Monday, August 20, 2007

Dunley 1917 - 1957

The Dunley Estate was originally part of the land belonging to the Earls of Portsmouth (the Wallop family) and was bought by my step-grandfather, Sir Alfred Herbert in 1917 and owned by him until his death in 1957.

Sir Alfred's family were farmers from Leicester and he attended Stoneygate public school, but unusually for that age and time, he became an engineer and one of the century's most successful industrialists, founding Alfred Herbert Ltd, at one time the largest manufacturer of machine tools in the world. He was a noted benefactor in Coventry, where he contribted to the reconstruction of the cathedral as well as the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. His second wife, Florence, for whom he created Lady Herbert's Homes and Garden in the centre of Coventry, lived at Dunley until her death in 1930 and she is buried with him at Litchfield.

Sir Alfred (who we called 'Step') married my grandmother, Nina Pugh (nee Arundel) in 1933. Her first husband (my grandfather) Lt-Col Archie Pugh, had died in 1923. My mother Annette lived at Dunley for a time before she married Arthur Luxmoore, who was in the RAF, at St James the Less, Litchfield in 1935. She had Fairfax in July 1940. Sadly Arthur was shot down over Belgium in 1941 and my mother returned to live at Dunley with Fairfax (always known as Fuff) until she married my father, Patrick Lawford, who was then running the neighbouring Litchfield Estate, in 1944.

It was at Dunley that 'Step' pursued his favourite recreations - shooting and fishing. He was a fine shot and had as friends and guests some of the best shots in the country. My father Patrick was fortunate enough to shoot with him often and 'Step's' name can frequently be found in his Shooting Book. He described his fishing career in a short memoir written in the 30's, which can be read here. In it he writes about some the rivers he had fished and the friends he fished with. Stuffed fish in cases lined the walls of the hall at Dunley, which intrigued us greatly.

The house was run by a fierce but kindly Scotswoman, Mackenzie, who had been parlourmaid to Winston Churchill. There was a huge billiard room with a polished wood floor on which my brother Piers and I used to race about with cushions under our shoulders. There was a substantial complement of household and estate staff whose stories are interesting. Click here to read an e-mail from Jackie Stopp whose mother, Nancy Seabrooke, and grandparents used to work at Dunley, and here to read exerpts from e-mails from Richard Johnson, whose mother, Winifred Morgan, also lived and worked there. Sir Alfred's daughters (from his first marriage to Ellen Ryley) and grandchildren also lived at Dunley and one granddaughter, June Gracey (nee Hollick), has provided some further names and reminiscences which can be found here

Typically, given their support for hospitals, almshouses and schools such as the Town Thorns Residential School at Easenhall, Sir Alfred and Lady Herbert used to hold an annual tea party for the inmates of a local institution. Click here for a description of it from the local paper.

On Sir Alfred's death in 1957, my grandmother moved to Wadwick House nearby and lived there until she died in 1970. Dunley was sold to Sir Brian Mountain and subsequently in 1979 to Capt George Brodrick, who's widow lived there until 2017.

Click here for some more photos of Dunley and the family

Click here for a website devoted to Sir Alfred Herbert

Return to Archive Index
Click here for Litchfield
Click here for Wadwick
Return to Alfred Herbert Ltd
Return to Sir Alfred Herbert's Memorial Service
Return to Nina, Lady Herbert

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed meeting Herry on Sunday 1st August 2009 at Dunley.

    Herry was certainly not 'lorst' in that neck of the woods.

    We look forward to his account of meeting the legendary Norman Buckingham.

    In the 1930's, gamekeeper Norman once shot 26 snipe ... with 26 bullets and his father, who was also a gamekeeper, told him that nobody would ever do that {remarkable feat of marksmanship} again.