Tag Archives: Property

GILFORD CASTLE

A Victorian Scots Baronial-style ‘castle’ dating back to 1865, on sale for the first time in more than 100 years.

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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.

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.

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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Postcards Ireland.

The present castle superseded another dwelling dating from the seventeenth century.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.

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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.
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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.

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.

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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.

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.

the linen houses of the bann valley - the story of their families

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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.
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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.
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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.

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.

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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.
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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.
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Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Image: Savills.

FLASS HOUSE

“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.

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Flass House is a Grade II* listed detached mansion, believed to comprise in the region of twenty bedrooms, set in extensive grounds. Image: Harman Healy.

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.”

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Flass House is in a derelict condition and has been vandalised. The new owner will need to embark on a costly programme of renovation. Image: Harman Healy.

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.

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Flass House was built in Italianate style. It is built in limestone that is partly rendered, and all is whitewashed; the roofs are slated. The house has an asymmetrical plan, and is in two storeys with attics. There is a string course between the storeys. Image: Harman Healy.
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Flass House was rebuilt in the mid-19th century, apparently incorporating elements of a previous house which likely dated to the 18th century, likely a yeoman farmer’s home. Image: Harman Healy.

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.”

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Flass House was built for Lancelot and Wilkinson Dent, though construction may have been started by their sister. The Dent brothers were the wealthy owners of Dent & Co., a company trading tea and opium. The process was initially overseen by an architect named Mr Gray, but, around 1854, a Mr G. Mair took over. Image: Harman Healy.
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In 1895, Charles Lancelot Dent, the 20-year-old epileptic son of Mr Thomas Dent (Lancelot and Wilkinson Dent’s nephew), went outside after breakfast and was later found dead in mud near the house. Image: Harman Healy.
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Flass remained in the hands of the Dent family until Sir Robert Dent and Lady Elspeth Dent sold it to the historian Frank Welsh for £17,000 in 1973. Robert Dent, shortly before selling the house, broke into an attic he had not visited. There, he found a number of items, including 16th-century statuettes from the Mughal Empire left behind by his ancestors. These were subsequently sold for £220,000. Image: Harman Healy.
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Flass House’s recent history has been rather unsavoury. An owner was jailed for growing cannabis in ten of the rooms. Since then, it has been repeatedly targeted by ‘urban explorers’. Image: Visit Cumbria.

NORTHWICK PARK

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.

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Northwick Park, a wonderful 16th Century mansion house, once owned by the Spencer Churchill Family. It has been split into apartments and over 70 families now live on the estate. Image: Pritchard and Company.

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.

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Until 1931, Northwick Park and its parish of Blockley were part of Worcestershire. It is now situated in Gloucestershire. Image: Pritchard and Company.

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.

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In World War II Northwick Park was heavily used by the US Army, with the full support of Captain Spencer Churchill. They built a hospital on the adjoining site called the cinquefoil (now the Northwick Business Centre) and after the war, from 1948 to 1965, this became one of the largest Polish refugee camps in the country. Image: Polish Resettlement Camps.
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When Augusta died in 1912 her grandson Captain George Spencer Churchill (1876-1964) inherited the estate and moved to Northwick Park. He gave unstinting support over a period of fifty years to the parish of Blockley. During his tenure, his cousin Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor to Northwick Park. Image: Polish Resettlement Camps.

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.

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In 1832-34 Lord Northwick built a picture Gallery, designed by Richard Hulls, to house his large art collection at the north-east corner of the main house. The Northwick collection of pictures and works of art was later dispersed in an historic sale at Christies in 1965 which attracted worldwide interest. Image: Polish Resettlement Camps.
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Northwick Park was featured in Nicholas Kingsley’s book ‘The Country Houses of Gloucestershire – Volume 2’ in 1992. This image showed the west front which had survived largely unaltered from Sir James Rushout’s remodelling of the house in about 1686. According to Kingsley, “It could be an early essay in William Talman’s astylar manner.” Image: Nicholas Kingsley.
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The east front of Northwick Park is largely seen as the creation of Lord Burlington for Sir John Rushout in 1728-30, but incorporates two pre-existing towers, while the shaped gables were put on about 1788-1804. Image: Nicholas Kingsley.
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Another image from ‘The Country Houses of Gloucestershire – Volume 2’. “A distressing photograph of the entrance hall into which the house sank prior to its restoration in the 1980s and 1990s, with chimneypieces and doorcases stolen or damaged by vandals. Image: Nicholas Kingsley.

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.

Note
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.

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Northwick Park, Blockley, Gloucestershire. Image: Pritchard and Company.
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Northwick Park, Blockley, Gloucestershire. Image: Pritchard and Company.
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Northwick Park, Blockley, Gloucestershire. Image: Pritchard and Company.
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According to Nicholas Kingsley, the main staircase of 1828-30, which occupies a top-lit circular well at the centre of the house, replaced one damaged by fire. Image: Pritchard and Company.

GRANBY HOUSE

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.

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Granby House, Wiltshire. For many this is still known as Elms Cross House. Image: Knight Frank.

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.

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This photograph appeared in the Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser in November 1922. It was taken shortly after the interior was destroyed by fire in 1913. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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.

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Charles William Darbishire (1875 – 1925 . By Walter Stoneman, bromide print, 1922.

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.”

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The Granby Hotel. This photograph was taken in 1939. Ashley Courtenay in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News said; “A fine specimen of Cotswold domestic architecture where, with the exception of the hotel signboard, there is nothing to suggest an hotel.” Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.

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.

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The Granby Hotel caught fire again on a Saturday night in August 1947. Dinner was being served at the hotel when suddenly the cry of ‘fire’ swept through the building, a member of staff having discovered that the linen room on an upper floor was ablaze. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.
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Granby House, Wiltshire. Image: Knight Frank.

RIPPLE HALL

Parts of Grade II listed Ripple Hall date back from the 1400s with a front elevation added in the 18th century and later Victorian additions.

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Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. The house is situated in a conservation area next to the Grade I listed, 12th Century St Mary’s Church. Image: Andrew Grant.

The house appears to have been rebuilt about 1780-1790 for Fleetwood Parkhurst, who died in 1801, and whose widow, Anne, stayed on until 1818. Parkhust was descended from Bishop Parkhurst, the celebrated author of the Hebrew and English Lexicon.

His son, also named Fleetwood, was a Rugby and Oxford contemporary of Walter Savage Landor, the writer, poet and activist, a regular visitor to the house during his parent’s time. It appears that while affection grew between Landor and the old squire, he did not always hit it off with the son.

The son, Fleetwood Parkhurst, was a clergyman and became Rector of Epsom as well as a man of property. He retired to Ripple Hall but died in 1844 while walking in Cheltenham after ‘a visitation from God’. In a letter from Landor, his opinion of his old companion was not altogether favourable. “I am shocked and grieved at his death. A happier one, however, there could not be.”

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From the Gloucestershire Chronicle in March 1845. The sale of the first portion of valuable effects belonging to the Rev Fleetwood Parkhurst. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.
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Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. The property is of such significance that it is noted in Pevsner’s ‘The Buildings of England’. Image: Andrew Grant.

In 1847, the house was occupied by John Christopher Dowdeswell, a barrister-at-law, the second son of John Edmund Dowdeswell, a Senior Master of the High Court of Chancery. It is possible that Dowdeswell had tenanted Ripple Hall. He died three years later, in 1850, but the house had been in the hands of John William Empson since 1848.

Empson, also of Yokefleet Hall, Howden, was a large landowner in the East Riding of Yorkshire and a Justice of the Peace. He died in 1893 but had spent considerably more time in Yorkshire than in Worcestershire. In 1887, the house appears to have been tenanted by another Dowdeswell, this time Arthur Christopher Dowdeswell. Empson’s wife, Ellen Georgina, long since removed from Ripple Hall, died at Kiltermain In Ireland in 1908.

At the turn of the 20th century, Ripple Hall was in the hands of his widow, Ellen Georgina Empson, but she appears to have been living at Kiltermain in Ireland. The house was briefly occupied by Captain Freeman and afterwards by John Ripley. It was sold in 1907, a year before Ellen Empson died.

The new owner of Ripple Hall was Miss A. J. Behrens, who remained until 1931. It passed to Edward F. Gray, the son of the Reverend Edward Gray of Wembley Park, Middlesex, and Donnington Hall at Ledbury. He had been educated at Haileybury and Oriel College, Oxford, and was in the Consular service for thirty years before retiring to Ripple Hall.

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In 1930, Miss Behrens decided to part with Ripple Hall. This advertisement appeared in The Tewkesbury Register and Agricultural Gazette. She moved out the following year. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In World War One he had been in Consul in Oslo and Bergen in Norway. From 1922 up until his retirement he served in America, being Consul-General at Boston for the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.

Gray died in 1960 and Ripple Hall was bought by Mr and Mrs Hugo Baldwin Huntington-Whiteley.

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There are many examples of beautiful 18th century decorative fittings and architecture still present including fine ceilings and cornicing, sash windows and shutters, an original staircase to the first floor, wooden parquet flooring and original fireplaces which are all in working order. Image: Andrew Grant.

The house has similar characteristics to Ham Court and several houses in nearby Upton-upon-Severn. It has a five-window range with full-height curved bows to the east and west end walls. At one time the house had been covered in ivy, thoughtfully removed by Miss Behrens during her tenure.

Ripple Hall is on the market at Andrew Grant with a guide price of £2.25 million.

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Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
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Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
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Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
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Ripple Hall, Ripple, Worcestershire. Image: Andrew Grant.
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The house is next to the Grade I listed, 12th Century St Mary’s Church. Image: Andrew Grant.

WOODCOTE HOUSE

The former headquarters of Warwickshire Police at Leek Wootton is to be marketed for sale, ending seventy years of police occupation.

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Woodcote House, Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Image: GVA.

In August, 1947, the Leamington Spa Courier announced that the executors of the late Sir Wathen Waller had instructed a Birmingham firm of auctioneers to offer for sale the remainder of the Woodcote estate situated at Leek Wootton, between Kenilworth and Warwick. The estate comprised a stone-fronted mansion, surrounded by charming grounds, the Home Farm, woodlands, and a number of cottages extending in all to about 253 acres.

Grade II listed Woodcote House was built in Elizabethan-style in 1861 and extended in 1869 on the site of an earlier house. Designed by John Gibson, it was built in Jacobean style for Henry Christopher Wise. The Wise family once owned Warwick Priory, which was dismantled and removed to America. A member of the Wise family was head gardener to Charles I, a position of some importance.

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Woodcote House, Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Image: GVA.

In 1864, All Saints’ Church, Leek Wootton, was thoroughly repaired and an open roof, the gift of the late Henry Christopher Wise, was erected; there was also a memorial to his three sons. In 1897, carved choir stalls were installed by Lady Waller as a memorial to her husband, the late General Sir George Waller, 3rd Baronet, and a chancel screen was erected in 1930 in memory of Captain Sir Francis Waller, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, killed in action in 1914.

The Wallers came of fighting stock. One of their ancestors captured the Duke of Orleans, at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, when Henry V conferred honours upon him.

In 1947, the executors of Sir Wathen Waller sold Woodcote House to Warwick Rural District Council for £25,654 to be used as a police headquarters. Following a conversion costing £60,000 Woodcote became the headquarters of the Warwickshire Constabulary in 1949. The house is linked to the east to significant 1960s/70s buildings developed as part of the Warwickshire Police headquarters.

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The new house of 1861 was built in practically the same position as an older house with stables, farm buildings and a kitchen garden in much the same place. The gardens and pleasure grounds were re-arranged, a reservoir built and five acres of the park were taken to enlarge the garden. Constructed with locally quarried stone, which like most Warwickshire sandstone, it is soft and crumbly. Image: Archiseek.
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Woodcote House, Warwickshire, in the 1900s. Image: Our Warwickshire.
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Woodcote House, Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Image: GVA.

HIGHHEAD CASTLE

If stones could speak, Highhead Castle, at Ivegill, Cumbria, would have a tale to tell, one in which romance and pathos, were blended in a chronicle of a man’s bitter disappointment.

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Henry Richmond Brougham, had a new facade built in 1744-48. It is eleven bays long, with a pedimented three-bay centre, and a walled front garden with coupled Ionic columns. Image: Lost Heritage.

Today, the remains of the real castle, built more than six centuries ago are almost non-existent. The Castle was here when the Richmond family became owners in Tudor times and added a West Wing to the old fortified mansion.

A century later a fortunate marriage brought Catterlen Hall to the Richmonds and here, too, they left a memorial of themselves in the fine 17th century wing of that fascinating house.

By 1716 both properties were ruled over by the widow of Christopher Richmond. Ruled was the right word for Isabella Miller – she took a second husband – was a matriarch who ruled with a rod of iron and gave no quarter.

Of her family of eleven, only the daughters married. The one son who grew to manhood died at the age of 26 in 1716, and his mother – who mourned him deeply – was faced with the problem of the disposal of the two estates after her death. She had many descendants from whom to choose, and eventually the lot fell upon her grandson, Henry Richmond Brougham, whom she hoped to make head of a new line at Highhead.

Her will was framed to this end, but its provisions spelt ruin to Highhead Castle in the end.

Highhead Castle - Lost Heritage
Highhead Castle was originally occupied by the Kings Castle in the Forest of Inglewood, the earliest written record of the original castle is from 1272. Image: Lost Heritage.

At the time, Henry Richmond Brougham was 17, and the old lady disposed of Highhead in this way. One half was to be enjoyed by her unmarried daughter, Susanna Richmond, for her life, and the other half Susanna was to have until Henry Richmond Brougham came of age. In the event of his dying unmarried his half was to revert to Susanna.

Isabella Miller died in 1739, the year before her grandson came of age. If she had had dreams for him, so had Susanna Richmond, his aunt, who found that the boy’s uncle, John Brougham, of Scales Hall, Skelton, was equally anxious that Henry Richmond Brougham should reign happy and glorious at Highhead. Nothing but a complete rebuilding of the old castle would do.

Down came the two 14th century towers, leaving only the Tudor wing standing. To this was added an 18th century house, at a cost of £10,000 – a very large sum in the days of its construction when masons were paid 10d a day. ¹

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The north front of Highhead Castle. The house was largely destroyed by fire in 1956. Image: Country Life.
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Looking across the valley towards Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.

It is said that John Brougham had spent some time in Italy and acquired a passion for Italian designs and workmanship. It is certain that he brought over Italian craftsmen to carry out ceilings, cornices, and other plasterwork. In a tantalising reference, William Jackson, writing in 1874, spoke of the “traditional gossip” about the foreign craftsmen, which still lingered in the district. As the work neared completion, Henry Richmond Brougham, by now 30, was chosen as High Sheriff of Cumberland. To support him in this dignity, his uncle made over to him four estates – no doubt with a hint that they were to be handed back when the year of office was over.

Fate stepped in at this point and death claimed Henry Richmond Brougham before the year was ended. The work at Highhead was suspended, and the building operations never resumed.

The four estates passed to the young man’s legal heir, who, to quote Mr Jackson, “did not recognise the property of returning them” to John Brougham.

Highhead and Catterlen now became the property of Susanna Richmond for life. While she lived all was yet well. She lived in state at Highhead and enjoyed the good things in life. In the 1870’s there still remained at Greystoke Castle some of the ale brewed at Highhead and given by Susanna to the then Duke of Norfolk. It was said to have been a drink fit for kings.

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The corridor at Highhead Castle looking east. Originally a medieval tower, the castle which was enlarged in 1550 and remodelled in 1748. Image: Country Life.
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A Venetian window in the upper corridor at Highhead Castle. Image: Country LIfe.
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The drawing room at Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.

Miss Susanna lived on until 1774, when she died at the age of 87. She had the power of disposing of Catterlen and left it to her niece. Mrs Curwen, of Workington Hall.

Highhead, on the contrary, now passed under complicated terms of her mother’s will and the trouble began. The old lady had never envisaged the untimely end of her grandson. He was to have shared one half of the house with his aunt, on whose death he would be entitled to the other half.

Now, however, the ownership of the Castle was divided into two halves and each half into fourths. In the end, none of the owners occupied the Castle, and from 1774 it was deserted except that estate tenants could use some of the rooms as store rooms and granaries.

Writing in 1794, William Hutchinson said “the swallows and jackdaws have now been its only tenants for many years, and it is doubtful the whole fabric will be suffered to go to wreck.”

The divided ownership was the curse of the Castle. Legal squabbles were kept up until the owners of one half at length decided to pull down that portion and sell the materials. The work of destruction had indeed begun but was stayed by the sale of that half about 1820 to Henry Brougham, later to be Lord Chancellor, who eventually bought the other half and so became owner of the whole.

Whellan, writing in 1860, said: “There was formerly a good deal of carved woodwork about the building, but this has been removed to Brougham Hall.” About this time the house was repaired and was let as a farmhouse. ²

The second Lord Brougham carried out more repairs between 1868 and 1874. His son and successor sold Highhead Castle – still used as a farmhouse – in November 1902, to Judge Herbert Augustus Hills for £18,000. From the judge it passed to the Right Hon John Waller Hills, became tenanted, and he sold it to Colonel Alan Dower, MP, on whose instructions it was offered for sale in June 1950.

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Looking towards the gates of the forecourt at Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.
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Looking over the terraces towards Highhead Castle from the north-east. Image: Country Life.
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Looking through the trees towards Highhead Castle. Image: Country Life.

In August 1950, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning announced that Highhead Castle had been scheduled as a building of special architectural and historic interest.

On Tuesday, December 12, 1956, Highhead Castle, now owned by Mr Gordon Robinson, a Penrith butcher, had been away with his wife on business. On their return they found the 30-roomed Georgian mansion on fire, their three small children having been rescued and taken to safety in a neighbouring farmhouse.

The alarm had been raised after farmers saw smoke billowing from a bedroom window.  When firemen arrived only the small wing where the family lived was burning. A Cumberland News reporter said: “In no time at all the wind had driven the flames to another room, then there was no stopping the raging inferno as flames and smoke swirled in the rain. It was a terrible sight as scores of villagers and helpers were told to keep back out of danger, while firemen risked their necks to fight the blaze from inside the castle.”

A split-second saved one fireman as he ran down the main staircase to the main hall. A heavy red-hot beam dropped inches behind him, setting the staircase alight. Other firemen and helpers ran from the house.

The roof began to break in with dull, monotonous cracks, and turntables were brought out to fight the fire from above. Flames were swirling all around the firemen as they carried hoses to the top of the turntables. “They stood out like ghosts in the glare, against the charred black background of the castle walls.” Glass splintered in all directions, bursting with intense heat, as firemen continued to pump water 400 yards from the River Ive all through the night.

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A rare photograph of the fire at Highhead Castle in 1956. This picture appeared in the Penrith Observer. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Jim Templeton was a firefighter on that December night in 1956 and said the conditions were terrible. It was so windy that one of his colleagues was blown off a ladder. The fire was well alight when they arrived and there was little they could do to save the house. Jim had a lucky escape himself, he said that a heavy iron bath fell through the house as the timbers became sodden with water and almost landed on him. ³

Now only the outer walls and cellars remain. The magnificent terraced gardens are also in need of a lot of work, but the facade of the house is pretty much intact.

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Highhead Castle survived demolition and has been on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Register. A unique opportunity now exists to carry on with the good work that has already commenced in the preservation of the property. Image: Savills.

An application was made in 1985 to demolish the remains which was defeated after a public inquiry. Christopher Terry (1938-2016), who also owned Brougham Hall near Penrith, bought Highhead Castle just as it was about to be demolished. In fact, he said, he was given an hour’s notice and shot up to the house just in time to save it.

In November 2018, Highhead Castle is on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Register, classified ‘A’, being the highest priority. With support from Historic England and the Country Houses Foundation, emergency stabilisation works have been completed and an options appraisal has been produced to help secure a viable and sustainable long-term use. It is currently on the market at Savills with offers wanted over £250,000.

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Image: Savills.
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Image: Savills.
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Image: Savills.
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Image: Savills.

Notes:-
¹ The Classical House was built for the Brougham family between 1744-49, from the same red Lazonby sandstone as the gorge below it and is thought to have been designed by renowned architect James Gibbs.

² What happened to the woodwork which Lord Chancellor Brougham took from Highhead to Brougham Hall? Presumably it was among the 5000 square feet of linen fold and Jacobean oak panelling which was sold at Brougham Hall on July 18, 1934, before the house was abandoned. On that day, 730 square feet of oak linen fold panelling in the dining room were sold to a London buyer for £130, and a screen of Italian workmanship from the Armoury was sold for £30 to Mr Eugene Andrews. This screen was relocated to St John’s Church in Girvan. It may have come from Highhead Castle or have been bought from the Continent by Lord Chancellor Brougham, who bought many treasures during his frequent trips abroad.

³ BBC Radio Cumbria. May 20, 2006.

⁴ The Classical House, northern garden wall and Tudor West Wing are all separately listed Grade II* and the servants wing and piers to the end of the drive are both listed Grade II.

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Image: Savills.
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Image: Savills.
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Image: Savills.
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Image: Savills.