Tag Archives: England

FEARNVILLE HOUSE

“To all outward appearances the mansion had the appearance of being unoccupied, and the spacious garden was in the same neglected condition as it had been for many years.” One hundred years later, nothing has changed.

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Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

This week, one hundred years ago, the discovery of an illicit whisky still in an old mansion gave considerable food for gossip in a Leeds suburb.

The scene of the discovery was the century-old mansion known as Fernville House at Roundhay, which stood in rural splendour until it became overshadowed by what was known as the Fernville ‘Garden City’, a small colony of ‘modern’ residences.

The mansion house (also known as Fearneville) had been built about 1820 by a Leeds merchant, and Thomas Louis Oxley, a surgeon dentist, later lived here, letting about 100 acres of land as a farm.  In the 1870s, the mansion with about 49-acres of pleasure grounds, had been occupied by William Middleton JP, and then Samuel Sykes, after which the estate was sold for development on garden city lines. The last tenant had been Alderman Alfred John Knowles (1836-1918), a well-known Leeds provisions merchant, and for the last ten years or so had been unoccupied.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - 22 June 1867 - BNA
From The Yorkshire Post. June 1867. THE BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE.
Leeds Mercury - 29 Feb 1872 - BNA
A letter from Thomas Louis Oxley in the Leeds Mercury, February 1872. He was now living in London. THE BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE.

In November 1918, negotiations had taken place which resulted in Fernville House being sold for £2,000 to a Jewish businessman, who, it was understood would turn the former country house into a business place. Those who had negotiated the sale had asked what the place was going to be used for, presuming that it would become a clothing factory. The reply had been a definite ‘no’.

The new owner had not been long in taking possession, and it had been understood by some people in the neighbourhood that the house was being used as a laundry. On Saturday 1 February 1919, two officers from the Leeds special police force had seen a large cask being driven away from the house on a cart. They weren’t satisfied with the explanation given as to the contents of the cask, and at midnight a raiding party of special and regular police had taken possession of the house.

The officers came across ample evidence that spirit distilling operations had been conducted here. An attempt had been made to wreck some of the plant, which was unmistakeably a whisky still, and several barrels were removed from the premises.

Neighbours at Fernville House told the Yorkshire Evening Post that no serious attempt had been made to put the mansion into a state fit for habitation. Joiners had been seen doing odd repairs, and to fix a new wooden gate to the entrance which led to outbuildings of the house. To all outward appearances the mansion had the appearance of being unoccupied, and the spacious garden was in the same neglected condition as it had been for many years.

In June 1919, writs were issued by the Commissioners of the Customs and Excise upon Joseph Levi, a wines and spirits merchant, in connection with the illicit whisky still. The total penalties imposed on Levi, his wife, Sarah, and two others amounted to £1,960. (Sarah Levi was again convicted for similar offences in 1930).

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Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

The events preceded what would turn out to be  a torturous century ahead. One hundred years later, the condition of Fearnville House (as it is now known) is even more precarious than it was then.

During the early part of the twentieth century the Ralphes lived here. The land was sold in the 1950s and the house was converted into flats while still retaining the pillared porch and a fine staircase inside.

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Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

By the 1970s, the house was again derelict and seemingly abandoned entirely in 1993. The council had evicted its residents, boarded up the building and it has been left ever since. In 2008, it was sold on the instruction of Leeds City Council for £228,000. The following year it was sold again, reputedly to become a nursing home. The last planning application in 2012 was abandoned the following year after various objections, including opposition that the premises would need a long period of observation for bats, along with doubts from the coal board who stated previous mine workings might undermine the property. There was also a further rejection from the council’s Highways Department who said a nearby road would have to be made one-way and restrictions, due to the entrance width, meant the number of dwellings was unsustainable.

Fearnville House is now in perilous condition, its interiors collapsing, and the grounds open to vandals and fly-tippers. Now marooned within housing estates, it has been the subject of frequent visits from urban explorers, who, if nothing else, have at least highlighted the sad state that the once-grand house is now in.

Fearnville House - Bing Maps
‘Swallowed by surburbia.’ Fearnville House, Leeds. Marooned by housing developments. BING MAPS.
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Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.
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Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.
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Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.
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Fearnville House, Roundhay, Leeds. Photographed in 2016. URBAN DIVISION.

MORDEN PARK HOUSE

A forgotten mansion, once rooted in the countryside, now standing quietly within a popular park surrounded by housing estates.

Morden Park House - YourSurrey
YOUR SURREY

Morden Park House, in the London Borough of Merton, is a small Georgian country house, that once stood in a large swathe of parkland. This land was once owned by Westminster Abbey and later owned by the Garth family until the estate was split in two.

In 1768, Richard Garth, in partnership with the London merchant and distiller John Ewart, procured a private act of Parliament permitting the creation of the Morden Park estate. The double-fronted brown-brick Morden Park House was built in 1770 as a retreat for the Ewart family, who remained until 1788.

Morden park - Merton memories 1
MERTON MEMORIES PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE

Morden Park House should not be confused with Morden Hall Park, a much larger property, built by Sir Richard Garth in the 1770s, and now a National Trust property. This was sold to Gilliat Hatfield (1827-1906) a member of the firm of James Taddy and Co, tobacco and snuff manufacturers, in the 1870s.

A sale notice of 1879 described Morden Park House as a “desirable mansion on high ground, commanding extensive and diversified views, with an ornamental entrance lodge and carriage approach through an avenue from the high road from London to Epsom, with stabling, coach-houses, extensive gardens, pleasure grounds, shrubberies, with cottages, orchard, and park-like meadow land containing about 60-acres.”

Morden park - Merton memories 2
MERTON MEMORIES PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE

After this Morden Park passed through different owners. From the late 1780s the estate was in the hands of the Polhill family and between the 1880s and the 1910s, the house was occupied by the banker John Wormald. The entire estate was eventually purchased by Gilliat Hatfeild, the owner of Morden Hall Park, thus reuniting the two estates.

Morden Park House was tenanted and after Hatfeild’s death, it passed to his son, Gilliat Edward Hatfeild (1864-1941).

For a brief period following the Second World War, the building became the headquarters for the local golf club, and was later purchased from the Hatfeild family by Merton and Morden Urban District Council. The house and 90 acres were preserved as public open space, the house used as council offices for the Parks Department between 1965 and 1985.

Morden park - Merton memories 3
MERTON MEMORIES PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE
Morden park - Merton memories
MERTON MEMORIES PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE

Like many country houses, Morden Park House suffered years of neglect and from 1985 onwards stood vacant for lengthy periods. The Grade II* listed house was eventually restored and is now the local register office, subject of a £1.8 million restoration using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

However, its future has been the subject of speculation, after the Labour council announced plans to close it. It now appears that this decision has been reversed and the register office will remain open.

Morden Park House - Acanthus Architects 2
ACANTHUS ARCHITECTS
Morden Park House - Acanthus Architects
ACANTHUS ARCHITECTS
Morden Park House - Acanthus Architects 1
ACANTHUS ARCHITECTS