The first castle ever to be built at Bolesworth was created by James Tilson, an Anglo-Irishman from Co Offaly. By profession a barrister and diplomat, James was an ambitious and flamboyant man who lived life to the full and enjoyed the company of his many influential friends in London.
In 1750 he married Gertrude Countess of Kerry, a very wealthy widow. Soon after marrying Gertrude he began to build a gothic style castle on land he had previously bought in Bolesworth. It is quite possible he copied the style of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill castle in Twickenham, which was then at the cutting edge of fashion.
Enormous efforts had to be made to cut through the sandstone outcrop before building work could begin at Bolesworth. Altogether it was a very costly enterprise and quickly swallowed up all their available money, which meant he had to start borrowing. Five years later and hugely in debt James reluctantly had to admit defeat and so his beautiful castle was put up for sale.
Despite his health being very poor (he suffered from gout and asthma) he pleaded with his friend and patron Lord Egremont to find him a lucrative post somewhere, as quickly as possible. He was eventually given the position of Consul at Cadiz.
Meanwhile his wife and their young daughter moved to live in London. Sadly, only twelve months later they were told that he had died. At the time of his death Bolesworth Castle and its small estate were rented out to a young man named John Crewe who fell in love with it and subsequently bought it – despite his father’s disapproval.
Wendy Bawn, Researcher, July 2012