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Please note that these prints are handcoloured engravings and not as stated in the catalogue.
More so than many 18th and 19th Century country houses, Gyrn Castle represents the wider world of the Bates family that have owned it since 1856. In that year Edward Bates bought an existing house, only shortly after he had founded the shipping line that bore his name and which was to become so well known. Despite its magnificent coastal location, and the sporting opportunities that this offered, Gyrn Castle's proximity to Liverpool allowed successive generations of the family to control their own shipping line and subsequently to be closely involved in the amalgamated companies that succeeded it.
SIR EDWARD BATES, 1ST BT. (1816-1896)
Edward Bates was a ship-owner and politician, whose characteristically eventful career spanned almost the whole of Queen Victoria's reign. He began his career in the wool finishing business started by his father Joseph Bates (1769-1846). After 1816 Joseph took advantage of the ending of the East India Company's monopoly on trade with India and started a business exporting his woolen cloth from Halifax via the burgeoning port of Liverpool. Edward Bates was his third son and was sent to Calcutta in 1833 to join his elder brother the business. Apart from two short trips to England in 1838-39 and in 1843, Edward Bates remained in India, latterly in Bombay rather than Calcutta, until 1848, a stay of about fifteen years. In this time he must have gained immense trading experience and a degree of independence. He also married twice, firstly in 1836 to Charlotte Umfreville Smith, daughter of an East India Company official. Together they had three daughters but his wife died on the voyage back to England in 1843. Edward Bates married his second wife, Ellen Thompson, in England in 1844. They had eight children, several of whom were to be the powers of the next generation of Edward Bates's business.
EDWARD BATES AND SONS
Edward Bates left Bombay for the last time in March 1848, aged 32. He was accompanied by his second wife and children. As well as the experience he had gained in commerce, he developed a significant relationship with one of the leading Parsee families of Bombay. At the time his European contemporaries in Bombay thought that the dependability of his relationship with Jamsetjee Cursetjee was sufficiently unusual to be worthy of comment. A great indication of its strength and importance is the fact that Bates, and his descendants, retained a portrait of his partner (lot 217 in that sale) and later named an early ship in his fleet after him.
Even as a young man Bates had a reputation for aggressive negotiating and it seems likely that Jamsetjee Cursetjee had stood up to him and their relationship grew from there.
On his return to England Edward started up in Liverpool on his own account, initially chartering ships for the Bombay trade but very soon owning his own. In 1851 he bought the newly built Jamsetjee Cursetjee, named for his Parsee partner. By 1860 he had built a fleet of 26 vessels and he went on to own 130 ships in his lifetime.
After Sir Edward's death in 1896, the business was run by his three sons, Edward Percy, Tom and Sydney. Edward Percy, who succeeded his father as 2nd Baronet, did not long outlive him, dying on the last day of December 1899. Nor did his son, Edward Bertram Bates, live long enough to dominate the ship-owning business, dying tragically of enteric fever in Agra, India, in March 1903. His body was returned to England for burial, as was the head of the boar he had killed whilst pig-sticking shortly before he died (lot 97 in the sale).
These two early deaths brought the twenty-four year old Percy Elly Bates, 4th Baronet, to the role of principal partner of Edward Bates and Sons. Sir Percy Bates (d.1946) was to be one of the giants of the shipping industry in the first half of the 20th Century, most famously for his role in the conception and building of the two Queens - Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth - built in the 1930s for the fast Atlantic crossings and to be of immeasurable value as troop transports in the Second World War. None of this great future was apparent to Sir Percy in 1903 when he reeled from the deaths of his grandfather, father and elder brother in quick succession. He had been apprenticed in the shipping business from the age of sixteen, so had acquired greater experience than his age might suggest, but the shock was still considerable. In 1911 Percy Bates took Edward Bates and Sons, previously exclusively a cargo-carrying firm, into the liner business with the purchase of a half-share in the venerable firm of Brocklebank's. A year before he begun the family's long association with Cunard, when he was elected an executive director of that firm. After service during the First World War in charge of civilian shipping, a vital role given the dangers posed by U-boats, Sir Percy rose to become chairman of Cunards in 1930. The First World War had changed the international shipping trade to a great extent and the inter-war decades were spent restructuring Cunard's fleet to meet these challenges.
Despite the family's prominent and maintained role in Cunard, Edward Bates and Sons continued in business in Liverpool directed by two of Sir Percy's brothers. A key part of the business in the 20th century was the London and Kano Trading Co., acting as merchants and agents to that part of Nigeria. The inter-war years had been extremely difficult ones for Edward Bates and Sons and the Nigerian trading operation became increasingly important. This continued until the 1960s. Gradually the business changed towards merchant banking and direct family involvement ceased in 1966.
Gyrn was originally part of the large Mostyn estates in North Wales, from which there is also property in this sale. The estate was sold in 1750 to Thomas Hughes of Halkyn. His son Robert (d.1806) bequeathed it to James Ewer of Holywell who in turn sold it in 1817 to John Douglas, a partner in Douglas, Smalley and Co., the Holywell cotton manufacturers. John Douglas built the present house on the site, and it was bought by Edward Bates in the 1850s. At the time he bought Gyrn, Edward Bates's energies were focussed on the expansion of his shipping line and it was in the perfect location for that. After he became Member of Parliament for Plymouth in 1870 Gyrn Castle may have seemed a long way from London and he bought the Manydown estate in Hampshire.
Sir Edward sometimes travelled from Liverpool to Mostyn Pier on board his paddle-steamer Prince of Wales and may even have used it to greet his incoming ships as they entered Liverpool.
On the death of Sir Edward Bates in 1896, Gyrn passed in succession to his son and eldest grandson. The fourth baronet, the great Sir Percy Bates, had his own house at Hinderton Hall and in 1922 he sold Gyrn to his brother Frederick Bates (1884-1957). He and his wife Barbarie were very active in the local community, intitiated the mains water supply to Llanasa and brought electricity to the church. He was a well known wildlife-watcher and photographer of the time.
On the death of 'Uncle Fred' in 1957 the house and estate passed to his nephew Sir Geoffrey Bates, 5th Bt. Sir Geoffrey was commissioned into the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars in 1941 where he earned a reputation as a dashing and brave troop leader, probably a spirit gained from his hunting with the Pytchley; he won an M.C. in North Africa in 1942. Sir Geoffrey subsequently made his career in Edward Bates and Sons in Liverpool, where amongst other duties he managed the London and Kano Trading Company. He was High Sheriff of Flintshire in 1969 and gave much of his time to the Flint and Denbigh Hunt, often riding his well known horse 'Sam', with the same dash as with the Irish Hussars. Sir Geoffrey undertook many tasks of public service and often loaned Gyrn for charitable functions, and it is as a result of his recent death that the contents of the house are now being sold.