Witley Court – a melancholy beauty

I felt in need of a little culture during my week off but didn’t want to venture too far afield so I decided to revisit Witley Court which is just over 30 minutes away.  The property is managed by English Heritage so immaculately maintained but there is something quite special about it.  English Heritage claim that the property is one of its most romantic.  Personally I don’t think romantic is the word I would use but it has a wonderful atmosphere more melancholy  than romantic.

As you can see unlike many stately homes we visit these days this one is almost derelict.  The property was victim of a fire in 1937 which destroyed the majority of the interior.  The facade you can see above is a later Victorian addition; the house was first built in Jacobean times and later redesigned and seriously changed by John Nash is 1805.

Nash was responsible for introducing the ionic columns to the south portico typical of the regency style he was influential in creating.

In the 1830s the property was acquired by the Earls of Dudley and in 1850 the Earl  commissioned Samuel Daukes to redesign the house in the popular Italianate style.  He also commissioned William Andrews Nesfield to landscape the gardens but I will post about those another day.

Witley Court was lent to Queen Adelaide, William IV’s widow, and during her stay at the property she had all the pianos returned leading to Elgar’s first visit to the property assisting his father.  Elgar was to visit many more times.  The house was also host to shooting parties attended by the Prince of Wales and when you walk around the property you are shown photographs of the interior in its heyday.

I was particularly taken by the entrance hall where the original  Jacobean hall had been converted by the addition of a metal balcony around the interior wall from which the bedrooms were accessible.  This meant that the centre of the entrance hall was two storeys tall and full of light.  The photographs and drawings along with the first hand accounts on the audio guide  take you right back to the houses’ Edwardian era and if you closed your eyes you could almost hear the laughter of children opening presents around the Christmas Tree in the ballroom, or the excitement of the servants peering through the small basement windows looking out to the entrance when the Prince of Wales arrived.

It’s an era that has always fascinated me – full of decadence and poverty, a time of huge contrasts, of the haves and have-nots.  For many a bright and sparkling time but I think this is common for the decades leading to the end of a century. Sadly I  didn’t have  time to visit the church which is part of the property but having visited it before I can tell you it is a stunning example of a baroque interior nothing like you would expect to find in a Worcestershire village.

My visit was made even more special by  the fact that there was hardly anyone else visiting.  Whilst this led to a wonderful atmospheric visit for me I am sure it isn’t what  English Heritage would  want so if you are in the Worcestershire area I would recommend a visit.  There is also a wilderness and a woodland walk and the fountain you  can see above fires hourly and has been known to reach 100ft.

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8 thoughts on “Witley Court – a melancholy beauty

  1. I visited on a sunny spring day three years ago, have to say it struck me as neither romantic nor melancholy but somewhere that was at peace with itself within the landscape.Sadly, I was there the week before they fired the fountains up for the season. On recommendation, I made sure I visited the church which is just so beautiful, definitely a hidden treasure.
    It is definitely a place I would revisit, as is Kirby Hall nr. Gretton in Northants, another English Heritage property with a very good audio tour to take you round

  2. Both the words lovely and haunting came to mind when I saw your photos Helen, and yes I agree with melancholy too. It’s very unusual to see an English Heritage property that is ‘derelict’ (albeit a well maintained one) so the photos of the entrance hall, in and our are such a sight to behold. I like it!

  3. I used to go to Witley Court often (I grew up nearby) but then 27 years ago we moved to Pembrokeshire and I haven’t been back since. How lovely to have a virtual trip around it again via your blog. I have to say, it hasn’t changed a bit. I used to fantasise about buying the house, rebuilding it and living there (I was very young then!)

  4. Pingback: Restored parterre de broderie – Witley Court | The Patient Gardener’s Weblog

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