The original Rotherwas House was built of timber, with the final house being built in 1730 by Charles Bodenham– it was generally described as one of the finest and oldest seats in the whole country, and had the most glorious Elizabethan, Jacobean and Queen Anne panelling which had been transferred from the former house.
It was in one of the panelled main rooms of the house that King James 1 was so well entertained that he condensed his thanks into one saying………”we can’t all live at Rotherwas”.
In 1832 and then again in 1834, the mansion was advertised for let, fully furnished; described as finely situated on the banks of the Wye within two and a half miles of Hereford, with coach houses and stabling; an extensive walled garden; shrubberies etc. and a lawn containing 30 acres of superior meadow ground. Also the deputation over the manors of Dinedor and Lower Bullingham, and the exclusive right of sporting over a well wooded estate of 2500 acres well stocked with game.
The last tenants of Rotherwas House left in 1912, when it became a barracks for the munitions factory, then a military prison before being demolished in 1926 after falling into disrepair. A dreadfully sad end for a grand and dignified house.
The splendid panelling was sold to an American, Charles M. Pratt – secretary of the Standard Oil Company, and thus some of the finest examples of Elizabethan craftsmanship has been lost from our country.
Now all that can be seen is the footprint in the dry earth after the recent heatwave, and that only from the sky.
The staunchly catholic Bodenham family held Rotherwas as their seat for a considerable period of time.
The Bodenham Family at Rotherwas House
Charles Thomas Bodenham
Born in 1780, Charles was described as a fine specimen of the old English gentleman, hale and vigorous in mind and body throughout his life; he was a man of great integrity and was a fluent public speaker. He was an active member of the Liberal party for many years, and was also was a Magistrate for Herefordshire, and was appointed High Sheriff in 1851.
He was very much loved, and it was said that he had no enemies.
However, Charles was no great businessman, and lost a huge amount of money – some of his ill fated ventures included being a Director of the City and County Bank which was in trouble. He rather foolishly mortgaged the whole of the Rotherwas estate, thus accruing vast debts, and on his death he passed on these debts to his son.
Charles Bodenham was known for his distinguished bearing and was admired for not appearing to grow old even as he did so. Early one morning in 1865 he was seized with paralysis and never spoke or opened his eyes until his death a week later. At the instruction of his son, Charles de la Barre Bodenham, he was buried at Rotherwas church close to the grave of his mother.
Charles De La Barre Bodenham
In 1850, at Oporow, Poland, Charles De la Barre Bodenham married Irena, daughter of Count Morawski who was formerly Prime Minister to the King of Saxony . The celebrations on the day of the married couples return to Rotherwas, and the joyful good wishes of all the tenants; villagers; family and friends proved quite overwhelming for Charles, who made the following emotional speech:
“I was aware of a kind intention of welcoming the stranger on her arrival in our country, but for a demonstration of a nature so imposing as that which I now regard, and for such an expression of sentiments as you have done me the honour to give utterance to in so cordial an address, I was totally unprepared. It is a demonstration calculated to excite my deepest feelings.
The bride, who for the first time appears amongst you – the daughter of another country – is equally affected by the cordiality of your welcome, for which, like myself, she has been totally unprepared. Under any circumstances, the emotion with which on this occasion I should have approached that dwelling, which bears for me the sacred name of home, would be very great, but they are now heightened, and the scene is rendered impressive by your presence.
On the part of the lady, and with her, I have to thank you for a true and heartfelt English welcome to a dear English home. I need not remind you that home does not alone depend upon panelled halls or ancestral oaks; home is in the hearts of those who there surround us. It is with pride and pleasure that I mark the expression of friendship which beams from every face upon the bride, and I have to thank you for thus attempting to prove to her that, although far from the country of her birth, Poland is not lost, but is found in the hearts of the tenants and friends of Rotherwas.
Charles De La Barre Bodenham died in 1883, bequeathing the estate to his widow, She died 9 years later and was succeeded by her cousin Louis, Count Lubienska who later became Count Lubienski-Bodenham when the family Anglicised.
The count was a tireless benefactor of Herefordshire, and played a big part in developing the County General Hospital, but he let Rotherwas House to tenants and he and his wife and three sons moved to another part of Herefordshire.
In 1907, a fire badly damaged Rotherwas House, and with the Count having died two years earlier, the whole estate was sold off
As a bit of an aside:
Roman Catholic Relics found in a Stone at Rotherwas
In 1927, following the partial demolition of the ancient chapel at Rotherwas, a stone was found by the roadside by a woman who decided that it would make a good door stop. She discovered that it had broken in two, and inside was a document with a bottle of holy water; a small bottle of oil; a number of medals and a piece of moss.
The document read:
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
In honour of the ever glorious and Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God. This day September 13th 1857, being the feast of Her Holy Name, this Angus Dei and medals and relics are deposited. We pray our Dear Lady and patrons to accept and bless this Her House and to protect it and all who therein abide, and whatever be the destination of this House may the most Holy Will of God be accomplished, and may His Holy Name be glorified.
O, Maria, sine labe originale concept, ora pro nobis.
Charles Thomas Bodenham, Eliza Mary Bodenham, Charles De la Barre Bodenham, Irene Maria Bodenham”
The document goes on to say:
“This case contains an angus dei; a bottle of water from Mamnurhus Dungeon, Immaculus Well; oil of St. Walburg; the dust from the tomb of St. Francis; moss from St. Winifred’s Well; a medal of Philumina; a medal blessed by the Cure D’Ars against future ails; a medal of St. Peter and St. Paul; a medal of St. Benedict; a medal of our Lady Crestohawa; and an unreadable medal.
The medals referred to are supposed to contain healing powers, whilst the angus dei is an ivory ornament with the image of the Virgin Mary engraved on it.
1851 – Rotherwas House Household
|Charles Thomas Bodenham||64||High Sheriff and landed proprietor||b. Rotherwas, Herefordshire|
|De la Barre Bodenham||37||Son, Deputy Lieutenant||b. Clifton, Somerset|
|Irena Bodenham||24||Daughter in law||b. Poland|
|Mercy Pilton||29||School mistress, visitor||b. Belgium|
|Alexander Fletcher||40||Landed proprietor, visitor||b. Scotland|
|James Lahire||34||Gardener||b. Ireland|
|Elizabeth Davies||42||Housemaid||b. Dinedor, Herefordshire|
1861 – Rotherwas House Household
|Charles De la Barre Bodenham||77||Landed proprietor, JP||b. Rotherwas, Herefordshire|
|Irena H. Bodenham||30||Daughter in law||b. Poland|
|Rev. I. Scarisbrick||30||Roman Catholic Priest||b. Lancashire|
|Edward S. Gisborne||48||Land Agent||b. Derbyshire|
|Benjamin Bucknall||26||Visitor, Architect||b. Gloucestershire|
|Edmund P. Pugin||9||Visitor||b. London, Middlesex|
|Matilda Pugin||11||Visitor||b. London, Middlesex|
|John Vanston||30||Butler||b. Devon|
|Mary Groves||45||Housekeeper, widow||b. Bath, Somerset|
|Louisa Newman||53||Lady’s Maid||b. Dorset|
|Louisa Callies||28||Lady’s Maid||b. Dorset|
|Teresa Daughty||35||Housemaid||B. Essex|
|Margaret Keathing||20||Housemaid||b. Limerick ??|
|Catherine Sexton||21||Kitchen Maid||b. Ireland|
|Mary Donovan||16||Scullery Maid||b. Ireland|
|Catherine Foley||24||Laundress||b. London, Middlesex|
|Hannah Cole||22||Dairy Maid||b. Hereford, Herefordshire|
|E. O-Connor||35||Housemaid||b. Limerick, Ireland|
|Lucy Ramsden||17||Maid Servant||b. Hereford, Herefordshire|
|Henry Ramsden||10||Boy||b. Hereford, Herefordshire|
|William Carbett||22||Footman||b. London, Middlesex|
|James Conally||17||Stable boy||b. Hereford, Herefordshire|
1871 – Rotherwas House Household
|James Comerford||29||Catholic Priest||b. Ireland|
|Julia Donovan||36||Housekeeper||b. Bath, Somersetshire|
|William Barry 30||30||Gardener||b. United States of America, British Subject|
1881 – Rotherwas House Household
|Charles D.B. Bodenham||67||Landowner, JP, DL||b. Clifton, Bristol|
|Irena Bodenham||48||Wife||b. Poland|
|C.M. Berrington||51||Visitor, landowner||b. Bath, Somersetshire|
|Cristina Patterson||40||Housekeeper||b. Middlesex|
|Ellen Kelly||38||Cook||b. Bandon, Ireland|
|Ann Murphy||20||Housemaid||b. Ireland|
|Hannah Lyons||29||Housemaid||b. Ireland|
|Alice Fitzpatrick||26||Housemaid||b. Ireland|
|Josephy Fryer||21||Coachman||b. Hereford|
|Frank Fryer||18||Footman||b. Ireland|
Unfortunately, the transcription for 1891 is virtually impossible due to fading of the form
1901 – Rotherwas House Household
|May Mackworth Praed||34||Wife, living on own means||St. Lawrence, Kent|
|Cyril W. Mackworth Praed||9||Son||b. Surrey|
|Violet Mackworth Praed||3||Daughter||b. Dinedore, Herefordshire|
|Laura E. Cale||36||Cook||b. Ashperton, Herefordshire|
|Marion Firth||31||Ladies Maid||b. Lincolnshire|
|Sarah A. Bell||58||Nurse||b. Lincolnshire|
|Mary E. Humphries||12||Housemaid||b. Northamptonshire|
|Ada Williams||19||Kitchenmaid||b. Herefordshire|
|Harriet Perking||15||Scullerymaid||b. Herefordshire|
|Edith E. Saunderson||15||Nursemaid||b. Islington, Middlesex|
|Charles A. Pooley||29||Butler||b. Eye, Suffolk|
|Charles H. Truman||20||Footman||b. Bradford, Yorkshire|
1911 – Rotherwas House Household
|Robert H. Mackworth Praed||45||Private means||b. Westminster, London|
|May Mackworth Praed||44||Private means||b. St. Lawrence, Kent|
|Cyril W. Mackworth Praed||19||Son||b. Surrey|
|Violet Mackworth Praed||13||Daughter||b. Dinedore, Herefordshire|
|Charles A. Pooley||39||Butler||b. Eye, Suffolk|
|Laura H. Cale||46||Cook||b. Ashperton, Herefordshire|
|Charlotte L. Green||32||Lady’s Maid||b. Derby, Derbyshire|
|Annie Coleman||24||Housemaid||b. Warwickshire|
|Dorothy Bloomfield||21||Housemaid||b. Fulham, London|
|Wernie Tow||24||Kitchenmaid||b. Leicester|
|Rose Turner||18||Scullery Maid||b. Eardisley, Herefordshire|
|Berthan Balmer||25||Schoolroom Maid||b. Switzerland|
1903 – Shocking Suicide of Rotherwas House Employee
Joseph Webb was gardener to the above Mackworth Praed family, and was 32 years old with one child – he suffered from varicose veins which had been treated by his doctor, and he had undergone two operations.
His wife Ella said that one morning after he got up, he had a cigarette and told her that he was going to cheer up; she went off to a neighbouring farm for some milk, and when she returned she find that he had shot himself in the head – in fact he had virtually blown his head off with a muzzle loading gun.
Very sadly, his two year old son was in the room at the time of the suicide.