Skip to main content

H Darken

Horace Darken

In 1863, a Horace Darken, architect, surveyor, etc. (and Colchester) was listed at Cliff Villas in Harwich (Dovercourt??) in 'White's Directory of Essex'

Darken, Horace - fl 1868 - is listed in the 'Directory of British Architects 1834-1914', at 40 North Hill, Colchester, he was Architect and Surveyor to the Dovercourt and Walton-on-Naze Building Societies. List of his works in 'Architect's ... Directory'??

* ERO D/B 6 Pb3/158, 1887, building plan of house and stable, Lexden Road, COLCHESTER, for A.T. Osborne (owner), by H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb3/39, 1886, building plan of additions to Plum Hall, Mersea Road, COLCHESTER, for H.W. Jones (owner), by [H. DARKEN (architect)]
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/275, 1881, building plan of White Horse Inn, [East Street], COLCHESTER, for Osborne and Co. (owners), by H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/229, 1880, building plan of house, Pownall Crescent, COLCHESTER, for A.T. Osborne (owner), by H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/197, 1879, building plan of house, Middleborough, COLCHESTER, for J. Simpson (owner), by H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/259, 1881, building plan of houses, Crouch Street, COLCHESTER, for J.W. Watson (owner), H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/138, 1878, building plan of house, Abbeygate Street, COLCHESTER, for Hyam and Co. (owners), by H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/120, 1878, building plan of cottages, Hythe, COLCHESTER, for Mr. Pitt (owner), by H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/102, 1878, building plan of two villas, Blatch Square (now Wellesley Road), COLCHESTER], for T.W. Watson (owner), by H. DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/71, 1878, building plan of ten cottages, New Road rear of Sir Colin Campbell public house joining Mersea Road, COLCHESTER, for W.W. Daniell (owner), by Horace DARKEN (architect)
* ERO D/B 6 Pb2/153, 1879, building plan of additions, Abbey Field, COLCHESTER]
for J. Woodruff (owner), by H. DARKEN (architect)

Altnacealgach House (Altnacealgach), Park Road


A spacious and well-endowed mansion house built by successful brewer and businessman Arthur Thomas Osborne in 1888. Designed in 1887 (house and stable) by local architect H Darken (building plans: ERO D/B 6 Pb3/158 - not checked).

Considering the size of the house and its grounds, the design is restrained and uninspired. However, the inside is likely to be much more important. Two-storey house with solid brick external walls (no cavity) of gault brick. Slate roof. Double single-pane sash windows with cast cement lintels with ogee moulding on the soffits. Scroll corbels under the eaves. Panelled doors. Double front door in a recessed porch with flanking double brick pilasters under a shallow canopy. Single storey canted bays to either side.

The house stood in a 75-acre estate complete with coach house-cum-stable block, walled garden, orchard, conservatory with grape vines and an arboretum apparently with 75 varieties of trees.

After Arthur Osborne's death in 1913, the house was bought by Arthur Webb and then after WW2 by the Essex County Council who turned it into its divisional educational offices and the estate into playing fields for the Colchester Grammar School and the Girls High, St Benedict's, and Philip Morant Schools.

Arthur Osborne was son of successful brewer John Postford Osborne who in 1833 we learn sold a small brewery to Richard Coleman and bought the very large and productive St Botolph's brewery north of St Giles's church. John laid out nearby streets and gave them family names: Osborne Street (1851) and Arthur Street, originally known as Forster Street after Arthur's older brother. John died in 1863 when Arthur took controlling interest of his business although in 1884, the company was known as A & F Osborne reflecting shared ownership by the brothers. The company was based in no 39 St Botolph's Street. By 1886, Arthur owned 70 tied houses when the business was merged with the Eagle brewery on East Hill (it previously having taken over Cobbold's on North Hill) to form the Colchester Brewing Co. He built Altnacealgach House soon afterwards presumably on the proceeds of the deal.

Arthur is thought to have called his new home after the house where he spent his honeymoon. He seems to have liked hunting with hounds so perhaps Arthur and his wife spent their first days of married life in the Altnacealgach Hotel on the banks of Loch Borralan in Sutherland. This was a famous fishing lodge which was destroyed by fire in 1986.

Much of the core of the estate still survives but a detailed assessment is needed before further development takes place in the area. The house itself is in a substantially unaltered form with its original windows and external doors. No internal inspection has been carried out but many internal features probably survive too. The stable-cum-coach house still exists although with some modern alterations and so does a nearby two-storey brick house which presumably provided some staff accommodation. An early red-brick wall to the west may be part of the walled garden and a long, single-storey building with pan-tile roof is possibly an original store or other such ancillary estate building. Of particular interest is what still survives of the arboretum. This needs to be assessed by a specialist unless an assessment has been undertaken already.

[In 1898, Arthur T. Osborne was a member of the Essex Field Club.]

Subscribe to H Darken