Sir Bruce Chichester

Sir Bruce Chichester, the last man to inherit the Arlington estate

Sir Alexander Palmer Bruce Chichester was born in Malta on December 24th, 1842. The son of Sir John and Lady Caroline, he inherited Arlington Court just a few days before his ninth birthday upon his father’s death in 1851. The young heir was educated at Harrow school and the portrait of him made at this time is an interesting contrast with the majority of pictures of him as an adult.

An active life

The years following his 21st birthday in 1863 have been described as Arlington’s golden era; Sir Bruce, as he preferred to be known, enjoyed an active social life and entertained on a grand scale.  During his tenure Arlington hosted a whirl of dances and hunts as well as community events such as garden parties, flower shows and sports matches.  A keen sportsman, he was fond of cricket and played often for the Estate team.

Making his mark

He was not, however, simply a man of leisure but served as a local magistrate and held the rank of Captain in the North Devon Yeomanry, from which we still have his sword and two busbies.  He also invested heavily in the house itself and adding a new wing in 1865.   Much of the building that we see today is Sir Bruce’s work, not least the elegant staircase hall which greets visitors today.

A family passion

On February 9th, 1865, he married Rosalie Chamberlayne of Cranbury Park in Hampshire.  The new Lady Chichester’s brother, Tankerville, was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron; Sir Bruce shared his brother-in-law’s passion for the ocean and owned two yachts, firstly the Zoë, and later the Erminia, a model of which can be seen in the Portico Room.  

An untimely end

The Portico Room was where he spent many hours studying his large collection of books.  He died there in 1881 at the age of thirty-eight, weakened after suffering from Brucellosis whilst on holiday in the Mediterranean in 1877 and leaving his wife and young daughter Rosalie, born in November 1865, burdened by debts not finally paid off until the twentieth century.  Miss Chichester held her father in great affection and for many years maintained the Portico Room as a memorial to ‘Papa’, as she called him.