"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Witley Court

Last Sunday afternoon D and I continued our exploration of English Heritage Properties by visiting Witley Court in Worcestershire which I had been keen to visit for years. I must admit I didn't realise quite how much there was to see and do there so we will hopefully be returning.


Leaving the visitor centre we walked through an area known as the Wilderness which continues into woodland. The Wilderness was created between 1772 and 1794 and planted with mainly deciduous trees - oaks, sweet chestnut and beech. In the 1870's and 1880's rhododendron walks were developed and Witley Court has some unusual varieties which have been lost from other gardens. After a fire at Witley Court in 1937 when the house was destroyed the woodland was sold separately and many mature trees were felled. Restoration work is now taking place to replace the original mixed woodland.



The lake is called Front Pool and was created in the 18th century by damming a stream. I noticed you could take a boat trip on the lake which is something to bear in mind for a future visit.

My first Green-veined White butterfly of the year.



After meandering through the woods and past the lake you arrive at Witley Court which was once of the greatest country houses in England. Sadly, it was destroyed by fire in 1937 and the owner decided against rebuilding and put the estate up for sale.

To the right of the house is Great Witley Church (not English Heritage).


Rather than visiting the church straightaway (big mistake!) we decided to have lunch in the tearoom first which seemed the best idea as they were about to stop serving lunches.

Rather than cake I picked a healthier option - cream cheese and cucumber sandwich and D had cheddar and chutney. The sandwiches were very good :)

After lunch I made a beeline for the church which is renowned for its Baroque design. Now many of you will remember that I am not having much luck with seeing inside churches recently (Adderbury and Welford on Avon were unusually closed and Coventry Cathedral had a service about to start restricting access) and today proved no exception to recent events - a recital was just about to begin so you couldn't just wander in and start taking photos!

The crypt was however open - to be honest I didn't stay inside long as I really did find it rather eerie with its collection of decomposing Georgian lead coffins (no photos of these allowed).

The 1804 Samuel Thorpe Tower Clock now restored to full working order was interesting.

Mortstones (heavy stone lids) were put on coffins to prevent the taking of newly buried corpses in the days when they were often stolen and sold for medical purposes.

You can see here what I missed seeing in the Georgian Baroque Church.

We then explored what was left of the mansion which had been developed over the centuries by the Foley and Dudley families. It was originally a medieval manor house which was turned into a large Jacobean house by the first Baron Foley and his son in the 1720's and 1730's. Regency architect John Nash added two massive porticos and there was a final extensive re-modelling of the house in the 1850's under the first Earl of Dudley by architect Samuel Daukes which gave the house a more Italianate look which had become fashionable by Queen Victoria's house at Osborne on the Isle of Wight.

The huge 19th century house was used for entertaining - parties and balls and it must have looked magnificent in its heyday.


House Martins were building nests.


Top of Ionic column

Plants in Walls

Timothy wanted to know where the dragons had gone!!

Information Boards in the various rooms showed what the rooms would have looked like before the fire - here the entrance hall.

View towards the East Parterre


View towards the South Parterre


Looking towards the Conservatory/Orangery which was one of the largest in England.




The Victorian Conservatory which once had a glass roof



The spectacular Perseus and Adromeda fountain which has been restored recently to full working order (it had been "firing" when we were looking round the house but had stopped by the time we reached it!). The fountain was the centre piece of the gardens at Witley in the 1850's. The gardens were designed by the landscape gardener William Andrews Nesfield and have been restored by English Heritage based on Nesfield's original designs and findings from garden archaeology.

The fountain was carved from Portland stone by James Forsyth and represents the classical myth of Perseus and Andromeda. Perseus on his winged horse Pegasus flies to the rescue of Andromeda who has been chained to a rock by Poseidon, the sea god, who is angry that it has been said that she is more beautiful than the sea nymphs. Andromeda is just about to be devoured by a sea serpent.

Cupids riding dolphins - the fountains are replicas of the originals.

In the East parterre is the fountain of Flora - goddess of Spring and flowers. Around her are four tritons (fish-tailed humans) blowing jets of water from conch shells. Sadly the original Flora statue has been broken and vandalised and it is hoped that the fountain will be restored.

Hopefully, we can return - an afternoon was not long enough! - as there are more woodland and wilderness walks to enjoy, a lakeland walk, a possible boat ride and of course I still would like to see inside the church!

*D Photos taken by my son with the Canon SX50HS bridge camera

Rest of photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera

Blue Tit Update

Sadly, there are now only 3 chicks left. The adults do not seem to be providing a great deal of food and, in fact, I do wonder if something has happened to the male as I only ever see one adult in the nest box at a time. I will post a few photos in my next post and we just have to hope that the 3 remaining will manage to survive and fledge.