Imagine you are standing in Coodham in 1297AD, you are in the generation of Robert the Bruce, you have heard the tales of William Wallace as he lives, raids and roams over much of the local countryside. The land you stand on is very much a local bog, part of the larger Caud Hame Farm. Though in the centuries to come, this boggy farmland would go on to be many things - a country estate, a war hospital and even a Catholic retreat - we all know it best as Coodham.

 

Throughout the centuries the area north of Symington was continually used for farming passing through several different land owners; it passed through the ownership of James Stewart, Earl of Arran, the Wallace's of Craigie and several more.

 

From medieval times we know Caud Hame Farm was here under the stewardship of the descendants of the Wallace family from the thirteenth century. Unfortunately we know little else of certainty until the 1800's when more detailed records begin to appear.

 

Alexander Baird (1765-1833), one of the great Lanarkshire industrial landowners of the 19th century took possession of Coodham sometime around 1800. With eight energetic sons, the Baird dynasty would grow over the next 100 years into a family of country landowners who would own many famous estates across Scotland.

 

In 1826, the estate came into the ownership of the widow of a wealthy Kilmarnock banker,

William Fairlie. She saw more in this piece of farmland than another agricultural

investment, Mrs Fairlie was a woman of vision. In 1831, she commissioned a house - a

grand house - to be named in her husband's honour. And so came Coodham's mansion

house, known at the time of its building as "Williamfield". Originally, the house consisted

only of the central block with a glass & wood conservatory on the southwest side where

the ballroom is currently located. The Stables, East Lodge, West Lodge and Gardener's

Cottage were all built during the following 20 years.

 

James Ogilvie Fairlie would own Coodham from his mother's death in 1841. He was a

be a character of considerable note and a most significant personage in Scotland's

golfing history. A members of numerous old club's including, The Honourable Company

of Edinburgh Golfers (Muirfield), North Berwick Golf Club, Old Prestwick and the Royal

& Ancient St Andrews. He invested heavily in golf, inventing, designing and manufacturing clubs, and was a major factor not only in the founding of the British Open Championship but was instrumental in it being hosted at Old Prestwick for the first 12 years of its existence. Some of the early champions and the course designers that made Scotland's golf courses what they are today, no doubt spent some time relaxing at Coodham. During his tenure, Fairlie returned the estate to the Anglicised version of its name and Coodham was truly born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOULDSWORTH'S COODHAM

 

1885

...Coodham became the property of W. H. Houldsworth, Esq., M.P. for Manchester, in 1871, and he has at great expense improved both the estate and house, enlarging the latter, and adding in the rear of the splendid conservatory a beautiful chapel, in which divine service is celebrated by an incumbent according to the Anglican ritual.

The services, open to the public of the vicinity, are attended by some of the neighbouring gentry. There is also a burial-place close by, in which a son of Mr Houldsworth's who died young has been interred. In front of the house there is an artificial lake, upwards of a quarter of a mile in length, in which there is an island planted with trees and shrubs. Here water-fowl, both domesticated and wild, may be seen swimming in abundance. The estate is finely wooded, and for the most part walled round; the pillared gateway and lodge on the Ayr road are in keeping with the massive yet elegant mansion...

 

1909

...In single file we surveyed the brilliant display in the glasshouses, then went round the gardens with there well stocked herbaceous borders and showy roses, notably 'Dorothy Perkins'. The exotic trees were also worthy of notice - Cedars of Lebanon, Deodar, Araucaria, Eucalyptus, Magnolia and Ailanthus. After tea, some time was spent wandering about at will. On the lake were Swans, Canadian & Egyptian Geese, and ducks of various nationalities...

 

1914

...We were led to the new water-garden formed in a clearing in the wood. Entering the main garden the colour scheme of spring flowers was pleasing and in good taste. Forsythia fortunii was a mass of yellow bloom. Growing in one of the borders was a species of Butcher's Broom (Hyperglossum). On the approach to the chapel was the beautiful flowering shrub, Berberis darwinii. At the waters edge a Swan sat on her nest while the male bird patrolled the lake and kept other bird at a safe distance. In a clearing to the left the American Currant (Ribes sanguincum) was ablaze with colour. Clumps of bamboos seem also to thrive in their sheltered situation...

 

1925

...In the policies a collection of trees, shrubs, and flowers has been brought together second to none. Perhaps the most wonderful thing seen during the afternoon was Laburnum Adamic, a tree of about twenty feet. It is supposed to be a graft hybrid between Purple Broom (Cytisus Pupureus) and the Common Laburnum, raised by a French Gardener, Jean Loius Adam; Yellow and Purple flowers bloom at the same time. A gentle descent from the chapel brought the party to the lake. The principle aquatic flowering plant here is Nuphar, an introduction from America, wrongfully called Yellow Water Lilly. In the wilderness behind the lake were seen the many triumphs of Sir William and his gifted gardener. Some thirty species of Bamboo were all growing luxuriantly. Rhododendrons from the Himalayas also grow profusely. Many of the conifers are represented including the Cedar of Lebanon. There is a fine example too, of the giant pines of California...

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In 1871, the golfing era for Coodham ended when Fairlie sold the estate to William Henry

Houldsworth (1834-1917), the younger son in another line of industrial landowners.

William, who was Conservative MP for North-West Manchester from 1883 to 1906 and

created baronet in 1887, brought about major changes at Coodham. It is fair to say he is

responsible for the Coodham many of us living today will remember.

 

First the ballroom and church were added and then the lake developed as part of a

designed landscape and garden. A new roadway was opened to the West and the several

other lodges and cottages built. The burial ground which today is still owned by the

Houldsworth family appeared about this time.

 

The gardens became a great feature of Coodham and are mentioned with great

enthusiasm in various issues publications of Houldsworth's time. As you can read from

the descriptions, Houldsworth's enthusiasm for Coodham and his interest in making

the estate an exotic creation is clear. These were truly Coodham's Golden Years: it's

gardens were greatly renowned throughout Scotland and the family prospered.

 

But as war clouds gathered over Europe in the late 1930's Coodham's role would change

once again. Throughout the war years Coodham served as recover and recuperation centre

for injured soldiers, sailors and airmen. Its peak of fame coming shortly after D-Day in

August 1944 when King George VI visited the Normandy wounded, who were convalescing

there. During that visit he planted a Douglas Fir in commemoration of his visit. A tree that

still stands proudly today.

 

In 1948, with nationalised railways

and a nationalised coal industry,

the Houldsworth empire receded

and Coodham was sold on again.

This time the purchasers were a

Catholic order from Ireland - The

Passionist Fathers who planned to

use the estate as a retreat. They

would give Coodham it's third

name to become Fatima House &

Retreat. The Fathers added two

features to the estate a shrine to

"Our Lady of Fatima" built near the

existing walled garden and in the early 1960's, a somewhat unsightly dormitory block was

added. During these decades Coodham thrived with many visitors enjoying its solitude and

tranquility. Chief among those were many school children from West Central Scotland,

Northern England and Ireland.

 

By the mid-80's however things were changing. Only a handful of visitors came to Coodham

and the cost of upkeep of both house and gardens were rising steadily. The recession

economy of the late 80's finally brought things to a head and another era in Coodham's

history drew to a close.

 

At this point Coodham's history unfortunately becomes like many similar country estates -

less about Coodham and maintaining its important place in Ayrshire and Scottish history

and more about making money. Several planning applications are made and either

approved & fall through or rejected outright from 1988 until 2001. Then finally and

unfortunately the estate fell into the hands of a still largely unknown corporate entity. A

further exchange of ownership in the last 12 months, has left the estate still in limbo and

vulnerable. For more information please see "The Fight" section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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