Thursday, 28 May 2009

Sir Alfred Herbert's Estate at Dunley, Hampshire

The Dunley Estate was originally part of the land belonging to the Earls of Portsmouth (the Wallop family) and was bought by 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 later married a widow, Nina Pugh, in 1933. They used to drive to Coventry each week, staying in a small flat over the Herbert works at Edgewick.

It was at Dunley that Sir Alfred 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. He described his fishing career in a short memoir written in the early 50's, which can be read here. In it he writes about all the rivers he had fished and the friends he fished with. Stuffed fish in cases lined the walls of the hall at Dunley.

Typically, given their support for 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.

The house was run by a fierce but kindly Scotswoman, Mackenzie, who had been parlourmaid to Winston Churchill. There was a substantial complement of household and estate staff whose stories are equally interesting. Click here to read an e-mail from Jackie Stopp whose mother and grandparents worked 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 stayed at Dunley and one granddaughter, June Gracey (nee Hollick), has provided some further names and reminiscences which can be found here.

On Sir Alfred's death in 1957, Lady Herbert moved to Wadwick House, and lived there until she died in 1967. The Dunley Estate was sold to Sir Brian Mountain of Eagle Star.

Click here for some more photos of Dunley and the family

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

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