Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lord Egerton of Tatton.

Lord Maurice Egerton of Tatton was the fourth Baron Egerton of Tatton in Cheshire. He was born in 1874 and died childless on 30 January 1958 marking the end of the Egerton line. The Egerton family had been at Tatton Park since the 16th Century and it seems sad that great heritage should literally die out. Here below is the beautiful Tatton Park House which was gifted to the National Trust on his death.

I have been slowly trying to make a picture of this man in my mind, he was said to have been "an innovator and a man of great inventive and technical skill, a pioneer aviator, photographer and filmmaker, he was an early motorist and prodigious traveller," but for all that he presents a lonely figure, dying far away from Cheshire at his castle estate in Kenya. Bitterly spurned by an un named woman who he pursued twice, even building the strange and wonderful Egerton Castle for her because she had rejected his first prospective marital home.

I can do no better than quote from this article by journalist Benson Riungu, written in June 2004 for the East African Standard, Nairobi.

"Determining to impress her, Lord Egerton set about building a ‘house’ on a scale that would surely impress her and make her change her mind. He conceived of a castle that would have no comparison in England or any other country for that matter.
Dressed stones and zinc tiles for the roof were shipped from Europe, the builders from Europe and Asia. The result, in 1938, was a stupendous four-storey edifice fitted with some of the most up-to-date mechanical and electrical gadgets at the time, including an escalator.
Upon completion, the peer threw what was billed as the biggest party ever seen in pre-colonial Kenya, with guests coming from as far as Northern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and Nyasaland, now Malawi.
The cheers and congratulations, it was to turn out, had come too soon. When the woman for whom the castle had been built came back to Kenya and viewed it, she dismissed it as "a museum" and a monument to vanity.
Being spurned appears to have changed Lord Egerton in a fundamental way. Thereafter he seemed to live in a fantasy world.
He furnished and ran the castle as if the family he had envisaged actually existed. Nobody but the house servants was ever allowed in.
But an even more far-reaching chance was in his attitude towards women. He developed such a passionate hatred for them that he banned them from his castle and put up notices warning female trespassers that they risked being shot on sight.
Visitors, including friends, were to leave their wives and daughters eight miles away from the castle. And when he planned to visit the quarters where his African staff lived, he would issue a two-week notice so that all women could be vacated."

The article explores some of the goings on of the Happy Valley set and is a very interesting read go here to read the article " The Houses That Love Built"

However he is remembered for founding the excellent Egerton University at Njoro, there is a page on their site detailing his contribution here and his gift of Tatton Park to the National Trust. The above image of Lord Egerton is from their website here