Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Marlborough House’s history

Saturday strolls to admire the grand houses

Sunday, 18th July 2021, 6:30 pm
MARLBOROUGH SCHOOL: Children standing outside Marlborough House which at this time had been converted into a private school known as Marlborough School. Many of its pupils would later become pupils of Wheelwright Grammar School situated just across the road.

Researching the history of the houses in which the wealthy of Dewsbury once lived, is a subject which just goes on and on because there were so many of them.

Wealthy mill owners wanted to live near their factories but not too near as to be able to see their workers walking by. For this reason they made sure their homes were well away from the main roads and protected by private roads and wrought iron gates. Some even had a porter’s lodge at the entrance as an extra safeguard, and the grounds were so extensive that in later years they were bought by the local authority to build council estates on.

One large private estate which was sold in 1920 was the Marlborough estate, the entrance to which was gained from Halifax Road. Marlborough House is still standing, as are six large detached houses which were part of the estate. The five acres of land on which it stood would later become part of Batley Carr Park and bowling green. The last private owner of the estate was a local magistrate named Duke Fox esquire, whose relatives sold it on his death in 1920.

Marlborough House and the other houses in Marlborough Terrace, have been known to me all my life, for as a child I used to pass it every day on my way to St Joseph’s School in Batley Carr.

The house when I first knew it during the early 1940s, had been converted into a private school run by Mrs Sadler, wife of Mr Leslie Sadler, headmaster of Wheelwright Grammar School.

In those days there were no wrought iron gates protecting it from the public, but there was still the porter’s lodge at the Halifax Road entrance. The lodge, which is still there, has been unoccupied for years but I noticed the other day someone working on it, an indication that it may soon be occupied again.

When I was growing up, there were no gates protecting this lovely thoroughfare and people used to walk through it to gain access to the top end of Batley Carr Park. This was a journey I made often with my mother, whose Saturday occupation was taking a stroll up Halifax Road to look at all the big houses and their lovely gardens. She always took me with her, and our last stop was always Marlborough Terrace, where we’d pause to rest on one of the park benches nearby.

Mother never got her wish to see inside one of them, but I did many years later, and I’m glad to say the interior would have lived up to all her expectations.

Later as a young journalist I was also able to learn more about its history and how the Marlborough estate had been bought in 1910, as an investment by the trustees of a local charity – The Dewsbury Schools Endowed Trust. The trust is still in existence and doing excellent work, and I hope in the future to write more about it.

When the Marlborough estate was put on the market, the auctioneer chosen to deal with the matter was Mr Herbert Pickersgill. The advert he placed in the Reporter pertaining to its sale described it thus:

“A very select and charming freehold estate, situated in a secluded position within one mile of Market Place and Railway Stations.

“It consists of an exceedingly well-appointed and modern built gentlemen’s residence, known as Marlborough House, together with six very attractive residential terrace houses, known as Marlborough Terrace. These all enjoy a southern aspect and are approached by a long carriage drive, and stand in the midst of choice gardens and park-like grounds, having a total area of over six acres. The outbuildings comprise very excellent stabling and garage, a stone-built porter’s lodge, three cottages and various minor buildings. The estate will be offered in one lot, and failing a sale, will be offered in the following:

“Lot 1 – a valuable freehold of a very substantially stone-built and well appointed gentleman’s residence known as Marlborough House. The accommodation provides dining room, drawing room, breakfast room, five bedrooms, dressing room, fully equipped bathroom, an excellent kitchen, a butler’s pantry and commodious cellaring. All the rooms are exceedingly large, very lofty and remarkably well lighted, and the interior fitments are of a superior character, and in keeping with the structure.

“The outbuildings comprise well-fitted stabling for four horses, large double coach house or garage with fire-place, large harness room and hay loft over. There is also a well-fitted wash-house and an outside convenience. Electric light, gas and telephone are connected to the house, and the very choice gardens are situated on the south and east side of the house. They comprise ornamental lawns with flower beds and borders, and a large sunk tennis lawn with gravel and shrubbery walks intertwining. There is a good kitchen garden and an excellent park-like paddock which is well shielded by a belt of fully matured trees, the whole comprising an area of six acres.”

Also sold as part of the estate were the six terrace houses mentioned above and also three stone-built cottages facing into Halifax Road, which had large gardens and an orchard to the rear, the whole comprising of 4,676 square yards. This was described by Mr Pickersgill as a most desirable lot for a nursery-man or market gardener, its situation being a great feature.

It is difficult to believe that all these beautiful surroundings were within walking distance of a busy town centre.

Although we don’t have a picture of Marlborough House to its full extent, the photograph above showing children standing on the steps outside gives us some idea of what it was like.

We can see the live-clad walls of the front of the house and the beautiful gardens and steps approaching the house, and the masses of delphiniums growing there.

■ You can email your recollections of Dewsbury in years gone by to: [email protected]