Man who inspired Wardown dies aged 82

Bramingham Shott architect's drawing

Frank Chapman Scargill, who had Wardown House built and initially laid out Wardown Park, died on September 27th, 1919, at his home at Beaufort House, Beaufort, Killarney, Ireland. He was aged 82 and had left Luton a quarter of a century earlier. He was buried at Aghadoe Cemetery, near Beaufort.

Born in Atherstone, Warwickshire, on October 16th, 1836, and baptised at St Pancras the following December, Scargill first appeared locally on a Houghton Regis electoral roll lodging in Turnpike Road (now High Street North, Dunstable) in 1861. He was then a 24-year-old solicitor practising in Dunstable with a Mr Medland.

In July 1868 he purchased Bramingham Shott (later to be rebuilt and later still renamed Wardown) and the following October married Elizabeth Kennedy from the Lake District, the wealthy widow of former friend Miles Kennedy, with three children by her first marriage. Elizabeth's fortune was acquired from iron mines.

In 1875 Scargill commissioned architect Thomas Charles Sorby to design a new mansion [as illustrated above] which was completed in 1877 at a cost of £10,000. During the 1880s and 1890s pleasure gardens and parkland were added.

Frank Scargill had opened legal offices at 7 King Street, Luton, and acted as magistrates clerk for the County and Borough, and was Steward of Luton Holl under Mr J. Shaw Leigh and Madame de Falbe.

His other business interests included a partnership with Asher Hucklesby and an interest in the brick and lime trade, having brickfields at Round Green, Chalton and Caddington, and lime works at Blow's Down, Dunstable. He also purchased Biscot windmill in 1881.

In 1894 Frank Scargill retired and moved from Luton to live in Hove, Sussex. Five years later Elizabeth died at Ulverston at the age of 63. The couple had four children, one of whom died as a baby.

Scargill remarried in Foxford, Co Mayo, Ireland, in 1903, his new wife being Constance Mary Landey, with whom he had several more children.



In the Beds and Herts Saturday Telegraph (October 11th, 1919) a tribute was paid to Frank Chapman Scargill by J.S. (possibly businessman James Saunders). His article read:

Frank Chapman ScargillThe passing at the ripe age of 82 of the one time Squire of Bramingham Shott (now popularly known as Wardown) in the Irish home to which he migrated about a quarter of a century since, inevitably brings to the mind's eye scenes and happenings in the life of Luton in which his striking personality played a more or less conspicuous part some 40 or so years ago.

Frank Scargill at that time was an alert, debonair man of affairs, who, while successfully sustaining the role of a country gentleman, also engaged very keenly in business activities at his solicitor's office in King Street, his personal appointments including the clerkship to both borough and divisional benches of magistrates, Steward to Luton Hoo Estate [1873-1891] etc.

Apart from business interests, Mr Scargill [pictured right] took a great and practical interest in cricket, and the matches played on the fine pitch at Bramingham in those days served to enlarge the experience of many a notable wielder of the willow and at the same time enhance the pleasure of the gratified crowds which in the season assembled there. The Luton Town Cricket Club underwent the palmiest days of its existence which F. C. Scargill remained its generous friend and patron; he clearly loved the game, and was no mean exponent.

Frank Scargill was always faultlessly dressed. One can now picture him as daily stepping forth arrayed in one of the Poole's immaculate creations, flower in button-hole, pince-nez dangling, and the quite characteristic way in which he carried his silk umbrella. It can be said without affection that he was a man of handsome presence, and his uniform geniality was as the brightness of a summer day.

Both in the public court and at Luton Manor Court Leet he carried through the proceedings with charming natural bonhomie. At the termination of a case at the Sessions he would generally arise from his table and, with hands in pockets, proceed to the justices' bench and volubly expound the statutes in relation to the charge, reciting also the punishment involved, wholly indifferent to all and sundry (including the poor prisoner) hearing the purport of his remarks.

At the Court Leet meetings it was customary for Mr J. Smith (one of the tenants) to wear in his button-hole 'the red rose of service,' and Mr Scargill, before the commencement of the proceedings, would cheerily remark: “Now, Mr Smith, hand over that rose.” Mr Smith would kindly oblige, and its transference to the Steward's button-hole at once followed!

In politics, the late Mr Scargill was – up to a certain period – an ardent Liberal, but the Home Rule proposals of Mr Gladstone, in 1886, when the purchase scheme to buy out Irish landlords was also proposed, strained his loyalty to the breaking point; and it was a great event in the history of the local Conservative Party when he took the chair at a Home Rule protest meeting in the Plait Hall on May 4th in that year. An accomplished speaker, he easily held the audience; and it may be noted he used printed headings and notes on foolscap sheets for each separate topic of his address.

It may also be recorded, incidentally, that only a few months before he had stood on a Liberal platform in the same hall, in company with Mr Cyril Flower MP (later Lord Battersea), declaiming eloquently against the House of Lords, which he then very wittily apostrophised as “a sepulchre for dead reputations”. Mr Flower, also in the course of the proceedings, in one of his exuberant outbursts, referred to their Lordships as “the old washer women upstairs,” temporarily convulsing the enthusiastic audience.

The connection with his new political friends, however, was not of very long duration, as might have been expected from a man of his traditions, and of one who, at the meeting in question, spoke in this wise: “I need scarcely say to you that to a man who has always been strongly and consistently Liberal since he knew anything of politics, it is an extremely painful thing to me to have to oppose the views of a statesman whom I have always regarded almost with a species of adoration. I can only say that the Irish Land Bill of Mr Gladstone has simply frightened me...”

Could candour and sincerity further go!