Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Kidlandlee: the Highest Mansion in England (NT911099)

Kidlandlee is now a sprinkling of old outbuildings high in the Northumberland moors 3 miles north of Alwinton – some of them having been redeveloped, others are in the process of being brought back to life. But the substantial, and now long-gone, building you see above was once the centre-point of the remote estate. It was known simply as Kidland, or Kidlandlee, and, though it looks like a mansion, it was, in fact, merely a shooting lodge.

In its Edwardian heyday, Kidlandlee was the highest ‘mansion’ in England at almost 1,300ft. It was constructed in the 1890s by Christopher J.Leyland, whose prime residence was Haggerston Castle a little south of Berwick. Leyland was an inveterate builder of big things and lavished his wealth on both his main home and this incredible recreational lodge in the foothills of the Cheviots. Some say that the construction of the lofty lodge was the result of a bet to build the highest mansion in the land!

Having bought the plot from the Hon F.W.Lambton, he set about building his little summer house – which ultimately was to consist of two halls, dining room, drawing room, smoking room, 13 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. Externally, there were several outbuildings together with a man-made lake and a croquet lawn.

After Leyland’s passing in the mid-1920s, his son, hampered by crippling death duties, sold off much of his father’s estate, including the Kidlandlee mansion. It fell into the hands of the Lee family, but by 1950 it had become unmanageable and the decision was taken to demolish it. It was spectacularly destroyed in 1956 by explosives, leaving a few outbuildings intact. Around the same time planting began of the surrounding Kidland Forest, which now gives the spot an even remoter feel, it still only being accessible by forest tracks.

Note: Leyland made a name for himself as the man behind the Leylandii tree (see here), and also as the captain of the pioneering steam turbine, Turbinia.

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