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March, 2016

Mystery of Victorian family

News Release: CAN you help solve the mystery of the Victorian family whose fashionable Lake District home was designed by the Manchester/Lytham St Annes architect behind two iconic cricket pavillions?

The Common, now Applethwaite Hall

Thomas Muirhead, an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a member of the Manchester Society of Architects, had offices at 31, Market Street, Manchester and Orchard Road, St Annes-on-Sea.

He was commissioned by a mysterious Frank Alfred Roberts and his wife Mary Ellan Roberts, owners of a large estate, with gardens, stables and two lodges near Windermere.

Work started on The Common, a 27 room Arts and Crafts house, at the same time as the famous properties of Blackwell, Broadleys and Moor Crag.

Built between 1898 and 1901 the south-west facing property sits below Banner Rigg and looks towards Windermere. Its pavilion-like first floor viewing balcony was perhaps inspired by the architect’s recent work. As well as designing many country residences and public buildings, Muirhead was a keen sportsman, interested in cricket and football. He had just finished designing the cricket pavilions at the Kennington Oval and Old Trafford when he produced the plans for The Common.

Records show Mr Roberts died in June 1909 and his wife died in March 1926. They had a son Arthur William Rymer Roberts, who attended Harrow and became a barrister, and they may have had a daughter. Plans by Muirhead indicate rooms for a ‘Mr and Mrs Roberts’, ‘Mr Arthur’ and ‘Miss K’. The 1901 census has Kate Ethel Martin as being resident at the property along with 10 others including six servants. There was a head gardener, John Sigee, and a coachman who lived at The Common Stables. The name Mary Kathleen Little seems to be associated with the house.

The Common is believed to have remained in the Roberts family until the 1960s when it was bought and converted into apartments.

Now Applethwaite Homes, experienced in heritage restorations, are giving it a new lease of life and they want to be able to pass on and share its history.

Re-named Applethwaite Hall – a local name – work has started on 12 luxury apartments, designed by Lancaster based architect JMP, and a show apartment will be ready this Autumn.

Anyone with information can contact James Whewell at Applethwaite Homes on 01772 229590 or by email