Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle: A Brief History of the Lowthers - Page 2
He was succeeded in 1802 (in the Viscounty and the estates, but not the Earldom), by his distant cousin William, descended from the grandfather of the 1st Viscount Lonsdale, and eldest son of Sir William Lowther, Bt, of Swillington in Yorkshire. William, 2nd Viscount Lowther, was recreated Earl of Lonsdale (of the second creation) in 1807. William, Earl of Lonsdale was the founder of the modern family. He spent considerable sums on improving the Lowther estate including building the new Lowther Castle., using the young architect Sir Robert Smirke. He established the pattern which lasted for nearly a century, of Tory allegiance in politics, landed pre-eminence in the North West, and rich coal magnates, with an almost vice-regal position in Cumberland and Westmorland. He was a patron of painters and writers, including Wordsworth, and 'did good on reflection'. He reigned at Lowther for over 40 years, dying in 1844. His eldest son, also William, 2nd Earl of Lonsdale, never married but formed a splendid art collection to adorn the castle. He was caricatured by Disraeli in his novel Coningsby as Lord Eskdale.
Aerial shot of Lowther Castle
Aerial shot of Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle
The 2nd Earl was also a sharp businessman who promoted the railways in Cumberland and Westmorland, further increasing the family fortune, and had an active political career, serving as 1st Lord of the Admiralty. On his death in 1872 he was succeeded by his nephew Henry as 3rd Earl of Lonsdale, but Henry died only four years later. His eldest son, in turn, St George Henry, then succeeded but was incapacitated by ill health and died young in 1882; whereupon he was succeeded by his younger brother Hugh as 5th Earl. Hugh Lonsdale, known to posterity as 'Lordy' or 'the Yellow Earl' was Earl of Lonsdale until 1944, the longest lived of the Earls of Lonsdale. As a wayward younger son he was poorly educated and brought up chiefly among grooms and pugilists, which gave him a lifelong taste for showing off to social inferiors. As a penniless younger son he sold his birthright (it was bought by the family trustees who allowed him, as Earl, to live at Lowther) but his personal extravagance, combined with lack of foresight and bad management wrecked the family fortune, bankrupted the coal mines in Whitehaven, and led to the closing of the castle in 1936. He was chiefly notable as a sportsman, patron of the Turf and instigator of the Londsale Belt for boxing. Under the 'Yellow Earl' in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Lowther enjoyed an extravagant swansong, with the redecoration of the house and expansion and elaboration of the garden, as a setting for lavish entertainment and royal visits, which included the German Kaiser in 1895. Even then the castle was not lived in all the year round but mainly in the summer and autumn. The garden, but not the house, was opened to the public up to the outbreak of War in 1939.
The Yellow Earl organized the horses and carriages for the Delhi Durbar in 1910 but apart from that the Lowther family played a relatively limited role in public life in the twentieth century, though a younger son, James Lowther, created Viscount Ullswater, was a respected Speaker of the House of Commons from 1905 to 1921 and is remembered for the remark 'Like the Pope, I am infallible.' He lived at Campsey Ashe in Suffolk, a house he was later forced to sell.
On the death of the 'Yellow Earl' in 1944 the title and estates were inherited by his (by then aged) youngest brother Lancelot who sold the majority of the family collections in 1947 in the largest of all English twentieth century country house sales, spread over several weeks. Nearly 8,000 lots including significant works of art from Stowe and Hamilton Palace, were dispersed between April and June that year and fetched the paltry sum of �144,000 in total. The 6th Earl died in 1953 and was succeeded by his grandson. James, the present and 7th Earl of Lonsdale, inherited crippling debts which he quickly paid off by selling the West Cumberland estate. He expanded the Lowther land holdings and developed the forestry and agricultural side of the estate which remains the largest in the North West of England. He dismantled the castle and sold the materials in 1957, retaining the shell as a landscape feature and focus of the park.
Lowther Castle with Gardens open
Lowther Castle with Gardens open
The View from Lowther Castle
The View from Lowther Castle
The Lowther family has played a prominent role in Cumberland and Westmorland for centuries as landowners, politicians and patrons of the arts and music. Successive members served in parliament as MPs and later as peers for 600 years from the thirteenth century to the nineteenth century, a remarkable tradition. As patrons they helped to introduce 'regular' classical architecture to the North West in the late seventeenth century, were Fellows of the Royal Society and at Whitehaven laid out the first planned town in England since the Middle Ages. Their eighteenth and nineteenth century industrial development at Whitehaven, and agricultural improvements at Lowther were among the most impressive of the age. From the seventeenth century onwards they were collectors of pictures, silver, sculpture and books. They were also keen sportsmen, being closely associated with the Cottesmore Hunt in Rutland in the nineteenth century, racing and carriage driving. The latter tradition continues in the highly acclaimed and successful annual Lowther event in the park. The parks, church with its memorials and tombs, and the ruin of the castle are therefore the reflection of remarkable dynastic history, of both local and national significance. The 7th Earl of Lonsdale died in 2006 and was succeeded by his eldest son Hugh Clayton, the present and 8th Earl of Lonsdale.
� John Martin Robinson, Lowther Castle & Gardens Conservation Plan, July 2002
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Estate Office, Lowther, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2HG      Tel: +44 (0)1931 712577