Herefordshire is rich with glorious castles, some of which admittedly are in ruins, but Bollitree Castle cannot be counted among their number as it is more of a house masquerading as a castle; it never had anything to do with defence and was a mere folly which was added on to a Queen Anne mansion. The stable block however has always been considered to be rather splendid, and is now Grade 11 listed.
The original house is thought to be 15th century, and was built on the site of a Roman encampment, Ariconium – it was doubtless the scene of many battles between contending armies and a great many Roman coins and other relics have been turned up by the plough in the fields adjoining the house. Included in these are some fine old bronze coins in mint condition, amongst which were those embossed with Caesar, Agrippa and others. Sadly much of the site of Ariconium was destroyed in 1785.
Richard Ap Meryk
In 1441 Richard Ap Meryk was born in the house, and he later became the customs officer to Henry VII and then the founder member of Bristol’s Society of Merchant Adventurers; he ended up with his own Merchant’s Mark – basically a trade mark – and was exceedingly wealthy. Richard altered his name to Ameryk, and rumour has it, that he gave his name to America, and certainly the Meryk family crest which boasts stars and stripes could be the origin of the American Flag.
A descendant, Walter Meyrick, left Bollitree House as it was known then, to his nephew Thomas Hopkins Merrick from Pencoyd in 1776 and here comes the sorry tale.
Thomas Hopkins Merrick
Thomas Hopkins Merrick was deeply in love with a Spanish lady, but she declared that she couldn’t possibly live in England unless it was to be in a castle – Thomas duly set about transforming the façade of Bollitree House to give it some vague appearance of a castle, but his lady was unimpressed and Thomas was left out of pocket and without his bride.siBder s
By 1789uchow forms someone’s back garden wall, but is visible from the r
By 1789 the hapless Thomas Hopkins Merrick was dead, and his entire stock of farming utensils and impliments etc. were sold by auction. These consisted of five wagons; three carts; ploughs; drays; harrows and rolls. Also all his furniture and household goods, along with a chaise and harness for four horses.
The Palmer Family
It appears that the Palmer family who then took over Bollitree Castle were related in some way to the Merricks as Merrick was used as a middle name for a son for a Palmer descendant. For many years Mr. George Merrick, a Saddler in Ross on Wye proudly sold Swedish Turnip Seed as grown by Mr. Palmer at Bollitree
A pack of hounds was kept at the castle, and the surrounding countryside provided excellent hunting grounds. The Castle also had an excellent reputation for cider production, especially under the Palmer family; George Palmer made bottled cider and perry which was favourably compared with the best champagne.
George Palmer was also a grower of excellent quality crops, and he was a kindly gentleman who gave many people cause to think of him fondly. For example, George let the Weston Cricket Club use one of his fields, and this along with other things prompted the Club to present him with a lovely silver goblet. The inscription read “Presented to George Palmer Esq. by the members of the Weston Cricket Club, in remembrance of his many kindnesses to them. Season 1868”
In 1903 Bollitree Castle and Estate was put up for sale – “An excellent opportunity will be offered to capitalists, sportsmen and others”.
The description included “the property is highly adapted for a breeder of pedigree stock or for a sportsman, being in the centre of a good hunting district, close to a good market town, with the land in a high state of cultivation.”
It was further said that it was hoped that a thoroughly good sportsman and agriculturist would become the new owner; live there, and do his utmost to show sport, and, with horse, dog and gun, join in the merry hunt of fur and feather; as well as the production of blood stock, beef, mutton and corn for which the land is eminently qualified. The well known strength and quality of Bollitree cider and perry was also mention, and it was hoped that production would continue.
Charles Watkins duly moved into Bollitree Castle in 1903, but whether he had bought the property or was simply renting it I have yet to ascertain. He was certainly a man of means, and his son C.R. Watkins was selected in the same year to row No. 6 in the Cambridge boat in the following year’s inter varsity boat race. His weight was 13 stone if anyone is interested!
1841 – Bollitree Castle Household
|John French||46||b. Gloucestershire|
|William French||17||b. Herefordshire|
|Thomas French||4||b. Herefordshire|
|Elizabeth French||40||b. Herefordshire|
|James French||11||b. Herefordshire|
1851 – Bollitree Castle Household
|George Palmer||37||Farmer||b. Pencoyd, Herefordshire|
|Selina Palmer||37||Wife||b. Norwich|
|William Charles Palmer||6||Son, scholar at home||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|Rose Palmer||4||Daughter, scholar at home||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|Jane Palmer||1||Daughter||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|William Palmer||32||Brother||b. Herefordshire|
|Ellen Johnstone||24||Cook||b. Bacton, Herefordshire|
|Ann Hall||20||Nurse||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|Hannah Webb||19||Housemaid||b. Upton Bishop, Herefordshire|
|George Walby (?)||32||Groom||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|Rosa Cooper||40||Sister in Law, Governess||b. Norwich|
1861 – Bollitree Castle Household
|George Palmer||47||Farmer of 400 Acres||b. Pencoyd, Herefordshire|
|Selina Palmer||47||Wife||b. Norwich|
|William Charles Palmer||16||Son, scholar at home||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|Jane Palmer||11||Daughter, Scholar at home||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|George Merrick Palmer||8||Son, Scholar at home||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|Harriet Ford||30||House Servant||b. Little Dean, Gloucestershire|
|Elizabeth Davies||22||House servant||b. Little Birch, Herefordshire|
|Joseph Taylor||28||Groom||b. How Caple, Herefordshire|
1871 – Bollitree Castle Household
|George Palmer||57||Farmer of 399 acres||b. Pencoyd, Herefordshire|
|Selina Palmer||56||Wife||b. Norwich|
|Jane Palmer||21||Daughter||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|George M Palmer||18||Son||b. Weston under Penyard, Herefordshire|
|Amelia Hawkins||21||Housemaid||b. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire|
|Elizabeth Meek||22||Cook||b. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire|
|Thomas Constance||63||Wandering Gardener||b. Longhope, Gloucestershire|
1881 – Bollitree Castle Household
|William Marfell||47||Farmer||b. Herefordshire|
|Elizabeth Marfell||54||Wife||b. Herefordshire|
|Edgar Marfell||22||Nephew||b. Brampton Abbotts Herefordshire|
|Ann Dobbs||24||Cook||b. Llangarron, Herefordshire|
|Sarah Bailey||22||Housemaid||b. Herefordshire|
In 1891 William Marfell was still at Bollitree,
1901 – Bollitree Castle Household
|Charles Watkins||52||Corn Merchant||b. Herefordshire|
|Charlotte Watkins||53||Sister living on own means||B. Herefordshire|
|Rhoda Wilkins||23||Housemaid||b. Lydney, Gloucestershire|
1911 – Bollitree Castle Household
|Arthur Thomas Webb||66||Farmer and Butcher||b. Monmouthshire|
|Elizabeth Webb||66||Wife||b. Monmouthshire|
|Catharine Ann Webb||33||Daughter, Dairy work||b. Monmouthshire|
|Frances Mary Webb||27||Daughter, Dairy work||b. Monmouthshire|
|Thomas Edward Webb||26||Son, working on farm||b. Goodrich, Herefordshire|
|Robert Rumsey Webb||61||Brother, Lecturer in College||b. Monmouthshire|
|Wilfred George Parry||21||Boarder, farm pupil||b. Herefordshire|
|Constance Strong||18||General domestic servant||b. Epsom, Surrey|