Written for use in Tattenhall Music Jubilee Concert Programme June 3rd 2012, by Diana Barbour
Bolesworth is delighted that Tattenhall Music Society have chosen to stage their Jubilee Concert here on the showground of the Bolesworth Classic. Nina, Cleo and I hope that everyone will thoroughly enjoy their evening beside the lake, looking up at Bolesworth Castle, and will join them in celebrating wholeheartedly the glorious Diamond Jubilee of our Queen Elizabeth II.
I thought that you might like to have a little bit of the history of Bolesworth Castle, which has been the home of the Barbour family for over 150 years. Bolesworth Castle, stands on the site of a previous very gothic house built in the 1750s. Today, the only 18th century features to have survived are the lake, with its bridge and boathouse, created by the owner John Crewe in 1780 and known as Mr Crewe’s New River. He employed the Scottish architect and civil engineer Robert Mylne, well known in his day for designing Blackfriars Bridge over the River Thames.
In 1826 George Walmsley bought the Castle and rebuilt it at enormous expense, employing architect William Cole, a pupil of the famous Chester architect Thomas Harrison. This enterprise ruined Walmsley and he was forced to sell up in 1836 to Thomas Crallan, whose family had made a fortune in brewing and owned The Sun Brewery in Ardwick, Manchester. Crallan spent much time and money on improving the estate but died before being able to enjoy his retirement there. Following his death in 1856 the Castle and Estate were put up for auction and bought by Robert Barbour (1797-1885). The Barbours, originally from Glasgow, were cotton traders in Manchester.
Robert Barbour was succeeded by his son George Barbour, and duly by his grandson Robert (1876-1928), who employed Clough Williams-Ellis (of Portmeirion fame) to modernise and remodel the Castle in 1921. The structure of the present garden was also laid out by Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1984). The terracing and steps in front of the castle were built (replacing sloping lawns) and the large stone garden seat was put at the end of the broad gravelled path running along the terrace.
He also put the Temple of Diana on a rise beside the drive, so that it can been seen from the Drawing Room windows.
The front door was relocated from the side of the house to the courtyard at the back of the building, putting a canopy over the door reminiscent of the entrance to Claridges in London. He redesigned the principal rooms using many of the motifs in the plasterwork, on the lights and on the mantelpieces, which he used later in his Italianate village at Portmeirion. He turned what once had been a rather dark house, into a light and airy place. My father-in-law, Richard Barbour, told me that when he went to the house to see his grandparents before the alterations in 1921, he was nervous about going upstairs because it was so dark and scary. Clough put in electricity (prior to this the house was lit by gas piped up from the gasworks in Tattenhall), modern plumbing (1920's style, with wonderful large baths with lion's claw feet), heating (we use the same radiators today) and a telephone. This was a new innovation, and was housed in a special telephone box in the hall at the foot of the main staircase. It had a patent mechanism so that when you stepped on to its floor, a little window closed to ensure privacy. The first floor was made into suites of bedroom, dressing room and bathroom and a splendid Servants' Hall was made in the Round Room on the front corner of the house overlooking the view. When Anthony and I came to live here in 1986 we made no structural alterations to the house, but did reroof it (last done in the 1890's), rewire, and redecorate. It remains a much loved family home, but also houses the Bolesworth Estate Office and the Bolesworth Team. Bolesworth is a wonderful place to live and work in, and we are all delighted to be sharing it with you tonight.
(With additional research from Wendy Bawn, Bolesworth Archivist).