|Barbour of Bolesworth Castle|
Robert Barbour had only one son and one daughter who survived to adulthood, and his son George Barbour (1841-1919) inherited Bolesworth Castle. He was educated as a gentleman, attending Cambridge University (where he took a degree) and qualifying as a barrister at the Inner Temple. He never practised in the law, but his legal knowledge was useful in his role as a magistrate, and he eventually became chairman of the local petty sessions court. His chief interest was in agriculture, and especially in dairy farming and cheese-making, and he expanded the estate from the relatively modest property his father had acquired to some 5,500 acres by his death in 1919. Although he was not actively involved in business himself, he had large and profitable commercial investments, and when he died he left an estate over £1.3m, which was perhaps thirty times as much as the average landed gentleman of the time. His son, Maj. Robert George Barbour (1876-1928), exhibited the same energy and entrepreneurial spirit as his grandfather, and continued the process of building up the estate, while also modernising and updating Bolesworth Castle, where he engaged Clough Williams-Ellis to largely de-Gothicise the interior of the house and layout new gardens around it. His improvements were cut short by his untimely death in a riding accident in 1928, and the estate passed to his eldest son, (George) Richard Barbour (1911-89), who came of age in 1932.
Richard Barbour saw service in the Middle East in the Second World War, and while in Cyprus married a local divorcee who had a son, Anthony, by her first marriage to another Englishman. His marriage did not meet with the approval of his mother and her second husband, and caused a permanent breach in relations between them. In 1945 he formally adopted his stepson, who became the heir to Bolesworth. After he came of age, Anthony Barbour (1938-2007) joined the board of the company which had been set up to run the estate, and in 1985 Richard handed over Bolesworth Castle to him. Once again a new owner sought to refresh the appearance of the house, and this time he turned to the fashionable London decorator, Nina Campbell. Anthony Barbour may not have been a Barbour by blood, but he was very much in the family tradition of vigorous and active landowners. His obituarist described him as 'a generous gentleman entrepreneur who treated his tenants as though they were members of his extended family', and he was an early pioneer of diversifying the economic activity of the estate. This is a tradition which his daughter Nina Barbour (b. 1980) is now pursuing too, with a series of innovations which strengthen the economy of the estate while reflecting her own enthusiasm for horses.
Bolesworth Castle, Cheshire
Bolesworth Castle is set high on the western slope of the Broxton Hills in central Cheshire, backed by a rugged wooded escarpment. A house was first built here for James Tilson (d. 1764), an Irishman who bought the estate in 1747 and apparently used the money he acquired through his second marriage in 1750 to the dowager Countess of Kerry to create the house. Lysons in 1810 says it was from the first a Gothick house, and it was presumably built much as shown in the engraving of 1788 below, making it an exceptionally early example of the genre. The engraving accords fairly closely with another, rather clearer, drawing of the house in 1821 which is now at the house, and with a plan of much the same date in Cheshire Archives, and these suggest that it was from the first a picturesquely irregular battlemented house with a rather insistent use of Gothick windows. It seems likely that James Tilson himself played a significant part in its design, but it would be very interesting to know who or what inspired him to such a precocious piece of medievalism.
|Bolesworth Castle: engraving of the house in 1788, from Harrison's Picturesque views of the principal seats of the nobility and gentry in England and Wales.|
|Bolesworth Castle: plan of the original house in 1821. Image: Cheshire Archives & Local Studies DBC 3109|
Walmesley's architect was William Cole, a pupil of the better-known Thomas Harrison of Chester, who succeeded his mentor as County Surveyor of Cheshire in 1829. Although he did little country house work, he did build a number of churches, and right up until the end of his career in the late 1850s, his Gothic work was unarchaeological and paper thin.
|The Citadel, Hawkestone: possibly a design source for Bolesworth Castle.|
Image: Alastair Rowan, 1964.
The new Bolesworth Castle is of ashlar, two-storeyed, castellated and turreted. The long west front seems symmetrical but is not. It has a raised centre with a wide canted bay and wide bays at each end, but the right one is canted while the left one is a bow. The five main reception rooms were strung out along this front, with the dining room and morning room separating a library in the centre from a circular billiard room behind the bow window and an octagonal drawing room behind the canted bay.
|Bolesworth Castle: an early photograph of the house before the alterations of the 1920s. Image: Historic England/R. Dennis BB89/3576.|
|Bolesworth Castle: the exterior from the south-west after the changes by Clough Williams-Ellis in 1920-23. Note particularly the inserted storey in the left-hand tower and the new facade of the saloon on the south front. |
Image: Alastair Rowan, 1964.
|Bolesworth Castle: the interior of the library before the remodelling of the 1920s.|
The most tragic loss was the central library, which had spiky canopies lining the walls (perhaps inspired ultimately by Walpole's library at Strawberry Hill) and an enormous fireplace supporting tall Gothic figures on pedestals. All this went when the room was made into a classical dining room, decorated in dark green and gold by Hammonds, the London decorators. The greatest change made to the house in the 1920s, however, was to move the main entrance from the south end to the east front, where Williams-Ellis created a new outer hall paved with black-and-white marble flags and walls painted to resemble fine-jointed sandstone. This leads through a screen of yellow scagliola columns into the former entrance hall, which he reworked as a saloon that is open at one end to a tall galleried, top-lit space, all treated in a lively and informal classical style that is typical of Williams-Ellis.
The 1920s alterations came to an abrupt end in 1928 with the death of Major Barbour in a hunting accident, and during the long ownership of his son, Richard Barbour, few changes were made. In 1985, however, the house was handed on to his adopted son, Anthony Barbour (1938-2007), who commissioned the interior designer Nina Campbell to refresh the interiors of the house.
Barbour family of Bolesworth Castle
|Robert Barbour (1797-1885)|
(1.1) Elizabeth Barbour (1828-35), baptised at Manchester Cathedral, 29 October 1828; died in infancy and was buried at Chorlton-upon-Medlock (Lancs), 4 March 1835;(2.1) Robert Barbour (1837-38), born 23 May and baptised at St Peter's Square Presbyterian church, Manchester, 3 September 1837; died in infancy, 6 April 1838;(2.2) Janetta Barbour (1839-91), born 25 March and baptised at St Peter's Square Presbyterian church, Manchester, 5 May 1839; married, 4 September 1872 at Harthill (Cheshire), Sir Windham Charles James Carmichael Anstruther (1824-98), 8th & 5th bt., of Carmichael House (Lanarks), and had issue one son; died 11 September 1891;(2.3) George Barbour (1841-1919) (q.v.);(2.4) Robert Humphrey Barbour (b. & d. 1842), born 18 June 1842; died in infancy, 15 August 1842.
He died 17 January 1885, and was buried in a mausoleum at Harthill; his will was proved 14 April 1885 (estate £472,267). His first wife died in childbirth, 17 October 1828. His widow died 4 May 1896 and was buried at Harthill; will proved 27 July 1896 (estate £2,619).
|George Barbour (1841-1919)|
(1) Caroline (k/a Cara) Elizabeth Barbour (1871-1959), born 5 January 1871; married, 26 July 1899, Dr. George Freeland Barbour Simpson MD (1874-1958), second son of Prof. Sir Alexander Russell Simpson MB of Edinburgh, and had issue one son and two daughters; died 24 January 1959;(2) Janet Mary Barbour (1872-1947), born 17 May and baptised at Harthill, 30 June 1872; ran a lodging house for young female workers in Kensington (Middx); died unmarried 7 March 1947; will proved 19 July 1947 (estate £76,021);(3) Eleanor Barbour (1873-1952), born 3 November and baptised at Harthill, 7 December 1873; married, 28 September 1910 at Harthill, Ven. Robert Henry Walker (1860-1939), Archdeacon of Uganda 1893-1912 and vicar of Broxbourne (Herts), 1913-19, son of Rev. John Walker, rector of Bradwell (Suffk), and had issue one daughter; died 3 December 1952; will proved 17 April 1953 (estate £18,927);(4) Robert Barbour (1876-1928) (q.v.);(5) Margaret (k/a Daisy) Gibson Fleming Barbour (1878-1963), born 5 July and baptised at Harthill, 4 August 1878; travelled extensively and was in India, 1916-19; died unmarried in Eastbourne (Sussex), 15 February 1963; will proved 14 March 1963 (estate £2,988);(6) Alison Macfie Barbour (1881-1969), born 29 August and baptised at Harthill, 25 September 1881; married, 23 February 1909, Lt-Col. Richard Norman Harrison Verdin (1877-1956) of Garnstone House (Herefs) and Darnhall Hall (Cheshire), only son of William Henry Verdin of Darnhall Hall, and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 6 September 1969; will proved 2 February 1970 (estate £43,766);(7) Georgina Louisa (k/a Gina) Barbour (1884-1966), born 5 December 1884 and baptised at Harthill, 11 January 1885; died unmarried, 8 November 1966; will proved 7 December 1966 (estate £29,506);(8) Isabel Easton Barbour (1888-1980), born 7 December 1888 and baptised at Harthill, 30 January 1889; lived in Kensington (Middx) and undertook voluntary work with Church Missionary Society, Voluntary Aid Detachment and Girl Guides; died unmarried aged 92 on 30 December 1980; will proved 24 February 1981 (estate £78,563).
He died 3 November 1919 and was buried at Harthill; will proved 27 February 1920 (estate £1,311,253). His widow died 12 October 1935; her will was proved 26 November 1935 (estate £27,503).
Barbour, Robert (1876-1928). Only son of George Barbour (1841-1919) and his wife Caroline Easton, daughter of Robert Andrew Macfie of Dreghorn Castle (Midlothian), born 8 February and baptised at Harthill, 2 April 1876. Educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1897; MA 1903). An officer in Earl of Chester's Yeomanry (Maj.). High Sheriff of Cheshire, 1925. JP and DL (from 1924) for Cheshire. He established the Bolesworth Trust Co. in 1927. He married, 28 October 1909, Ida Lavington (1889-1985), only daughter of Arthur Lavington Payne of Staffield Hall, Kirkoswald, and had issue:
(1) (George) Richard Barbour (1911-89) (q.v.);(2) David Charles Barbour (1912-88), born 1 October 1912; educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge (MA 1934); an officer in the army from 1934 (2nd Lt., 1934; Lt., 1936; Capt., 1941; Lt-Col., 1954; Col., 1958; retired as Brig. 1960), who served in Second World War (wounded; mentioned in despatches) and commanded Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, 1950-53 and 17th/21st Lancers, 1953-56; awarded OBE, 1957; an Officer of the Order of St John from 1972 (Commander, 1978); DL for Berkshire from 1972; married, 21 December 1940, Antoinette Mary Daphne (1913-61), younger daughter of Brig-Gen. Francis George Alston of Sandacre, Sandling (Kent), and had issue one son and two daughters; lived at Shortheath House, Sulhamstead (Berks); died 3 September 1988 and was buried at Sulhamstead Abbots (Berks);(3) Elizabeth Langley Barbour (1915-94), born 6 January 1915; married 1st, 22 April 1938, Capt. Joseph Gurney Fowell Buxton (1913-43), third son of Henry Fowell Buxton of Easneye, Ware (Herts) and had issue two sons and one daughter; married 2nd, 9 April 1946, Alexander Ludovic Grant (1901-86), son of John Peter Grant of Rothiemurchus, and had further issue two daughters; died 27 August 1994; will proved 9 November 1994 (estate £210,402);(4) Rosamund Lavington Barbour (1918-2015), born 17 January 1918; married, 1 December 1945 in Chester Cathedral (div. 1971), Robert Charles Michael Vaughan Wynn DSC JP (1917-98), 7th Baron Newborough (who m2, 1971, Jennifer Caroline Acland (b. 1930), youngest daughter of Capt. Cecil C.A. Allen), and had issue one son and two daughters; died 17 February 2015; will proved 14 August 2015;(5) Robert James Barbour (1920-44), born 7 November 1920; educated at Harrow; an officer in the Welsh Guards (2nd Lt., 1941; mentioned in despatches); killed in action near Monte Cassino in Italy, 11 February 1944, and buried in Cassino War Cemetery, Lazio (Italy); will proved 19 December 1944 (estate £32,871).
He died following a riding accident on the estate, 3 September 1928; his will was proved 22 October 1928 (estate £1,162,543). His widow married 2nd, 10 November 1932 at Bickerton (Cheshire), Capt. William Hamilton Carter MC (1896-1977), the land agent at Bolesworth; she died aged 96 on 27 April 1985; her will was proved 19 July 1985 (estate £518,359).
Barbour (George) Richard (1911-89). Eldest son of Robert Barbour (1876-1928) and his wife Ida Lavington, only daughter of Arthur Lavington Payne of Staffield Hall, Kirkoswald, born 3 February 1911. Educated at Stowe. An officer in the Cheshire Yeomanry from 1930; ADC to 5th Baron Huntingfield as Governor of Victoria, 1934-36; served in Second World War in the Middle East, 1940-45; member of Cheshire War Agricultural Executive Committee and its successor body, 1946-50. Director (and later Chairman) of the Cheshire Observer newspaper. He was joint master of the Cheshire Hunt, 1938-40. His marriage while he was away during the Second World War caused a breach in relations with his mother and other members of his family, and remarkably this pattern was repeated when his own daughters married. In 1955 he bought out the interests of other members of the family in the Bolesworth Trust Company, put the estate in a settled trust, and established the Bolesworth Estate Co. Ltd. to operate the estate. He married, 30 December 1944, Eva Elizabeth (k/a Lulu) (1913-83), elder daughter of Najem Houry of Limassol (Cyprus), a Lebanese national of Armenian extraction, and formerly wife of Henry Charles Weston-Sanders, and had issue:
(1) Adele Janet Barbour (b. 1946) of Coomb Dale Lodge, Harthill, born 13 April 1946; married, 13 August 1974 at St Paul, Knightsbridge (London), George Howard Joseph Nicholson (b. 1936), and had issue two sons;(2) Christina Maree Barbour (b. 1947), born 3 November 1947; educated at The Queen's School, Chester and Royal Academy of Music (LRAM); married 1st, 6 January 1973 at St John, Chester, Peter Henry Shelley Barker (1940-91) of Borras House, Wrexham (Denbighs.), stockbroker, and had issue three sons; married 2nd, 30 September 1995, Tom Bartlam, travel agent.He also adopted his stepson:(A1) Anthony George Weston-Sanders (later Barbour) (1938-2007) (q.v.).
He died 25 October 1989; his will was proved 27 November 1989 (estate £2,998,336). His wife died 20 November 1983; her will was proved 21 June 1984 (estate £351,872).
Weston-Sanders (later Barbour), Anthony George (1938-2007). Only son of Henry Charles Weston-Sanders and his wife Eva Elizabeth (k/a Lulu), elder daughter of Najem Houry of Limassol (Cyprus), born 19 August 1938 on Cyprus. After his mother married (George) Richard Barbour in 1944, he took the name Barbour and was formally adopted by his stepfather. Educated at Stowe, Grays Inn (called to bar 1959) and New College, Oxford (matriculated 1959 but did not take a degree). He was a Conservative in politics, and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in the Crewe constituency in 1964 and 1966. A director of Bolesworth Estate Co. Ltd from 1960; chairman of Cheshire branch of Country Landowners Assoc., 1986-87 and president, 1999-2007; High Sheriff of Cheshire, 1987-88; Trustee of Historic Cheshire Churches Preservation Trust, the Willoughbridge Garden Trust, and the British Sporting Art Trust. He was awarded the Royal Agricultural Society Gold Medal for Landowners, 1998. He married, 12 November 1976, Diana Caroline (b. 1946), daughter of David Blackwell of Combe (Oxon), and had issue:
(1) Nina Caroline Barbour (b. 1980), born 14 April 1980; educated at Wycombe Abbey School and Cambridge University (BA 2002; MA 2006); took over full responsibility for the management of the estate in 2013 and has led the development of new estate initiatives including the Bolesworth International Horse Show, CarFest North and Harthill Stud;(2) Cleo Diana Balfour (b. 1986), born 10 January 1986; educated at Cordwainers College, London; established and ran Cleo B footwear company, 2009-16; now lives in Brighton (Sussex) working as an artist and designer of fashion accessories.
He died at Bolesworth Castle, 9 October 2007; his will was proved 25 January 2008. His widow is now living.
Burke's Landed Gentry: the principality of Wales and the north-west, 2005, p. 489; J. Brayley & J. Britton, The beauties of England & Wales, vol. 2, 1801, pp. 240-41; R.D. MacKenzie, Kilbarchan: a parish history, 1902; P. de Figueiredo & J. Treuherz, Cheshire country houses, 1987, pp. 35-38; T. Mowl & M. Mako, The historic gardens of England: Cheshire, 2008, pp. 117-19; C. Hartwell, M. Hyde, E. Hubbard & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Cheshire, 2nd edn., 2011, pp. 162-64; W. Bawn & D. Barbour, Bolesworth and the Barbours, 2017.
Location of archives
The family and estate papers are believed to remain in the possession of the family. Some papers relating to the Georgian house are to be found in a solicitor's collection at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies [DBC 3109].
Coat of arms
Argent, on a saltire gules, gutté d'eau between two garbs in pale and as many escallops in fesse, vert an escallop of the first.
Can you help?
- Can anyone provide any other illustrations of Bolesworth Castle before it was rebuilt in the 1820s? I would be particularly interested in any drawings or engravings earlier than the view of 1788 above.
- I should be most grateful if anyone can provide photographs or portraits of people whose names appear in bold above, and who are not already illustrated.
- As always, any additions or corrections to the account given above will be gratefully received and incorporated.