By Jean Afadhali
The year was 1930 when Lord Maurice Egerton, a British aviator, proposed to a beautiful young girl who was related to Queen Elizabeth. The girl of his dreams. Egerton, who was by then living in a four-bedroom house about 12km out of Nakuru town in eastern Kenya, had his proposal turned down for he lived in what his crush described as “a bird’s nest”.
Lord Maurice Egerton was born in 1874 to Alan de Tatton and Lady Anna Louisa Taylor and was the last born in the family. During his early days, he worked in the Royal Navy until the 1920s when he came to Africa following the death of his father.
Egerton went through Zimbabwe, Congo and Uganda before finally settling in eastern Kenya, where he bought 21,116 acres of land in a bid to pursue his passions: agriculture, hunting and photography.
As a man with royal blood, it was customary that Egerton, who was from the family of the Barons of Egerton, married a woman of the same status. But the young girl was unimpressed by his cottage, which prompted Egerton to build a mansion that would no doubt sweep the girl off her feet.
To his dismay, Egerton’s dream girl was not impressed by the new castle either and subsequently left for Australia where she got married to another British Lord.
This not only left Lord Egerton devastated, but also marked the beginning of his perpetual hatred for women. After the disappointment, he pinned notes everywhere around the castle warning women that they risked being shot if they moved anywhere closer to his 52-room castle and its 100-acre grounds. He spent the rest of his life alone until his death in 1958.
On my recent visit to the castle on a sunny afternoon, I was in the company of Ruth Njambi, a Nakuru resident who had been there a couple of times.
It took us about 20 minutes by mini bus from Nakuru town to an area called Ngata, from where we boardedboda bodas (motorcyle-taxis) to the castle. Within about eight minutes, we arrived at the castle and paid Ksh100 each as entrance fee.
We couldn’t find a guide immediately yet the main door was closed. However, within a short time a guide surfaced and began to take us around. Outside, there were couples taking pictures in the lush, beautiful gardens. Ironically, the castle’s large and beautiful garden regularly plays host to wedding receptions!
Most of the materials that were used to construct the castle, our guide told us, were imported from China, Britain and Italy. One of the most interesting features of this 52-room mansion is a large ballroom that was meant to host meetings, entertainment and celebrations.
There are also several bathrooms, a dark room for developing photography films, a library, a reading room, a kitchen, and a laundry room, among others.
All said, visitors to the Lord Egerton Castle are swayed by it’s magnificent architecture, love story and Kenya’s colonial history.