Lion House

Lion House is located on Tattenhall Road at its junction with Chester Road. 

Built in the mid 19th century on a narrow strip of land connecting Tattenhall Road and Burwardsley Road, the property was formerly known as Wright’s Croft. On the Tithe Maps of the period, this strip of land (Plot C401) was owned by Joseph Lunt and measured 2 Roods and 13 Perches in size. Reference to ‘The Lions’ is recorded on the 1875 Ordnance Survey Map and ‘The Lions House’ is similarly recorded on the 1910 Ordnance Survey Map. However, the actual deeds of the property would suggest that it was not referred to as ‘Lion House’ until it was occupied by Miss Beatrix Scott in 1903. Without doubt, Lion House now stands in grounds somewhat larger than the original strip upon which the property was built (to include Plot C404) – the gardens now extend to the road immediately opposite Alpha House.

Lion House is central to the history of Tattenhall in a number of ways:

    • it is believed that Reverend John Wesley, the famous Methodist preacher, held sermons near to this location in the 1700s
    • two sandstone lions, considered to be the work of local Stonemason John Watson, are positioned at the entrance to the property on Tattenhall Road
    • a quite famous Scottish painting was owned by a former occupant of the house
    • extensive ‘tree planting’ took place in the grounds of Lion House during the Coronation celebrations of His Majesty King George VI

Rev John Wesley

That the Methodist preacher, Reverend John Wesley, visited Tattenhall during the 18th Century is not in doubt. In ‘Extracts of the Reverend Mr John Wesley’s Journals’, it is recorded that on Thursday 2 April 1761, for example, John Wesley rode over to Tattenhall, eight or nine miles from Chester’.

Rumour has it that on several occasions the Reverend John Wesley preached in the ‘Old Barn’, a building which is believed to have stood immediately opposite ‘Alpha House’ i.e. in land that is now part of the gardens of Lion House. Early Tithe Maps confirm the existence of a building immediately opposite Alpha House.

It seems plausible to suggest, therefore, that Lion House does, in fact, stand in the grounds of a site where the Reverend John Wesley may have preached during his circuit tours.

Further information on the Website which relates to Reverend John Wesley is to be found by clicking the ‘The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel’ link. 

Looking out towards the current Primary School are the much loved ‘lions’ which seemingly guard the entrance to Lion House on Tattenhall Road. They are believed to be the work of Peckforton Stonemason, John Watson. The legacy of John Watson’s work is to be seen throughout the district, not least in his work relating to Peckforton Castle; a further spectacular carving which displays an ‘elephant bearing a castle’ (also at Peckforton), and his famous ‘lions’ located in both Tattenhall and Spurstow. One of the two lions at the entrance to Lion House is shown below.

Miss Beatrix Scott

Whilst researching Lion House, it came to light that Miss Beatrix Scott, who lived at the property between 1903-1912, was the owner of one of the most famous of all Scottish paintings, namely, Sir Henry Raeburn’s ‘The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch’*. Miss Scott was the Great Granddaughter of the Reverend Robert Walker (1755-1808) who was a good friend of the artist, Henry Raeburn.

It is possible, therefore, that this most famous of paintings actually hung in Lion House. In fact, ‘Sarah and Annie Hulse’ who were the female servants resident at the property on the night of the 1911 Census, might have actually dusted the painting on a regular basis! How frequently might they have glanced at this ‘strange Minister’ skating? Unknown to them would have been the fact that skating had become a fashionable sport in Scotland and that Miss Scott’s Great Grandfather had joined the Edinburgh Skating Society in the winter of 1780 when he was 25 years of age. The club, the oldest of its kind in Britain, usually met on Duddingston’s frozen Loch, near Edinburgh. 

Reverend Robert Walker skating at Duddingston Loch. Walker’s pose, as he glides across the ice, looks effortless but it would have been recognised by fellow skaters as a difficult and sophisticated manoeuvre.

It appears that in March 1914, just five months before The Great War, Miss Scott listed the painting in ‘Sales Particulars’ with Christie’s at a reserve price of 1000 guineas. At the beginning of the 20th century auction prices relating to works by Raeburn had become very favourable but with the uncertainty of an impending War, the painting failed to secure a buyer. In 1926 and with the country facing further upheaval in the form of ‘The General Strike’, Miss Scott sold the painting to her friend Miss Lucy Hume of Cavendish Road, Bournemouth, for the sum of £700. The painting then remained in Miss Hume’s possession until 1949 when it was again presented for sale with Christie’s. On this occasion and in the aftermath of WWII, Christie’s included a photograph of the painting in its promotional literature. With a reproduction photograph in the public domain, it is likely that this was the first time that the painting was widely admired. On the initiative of Ellis Waterhouse who was the then Director of the National Gallery of Scotland, the painting was acquired for the nation at just £525. This is where the painting continues to hang, having become one of the most popular paintings of the National Gallery of Scotland.

Following Miss Scott’s departure from Lion House, the property was then owned by varying members of the Lightfoot family (1912-1961), during which time (from 1932) the house was rented to Francis Moore Dutton. One of Francis Moore Dutton’s many interests was that he was a keen ‘arboriculturist’. He enthusiastically participated in the tree planting scheme which was undertaken by thousands of schools, parishes, organisations and homeowners in honour of the Coronation of His Majesty King George VI during 1936-7. His plantings in the garden of Lion House included cypresses, firs and a blue cedar. The entry in ‘The Royal Record of King George VI’s Coronation’ reads ‘In the garden of Lion House a variety of trees were planted by F Moore Dutton Esq’ – click on ‘Royal Tree Planting’ for further information which is listed elsewhere on the Website.

Newly planted trees in the gardens of Lion House c1939

The Moore Dutton family moved to Tushingham Hall in 1961 following which, Colonel Harry Birch, a Chester solicitor, purchased Lion House and he lived in the property between 1961-1999. Thereafter Lion House was sold to Martin and Frances Cooke. The current owners have undertaken substantial renovations to the property and still live there.

* the provenance of the painting has been brought into question recently but it is not the intention of this Website to pass judgement on this issue.

Particular thanks to the Cooke family for assisting in the production of aspects of this Webpage.

 

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