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