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Merlewood is a large house which was built by Alfred Binyon, a partner in the calico printing firm of Thomas Hoyle & Sons of Manchester, in 1853. It is situated in an elevated position about one mile from Grange-over-Sands on Windermere Road leading to Lindale. Alfred died in 1856 and the house was bought by Eliza Horrocks, widow of Samuel Horrocks and sister of Thomas Miller, both of the cotton manufacturing firm of Horrockses, Miller and Company of Preston. Eliza died in 1872, when the house was bought by her nephew William Pitt Miller, who let it for a few years, until he occupied it in 1876. William died in 1893, but his widow continued to live at Merlewood until her death in 1930. After several years, it was  converted into an hotel, before being requisitioned by the War Office as a training centre in 1940. It reverted to a hotel in 1947, then was bought by the Nature Conservancy in 1951 and converted into laboratories known as Merlewood Research Station.

In 1987, I was librarian at Merlewood Research Station, and together with colleague Andrew Gardiner, produced a booklet on the history of the house up to the time it was acquired by the Nature Conservancy.[1] Soon after that, we made contact with Margaret Burscough and Marian Roberts from Preston. Both were working on history projects which had family connections with Merlewood.[2] [3] Much correspondence and several enjoyable meetings and excursions ensued.  

These notes on the occupants of Merlewood whilst it was a private house, the firms they were associated with either directly or indirectly, and their immediate families, have been compiled piecemeal over a number of years, and are by no means comprehensive. Many have been collected or prompted by one or other of the aforementioned friends, to whom I am most grateful, and any misconstructions which have been inserted are entirely my responsibility.  

Among many other people who have provided information or answered enquiries, the following deserve special thanks: Judy Andrews, Fabian Binyon, Tim Cockerill, Alan Crabtree, the late John Dickinson, Robin Miller, Heather Sims, David Steel, and the late Angus Taylor. I am particularly grateful to Tim Cockerill for permission to include two letters from Alfred Binyon, and to the late Angus Taylor for drawing my attention to the letters from George Webster to Henry Remington and from Alfred Binyon to George Webster. The staff of local history libraries and archives departments in Kendal, Preston and Manchester were especially helpful in aiding access to the resources in their charge.

Anyone who wishes to make use of these notes is most welcome.

John Beckett

Stone Lea



Cumbria LA11 6JG



[1] Beckett, J. & Gardiner, A. 1987. Merlewood, Grange-over-Sands and the Lancashire cotton industry.

[2] Burscough, M. 1989. The history of Lark Hill, Preston.

[3] Roberts, M. The story of Winckley Square, Preston.