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Wednesday, 02 September 2020 14:35

A Handsome Gothic Residence

Welcome back, travellers. It is the century of change.

It is the age of the Victorian, Dunfield is advertised as a Handsome Gothic Residence!

The country is radically changing- structurally, politically, scientifically, and spiritually. There is also a dark side to this time with the prominence of poverty and starvation, the stench of the slums and the inhumanity of workhouses. But we also see the birth of great technology and communication and for now, our Empire rules under the steely reign of Queen Victoria, Empress of India. It is a wonderous age of invention and imagination with everything from the telephone to the typewriter springing up with great writers such as Elizabeth Browning, Oscar Wilde, the Bronte sisters and of course…..Dickens, enchant and entertain with their brilliance. Dunfield amid her estate is also ready to change!

In 1804, Rev. D. J. Bull, a member of the Bull family who lived at Dunfield dies. In 1825, Marianne Miles, who never married, lives with her mother at Dunfield. Around this time, the remains of the 17th-century timber-framed building form the nucleus of the present-day house. In the early days, the house could be rented for a ‘knight’s fee’ – a unit of measure of land deemed sufficient to support a knight for 112 old pennies a year. Today that is roughly equivalent of 47 pence! Dunfield- always a bargain!   

Then, fifteen years after the battle of Waterloo, Dunfield is purchased (around 1830) by Mr Henry Miles. The house at this time was called “Downfield”. But now, Henry Miles goes to work! He totally enlarges and improves the existing building. The internal walls are constructed of stone, wattle and daub and latterly lathe and plaster, with the roof being covered in new slates. Dunfield House is finally getting the makeover she deserves. It seems Henry Miles owned a benevolent heart- on one occasion at least. It is recounted that while he was riding home on January 1st, he encountered a large group of poor and aged travellers and generously supplied them with a piece of beef, a loaf of bread and a quantity of prime soup. It seems the good nature of the house as it is today was rooted in kindness even then.

The daughter of Henry Miles, Georgina, was married at Dunfield in a lavish ceremony and weddings continued to be part of Dunfield from then on. In 1865 Henry Miles died aged 71, amassing an estate of more than 1200 acres, worth around 13.5 million in today's money. Monkey puzzle trees lined the drive up to the house, there were lawns, shrubberies, orchards, parkland with fishponds, streams, and waterfalls. Grapes, exotic fruits and flowers grew in the greenhouses and in 1898 the house was available to rent with 14 acres of shooting rights, 15 acres of grounds, 15 family and servant rooms, 3 reception rooms, a study and a library, 16 store stables and a schoolroom! Dunfield was advertised as a ‘handsome and commodious gothic residence commanding magnificent over hill and woodland’. There was a Gatekeepers Lodge with the house and the Dunfield cottage was built at the end of the lane, was used as the gardener’s cottage. Thereafter, Mrs, Ann E. Miles, Lady of the Manor, and Marianne, her daughter were in residence along with two servants, Anne Phillips, and Eliza Turner. On the 22nd July 1876 Ann Eliza Miles died aged 81 years. After her mother’s death, Marianne moved away from the area.

The 8th April 1881- census for Downfield showed it was unoccupied. The Gatekeepers Lodge, however, remained occupied by John Tippens and his family. By 1890 Dunfield was the property of Re. H. Miles, who then leased it to Mrs Evans.  1891- census- Fredrick Elvens (aged 23) a ‘Butler’ and Elizabeth Davies (aged 43) a ‘Housemaid’ were in residence. The Gatekeeper Lodge also had in residence Thomas Miles (age 35) a ‘Coachman’ and his wife Sarah (age 32).  In 1895, Dunfield House is let unfurnished by Rev. H. Miles, who wished to live closer to London and his furniture business in Bond Street, London and tenant, Edward James Evans moves in.

 As we gradually move forward to the 20th century, Dunfield House and all that surrounds her story and life begin's to take on a new, more expedient shape and fresh tenants will carry her development forward. 


 Do not forget to stop by again faithful traveller. After all…..we’ve only just begun.

Published in Blog