Countess of Dundonald's Windsor Home
It has recently come to the Trust’s notice that the Buckinghamshire home of Gwrych’s most notable resident, Winifred, Countess of Dundonald, is under threat of imminent demolition.
Situated three miles north of Slough, Old Orchard House, Parsonage Lane, Farnham Common (formerly Cherry Croft) was bought by the Countess in March 1908 and she lived there until 1914. Its position close to London, Windsor and Ascot indicates that it was bought as a base for society gatherings during a time when the Countess was enlarging and improving Gwrych (see extract from the personal album of Lady Marjorie Cochrane, her youngest daughter circa 1910).
The house was constructed in 1905 by the architect, Charles Melville Seth-Ward (1868-1946) as his own home using a unique blend of the Old English and Arts & Crafts styles, taking influences from illustrious architectural heavyweights such as Shaw and Voysey.
Seth-Ward was also responsible for a number of prestigious properties in Mayfair, a number of landmark public houses in London as well as private homes. His most notable property is the enormous Heatherden Hall, Iver Heath, Bucks. The home of Lieutenant Colonel Grant Morden MP, it is where the treaty creating the Irish Free State was signed in 1921. It was later sold and became Pinewood Studios and is the property that is seen in numerous British films, most notably in the Carry On series.
Even now, Old Orchard House boasts many original features such as windows, oak doors and internal paneling as well as its original coach house. Its gardens have not been sold for development and it is in its original setting.
Unfortunately, the house is under immediate threat of demolition. The property was sold in 2005 and the new owners have secured planning consent to demolish the house and erect a tasteless modern replacement.
A local resident has made an application to English Heritage (responsible for listing in England) to have the house Grade II listed on the basis of its architectural merit and historical association. English Heritage has already inspected the house and a decision is expected very soon.
The Gwrych Castle Estate was originally over 6000 acres and covered great swathes of North Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Cheshire. These pages offers insights into aspects of the Estate which was broken up and sold in 1946.
Trust members are urged to write to both English Heritage and the Minister for Culture (who makes the final decision based on English Heritage’s advice) in support of the property being Grade II listed. Please write to the following:
The Rt. Hon. Margaret Hodge MP
Department for Culture Media & Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
Mr. Philip Seely, Territory Co-ordinator
1 Waterhouse Square