WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN . . . .Part Two

In retirement Copenhagen must have become somewhat mellowed because he was regularly ridden by friends and children at the Duke’s country estate of Stratfield Saye (above), although Lady Shelley said he was the most difficult to sit of any horse she had ever ridden. The Duchess (of Wellington) often fed him with bread and this it was said gave him the habit of approaching every lady with the most confiding familiarity. Over the years hair had been taken from the horse and made into bracelets for the ladies.

Lady de Ros, the last survivor of those who danced at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels on the evening before the battle of Waterloo, also the last among those who had mounted “Copenhagen,” published a little volume of recollections of Wellington which contained the following extract:

“We often stayed with the Duke at Abbaye, Mount St. Martin, Cambrai, and one morning he announced that there would be a sham battle, and that he had given orders to Sir George Scovell that the ladies riding should be taken prisoners, so he recommended our keeping close to him. I had no difficulty in doing so, as I was riding the duke’s Waterloo charger “Copenhagen,” and I found myself the only one within a square where they were firing. To the Duke’s great amusement, he heard one of the soldiers saying to another: “Take care of that ‘ere horse; he kicks out. We knew him well in Spain,” pointing to Copenhagen. He was a most unpleasant horse to ride, but always snorted and neighed with pleasure at the sight of troops. I was jumping with him when the stirrup broke, and I fell off. In the evening the Duke had a dance, and said to me, “Here ‘s the heroine of the day—got kicked off, and didn’t mind it.”

This passage from a letter by Lady Shelley indicates that she concurred with Lady de Ros regarding Copenhagen’s merits as a mount:  “I dined at three o’clock to-day, in order to ride with the Duke, who offered to mount me on Copenhagen. A charming ride of two hours. But I found Copenhagen the most difficult horse to sit of any I had ever ridden. If the Duke had not been there I should have been frightened. He said: “I believe you think the glory greater than the pleasure in riding him!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first Duchess of Wellington (above), with whom Copenhagen was a great favorite, wore a bracelet of his hair, as did several of her friends. Her daughter-in-law, the second Duchess, who was much admired by the great Duke, accompanied author James Grant Wilson on his last visit to the field of Waterloo and gifted him with a bracelet and breastpin made of Copenhagen’s mane. On his last visit of several days at Strathfieldsaye in September, 1883, Wilson received from the second Duke as a parting gift a precious lock of the Waterloo hero’s hair and a sheaf of the charger’s tail.

 

A portion of the old stables at Stratfield Saye, as seen in 2010.

In his latter days, Copenhagen became blind and his oats were broken for him, and “the Duchess” used regularly to hand feed him bread. When the great horse died in 1836, at the remarkable age of 29, the Duke of Wellington directed that he be given a funeral with full military honors.

But the day of the burial was worsened for the Duke, who noticed that one hoof had been removed from the body and flew into a  terrible passion about the mutilation. After the Duke’s own death, the guilty servant who had taken the hoof as a memento came forward to confess and presented it to the second Duke who had it made into an inkstand. As the second Duke explained, “Several years after my father’s death an old servant of the family came to me in the library, and, producing a paper parcel, spoke as follows: `Your Grace, I do not believe that I have long to live, and before I die I wish to place in your hands what belongs to you.’ With no small degree of surprise I inquired what it was, and when he opened the package and produced a horse’s hoof he said: `Your Grace, when Copenhagen died I cut off this hoof. None of us imagined that the duke would trouble his head about the body of the war-horse, but, to our great surprise, he walked down to the stables on his sudden return from London to see him buried. He instantly observed that his right forefoot was gone, and was in a fearful passion. No one dared tell him how it happened. I have preserved the hoof carefully for thirty years, and I now return it to your Grace.’ The inkstand is now on display at Apsley House, London.

Copenhagen’s grave, which can be seen today, is marked by a magnificent turkey oak tree planted in 1843 by Mrs. Apostles, the Duke’s housekeeper. As a mark of respect the second Duke erected a stone marker on the grave where it remains to this day. A few years ago, Victoria and I had the honour of placing roses on the grave during Number One London’s Duke of Wellington Tour.

At one time, the War Museum approached the Duke about disinterring Copenhagen in order to keep his skeleton in the Museum alongside the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse, Marengo. But the Duke thwarted the idea by saying he was not sure exactly where the horse had been buried. Of course, he knew precisely where Copenhagen’s remains were under the turkey oak in the Ice House Paddock at Stratfield Saye, but he obviously preferred to keep his loyal friend at home with him.

When the painter Haydon was working on a portrait of the Duke and Copenhagen after the horse’s demise, he ran into creative difficulties before he could design his rough sketch of the horse and his rider. These would have been greatly increased if Lord FitzRoy Somerset had not been induced by Lady Burghersh to call at the painter’s studio. Here are some extracts from Haydon’s Diary:

“July 8th, 1839.—Lord FitzRoy Somerset called yesterday with his daughter to see my sketch of Copenhagen, whom I had studied from the pictures of other artists who had painted him, and especially that done by Webb in 1824. Lord FitzRoy’s daughter is as good a judge of a horse as he is, and they both thought Copenhagen too leggy and too big in the body, which gave him a heavy look. Lord FitzRoy said:
‘The Duke never holds his own horse. Copenhagen came out to Lisbon with Lord Londonderry, and the Duke bought him for 200 or 250 guineas. . . . the Duke never rode upon a battle-field without being accompanied by an orderly dragoon. At Waterloo his dragoon was killed, and Major Canning asked, ‘What shall I do with the Duke’s little desk, now the orderly is killed?’ ‘ Keep it yourself,’ answered Lord FitzRoy. Presently Major Canning was also killed, and the desk was found next morning with the lock broken open. This was the rough little wooden desk which attracted so much notice at Apsley House when it was first opened to the public.”

A few days later, Count D’Orsay (left), a painter in his own right who had himself painted a portrait of the Duke, called on Haydon, having been asked to do so by Somerset.

“July 10th, 1839.—Count D’Orsay  came to my studio, and pointed out several things to correct in the horse. I hastily executed them, but he took my brush in his dainty gloved hand and lowered the hind-quarters by bringing in a bit of the sky. Such a dress! White great coat, blue satin cravat, hair oiled and curling, hat of a wonderful curve; gloves scented with eau de jasmin, primrose in tint, skin-like in tightness. Yet this primest of dandies took up a nasty, oily, dirty hog-brush, and improved Copenhagen by touching the sky. After he had gone I thought, ‘This will never do ! A Frenchman sketching Copenhagen !’ So I rubbed out all he had touched, and adopted his hints myself with modifications.”

After Copenhagen’s death, the horse the Duke preferred during the last twenty years of his life was a hunter class of animal, a good walker, ridden in a snaffle-bridle, like a huntsman’s horse, without a thought of showing off the animal’s paces. Before age had bent him the Duke’s seat was remarkably upright; lost in thought, he passed along, mechanically acknowledging with his upraised forefinger the many hats raised to salute the Great Duke.

Count D’Orsay’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington.

As he grew old and infirm, instead of bending forward like most old men, he leant back in the saddle and literally hung on by the bridle, generally going down St. James’s Park to the Horse Guards at a huntsman’s shog-trot.

 


Wellington and Copenhagen have been immortalized as a pair in various art mediums. The statue of Wellington astride Copenhagen now at Aldershot was first destined to stand at Hyde Park Corner. Wellington himself sat for the sculptor, Wyatt. Fittingly, much of the bronze in the statue is derived from French cannon captured at Waterloo and remelted in Wyatt’s foundry. Copenhagen, however, had died and a substitute horse, a mare called Rosemary was used as a model, offending many at the time who saw a poor likeness to Copenhagen in the statue. In 1846 the statue was moved with great pagaentry from Wyatt’s workshop to Hyde Park Corner. It was moved on a huge low carriage that had wheels 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter and had been constructed by H. M. Dockyards at Woolwich. The carriage was hauled by a hundred men of the Scots Fusilier Guards; as it emerged onto the road, it was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from the crowd of sightseers. Twenty nine horses then drew the carriage to Hyde Park Corner. It took some hours to get the statue into position for hoisting and the final lift and fixing into position on the as yet unfinished victory arch was completed the following day.

This lock of hair resides at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke, near the Duke of Wellington’s home, Stratfield Saye, and is said to come from the mane of Copenhagen and to have been presented to Miss Charlotte Pigot by Wellington himself. Miss Pigot was an ancestor of the Hon. Mrs Bunbury, who gave the hair to the Museum. Also on display is one of Copenhagen’s horseshoes and a piece of the Wellington oak, said to have come from the tree under which Wellington established a position at Waterloo.

As a further memorial, the Copenhagen Building in Glasgow, Scotland, was named for the Duke’s horse and his contribrution to British history. There is a memorial to the horse in the lobby.

WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN . . .

Copenhagen was the name of the horse the Duke of Wellington rode at the Battle of Waterloo. Born in 1808, Copenhagen was a chestnut stallion of 15 hands and was sired by Meteor, who was second in the Derby of 1786. Copenhagen was a failed race horse who’d won only one minor race at Newmarket in 13 outings. He was then shipped off to Spain during the Peninsular War and it was here that he was purchased by Wellington in 1813.

When not in a battle situation Copenhagen was tetchy and difficult and totally unimpressed with situation or status. His cantankerous temperament gave many a groom a bad moment and even nearly gave the Duke himself a severe injury. He had dismounted after the final battle of Waterloo and moved to the rear and patted Copenhagen on the rump in thanks for a fine day s work. The horse responded with a savage kick, just missing the General who had already just missed death many times that day.

But Copenhagen was a superb battle horse. Unflinching amidst gunfire he repeatedly exhibited great stamina and fortitude. On one occasion he carried the General Duke into a square of infantrymen under cannon fire, both remaining perfectly composed. Later the Duke said of him: “There may have been many faster horses, no doubt many handsomer, but for bottom and endurance I never saw his fellow.” Wellington and Copenhagen were commemorated on the field of Waterloo by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1818. A compliment indeed from an experienced horseman who loved mounted sports at home and had a string of eight chargers for battle.

Copenhagen had been a surprise foal. His dam was Lady Catherine, who was by John Bull, a thoroughbred, and out of a mare by the Rutland Arabian. Lady Catherine was the only halfbred broodmare to be accepted into the General Stud Book (UK’s Thoroughbred register). Her owner had taken Lady Catherine on the British military expedition to Denmark in 1807 not knowing she was in foal. At that time the Duke of Wellington was in charge of a division in the force that occupied the city of Copenhagen and seized the Danish fleet. Once home the mare produced a strong chestnut foal who was named in honor of the Copenhagen siege. The colt was by the famous Meteor who was a son of the even more famous Eclipse, the legendary race horse of the 18th century.

In The Life of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington: In two volumes …, Volume 2 by J. H. Stocqueler we are told that Copenhagen derived his name from the city in which he was foaled, his dam having been taken ont there in the expedition of 1807, by Field-Marshal Grosvenor. . . In the hands of General Grosvenor Copenhagen did not remain long, for he was sold by him to the Marquis of Londonderry, then Adjutant-General to the Peninsular army, who sent him with other horses to Lisbon, in 1813. On the memorable day of Waterloo, though the great captain had been on his back for eighteen hours, yet Copenhagen gave little signs of his being beaten, for on the Duke’s patting him on the quarters as he dismounted after the battle, the game little horse struck out as playfully as if he had only had an hour’s ride in the Park. For endurance of fatigue, indeed, he was more than usually remarkable; and for the duty he had to fulfil as proportionately valuable. However hard the day, Copenhagen never refused his corn, though he eat it after a very unusual manner with horses, lying down. Copenhagen, whose colour was a full rich chesnut, was a small horse, standing scarcely more than 15 hands high; he possessed, however, great muscular power. His general appearance denoted his Arabian blood, which his enduring qualities served further to identify. Though not much suited, from his size, for crossing the country, the Duke did oceasionally ride him to hounds.

Bell’s Life in London gives a different account of the pedigree of the horse. That journal —the highest authority in such matters—says :—”The horse was bred in the year 1808 by the late Field-Marshal Grosvenor; his sire was the famous little racer Meteor, son of Eelipse. Meteor hardly exceeded 14 hands; he was, however, very strong and handsome, with a remarkably good constitution and legs, which enabled him to stand the wear and tear of training for seven years. Meteor was just a little short of the first class or form of racehorses, running well at all weights and distances. His illustrious progeny, Copenhagen, appears to have inherited the stoutness of his sire in no slight degree, although very unsuccessful as a race-horse upon the turf. His dam was a mare whose name was given in the ‘ Stud-book’ as Lady Catherine, by John Bull, a very large, strong bone, the winner of the Derby Stakes in 1792; who, as well as Meteor, was in the stud of Lord Grosvenor, the grandfather of the present Marquis of Westminster. By those who are versed in the mysteries of the ‘ Equine Peerage,’ Lady Catherine was always considered to be entitled to the ‘bend sinister.’ In fact, she was not quite thoroughbred. The newspapers have informed us that the Duke’s charger was named in consequence of his having been foaled in Copenhagen, which we must beg leave to doubt; for, even supposing Field-Marshal Grosvenor to have visited the Danish capital in 1808, either in a military or a civil capacity, which does not anywhere appear to be the case, it is hardly possible that he would have taken a broodmare as a part of his travelling establishment. At that time it was a very common circumstance to name race-horses after some illustrious event happening during the war. Thus we have the names of Albuera, Waterloo, Smolensko, St. Vincent, and many others. For a similar reason Copenhagen most probably reccived that title. At the time Copenhagen was foaled, Meteor was twenty-five years old. Copenhagen was taller than his sire, being very nearly, if not quite, 15 hands, but neither so strong nor so handsome.”

Wellington himself told Croker, “He was not named from my having ridden him at Copenhagen; his dam was a blood mare which Tom Grosvenor had in the expedition to Copenhagen, and he called her foal by that name, so that he must have been foaled after 1806. Grosvenor sold him to Charles Stuart, now Londonderry, of whom, when he left the Peninsula, I bought him, and rode him throughout the rest of the war, and mounted no other horse at Waterloo.”

Speaking of this horse in 1833, Wellington is recorded to have told the following anecdote. He had commenced by saying that although no doubt many horses were faster and many handsomer, yet “for bottom and endurance I never saw his fellow.” ” I’ll give you a proof of it,” he goes on to say : “On the 17th” (morning after Quatre Bras) I had a horse shot under me; few knew it, But it was so. I got on Copenhagen’s back. Neither he nor I were still for many minutes together. I never drew bit, and he never had a morsel in his mouth, till eight p.m., when Fitzroy Somerset came to tell me dinner was ready in the little neighbouring village of Waterloo. The poor beast I saw myself, stabled and fed. I told my groom to give him no hay, but, after a few godowns of chilled water, as much corn and beans as he had a mind for. . . . Somerset and I despatched a hasty meal, and as soon as we had done I sent off Somerset on an errand. This I did, I confess, on purpose that I might get him out of the way; for I knew that if he had the slightest inkling of what I was up to he would have done his best to dissuade me from my purpose, and want to accompany me.

“The fact was, I wanted to see Blucher (right), that I might learn from his own lips at what hour it was  probable he would he able to join forces with us next day. Therefore, the moment Fitzroy’s back was turned I ordered Copenhagen to be resaddled, and told my man to get his own horse and accompany me to Wavre, where I had reason to believe old ‘ Forwards’ was encamped. Now, Wavre being some twelve miles from Waterloo, I was not a little disgusted, on getting there, to find that the old fellow’s tent was two miles still farther off. However, I saw him, got the information I wanted from him, and made my way homewards. Bad, however, was the best; for, by Jove, it was so dark that I fell into a deepish dyke by the roadside; and if it had not been for my orderly’s assistance, I doubt if I ever should have got out. Thank God, there was no harm done either to horse or to man! Well, on reaching headquarters, and thinking how bravely my old horse had carried me all day, I could not help going up to his head to tell him so by a few caresses. But, hang me, if when I was giving him a slap of approbation on his hindquarters, he did not fling out one of his hind-legs with as much vigour as if he had been in the stable for a couple of days! Remember, gentlemen, he had been out, with me on his back, for upwards of ten hours (during the day), and had then carried me eight-and-twenty miles besides. I call that bottom! Eh?”

The names of Copenhagen and the Duke became synonymous and even in retirement from war they remained together. Wellington became Prime Minister of Britain in 1828 and rode Copenhagen up Downing Street to No.10 to take up his new position of leadership.

More on Copenhagen in retirement in Part Two . . . . coming soon.

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – THE MARCHIONESS OF WORCESTER

Originally published May, 2014

The first quadrille was danced at Almack’s –  pictured are the Marquis of Worcester, Lady Jersey, Claronald Macdonald and Lady Worcester.

 

The Duke of Wellington’s ties to the Marquis and Lady Worcester were fastened on both sides – Lord Worcester had served as an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, while the Marchioness of Worcester, Georgina Frederica, was the daughter of the Hon. Henry Fitzroy and the Duke’s sister, Lady Anne, and therefore Wellington’s niece. Prior to their marriage, Lady Shelly wrote in her diary, “Georgiana Fitzroy’s marriage was announced. It was to take place on the following Monday, when the Duke was to give her away. I hope that it will turn out well, but I have my doubts! Lord Worcester is only twenty-one, and very wild.”

The marriage proved happy enough but, at the age of 28, Georgina became gravely ill. The following account is from The Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope – ” . . . Lady Worcester was not expected to live thro’ last night. She was at the Birthday and at the ball, danced a great deal, felt unwell, and was fool enough to take a shower bath before she went to bed. She was seized with inflammation in her bowels and in great danger immediately. Lady Worcester’s sufferings were most extreme, her complaint a twisting of the guts. She died sensible but screaming. On one side of the bed sat Lady E. Vernon, on the other, Lady Jersey, also screaming with grief. The Duke of Wellington had to drag them by force out of the room. There were eighty people standing round when she died.”

Apsley House


Mrs. Arbuthnot’s Journal gives us another view of the events leading up to Lady Worcester’s death:
“Lady Worcester died after a week’s illness of inflammation brought on by going into a cold bath after dancing at the ball at Carlton House. She was only 28, one of the handsomest women in England, had made the most brilliant marriage and was flattered, followed and admired by all the world. It is sad to contrast all this brilliancy with the cold and dreary grave that will so soon close over her; and yet she will then have more tranquility, for her prospects were not happy ones. Lord Worcester, overwhelmed with debts, had lately had executions in his house and, if the Duke of Wellington had not given her rooms in his house, she would not have had a hole to put her head into. . . . .

The New Monthly Magazine ran the following report about her death on May 11, 1821 — At Apsley House, the Marchioness of Worcester, of an internal inflammation. Her Ladyship was Georgiana Frederica Fitzroy, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Henry Fitzroy, son of Charles, first Lord Southampton, brother of the Duke of Grafton, by Lady Anne Wellesley, sister of the Duke of Wellington and Marquis Wellesley; and was married to the Marquis of Worcester on the 25th of July, 1814. Her Ladyship was one of the most intimate and favourite friends of the late Princess Charlotte.

And from the Greville Diary – May 12th.—I have suffered the severest pain I ever had in my life by the death of Lady Worcester. I loved her like a sister, and I have lost one of the few persons in the world who cared for me, and whose affection and friendship serve to make life valuable to me. She has been cut off in the prime of her life and in the bloom of her beauty, and so suddenly too. Seven days ago she was at a ball at Court, and she is now no more. She died like a heroine, full of cheerfulness and courage to the last. She has been snatched from life at a time when she was becoming every day more fit to live, for her mind, her temper, and her understanding were gradually and rapidly improving; she had faults, but her mind was not vicious, and her defects may be ascribed to her education and to the actual state of the society in which she lived. Her virtues were inherent in her character; every day developed them more and more, and they were such as to make the happiness of all who lived with her and to captivate the affection of all who really knew her. I have never lost anyone I loved before, and though I know the grief I now feel will soon subside (for so the laws of nature have ordained), long, long will it be before I forget her, or before my mind loses the lively impression of her virtues and of our mutual friendship.

“This is one of those melancholy events in life to which the mind cannot for a long time reconcile or accustom itself. I saw her so short a time ago ‘ glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy;’ the accents of her voice still so vibrate in my ear that I cannot believe I shall never see her again. What a subject for contemplation and for moralising! What reflections crowd into the mind!

“Dr. Hume told me once he had witnessed many death beds, but he had never seen anything like the fortitude and resignation displayed by her. She died in his arms, and without pain. As life ebbed away her countenance changed, and when at length she ceased to breathe, a beautiful and tranquil smile settled upon her face.”

Emily, Duchess of Beaufort

As stated above, Lady Worcester died on 11 May 1821, and on 29 June 1822, her husband Lord Worcester married Lady Anne’s other daughter, Emily Frances. This opens up a whole can of worms, as it was against the law for a widow or widower to marry a brother or sister-in-law. How did they get around this? It might have been due to the fact that Emily had been Lady Worcester’s half sister – their mother, Lady Anne’s husband, Henry Fitzroy died on the 19 March 1794, and on 2 August 1799 Lady Anne was remarried to Charles Culling Smith. Their daughter Emily Frances Smith was born on the 3 March 1800. Regardless, the Duke of Wellington was not happy with the match, which caused a rift between himself and his sister.

On 23 November, 1835 Emily became the Duchess of Beaufort.  She died on 2 October 1889 at age 89 and was buried at Badminton. Her mother, Lady Anne Smith, died in 1844.

NAPOLEON DIES IN EXILE MAY 5, 1821

Napoleon Bonaparte, the former French emperor and arch-foe of Great Britain, died on St. Helena on this day. The Corsica-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoleon returned home from his Egyptian campaign to take over the reins of the French government and save his nation from collapse. After becoming first consul in February 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoleonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804 crowned himself as emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral. By 1807, Napoleon controlled an empire that stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.

Beginning in 1812, Napoleon began to encounter the first significant defeats of his military career, suffering through a disastrous invasion of Russia, losing Spain to the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War, and enduring total defeat against an allied force by 1814. Exiled to the island of Elba, he plotted his return. He escaped to France in early 1815 and raised a new Grand Army that enjoyed temporary success before its crushing defeat at Waterloo against an allied force under Wellington on June 18, 1815 (Huzza!).

From  the Waterloo panorama

Napoleon was subsequently exiled to the island of Saint Helena off the coast of Africa. He worked on his memoirs and obsessed over the reasons why his army had failed to triumph, any reasons other than the failure of his own strategy.

Six years later, he died, most likely of stomach cancer, though the precise cause has never been established, leaving some of his champions to suspect poison or other nefarious plots. Napoleon was buried on St. Helena. In 1840 his body was returned to Paris, where it was interred in the Hotel des Invalides.

Hotel des Invalides
 Napoleon’s Tomb

LOST COUNTRY HOUSES

Warter Hall/Priory
If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you’ll know that I spend an inordinate amount of time researching anything and everything to do with the Duke of Wellington. Often, this research leads me down unexpected paths, as happened when I found myself stumbling upon Lady Nunburnholme and her home, Warter Hall, on the Lost Heritage website:  The Victorian and Edwardian owners of Warter Hall (or Priory).
Florence Jane Helen Wellesley (1853-1932), Lady Nunburnholme, OBE by Edward Hughes, National Trust, Beningbrough Hall

The Formidable Lady Nunburnholme

“From the purchase of the Warter Estate by her husband in 1878 until its sale over 50 years later, the village of Warter and the lives of the villagers were dominated by Lady Nunburnholme.

“Born in London in 1854 Florence Jane Helen Wellesley was the eldest daughter of Colonel William Henry Charles Wellesley, a nephew of the great Duke of Wellington. She married Charles Wilson in 1871 and they lived at Cottingham, near Hull before moving to Warter Priory in 1878.

“(Local man) George Noble had many stories of Lady Nunburnholme: She was a Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s family. Warter Priory was full of Duke of Wellington’s busts and oil paintings. She used to say “I’ve got the blood and Mr Wilson has the money.” Which he had. … By jove she was a rum un, I’ll tell you that, yes, but when she was alright, she was alright, but by jove she was a goer on as we say… She liked entertaining and she was the boss, and it was no good anybody what worked there telling her off, for she would get his notice just after, you know, pack-up … she would nearly clear him off the place straightaway and pay him up… The butler used to say to me dad, and he was there a long time, and knew ’em all. “Bill”, he used to say “Devil’s abroad, she’s on the warpath … she’s playing devil with me and everybody else she’s come across – if you can find another job, getaway, out of road.”

“The Dowager Lady Nunburnholme died in 1932. The Warter estate had by then been sold by her grandson Charles John, 3rd Baron Nunburnholme. It was bought in 1929 by George Vestey who made Warter Priory his home until his death in 1968. Warter was then sold to the 4th Marquis of Normanby and the Guiness Trust.

“The Marquis bought Warter as a subsidiary shooting lodge and did not intend to live there as his principal family seat was at Musgrave Castle. The contents were auctioned in March 1969, the garden statuary the following September. Attempts were made to find a tenant but when one could not be found it was decided to demolish the house and a final auction of all the remaining furniture and fittings, down the last loo seat, was held in May 1972. Shortly afterwards the house was demolished, the splendid gardens bulldozed and the rubble used to fill in the nearby lake. The 5th Marquis of Normanby sold the Warter estate covering 11,910 acres (4,820 hectares) with 63 houses and cottages to a Hull-born businessman Malcolm Healey in 1998.”

Meeting Lady Nunburnholme thus was pleasantly surprising, but sadly Warter Priory’s fate was all too familiar. Since WWII, nearly 1,000 of Britain’s stately homes have vanished, either fallen to ruin or demolished when changes in social climate and the industrial landscape combined with diminished fortunes and death duties to sound the final bell on a way of life that had become unsustainable.

As we were going to be Derbyshire, I built a stop at Sutton Scarsdale into Number One London’s 2017 Country House Tour, as I wanted to show our guests the state that some of the houses were in when acquired by the National Trust or English Heritage. Sutton Scarsdale is a prime example of the condition so many important houses were allowed to fall in to after the second World War.

In 1724, Nicholas Leke, 4th Earl of Scarsdale commissioned the building of a design by architect Francis Smith, to develop a Georgian mansion with gardens, using parts of an existing structure. The estate was sold to the Arkwright family in 1824 and remained in their possession until 1919, when Major William Arkwright sold the house and grounds at auction. The estate was bought by a group of local businessmen who asset-stripped the house, with some parts of the building being shipped to the United States, where one room’s oak panelling was bought by  William Randolph Hearst, who planned to use it at Hearst Castle. After many years in storage in New York City, Pall Mall films bought the panelling for use as a set in their various 1950s productions. Another set of panels are now resident in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1946, the estate was bought by Sir Osbert Sitwell of Renishaw Hall, with the intention of preserving the remaining shell as a ruin. Scarsdale Hall is now in the care of English Heritage, who are in the process of restoring the structure.

Interior of Sutton Scarsdale, circa 1920

While the efforts of organizations such as English Heritage, the National Trust, the Landmark Trust and myriad local councils and organizations have helped to preserve so much historic property for us to enjoy, it remains heartbreaking to consider all the houses that have gone forever.

You can read the entire Wikipedia entry for Sutton Scarsdale here, and watch a YouTube video that captures the majesty of the property here. Do visit the Lost Heritage website at the link above and take some time to explore their extensive archives. Additionally, there’s a very good Daily Mail article on vanished country houses here.