Hillbark History: The house built by the soap millionaire
Period Covered: 1856 to 1891
Robert was one of six children, and he was only four years old when his mother died in 1860. His father married again in 1868, when Robert junior was 12 years old, to Emily Gilroy of Donnybrook, Dublin.
The family then moved to an historic house in Chester called Bache Hall (next to the site of the Countess of Chester hospital). The house had been damaged during the Civil War, and when they moved in it was a plain 18th century brick-built building of two storeys and five bays. During the time he lived there, Robert Hudson senior made many improvements, including adding an Italianate porch. Robert Junior grew up there and it may have been Bache Hall which gave him his love of historic buildings and unusual architecture.
Robert’s father had built up a hugely successful business making soap powder and soap flakes and had become wealthy and influential, eventually running two factories in Liverpool and West Bromwich.
He would have been well aware of his son’s interest in historically interesting houses, and in July 1884 when Robert Junior was 28, he began the process of purchasing Sibbersfield Hall in Cheshire, situated close to the Duke of Westminster’s Estates, which dated from at least 1300.
However, Robert Senior died before the purchase was completed. He left an estate worth £300,000, and Robert junior inherited Bache Hall. Presumably, he found Sibbersfield was now not needed because he never actually moved into the old Hall.
Just seven years later in 1891, Robert set his sights on building his own mock-Elizabethan house on Bidston Hill, which he called Bidston Court and which was later to become Hillbark House.