Fairford History Society

Monthly Archives: August 2011

13th July 2011: Witley Court visit

FHS members joined Friends of Fairford Church on a visit to Witley Court, Worcestershire It was the first visit there for some members and they had been told that it was a ruin and were not prepared for the grandeur of the building set in beautifully landscaped grounds which have been restored by English Heritage.

Witley Court was gutted by fire in 1937 and was subsequently stripped and abandoned. The mansion had grown from a medieval farmhouse to a Jacobean mansion under the first Baron Foley and his son in 1720s and 30s. Regency architect John Nash added two porticos. It reached the peak of its grandeur in the 1850s when extensive remodelling was commissioned by the first Earl of Dudley.

Despite its ruinous state visitors can well envisage its former splendour. Some of the most impressive features were the huge complex of cellars, where one could imagine the bustle of the 100 servants, and the conservatory where the Dudleys and their guests would have relaxed gazing over the beautiful gardens and the distant horizon. We were privileged to see the Perseus and Andromeda fountain show off its magnificent plumes.

Witley Court 1Witley Court 2

Members then visited Great Witley Church, a magnificent baroque style church much of it originallyWitley Court 3

from the Chandos estate and brought by 2nd Lord Foley to Great Witley. The windows are very rare enamelled stained glass and the altar is of Venetian mosaic glass in gold, decorated with a cross and lilies. The Church also has the tallest funerary monument in the country which commemorates Lord and Lady Foley and their five children who predeceased them and was sculpted by John Michael Rysbrack in 1735. The Church Restoration Committee face a mammoth task of having to raise £1 million pounds to restore the roof and preserve the windows.

On the beautifully sunny afternoon members then enjoyed very tasty tea and cakes at the nearby tea room. A very worthwhile visit and thoroughly to be recommended.