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Bushloe House

This article provides a brief history of Bushloe House in Wigston including some information about the former owners, the architecture, the house and the ecology of the grounds.


Former owners

Picture of the Front of Bushloe HouseBushloe House was built by Stephen Fry, a Leicester Architect in 1850 for his own use but he never lived here. It was initially rented to a Reverend Berry. In 1866 it was bought by Hiram Abiff Owston (aged 37) and his young bride, Elizabeth Walley Varley (aged 25) of Stanningley Hall, Yorkshire.

Mr and Mrs Owston bought Bushloe House without needing a loan or a mortgage. The couple went on to have six children, Harold, Evelyn, Oswald, Ada, Zoe and Leycester. Ada died in the house in 1942 having spent the last 14 years of her life there alone. Mr Owston was noted for always wearing an orchid in his button hole. The family name Owston lives on today in the law firm he helped create and in the road nearby named after Mr Owston.

Bushloe House is currently occupied by Oadby and Wigston Borough Council and serves as its main office.


Architecture

In 1880, Bushloe House was extensively enlarged. Bushloe House was built at the time of the Arts and Crafts movement, expounded by William Morris, Charles Rene Mackintosh and Christopher Dresser. Mr Owston wanted his new home to be something special so he employed Christopher Dresser to do the interior work.

Picture of Christopher DresserMany features in Bushloe House are world famous examples of Christopher Dresser's work. Examples to look out for include:-

  • the staircase, constructed from a mixture of mahogany and pine with heavily carved newels with acorn finials and finished with decorated lanterns that lit the stairwell,
  • stained and painted glass - three windows showing birds on the first floor landing and in the reception area,
  • furniture of which various pieces, designed by Christopher Dresser, were bought by London's Victoria and Albert Museum and displayed as the Bushloe House collection,
  • other pieces of furniture can be found in Wigston, for example, there is a chest of drawers at the Framework Knitters Museum, Bushloe End,
  • several chairs were bought by the Council at auction and left at the Bushloe House after the sale. Others of a different design on loan to the Leicester Museum. In 2004, these pieces were taken to New York for an exhibition of Christopher Dresser’s work.
  • Fire places - two of which are on display at the Leicester Museum.


The house

The house stood in two and a half acres of land along Station Road, Wigston Magna and is built in yellow brick with a Welsh slate roof. This style of house was fashionable in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire but is a rare example in Leicestershire.

Distinctive features of the house are the spare bay windows, the ornamental chimneys and deep cornice, over hanging eaves, the solid oak panel door with ornate lock and inverted arches under the windows. There was extensive stabling in the yard, two large coach houses, tennis courts, a croquet lawn and greenhouses. At the edge of the estate, near Manor Street there are two houses built for estate workers. Some of the trees in the grounds are older than the house itself by about 100 years. The giant redwood near the front entrance gates was planted when Mr Owston bought the house in 1866.


Ecology

The grounds of Bushloe House include two Wellingtonia trees which were widely planted in commemoration of the Duke of Wellington's death in 1852. The grass has been kept free from pesticides and herbicides and as a result it has retained an interesting number of herbs like Wood Rush, Lesser Celadine and lady’s smock. At the west end of the site there are relict populations of Bluebells, Ramsons and Dog Violets.

The grounds also contain fungi including, Blewits, Field mushrooms, Wood mushrooms, St. George’s mushroom, Shaggy Parasol, Lawyer’s Wig, Wax Caps (Red and Yellow), Red Milk Cap, Blusher, Horse mushroom and Edible Boletus (Goat’s Lip).

Sparrow Hawks have a long established nest in an old crow’s nest in one of the pine trees on the site and you can often hear their young calling. Lesser Redpolls sometimes appear in the birches. In cold snaps Redwings can be seen in the hollies and yews. Common on site are the Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Long Tailed Tits and the site has been home to Red Mason Bees (Osmias) and Wild Honey Bees.

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