Ashmeadow House

Ashmeadow House 1818-2018

(See also Arnside , Far Arnside , Arnside/Silverdale ANOB)

Ashmeadow House is a listed building overlooking the Kent estuary and Morecambe Bay. It dates back to 1818 when it was built for William Berry, a wealthy businessman with shipping interests in the Kent estuary.

He paid £70 for the freehold of 16 acres of land on which a riverside tavern existed (some say it was a smugglers’inn) frequented by travelers crossing the estuary nearby. The inn survived as one of the outbuildings of the main house, which was extended by subsequent owners in the 19th century. They also laid out the gardens to create a “gentleman’s” residence of character and distinction.
The last owner, John Wilson, died in 1918 after nearly 40 reclusive years at Ashmeadow, and it was then bought by James Barnes whose preparatory boarding school for boys, founded in 1900, was rapidly outgrowing its accommodation in two houses on Arnside’s promenade. For the next 60 years the house and grounds of Ashmeadow were a place of learning, recreation, and nature study for hundreds of boys.
Under Barnes’s ownership Ashmeadow house was modernized and the grounds greatly were improved with aswimming pool, two fives courts, tennis courts, fishponds, and an aviary. A special attraction was a model railway running through the plantation on the hill to the south of the house.

Four of the principal rooms in the Georgian house became classrooms for groups of 7-13 year old boys while other rooms were used for teaching science, music, and carpentry. The school flourished under the headship of James Barnes and later his son, John, but due to the decline of boarding preparatory schools, Earnseat closed in 1979. John Barnes created a charitable trust, with the intention that Ashmeadow house and its grounds be put at the disposal of the trustees for the benefit of Arnside.

The efforts of the trustees to ensure a viable future for the old house foundered when the Rural Buildings Trust, who had leased the house for office accommodation, failed. The same fate befell the trustees plans for the renovation of the swimming pool for wider public use. The house, pool, and adjacent gardens fell into disuse and decay and were vandalized. The Crossfield bequest to the Abbeyfield (Arnside) Society* enabled Ashmeadow house and its nearby garden to be bought by the society in 2003. Demolition of the southern (unlisted) parts of the house made way for a new extension of the old Georgian mansion, so that the whole refurbished and restored building now provides ten apartments with communal rooms and facilities. The restoration of Ashmeadow house is therefore a landmark in the history of Arnside. *Now renamed as the Crossfield housing (Arnside) Society Ltd.

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