Woodchester Mansion, begun in 1853, is a fascinating, unfinished, Cotswold stone, Victorian Gothic mansion. After 14 years of construction the building was abandoned in 1868 due to financial and family problems.
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Gargoyles and other curiosities adorn the mansion. The 27 rooms, including a chapel with a high ceiling, are shown on a guided tour. The mansion is said to be haunted.
The 1000 acre estate was purchased by William Leigh, a rich businessman, who had converted to Catholicism. His conversion made him highly unpopular in the area of Staffordshire where he and his wife lived. Thus he decided to move to Gloucestershire. On the estate was a Georgian mansion in a state of disrepair. Instead of building anew he moved into another house on the estate and decided to build a Catholic church and monastery. The church and monastery were finished in October 1849. They were occupied by the Dominican order in England.
A colony of greater horseshoe bats and lesser horseshoe bats live in the attic and are viewed through a live TV link.
The 400 acre landscaped park offers three walks and encompasses woodland, parkland, and lakes. Wildlife includes buzzards, owls, woodpeckers, and deer. There are rare woodland plants in the park, and wildflowers bloom in the valley.
Five miles south of Stroud, on the B4066
Gloucestershire, (exact directions on website)
Tel. 0 1453 861 541
Open: Easter-end Oct, Sat, Sun, and BH, 11am-4pm, by guided tour only except as posted on website; also open without mini-bus service on Wed and Thu May-Sep; also open on Tue and Fri during Aug; mini-bus from car park (fee charged) does not run every day when open; tea-room closed some days; check website for exact dates which vary from year to year
Woodchester Mansion Trust property; the parkland is the property of the National Trust; shop; tea-room; parking; reached by one mile walk through woods or by shuttle bus provided; special events and exhibitions
Web: Woodchester Mansion
Photos © by Barbara Ballard