About Witley Court and Gardens
Witley Court and Gardens is an elegant country estate that reached its peak in the Victorian period when it was the setting for extravagant parties and royal entertainments. After a devastating fire in 1937, however, it became one of the country’s most spectacular ruins.
Witley Court and Gardens history
Thomas Foley bought the Witley estate in 1655, Witley Court was a substantial Jacobean mansion, which had developed in turn from a medieval manor house. The Foley family’s fortune began in the iron industry yet over the years the family’s activities became more closely associated with the landed aristocracy and politicians.
The 1st Baron Foley enlarged the house significantly in the late 17th and early 18th century, adding wings on either side.
By the early 19th century the Foley family’s wealth had declined significantly. In 1833 the Foleys sold the Witley estate to the trustees of William Ward one of the wealthiest individuals in the country. In the 1850s, Ward, then the 1st Earl of Dudley commissioned the architect Samuel Daukes to remodel the estate.
The transformation, largely complete by 1860, involved recasting the austere exterior in Bath stone, in the ornate Italianate style used for the creation of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Lord Dudley funded the creation of an ornate formal garden at Witley designed in the 1850s by William Andrews Nesfield.
On the night of 7 September 1937, a fire razed the estate leaving a large proportion of the property a smouldering shell. The property was sold and was never lived in again.
Witley Court and Gardens today
Today visitors can behold the remains of the impressive architecture and see the charred timbers from the disastrous fire as well as enjoying the beautiful gardens.
Parts of the garden have been restored by English Heritage to give an idea of their Victorian glory. At the centre of the south parterre, the Perseus and Andromeda fountain, one of the grandest in Europe, has been restored to working order.
Intricately designed parterres, vibrant flower beds, ornate terraces and pavilions make up the magnificently landscaped gardens of Witley Court. Visitors can listen to free audio guides which tell the stories of the estate’s past residents. The site features a visitor centre, a play area and a popular tearoom.
Getting to Witley Court and Gardens
Witley Court is 10 miles North West of Worcester on the A443. The nearest train station is Droitwich Spa and there are several bus routes that pass nearby.