Part of a Victorian model estate
Leighton is a model estate on a stupendous scale, laid out in the 1850s by John Naylor, a wealthy Liverpool banker. Besides magnificent housing for all kinds of livestock, the estate had its own aqueduct and cable railway to take water, manure and feed to outlying farms.
The spectacular ornamental Fowl House next door to our cottage, and under our care, is just one of the fascinating features of the Leighton Estate, also renowned for its arboretum, which surrounds these two poultry-themed buildings.
Meticulously designed quarters
The Poultry Yard was added in 1861, complete with fowl house, storm shed, pond and scratching yard, and the poultry-keeper’s cottage in which you can stay, set in the large and secluded grounds from which the chickens have long gone. Each species, whether large or small, ornamental, water or humble hen, had its own meticulously designed quarters in the Fowl House: a thorough attention to detail, which is typical of the whole estate.
The everyday care of the birds was under the supervision of a Poultry-keeper, whose quarters were the cottage just beside the yard, today’s Landmark. It is in fact an earlier building, dating from about 1800, but was smartened up in 1861 to match its neighbours.
The surrounding woodlands are phenomenal, offering walks to suit all seasons. It offers a peaceful setting (the chickens have long gone) with views across the Severn Valley to Montgomeryshire. In addition to Leighton, one can visit the gardens at Powis Castle, Glansevern Hall and Vaynor.
‘The grand Fowl House could almost make one envious of being a chicken.’
‘This was an ideal refuge from life. The silence is really startling for those of us used to cars, trains and planes.’
From the logbook
A fashion for keeping ornamental fowl
The Fowl House, or Poultry House as it is often known, was built in 1861, the date is set above the door. It is said to have been a birthday present for Georgina, one of the daughters of John Naylor of Leighton Hall, and was probably designed by the Liverpool architect W.H. Gee, who also designed the Hall and the church. A fashion for keeping ornamental fowl had been set by Queen Victoria, who built an elaborate Poultry House at Windsor in the 1840s.
The arrival of new and exotic breeds from abroad, such as Cochins, and the growth of experience in breeding new varieties at home, led to its becoming a popular hobby among all classes of society. Few people went into poultry-keeping on such a grand scale as John Naylor, but everything he did is of similar magnificence. He came from a family of Liverpool bankers, the Leylands, and spent large sums on the development of Leighton as a model estate in the 1850s. The Fowl House must have gone some way towards fulfilling the ideal of making the country house self-sufficient in produce, even if the chief purpose of the birds kept here was for decoration and amusement.
The Fowl House was divided into compartments for the different breeds and types of birds. Several of the nesting boxes survive, showing that large birds such as turkeys and geese were kept here, as well as hens and ducks. Each was carefully segregated from the other, even when let out into the yard to scratch, or onto the pond to swim. A storm shed was provided for wet days, and the whole complex was surrounded by a fence.
The everyday care of the birds was under the supervision of a Poultry-keeper, who lived in the cottage just beside the yard, today’s Landmark. It is in fact an earlier building, dating from about 1800, but was smartened up in 1861 to match its neighbours.
The Leighton estate was sold in separate lots by John Naylor's grandson in 1931. The Fowl House was included with the Forestry plantations, and has remained in the same ownership until it was sold to the Landmark Trust in 1988, which now cares for both the Fowl House and the cottage, now let for holidays.
The Fowl House had fallen into disrepair
It is unlikely that exotic fowl have pecked and scratched here since 1914, and the Fowl House had inevitably fallen into disrepair, its surroundings overgrown. The cottage had remained inhabited however and needed only minor repairs and alterations, including the reinstatement of the chimneypots and of the original lime render on the walls, to prevent damp.
Work was needed on the exterior of the Fowl House itself. Some areas of the timber framing had decayed, and new wood had to be pieced in, using Douglas fir to match the original. The finials on the gables had also to be renewed, and then the whole frame repainted with red lead paint. The roof was stripped and re-laid in sections, reusing the old slates. Damaged stained glass windows were repaired. Outside, the yard, the pond, the storm shed and the perimeter fence all look much as they did in the days of John Naylor, and Georgiana.
You might also like...
Here are some other Landmarks in the same region
Nr Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
A castellelated and most romantic Gothick retre...
The Grammatica Britannica was written in this 1...
Bath Tower is one of eight towers built in Caer...
One of the first Landmarks to be opened by the ...
Church Cottage was the very first Landmark acqu...
Near Hay-on-Wye, Powys
This 18th-century cottage was attached to ...