The Bloke and I have taken to going out on day trips mid-week as of late, taking advantage of the general working day and term-time schedules to visit places that would be busier at the weekends. We’ve got Annual English Heritage passes which allows us unlimited free entry into English Heritage sites and discounts on other places like Blenheim Palace, and living in the West Midlands means that we are lucky enough to be a short drive away from some stunning stately homes, castles and historical places of interest.
One such place is Witley Court.
A hidden gem, I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of it before (despite living in Birmingham since 2001), and it is just a forty minute drive away from where I live.
Situated in Great Witley in Worcestershire, Witley Court is a ruined mansion built in an Italianate style. Built in the seventeenth century on the site of a former manor house, it was enormously expanded in the early nineteenth century, sold to the Earls of Dudley and this was followed by a second massive reconstruction in the mid nineteenth century. It became known as one of the most impressive houses in the country, and in the 1890’s fashionable society attended the lavish parties held at Witley Court, including the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII.
After the decline in the fortune of the owners after the First World War, the court was sold to a Kidderminster carpet manufacturer. Unfortunately, in 1937 a major fire caused enormous damage to the court and consequently the estate was broken up and sold and the house was stripped of its fittings and furnishings, where it was left to decay for forty years. In 1972 the Department of the Environment took over the building and grounds and Witley Court has undergone significant restoration. Both the court and the church within the grounds – the Church of St Michael and All Angels are now Grade I listed buildings.
Exploring the Ruins of Witley Court
The Bloke had visited before and I had seen some of his pictures, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how stunning the court and the grounds are.
The large house is a small maze of gutted ruins, complete with remnants of plasterwork and even some of the charred timbers from the fire which destroyed part of the building. Perhaps the most impressive area is The Ballroom, which extends almost the full length of the east wing. It was decorated in the style of Louis XV, with high ceilings, gold leaf on the plasterwork and lit by eight crystal chandeliers. There are information boards situation around the ground floor, complete with images of the court at it’s peak of opulence, and it is possible to explore much of the ground floor in your own time.
Click on the images for the full size.
The Conservatory at the side of the building escaped the fire but was gradually stripped down, leaving it totally open to the sky. It was once one of the largest buildings of its type in any English country house and had an enormous curved glass roof. Its self-controlled heating system was fuelled by coal, which allowed them to grow a large range of exotic plants and palms.
The Grounds and Fountains
The two large fountains in the grounds survived the fire and breakdown of the house. Designed by Nesfield and created by James and William Forsyth, the Perseus and Andromesa fountain has now been restored back to working order by English Heritage after a seven month project, and it is possible to see it ‘firing’ every day from April to the end of October. The remnants of Nesfield’s parterres can also be seen, along with two stone temples in the formal gardens and the damaged Flora Fountain.
It is a beautiful setting- The Bloke and I visited during the winter months and it was a tranquil place to walk around.
Great Witley Church
Great Witley Church, or the Church of St Michael and All Angels, is situated right next to the main building and is equally as stunning.
Built between 1732 and 1735, the church has never been a private chapel, used for regular services and owned and maintained by volunteers as a Church of England parish. It isn’t owned by English Heritage, and remained intact after the fire in 1937 and so wasn’t stripped of any furniture or fittings. The interior is beautiful and rather unexpected – particularly in the oil on canvas ceiling paintings by Antonio Bellucci (circa 1720). The three large paintings depic ‘The Descent of the Cross, The Ascension and The Nativity. There are twenty cherub paintings, ten of which illustrate the Instruments of the Passion.
Since the 1970’s it has undergone a series of enormous restorations. Most interestingly, the crypt beneath the church has been opened up to reveal a number of lead coffins and the 1st Earl of Dudley’s red granite sarcophagus.
Want to Know More?
Witley Court is open from Wednesday – Sunday, 10.00am – 4.00pm.
Entry for English Heritage members is free, and below is the entrance fee without and with gift aid.
|Child (5-17 years)||£5.20||£5.80|
|Family (2 adults, up to 3 children)||£22.40||£24.80|
A disabled access guide is available on site. Unfortunately there is no wheelchair access to the house, only to the visitor centre, exterior and grounds. Please note: one wheelchair available for hire.
What about you guys? Have you visited Witley Court before?
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Copyright: All images were taken by myself and are not available for public use without permission.
This place looks beautiful Suzie, thanks for the tour. 😎☺️🇬🇧
How gorgeous does this place look!?
It’s beautiful isn’t it – somewhere to add to your list when you next come up
Gorgeous! I would love to visit this site. What a difference between the ruins and the church. Great photos!
It’s gorgeous isn’t it! Thanks – The Bloke brought his camera but I was just walking around with my iPhone
Wow, too bad I let my passport expire. I’d love to see that estate and many other historical sites in the UK.
But I have visited another historical mansion and estate not far from where I live in Californa that also burned down — I’m sure it isn’t as impressive as Witley Court but it might still be worth a visit.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s called Wolf House at Jack London State Historic Park, and London’s mansion burned down before he had a chance to move into his dream house. Wolf House was built to be fireproof, but someone messed up with that.
Ooh thanks Lloyd!
What a great place to go–great pictures!
Thanks lovely! It’s a really great day out!
I really enjoyed touring with you Suzie, great information and such amazing history.
We’ve visited Witley a couple of times as a family. My daughter thought it was magical and I loved wandering around with my camera. Your post has brought back some great memories and reminded me to look up the photos and get inspired again. It could help me with the setting of one of my WIP’s!
Ooh amazing! It’s a beautiful place isn’t it! What’s the WIP?
It’s a fantasy where briefly at the start a young bride is having to stay with her new in-laws whilst her husband is called off to fight in the war. They live in a sprawling estate and picturing Witley Court as it used to be has given me the perfect setting.
That sounds great!
I love visiting historic sites as this. So informative and the interior of that church is stunning!
It’s gorgeous isn’t it!
What a beautiful place, it’s shame that it’s been so damaged by fire.
I really like the fact that it’s just a shell – it makes it a bit more unique than a lot of stately homes
Very cool! I love seeing old architecture and history like that.
Me too – it’s beautiful isn’t it! What are your favourite places to visit?
As a kid I never traveled much. It wasn’t till I got married that I actually started to travel. I just to experience new places and cultures, so right now pretty much anywhere. Lol. My favorite place so far is probably Kauai, Hawaii. It’s like a different world there.
I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to Hawaii!
It was a nice thorough article. The court looks beautiful. In a way you gave tribute to this place. Suzie congratulations.