ARCHITECTURE ON OUR DOORSTEP
How Charles Tollemache Scott transformed the Bosworth Estate
Article by James Holden, reprinted from "New Aspect", November 2005
The landed gentry needed staying power. Making your fortune and buying your estate was one thing, but then generation after generation of your descendants had to have the ability and common sense to keep it. The Dixies of Market Bosworth managed this trick for two and a half centuries, but then in 1872 along came the 11th Baronet, Beaumont Dixie. Driven by drink, gambling and hopeless financial speculations, he rapidly exhausted the family's accumulated wealth. In the end, inevitably, the estate had to be sold: the Dixie dynasty was ended.
The new owner was Charles Tollemache Scott, and he could hardly have been a greater contrast to the feckless Sir Beaumont. Buying the estate in the summer of 1885, he at once started work on altering the Hall and building the East Lodge. And he continued the same way; as the Hinckley Times' obituary of his wife in 1912 put it: "Since the time when the Bosworth estate and residence were purchased, there have been remarkable changes in the condition of the historic house, now one of the most beautiful in the Midlands. The old-time mansion has been restored, the squalid farm-houses have been re-built and improved in design and utility, the surroundings of the Hall have been beautified, and the appearance of the whole neighbourhood has improved almost beyond recognition."
A hundred years later, there is still much evidence of Scott's building work. Most conspicuous are the buildings in the 'Queen Anne revival' style: the delightful East Lodge by the park gates, the water tower at the rear of the walled kitchen garden, the alterations to the service courtyard at the Hall where the present hotel entrance is situated; and are those similar Dutch gables on the barns at Upper Far Coton Farm?
The distinctive square plan and broad central chimney of the East Lodge give the clue to a series of other Scott buildings, sharing less ornately those same features: the Home Farm on Barton Road; the Cadeby Lodge opposite the rugby club, sympathetically extended a few years ago; and the lodges at Coton Priory and Far Coton. Yet another style is to be found in the half-timbering and ornate gable barge-boards of the Keeper's House in the park and at 4 Rectory Lane, again with broad and ornate chimneys; and similarly ornate barge-boards were applied to the much older cottages in the corner of the market place. We know that Friezeland Farm was also his work, and must suppose that other buildings survive as well, dotted across the 3000 acres of the estate.
Did this prodigious building programme mean Scott was trying to set up a dynasty to rival that of the Dixies? Certainly he set about it the right way. Born plain Charles Scott, he married in 1882 Lady Agnes Tollemache, sister and heir to the 11th Earl of Dysart, and added her name to his own. Then the search for a suitable estate started, much assisted by his wife's £40,000 dowry. Acquiring the Bosworth estate was not straightforward, however, for the first auction in July 1885 resulted in a final bid of £128,000, below the reserve. A number of individual buildings and parcels of land were then sold as separate lots before Scott stepped in to buy the main part of the estate.
Next he needed an architect. He turned to Thomas Garner, junior half of the prominent partnership of Bodley and Garner which also carried out work for the Dysart family at Ham House near London. They were best known for their many Gothic Revival churches, a style which remained supreme for church architecture up to and beyond the turn of the century.
But Victorian domestic architecture was never so dominated by the impracticalities of the Gothic and a wide range of styles was used, the best architects choosing elements from the architecture of previous centuries to create buildings distinctively of their own time. Prominent amongst these towards the end of the century was the 'Queen Anne revival'. This owed little to the architecture of Queen Anne's time, but was an attempt to revive the domestic classical style of the mid 17th century, favouring red brick or terracotta, white-painted woodwork, and details from a variety of Dutch, French and English sources.
Bodley and Garner were closely associated with this style. Both had been apprenticed to Sir George Gilbert Scott, the most famous architect of the Gothic Revival and responsible amongst many other buildings for the Albert Memorial and the St Pancras Hotel. Both soon threw off Gilbert Scott's influence but became friendly with his son of the same name, himself an advocate of the Queen Anne style; for a time the three of them lived almost next door to each other in Hampstead. By the early 1870s, Bodley and Garner had abandoned the use of Gothic for domestic architecture and it was increasingly Garner who carried out their domestic commissions, including of course the work at Bosworth.
The Queen Anne style fits comfortably with the reserved but elegant late seventeenth century architecture of Bosworth hall, making it an obvious choice for Scott. Garner transformed the service court there with his prominent Dutch gables, and re-shaped the forecourt, the ornate new ironwork containing Tollemache Scott's initials. It seems highly likely that it was he also who was responsible for the East Lodge, the water tower and the Home Farm, and it is possible that he designed in addition the gate pillars flanking the main road by that lodge as well as some of the more modest estate buildings. Each will have his or her own favourite amongst all these but for me it is East Lodge, set self-confidently back from the road, symmetrical gables with boldly flowing white stone edgings proclaiming its status, stout chimney emulating those of the Hall, and firm string course at first floor level tying thewhole together like a grand parcel. And above the door, proudly displayed, we have the Tollemache Scott coat of arms, proclaiming the new dynasty of Bosworth.
But the dynasty was not to be. Lady Agnes died in 1912 and by the terms of the marriage settlement her only child Wenefryde inherited the estate when she married Owain Greaves the following year. Wenefryde moved to Wales and put the estate up for sale, leaving her father to retire to Gloucestershire. One wonders how he felt when his herd of pure-bred longhorn cattle was sold off in July 1913, or perhaps still more when an official attended the Police Court to revise the list of parliamentary voters in September of that year. The right to vote still depended partly on property ownership and an agent for the Liberals objected to Scott's name "being retained on the owner's list for the parish of Bosworth, on the grounds that the property was in the possession of his daughter, Mrs Greaves..." Despite pleas from the Conservative agent, Scott's name was deleted from the register.
So the dynasty never happened, but Charles Tollemache Scott rescued the Bosworth estate from ruin and left the town with a legacy of buildings of interest and distinction.
Drawing by Jenny Holden.
• The History of Market Bosworth, Peter Foss, Sycamore Press 1983
• Seven Victorian Architects, edited by Jane Fawcett, Thames & Hudson 1976
• New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
• Hinckley News - editions for 1885
• Hinckley Times and Bosworth Herald - editions for 1912 and 1913
• Leicestershire Record Office - sales particulars of the Bosworth estate
• Unpublished information kindly supplied by Michael Hall, editor of Apollo magazine