Swans on the lake at Swinton Park

Castle History

From 1695 to 2000

Molly, Countess of Swinton with her husband The Earl of Swinton and their two sons, John and Philip circa 1924

The first house built at Swinton Park was commenced in 1695 by Sir Abstrupus Danby (whose unusual christian name was bestowed on him by a befuddled parson). His successors built the stable block and gatehouse and, during the 1760’s, planted the parkland and created the chain of five lakes.

The building was substantially altered during the early 1800’s with the addition of a two storey west wing (now the drawing room and master suite) and north wing. A few years later a museum was constructed (which later housed the family chapel and is now the bar). At the same time the building became a “castle” with the addition of a tower, turrets and battlements.

The earliest record of the gardens dates from one laid out in 1699 to a design by George London, with fountains added a few years later. This was probably swept away by William Danby during his landscaping programme in the 1760’s. During this time, five lakes were also dug out within the parkland, with the stone bridge at Coffin Pond built during the 1880’s. There are also several follies, standing stones and druids seats in the grounds. The walking track around the lakes also leads to Quarry Gill which is by far the most dramatic part of the parkland with views down the ravine and through the bridge (built in the early 1800’s at the vast cost of £11,000). The parkland also supports a herd of approximately 100 fallow deer which often graze in front of the hotel.

In 1882 Samuel Cunliffe-Lister bought the castle and, at the age of 68, embarked on an extensive building programme, adding a third floor and enlarging the dining room with the addition of the existing fireplace and gold leaf panels of rosettes on the ceiling.

In 1924 Samuel’s granddaugther Molly and her husband Philip came to live at Swinton, and took the name of Cunliffe-Lister.

Philip was later created Viscount Swinton in 1935 and the 1st Earl of Swinton in 1955. During the 2nd World War Harrogate Ladies College occupied part of the premises and following their departure Philip and Molly offered the major part of the castle to the Conservative College. The castle was sold in 1980 following Molly’s death in 1974.

From 1976 to 1998, the castle was occupied by the Lindley Educational Trust who ran it as a management training centre. Mark Cunliffe-Lister, the great-grandson of Molly, along with his mother, brother and sister, bought back the castle in May 2000. On 17 June 2000 Mark and Felicity (the current Baron and Baroness Masham) married and, on return from honeymoon, moved to Swinton, to set up the family business. The 31 bedroom luxury castle hotel was opened in 2001 following an extensive refurbishment.

Felicity and Mark Cunliffe-Lister

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