the market town of Bradford-on-Avon, in Wiltshire, within lovely gardens and grounds.
Granby House was originally commissioned by quarry master, builder, and stone merchant, Isaac Jones, built at the turn of the 20th Century and is not listed. It is currently on the market at Knight Frank with a guide price of £2.95 million.
The property was once Elms Cross House, which had been built in 1908, by Isaac Jones at a cost of over £18,000. It was still unfinished when, in June 1913, it was completely gutted by fire. Suspicion at the time rested with the Suffragettes and firemen were unable to save the house due to an absolute lack of water. At the time they depended entirely for their supply on a three-quarter-inch tap in outbuildings.
The bare walls of the house became a landmark of the countryside but, in November 1922, Mr Charles William Darbishire, whose firm had business interests in the Far East, and was the newly-elected MP for Westbury, bought the abandoned property. The plans for the house were drawn up by Walter Wadman Snailum of Trowbridge.
Darbishire had the building restored as his permanent residence. A few years later, however, both he and his wife died within a short time of each other. The house continued as a private residence before it became the Harrogate Hotel in 1939. It was named after the Yorkshire town from which the company had relocated after its hotel was requisitioned by the Government. The northern hotel had been called the Granby and after a while the Harrogate Hotel was also renamed as the Granby Hotel.
“As your car comes to rest on the gravelled drive, a butler appears to see to you and your luggage; no matter what the season, the sweet smell of flowers assails you from the forty acres of grounds. The hotel ‘office’ as such is non-existent, but there is a quiet, efficient direction behind the scenes. The chef, whom you may remember from the Granby at Harrogate, is an adept at his job; here at the Bradford-on-Avon version of the Granby, you will find the comfort and calm of country house life, with the additional convenience of a free car to whisk you into Bath if the mood dictates.
” But there is one snag. There are only twelve rooms, as against the two hundred at Harrogate.”
However, in August 1947, the building was gutted by fire for a second time. Once again, firemen were baffled by a complete lack of water supply until a relay pump system had been established between the burning hotel and the canal at Bradford-on-Avon, about a mile away. The fire had started in the linen room on an upper floor at the rear of the premises.
In November 1947, Mr William Gerald Holbrow, a timber merchant, purchased the Elms Cross estate, including the remains of the Granby Hotel. The building was restored as a private residence, once again known as Elms Cross House, but was put up for sale in the 1950s. In recent times the house has been used as a luxury bed and breakfast, known as Granby House Hotel, but now closed.