The childhood home that became the inspiration for Horatio Hornblower, C. S. Forester’s famous fictional Royal Naval officer, a Palladian mansion near Insch, Aberdeenshire, is up for sale. The home is listed at £500,000 but requires some work. For one thing, there are trees growing upon the walls, and these will surely need to be removed before the home can be inhabited.
Built in 1757 for James Gordon, Wardhouse was passed down through generations of Gordons. It was requisitioned by the British Army during World War II and subsequently sold in 1952. The new owner stripped out the interior and removed the roof in order to avoid paying taxes.
In 1999, the home was placed on the Buildings At Risk register due to its being left to the elements.
The current owner is an architect who used part of the estate to build four sustainable homes. Douglas Forrest and his wife Carol have received planning permission to build seven residences in the mansion itself.
Forrest expects that each section could be completed in two years at a cost of £300,000 per section.
The estate was the childhood home of Sir James Alexander Gordon, an admiral who fought in the Battle of the Nile and in the War of 1812 in America.
It is believed that C. S. Forester drew inspiration from Sir James when he created the character Horatio Hornblower.
Forrester first saw the estate in 1985 when he was touring various historic buildings in order to find future projects to work on. The architecture and views of Wardhouse immediately jumped out at him but it took twenty years for him to get a chance to work on the property.
Forrester is now retired and coping with MS. He has determined that it would be best to sell the property and let someone else take over the work of developing the additional homes.
He called the home “architecturally spectacular and a rare project for someone” while mentioning the possibility that someone could put the mansion back together and have a “most wonderful” home.
Sir James was born in 1782. He was a Royal Navy Officer who fought in the Battle of Groix, the Battle of the Glorious First of June and the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in the French Revolutionary Wars.
He also fought with Nelson in the Battle of the Nile and saw action in the War of 1812 in America.
In 1868, he was made Admiral of the Fleet – the highest rank in the British Royal Navy.
In 1869, he passed away. The Times referred to him as the “last of Nelson’s Captains” in their obituary.
Some historians believe that the Horatio Hornblower character was based on a composite of people involved in the Napoleonic Wars. Others, such as historian Bryan Perrett, believe that Hornblower is based solely on Sir James Gordon.
Gordon was a commodore who led a small fleet up the Chesapeake – very similar to the way Hornblower led a small fleet into the Baltic.
Forester wrote eleven novels in the Hornblower series. The first was published in 1937. The series follows Hornblower’s rise from a seventeen-year-old to a heroic British Naval Admiral during the fight against Napoleon. The popular series has been made into movies and a television series as the fictional hero continues to be popular to this day.
James Gordon built Wardhouse beginning in 1757 and completed it in 1815. The Gordon’s were from Spain and spent much of their time over there. Wardhouse became used for entertaining and as a home for unmarried family members. In 1906, the King of Spain took his honeymoon in Wardhouse.