Egerton Castle in Njoro is a splendid architectural masterpiece built by British nobleman, Lord Maurice Egerton to impress his Austrian fiancée, Lady Victoria. Lady Victoria had previously rejected a 6-bedroomed cottage built for him by his farm manager, Hugh Coltar, calling it a chicken coop and a dog’s kennel.
Lord Egerton, deeply in love, and not one to give up too easily, set out to build a castle, ‘that would have no comparison in England or any other country for that matter.’ The end result in 1954, was a magnificent 4-storey 53-roomed wonder fitted with the latest mechanical and electrical gadgets of the time, including an escalator!
Egerton Castle, right from the dressed stone that was cut in the right template to the flagstaff at the top that flew the Union Jack, was intended to impress. The panelling was made out of oak imported from England.
Most of the stone was brought in from Italy and some fetched from Kedowa and Njiru. The marble and tiles used to decorate the interior were shipped in from Italy and England.
An engineer, Albert Baron, came all the way from Rome to oversee the castle’s construction. About 100 Indian workers formed part of the technical labour team. Locals were also employed to do manual labour.
The castle’s ballroom, in its hay days, was laid with gold plaited carpets where Lord Egerton, sitting at one corner of the room under a golden curtain, would listen to symphonies of orchestras and seasoned musicians from all over the world. A grand piano, now in a bad state, was its most prominent fixture.
Bathrooms at Egerton Castle were numerous and were each fitted with electrical machines for warming the towels and drying hair. The kitchen, complete with a mini slaughterhouse, was the centre of perfection.
The chef would first have to shower and perfume himself before cooking Lord Egerton a meal. That still did not stop the nobleman from engaging the services of a doctor who would drive from Nakuru twice a day to come to inspect his food.
Egerton Castle, unlike traditional castles, is unfortified by a moat or garrison. One of Lord Egerton’s most trusted servants, Ndolo, used to hoist the union jack every morning after blowing the bugle 3 times.
Everyone, including Lord Egerton, would stand to attention whenever they were within the precincts of the castle. Today the Kenyan flag oddly flies there.
By the time the fairytale monument of love was completed 16 years later, Lord Egerton was aged 80. Sadly, Victoria did not like the castle either, this time calling it a museum – a museum, it indeed ended up becoming.
There are some who say, Lord Egerton did not build the castle for the love of his life but as a monument to his solitude. Whatever the reason, his disdain for women, chicken and dogs was quite evident in his later days.
He banned all 3 from ever stepping foot in the castle even to the point of erecting notices on his farm warning that any female trespassers would be shot on sight.
Finally, as he breathed his last in 1958, Lord Egerton had no heir to his name and with his death 4 years after the castle was completed, his family lineage ended.
Today the beautiful castle still gives the equally beautiful countryside of Njoro, a medieval and romantic look, especially its lush and well-kept lawns and gardens which still flourish 64 years later, almost as if saying, ‘look I have survived even if you jilted me’.
Yet the irony of this love story is that the very space where women were prohibited from accessing, even on point of death, is nowadays the venue of many romantic weddings where newlyweds begin their journey of love in a place one failed many years ago. Perhaps it is safe to say the castle of love lives on in others. Make a point of visiting this place whenever you are in Njoro.