Death at 75 of countess with a love of travel and horses

Date: Monday 25th February 2019

TRIBUTES have been paid to Caroline, Countess of Lonsdale, following her death, aged 75.

The wife of the late 7th Earl of Lonsdale, James Lowther, who died in 2006, she was a staunch supporter of several Cumbrian events and causes.

She lived at Askham Hall for more than 40 years before moving to Helton in recent years. Prior to her marriage she enjoyed an eclectic and varied life.

Born in London on 10th May, 1943, Caroline Sheila Ley was the daughter of Rosemary MacPherson and Sir Gerald Ley, whose family owned the Kirkoswald and Lazonby estates.

She is survived by her two sisters, Bridget Boissier, of Armathwaite, and Annabel Leighton, of Dumfries; and also grew up with two half-sisters, Julia and Mary-Rose. She is also survived by her two children, Marie-Louise Raeburn and Charles Lowther, and five grandchildren.

During her childhood, the family spent a lot of time in Cumbria but, following the divorce of her parents when she was aged eight, she moved to live with her mother in Somerset.

After being educated at Queensgate School, London, and Tudor Hall, she went to work for Barbara Hulanicki, who was a fashion designer for the clothing line Biba.

From a young age she had a love for horses and in her late teens she went to Argentina to work on a ranch herding cattle. In her 20s she moved to Italy where she lived for eight years, first in Florence and then in Rome. During this time she fulfilled her passion for painting as a restorer and, thanks to her being fluent in Italian, she worked as a translator in film studios.

It was during a trip back to England that she met Lord Lonsdale at a dinner party hosted by the Harrison family who live at Inglewood, near Penrith.

The couple married in 1975 in London and the following year their daughter Marie-Louisa was born, followed by their son Charles in 1978.

Marie-Louisa now lives in Maulds Meaburn with her husband, Christopher Raeburn, and their children Ethan and Ayla. Charles lives in Askham with his wife, Juno, and their children Zachary, Renée and Macsen.

The family lived at Askham Hall but continued to keep a property in London where the Countess and late Lord Lonsdale spent a lot of time, having maintained an active social circle. In Cumbria she was very supportive of her husband’s role running the Lowther estate and was also involved in Lowther horse driving trials, taking over from Lord Lonsdale as president for several years after his death.

During the 1970s she dedicated a lot of time to restoring 12 acres of gardens at Askham Hall and around 25 years ago began opening them to the public each year through the National Garden Scheme for charity. The gardens will continue to be opened to the public once a year for this cause as a lasting legacy to her.

Other events with which she was involved included being patron of the Dalemain marmalade festival, where she enjoyed judging entries alongside her great friend Jane Hasell-McCosh.

She was president of Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland and regularly arranged classical music concerts at Lowther Church.

In keeping with her love of horses from a young age, she became a dedicated and knowledgeable racehorse owner. Her greatest achievement on the turf in recent years came in the form of the multiple group-winning sprinter Havana Grey, of which she was co-breeder in partnership with Richard Kent, of the Mickley Stud.

In 1985, she had enjoyed a Royal Ascot victory in her own colours with Marouble in the Group II Norfolk Stakes, and with various partners, including former British Horseracing Board chairman Peter Savill, she also successfully raced a number of fillies under her Lowther Racing banner.

Mr Kent said: “She was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable person who celebrated wins and accepted defeat in the same manner. She knew horses inside out and was very clever about her pedigrees; she studied them better than most.”

Other interests included dogs and she leaves behind her beloved Jack Russell, Goggles, who was bred by Lord Lonsdale in a litter born two weeks after his death.

Throughout her life she loved travelling and with her husband enjoyed many exotic adventures including flying by Concorde and also flying first-class around the globe on a tour of the world’s best horseracing meetings.

She also spent time in Australia and Japan, where her daughter lived in the past, along with visiting South America, Africa and India. She took regular skiing holidays.

In the past 29 years she battled breast cancer three times. Despite her illness over the past four and a half years she remained active and was involved in designing the interior of the Queens Head, Askham, which is being refurbished by her son Charles.

Marie-Louisa said: “Everyone always says to us she was such a kind lady. She had a great network of friends both at home and abroad and could relate to all kinds of people. She will be sorely missed by many.”