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- December 14, 2021
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Midwinter dreams of summer: holidays at ‘home’
It’s in the depths of winter that most of us start thinking about holidays in the…Read More
Visitors to Eden Grove are likely to sense it has a history. A new Residential Estates development near Appleby-in-Westmorland in Cumbria. While some of the buildings are new, their elegant, traditional design complements that of the historic mansion house at the heart of the development (now divided into smart and luxurious apartments). Old directories for Westmorland house describe it as ‘a mansion in the Elizabethan style’. But it is the mansion’s history under the second Queen Elizabeth that is more eye-catching.
The Eden Grove estate was acquired by Cumbria County Council in 1955. That was two years after the coronation of the current Queen. It became a residential ‘special’ school. Special in this case referred not to special educational needs but to special behavioural problems. Eden Grove School was a long-term residential institution. It housed boys who could not be managed elsewhere.
A typical denizen in the later years of the school was an 11-year-old from Bradford who became the youngest child to receive an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). That barred him for two years from every street on the estate where he lived except his own. Also the town centre and two other estates. After two local schools excluded him, he was sent to Eden Grove. We can only hope he learned to mend his ways!
At least some Old Boys are nostalgic for the place. They reminisce about looking after the school’s chickens, fishing on the River Eden, which runs through the estate, and taking part in other outdoor pursuits. The school’s residential units were named after Cumbrian lakes and mountains. A tradition still honoured in today’s holiday lettings development, with Derwent House, Coniston House, Buttermere House etc.
Indoor pursuits could be more hazardous. Former pupils also remember a ‘science experiment’ going wrong and destroying a ceiling. It remains unclear whether this was connected with rumours that the pupils used pages of their ‘Good News Bibles’ as rolling papers for ‘funny’ cigarettes!
If you are thinking of visiting, please be reassured tthat smoking of any kind is strictly prohibited in the holiday estate! If you do smell tobacco smoke, however, it could be the ghost who is rumoured to haunt the mansion!
Over the decades, several witnesses, including teachers at Eden Grove School, have reported sightings of a man, smartly dressed in an old-fashioned sports coat and flannels, accompanied by the sweet smell of carnations and cigar smoke. Nobody knows who he is, and he has a way of disappearing as mysteriously as he appears.
Could it be the Mr Harrison, who is recorded as the mansion’s owner in the late 18th century? Or Richard Tinkler, who owned it the following century? He passed it onto his son, also Richard, when he died in 1831. Perhaps it is the retired army officer Henry Gandy? We know he was in residence there in the 1880s? Or William Graham? He took on and expanded the estate for farming and stock breeding at the turn of the century?
Graham lost a fortune at the gambling table. He was forced to mortgage Eden Grove to pay off his debts. Eventually he lost it altogether when he could not recoup his losses, so perhaps he likes to return from beyond the grave from time to time and contemplate what might have been.
Eden Grove was used for evacuees during World War II. So, no doubt, there are many stories there too.
The special school finally closed in 2013 and the estate bought by a private developer. Two more notable events occurred before its rebirth as a holiday estate.
In 2017, a burglar was found trying to steal pipes for scrap metal. He fled into the River Eden. His capture and arrest may not have been as dramatic as you imagine. In fact, it was particularly bold attempt given that he was registered blind and used a walking stick!
The following year, the mansion house caught fire. Thankfully, it was saved for posterity. This was particularly good news for anyone looking for a truly remarkable base for holidays in beautiful Cumbria.