Hillbark History: THE INSPIRATION FOR BIDSTON COURT
PERIOD COVERED 1891
Edward Ould was one of Lord Leverhulme’s favourite architects, and Leverhulme had commissioned Grayson and Ould to design several distinguished groups of houses in Port Sunlight village.
By 1891, Robert William Hudson had inherited the hugely successful family business (Hudson’s Soaps) when his father died in 1884. Robert very likely had met Edward Ould through William Lever, as they were of course both wealthy soap manufacturers operating in this region. As we know, in 1908 Lever Bros bought Hudsons Soap and incorporated it within their company.
Edward was born in 1853 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland into a staunchly protestant family. His father was the Reverend Fielding Ould who, by all accounts, was a fanatical protestant. The family moved to Liverpool and eventually settled in Tattenhall in Cheshire where Edward’s father became Rector of Tattenhall Church.
Edward married a local lass, Margaret Bryant from Tarvin. Presumably they lived either on the Wirral or in Liverpool, given that he was in partnership with Liverpool architect George Enoch Grayson whose business HQ was 21 Water Street, Liverpool. Edward and Margaret had one child, Roger Fielding Ould.
While he was training for his profession, Edward Ould became a pupil of the acclaimed architect John Douglas who was famous for designing over 500 buildings in North West England. John had an office in Chester which is where Edward would have learnt his profession. Edward would have been under his tutelage around 1875 and then went into partnership with Grayson in 1886.
John Douglas is best remembered for his Gothic black and white revival buildings with the incorporation of vernacular elements in the construction – meaning he preferred to use local craftsmen following traditional building methods and locally sourced materials.
In particular John favoured the use of half-timbering,. The wooden framing is painted black and the panels between the frames are painted white. The style was part of a wider Tudor Revival in 19th-century architecture. Other vernacular elements he incorporated include tile-hanging, pargeting, and the use of decorative brick in diapering and the design of tall chimney stacks. Of particular importance is Douglas’s use of joinery and highly detailed wood carving.
All of these features can be found in the design of Bidston Court which became Hillbark House.
John Douglas and another local architect T. M. Lockwood became the principal proponents of the Gothic revival movement and they “transformed the street frontages of the city with their black and white buildings”. Major examples of their work are Lockwood’s building opposite Chester Cross at No. 1 Bridge Street of 1888 and the terrace of buildings on the east side of St Werburgh Street of 1895–99 by Douglas. Eastgate Clock is another fine example.
Robert William Hudson lived in Chester at Bache Hall and would have seen first hand these beautiful black and white timbered buildings.
From the work of John Douglas we can see exactly where Edward Ould and Robert Hudson drew their inspiration for the design of Bidston Court, and why, in 1891, they chose the historic Elizabethan mansion of Little Moreton Hall as the model to follow.