05 Aug 2019
It was a date which changed the history of Lotherton forever, shaping its legacy for the next half a century.
And 50 years to the day since it first opened to the public, the Aberford estate will be celebrating its unique story with a landmark birthday this week.
It was August 6, 1944 when Sir Alvary Gascoigne, last private owner of the cherished estate, received the devastating news that his son Douglas had been killed fighting in Normandy.
With no heir to leave the historic house and grounds to, Sir Alvary, whose long and distinguished diplomatic career had taken him across the globe, was left to decide what would become of estate.
It was not until 25 years later, on that same day in 1969, that he gifted Lotherton to the people of Leeds, helping it to become one of the city’s most popular and beautiful attractions for generations to come.
Tomorrow (Aug 6) the estate will celebrate by looking back at how the estate became a key part of the local community and at the ongoing work which has made it such a popular visitor attraction.
Visitors will also have the chance to find out more about some of the estate’s newest residents, with a talk on the feeding and conservation of Lotherton’s colony of Humboldt penguins.
And a new exhibition curated by members of the community will reveal more about the last members of the Gascoigne family and why they made the decision to give Lotherton to Leeds City Council.
Entitled End of an Era, the exhibition includes letters written by Sir Alvary to his mother and father during his diplomatic career in Tangier during WW2 and includes a letter describing a private meeting of Sir Alvary with Winston Churchill at Casablanca in 1943.
The history of Douglas’s career and the eyewitness account of his death will be told through films and oral history together with a display of personal family objects.
The End of an Era exhibition has been co-curated by the community curator Stephanie Davies and two volunteer researchers, Tom Blears and Lauren Stokeld. Tom is a member of the Lotherton History Group and an amateur historian while Lauren came to Lotherton Hall on an internship as part of her PhD training at the University of York.
Councillor Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council’s executive member for the environment and active lifestyles said: “Lotherton holds a very special place in the heritage of our city and the story of how it has been embraced by the people of Leeds since first opening its doors 50 years ago is a fascinating one.
“It is a fitting tribute that the estate’s unique history that this event will be led by members of the local community, who have played such an important role in Lotherton’s continued success.”
Lotherton’s birthday celebrations take place all day on August 6. For more details including admission and opening times, visit: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/
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