On my many journeys up and down our roads, I frequently pass an intriguing gothic structure on the outskirts of Leeds. I can’t say much about it because I only ever glimpse it somewhere on my right, but it sparked enough curiosity for me to do some research on whether there were any stately homes or National Trust properties in the vicinity, and I soon came up with Lotherton Hall, an estate which had been in private hands since the 17th Century but which was now run by Leeds City Council.
Unexpectedly in the area recently I took the opportunity to visit and discover more.
The formal gardens with obligatory features such as sun-dials and summer-houses came as no surprise; they were virtually mandatory displays for the gentry to display their taste (and wealth).
Those at Lotherton are no match for a Stowe, or even Wallington, but they are pleasant enough and contain a tiny treasure in the shape of a 12th Century chapel, originally the church of Lotherton Village (of which nothing remains) it was subsumed into the estate and became a private place of worship for the Gascoigne family who owned the hall.
But then a surprise. Rising from the leafy hedges sits an Asian man in conical hat, engrossed in a book while balancing cross-legged on a buffalo (whose ears and horns have seeming suffered from human interference). What on earth is such a figure doing in a Yorkshire garden? The answer is that the last Gascoigne to reside here, Sir Alvary Douglas Frederick Trench-Gascoigne, was a former British Ambassador to both Russian and Japan, and the house is therefore home to many souvenirs of his travels. It was the death of his son Douglas in combat during WWII that ended the line of Gascoigne baronets and which ultimately led to Sir Alvary’s decision to give the property to Leeds City Council shortly before his own death.
Aside from the oriental artefacts the house displays the usual crockery and silverware, bric-a-brac and devices that whilst once the height of innovation now seem quaint and amusing. Some features seem a little out-of-place, but this is because the Gascoigne’s second Yorkshire home (Parlington Hall) was abandoned in the early 20th Century and several of its features removed to Lotherton before its demolition.
But what of the grand gothic structure itself?
It wasn’t there.
Lotherton is not the lancet-windowed edifice glimpsed from my car window. Instead it is an Edwardian Country House which is to my eye is rather nondescript. I didn’t even bother photographing it.
Instead I devoted my attention of one of its other offerings; the bird park. A collection of endangered species are perhaps the most colourful of the displays here, and though I question whether the conditions are really suitable I couldn’t resist their colours and textures.
As to the building that started all of this? It transpires that there are almshouses, built by two sisters in the Gascoigne family in the grounds of what was Parlington Hall and these were built in the Gothic Revival style. Sited at the southern end of the village of Aberford, they are now owned by a company providing vehicle tracking services. Shame I couldn’t have used them to track my goal more effectively!