The 29th Earl of Crawford and 12th Earl of Balcarres - whose family built Wigan's Haigh Hall - has died

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The 29th Earl of Crawford and 12th Earl of Balcarres – whose family seat was Haigh Hall – has died at the age of 96.

Robert Alexander Lindsay was a descendent of James Lindsay, 7th Earl of Balcarres, who built the hall between 1827 and 1840, replacing an ancient manor house.

David Lindsay, 11th Earl, sold the hall and grounds to Wigan Corporation in 1947 for £18,000 and moved to the family’s original home at Balcarres House in Fife.

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Haigh HallHaigh Hall
Haigh Hall

It was there that Lord Crawford died on Saturday.

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His eldest son Anthony Robert Lindsay became the 30th Earl of Crawford.

Lord Crawford served as a Conservative MP from 1955 to 1974 and had been the surviving former MP with the earliest date of first election.

He joined the House of Lords in 1975 and was Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother from 1992 until her death in 2002.

The 29th Earl of Crawford, Robert Alexander LindsayThe 29th Earl of Crawford, Robert Alexander Lindsay
The 29th Earl of Crawford, Robert Alexander Lindsay

Despite their long links to the area, it was very rare for the Crawford family to intervene in matters concerning Haigh Hall.

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But in 2019 Lord Crawford supported campaigners from the Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access for All who were opposing roads being gated shut and restrictions to access around the 19th-century landmark put in place by Contessa Hotels, which leased the building from Wigan Council to run it as a boutique hotel.

He spoke of the long public access to the grounds going back decades and came down firmly against making the area around the Victorian hall private.

In a letter, he said he was "most fully sympathetic" with the group’s demand to keep open unrestricted access to the grounds and expressed disappointment that due to age and health he was unable to help more fully or directly.

He wrote: "I had read with pleasure the news that Haigh Hall had been purchased by Contessa Hotels. This seemed a very good use for the building. I hope the hotel prospers.

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"I am though sorry to read that the hotel has created an obstruction to impede people’s use of the pathway leading past the hall.

"The paths in the lower woodlands and alongside the hall up to the stable were all well-used routes when I lived at Haigh Hall and until 1950 when my family sadly had to leave Lancashire.

"I don’t believe my family ever felt any worries about the numbers of the public using the path running alongside the house or ever wished to restrict their numbers.

"I have never heard of any problem arising at all. I wonder what problems are being caused today to the hotel.

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"To try to make the area around the hall private would in fact deprive the general public of their very long standing rights of access."

Haigh Hall has since returned to the local authority’s control and £20m Government funding has been secured to transform the building, opening restaurants, an underground bunker cinema, a gallery for Wigan artist Theodore Major’s work, a rooftop terrace for astronomy and other attractions.

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