IN its day it was a Downton Abbey, hailed amongst the finest country houses in Herefordshire.

But Rotherwas House is little more than outlines now.

Lying beyond the northern boundary of the Rotherwas enterprise zone, those outlines won’t get what’s coming to the site of the former munitions factory.

English Heritage (EH), however, still sees something of Rotherwas House worth saving, while it can still be saved.

Officially, EH has scheduled the “earthwork remains of formal gardens” which are described in the latest Buildings at Risk register for the county as in deterioration and declining.

Any overall preservation effort is complicated by the present multiple ownership of the site

EH also says the site has the  potential for archaeological excavation to uncover foundations.

Those foundations had to be somewhat sturdy, as an inventory dated from the demolition of the mansion in 1926 demonstrates.

Listed there are: 200,000 square feet of timber, 400,000 dressed bricks, 20,000 roofing tiles, 10,000 roofing slates, 115 pine and oak doors, 100 glazed sashes, 10,000 square feet of stone flag paving and a “large quantity” of old oak beams and joists.

The mansion had, by then, been derelict for some time, its tarnished grandeur testament to a past that put it at the heart of Herefordshire’s social life and ranked amongst the finest homes in the county.

Its interior was systematically stripped after the last tenants left in 1912, of particular note was the “magnificent” Elizabethan, Jacobean and Queen Anne panelling said to have been shipped to an equally grand home in New York  - for a then princely price of £70,000.

At the end, the shell was in the hands of the then Ministry of Munitions which had pressed it into service as barracks for the factory guards.

As a seat, Rotherwas is amongst the oldest in the country, referenced in the Domesday book as Retrowas.

For centuries, the estate was in the hands of the Bodenham family who are said to have hosted James I there.

One wing of the house was built in the early 16th century with the main portion completed by 1732.

At this time, all the Tudor panelling was removed from the old house and set up in the new mansion.

Rooms of the Elizabethan building were then converted into a private chapel and accommodation for a priest – the Bodenhams then being one of the country’s most prominent Roman Catholic families.

Charles De La Barre Bodenham died in 1883 having bequeathed the estate to his Polish widow,  grand-daughter of Felix, Count Lubienski.

She died nine years later to be succeeded by  her cousin Louis, Count Lubienski who became Count Lubienski-Bodenham as the family Anglicised.

Count Bodenham Lubienski died in 1909 having been a benefactor to many county causes, particularly the development of the then Herefordshire General Hospital. His wife, Evelyn, Countess Lubienska had died seven years earlier – they left three sons, the younger of whom were twins.

When the Mackworth-Praed family moved out in 1912, the estate – some 2,578 acres spread over the parishes of Dinedor, Lower Bullingham, Holme Lacy, Aconbury and St Owen, was divided into lots and put up for auction at  Hereford’s Green Dragon Hotel.

Humbled, the house withstood the indignity of dereliction for 14 more years before a wrecking crew released the memories held within its walls.