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.”