The story of Racalia

RACALIA is a property of just over 100 acres overlooking the Mediterranean and facing the Stagnone and Egadi Islands between Marsala and Trapani in Western Sicily.

Legend has it that the central part of what is now Villa Ingham was built between 1790 and 1820 for Mons. Spano, the Bishop of Mazara. What is known for certain is that in 1840 it was sold to Benjamin Ingham. The present owner, a direct descendant of his nephew, a full six generations later, owns and manages the olive groves dividing his time between Sicily and Suffolk.

Benjamin Ingham was one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his time. He came to Marsala from Leeds in around 1803 at a time when Sicily was in effect a British colony during the Napoleonic wars. He initially joined the firm of John Woodhouse, who had founded a wine factory in Marsala in the 1770s. In 1806 Benjamin Ingham founded his own company, which later became Ingham & Whitaker & Co, when his Whitaker nephews joined him in Marsala.

Their business was based on the production and sales of Marsala, a fortified wine known all over the world. Woodhouse and Ingham sold large quantities of Marsala to Lord Nelson for consumption by the officers and sailors in the British Fleet. By selling wine and trading all over the world in various commodities, Benjamin Ingham built up a huge commercial empire. When he died in 1861 his fortune was divided between his nephews. The Ingham-Whitaker firm was kept in the family until it was sold to Cinzano in the 1920s.

Racalia, one of several properties bought or built in Sicily by Benjamin Ingham and his Whitaker nephews, remains in use by the family today.

The story of Benjamin Ingham and his Whitaker nephews and nieces and their families, and other nineteenth century English in Sicily, is related in Raleigh Trevelyan’s book Princes under the Volcano.

Benjamin Ingham was the great, great, great uncle of the present owner who inherited the estate in 1977 from his cousin, Manfred Pedicini.