A History Of Avon Castle

Much of the information here is taken from a report compiled by Derek J Hartley-Brown, of Hamiltons, Land & Property Agents, 47 Poole Road, Westbourne in approx.1983/4.

Circa 1650
The earliest remains of Avon Lodge date from this period.

The Avon Castle Estate was once part of the Manor of Leybrook, and owned by the Lyne family. The Castle was built at a cost of 80,000 by John Mills of Bisterne on an estate of approximately 1,322 acres, including a half mile stretch of the River Avon. The building materials were taken by river from Hampshire hatches; the builder is thought to be a Mr. Gardner, who during the building project had an office next to Globe Cottage at Moortown.

Purchased by John Edmund Unett Philipson Turner-Turner, during whose ownership the Castle became a country hotel for a short period. It was reported to be a wedding gift for his wife. A sportsman and big game hunter, Turner-Turner wrote a book entitled "Three Years Hunting and Trapping in America and the Great North west" published in 1888, and written during his residence in the Castle. He was also responsible for the building of a chapel on the high ground overlooking the river, near the end of the road now known as Chapel Rise. Animal gravestones at the chapel indicated the burial of a bear and a donkey. However, when the chapel was demolished in 1964, the rubble was used to construct Chapel Rise to make way for a house to be built by a Mr. Sharmer, and all record of the gravestones appears to have been lost, although it is thought that some of the local properties are in possession of some of the stonework. There are conflicting reports about human burials at the Chapel but there were two vaults and it is thought that the Turner-Turners were buried in one of them. One of the vaults was used during the second world war by the Home Guard as an ammunition store.

The Estate was purchased by Colonel Rolf Peacock upon his retirement as managing director of Beyer Peacock & Co, Engineers of Manchester. Colonel Peacock, a bachelor, built a summer house in the grounds beside the river which was only removed in the early 1970s.

Colonel Peacock sold the Castle and Estate to the 9th Earl of Egmont, and died in 1928 at Sunningdale.
During the ownership of the 9th Earl, in the 1920s a disastrous fire swept through the Avon Castle Estate, spreading to Matchams Park and Hurn.

An heir to the title was traced to a farm in Priddis, Alberta, Canada. Frederick Joseph Trevelyan Perceval born Birmingham on 27th April 1873, and married in Montreal in 1911. Although his wife had subsequently died he had a son born in 1914. It is understood that as Frederick was relatively poor, £5,000 was advanced to him on expectation of his succession to the title.

There is a report of his arrival in Time Magazine.

The 9th Earl died suddenly on 10th January and was buried on 14th January in Bisterne Churchyard after a service at Ringwood Church. His wife, the Countess died on 31st December 1954 and is also buried at Bisterne.
During the life of the 9th Earl, a railway line was put through the Avon Castle Estate on condition that a station was erected solely for the use of the Earl, who could stop any train to enable him to travel.

See details of the Ringwood - Christchurch Railway here.

There is a Wikipedia entry for Avon Lodge Railway Station here.

There are more details, including a picture, here.

The 10th Earl of Egmont moved into the Castle. He had arrived in England during the latter part of 1929 with his son then aged 15, and had stayed for a short time at The White Hart Hotel in Ringwood Market Square. As a result of legal fees, contesting the accession and death duties, most of the furniture had to be sold, together with the collection of paintings which were auctioned by Christies on 12th December 1930.

After the sale Christies are reported to have said that although the Egmont portraits were unimportant, the vigorous Reynolds group of the 2nd Earl with his Countess in the grounds of Kanturk castle was much admired. It was purchased for 2800 guineas by Messrs Leggatt against a Mr Alec Martin acting for a well known peer. The main Beechey portrait of the Baroness Arden with an ostrich plume in her hair, and depicting `a bedlight scene', was bought by Agnews for 1000 guineas. Another lady's portrait by Beechey fetched 380 guineas. The Hoppner portrait of Mrs. Perceval, wife of the Prime Minister, who was assassinated in 1812 fetched 115 guineas, Another group of the Egmont family by Hugh Harran, a pupil of Reynolds made 460 guineas.

During the sale a visitor climbed on to the platform in the sale room and proclaimed that "I am the claimant to the Egmont Estates and I make a protest against this sale" Lance Hennen replied "If you have any complaint to make you must go to the office. I call on you to desist from further interruption"

The 10th Earl was known locally as the `Rancher Earl' and lived mainly in two rooms of the Castle with very little furniture.

The 10th Earl died at the age of 59 in Southampton Hospital as a result of a car accident at Cadnam. He was buried at St Mary's Church, Acocks Green, Birmingham, and the Estate passed to his son and heir, Frederick, George Moore Perceval, then 17 years old, who became the 11th Earl.
The Estate was put up for sale but there were no bidders. A copy of the advertisement from Country Life is here.)

The Earl returned to Canada and married his cousin Geraldine Moodie the grand-daughter of a mounted policeman. In 1934 they had a son and returned to Ringwood for a short visit in 1938.

30th September the last train allegedly passed through the Estate.

The station was closed and the line removed. It is now a private house "The Halt".
The Estate was put up for sale again and sold in November to I. Coalbrook. It was split into 34 lots, part of which was used as a pedigree stock farm.

The Castle was purchased by Montague Meyer, the timber merchants and used as offices,

The Castle was sold in July to Mr D Knott, who with his son founded the firm of Bluebird Caravans in Parkstone.

In May the Castle passed to the Coalville Estates, the chairman of which was Lord Coalville.

Ownership of the Castle passed to Vernon Cotes, son of the owner of the Royal Bath Hotel and The Russell Cotes Museum. It was then used as a private hotel.

Planning permission was granted for the conversion of the Castle into nine self contained flats.

April, an article in the Daily Express stated that in Calgary, Alberta "the boy who was Britain's loneliest peer has found contentment as a farmer on the Canadian prairies". The Earl then aged 37, had a son, Frederick and a daughter, Geraldine who helped him and the Countess run their 900 acre farm called "Little Avon". After starting married life in a two roomed log cabin which he and his father left prior to taking up residence in Avon Castle, the Earl now lived in a 26 roomed farm house on one of the most sophisticated farms in Canada. Few people knew the stocky little man with the 'Old Bill' moustache as an Earl, only as "the best grain seed raiser in Alberta".

The freehold of the Castle was purchased for 16,000 by a congregational minister and his wife who lived in retirement in one of the self contained flats.

The Earls of Egmont

The 1st Earl of Egmont was created on 6th November 1733. At the time of this document (i.e. 1983/1984) the full title was Sir Frederick George Moore Perceval, 11th Earl of Egmont, Viscount Perceval of Kanturk, Baron Perceval of Burton, the Baron Ardan of Lohort Castle, County Cork, Ireland, Lord Laval and Hallond of Enmore, Somerset, Baron of Arden, County of Warwick and Baronet of Ireland 

The 9th Earl of Egmont was born Charles John Perceval on 29th June 1858. A large and imposing figure he served in the merchant navy and the natal Mounted Police. in 1890 he married Florence, daughter of Dr George Gibson: they had no children. The Earl had moved from Cowdray park which he had sold to Sir Weetman Pearson, later to become Lord Cowdray. 

See also the Earl of Egmont in Wikipedia.

11th Earl Obituary in the Daily Telegraph.

Other Links

There is an entry in "The Angler's Diary and Tourist Fisherman's Gazetteer of the Rivers and Lakes" here.

It is a slow link, you can find the entry by searching for Avon Castle in your browser once the page has opened.