One of the places I most wanted to see on my recent visit to Worcester was Witley Court. It is an English Heritage property, roughly half an hour from Worcester. Despite the fact they have a somewhat irregular timetable, I easily managed to get there and back on public transport, and was even dropped off and picked up at the entrance, thanks to a very friendly bus driver.
I approached the Court by walking around the lake, known as the Front Pool which dates from the 18th century.
This really allows you to appreciate the grandeur of the Court. Once through another checkpoint – where you can receive an audio guide if you wish (I did, and would recommend it) – you can then proceed with your tour of the house and garden.
Built between 1610 and 1620, the house was extended in both the 18th and 19th centuries.
It was gutted by a fire that started in the bakery in the cellars in 1937 and when the owner decided not to rebuild it was put up for sale, stripped and abandoned until English Heritage took over in 1984.
One of the impressive aspects of the house is the Conservatory, one of the largest in England. Sheets of glass were slotted into the arches and it would have had a glass roof, similar to that of Crystal Palace. It had a self-contained heating system fuelled by their own coal supply.
But the most impressive aspect of all has to be the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain.
Designed in the mid 1800s, it depicts the mythological story of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from a sea monster. The fountain doesn’t play continuously but on the hour from 11am for about 20 minutes and is quite spectacular to witness, as well as being incredibly loud.
I also quite liked this fountain of Flora, goddess of spring, surrounded by tritons (fish-tailed humans), even though it is broken and has been vandalised over the years. English Heritage are hoping to restore the fountain at some stage and I’m sure when they do it will be just as impressive as the Andromeda fountain.
The boathouse on the north side of the pool was also well worth a look; it can be reached by following an almost hidden path next to the lake. It was used as a punt house, though it’s uncertain exactly how old it is.
Even as ruins Witley Court is a remarkable building and has certainly earned its place as my favourite non-castle ruin. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.
You can find a great deal more of my photos of the Court and the equally extensive gardens here.
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Could you ever envision Witley Court being restored to its former glory as both as a Hotel and Wedding venue? If restored, do you feel that the building could rival Castle Howard, which was also substantially damaged by fire in 1940? I believe that Castle Howard should be a good example for Witley Court to follow as far as taking its time. Do agree?