History of Martindale Hall
Of the love stories that derive from the English country house, that glorious melting pot of history, there are hundreds. Maids and footmen beginning a steamy affair to be kept in strictest confidence from the disapproving eyes of their superiors and nostalgic scenes of stable boys tumbling through haystacks with scullery maids. There are stories of the restraint of duty over love and of love triumphing over obligation, but worst of all is the tragic unrequited kind of love.
In 1875 Edmund Bowman the protagonist of this tale arrived at Clare College, Cambridge from Adelaide. He was a member of the emerging upper classes of Australia and had recently inherited a large amount of land and extensive fortune. At that time it was believed to be an advantage for young men to spend a year or two in Britain to finish their education and refine themselves.
Edmund’s Grandfather had been Steward of the Dalemain Estate and Edmunds father had grown up just over the hill in Askham, emigrating to Australia in 1832. Beginning with very little money Edmund’s father quickly increased his fortune through wool trade, gradually enlarging his sheep flocks. Within 10 years the family was able to purchase land along the Wakefield River near Adelaide. Inaugural cartographical records from the mid 1800’s demonstrate the Bowman’s intrinsic attachment to the Lake District. The family named the two highest hills Holm and Barton after those two closest to Dalemain and unified the whole area of land belonging to them as Martindale, after a private valley above Lake Ullswater on the edge of the Lake District.
Edmund’s uncles had returned to visit Cumberland at the beginning of the 1860’s but though attached to their history the memory of the place had begun to outshine the place itself and the visit depressed them. ‘It gives one a melancholy feeling’ Thomas Bowman wrote, ‘to return to the deserted home of one’s forefathers…even the old houses showed the hand of time in their moss grown walls and dilapidated roofs. They used the word bleak more than once to describe the county their forebears had inhabited and the ‘returning exiles’ were glad to leave. So, encouraged by his family but perhaps daunted by these accounts of previous visits Edmund only made his first journey north towards the end of the Autumn term.
His journey had been long and he was coldly received by the butler, whose silent opinion of those who would emigrate to Australia was low. Major Hasell, the master of the local foxhounds had been out hunting all day but Francis Hasell, known to her friends as Fanny, received him and Bowman was lost. Spellbound by her charms he continued to visit Dalemain for the rest of his time at Cambridge, encouraged by Fanny and rarely returning to Australia. She was older than him, a natural artist she was given to practical jokes and loved his visits which provided a diversion from the otherwise constricting structure of day to day life in a large and drafty house. They would wander peaceably over the fells, exploring the places which his ancestors had given up.
As he left Cambridge he made the pilgrimage north once more and with the sole desire of bringing her away with him as his wife. It was not to be. Intrepid explorer though he was, her fear of the unknown paralysed her. Australia was too far away and she more in love with the house she had grown up in than with him. Fanny told Edmund that she would never leave Dalemain. He vowed to build her a house of such magnificence and splendour that she would happily leave Cumberland one day, if not that day, to live with him when it was finished.
On his return to Adelaide he immediately begun plans for a house that he had painted for Fanny in his imagination. It would be built just outside Mintaro in the centre of the Martindale Estate on a piece of land of such beauty that his father had held it up as one of many ‘grand inducements for people to come to a new country.’
At a time when most Australian houses cost £500 the Georgian style mansion came in at a staggering £36,000. The house was to be called Martindale for both the valley in Cumbria and the Bowman’s land in Australia and absolutely no cost was spared if Edmund were to entice from Cumbria, the woman upon whom he had set his heart. In 1878 Edmund paid a quick visit to England, namely to provide the architect, Ebenezer Gregg with information about local materials and to bring him samples of stone. Quickly dispatching this business however he set off to Dalemain with building plans in hand to show Fanny that he was entirely serious about his previous avowal. To her he would detail the marvellously grand staircase, the marble chimney pieces carved from the finest Italian marble, the most up to date range for the kitchen available in England and of course, the indoor plumbing and water closets. He was even in the process of hiring an English Housekeeper for her. A wonderful part of the Martindale myth is that all the craftsmen to build the structure itself were brought out from England to make it entirely authentic.
On his arrival it was to the shattering news that Fanny was engaged. He begged her to leave again with him but again she quietly refused. Distraught he retreated, angrily stating that it would be one of the greatest regrets of her life.
It is with some surprise and approval that the Adelaide Observer noted in 1880 Edmund Bowman’s decision to return and make his home in Australia the year before. Not ‘tempted to lead a life of luxury and ease in other climes…he is made of a different stamp.’ The stamp of heart breaking rejection was one that spurred his cultivation of the farm his father had propagated and which thrived from the long hours he put into it.Four years later the house acquired a mistress, Edmund’s broken heart was to be mended in time by a Miss Annie Cowle another first generation immigrant and they were married in January 1884.
Within the next ten years Edmund and his brother Charles expanded the business, branching out largely, unwisely and without the necessary capital. An ill-timed drought destroyed them. By 1890 the unthinkable had arrived. The magnificent freehold property of 9000 acres in the heart of Southern Australia was signed over for £33,000 to W. T. Mortlock, an astonishingly paltry sum. Edmund died in August 1921 at the age of 66 his health having sharply declined in a short period of time from such terrible strain. The tragedy is that Fanny’s engagement was broken off. She had realised too late the terrible mistake she had made. Weather it was the greatest regret of her life is unknown, but she certainly never left Dalemain and died as the new century was born.
It is only finally that this week a Miss Hasell will step foot across the threshold of the house that was built for the love of her ancestor. Will this far flung continent, home to tiger snakes and kangaroos hold the same power over her that Edmund believed it would hold for Fanny almost 150 years before. The current Miss Hasell, Hermione, will be arriving at Martindale Hall for the first launch of The World’s Original Marmalade Festival and Awards in Australia. ‘The number of international entries has grown so much, this year for the 10th anniversary we thought it was key to launch the festival abroad as well as at home’ says Jane Hasell-McCosh. As the founder of the festival Jane was invited by the people of Bunningyong to launch this years competition from Australia during October and in England from National Marmalade Week in February. ‘The romance of the story which connects Dalemain and Martindale Hall, Australia and the Lake District and the fact that Martindale Hall is now a hotel make it the perfect place to launch a new competition; ‘Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels and Restaurant in association with Mrs Bridges Marmalade.’