Boscobel House dates from 1632 when John Gifford, a Catholic, converted it from a timber framed farmhouse into a hunting lodge. At the time it was in the middle of a woods. It became famous because the future Charles II hid there in 1651 following his defeat in the civil war.
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His first hiding place was the “Royal Oak” in a field south-west of the house. (The tree on view now is not the original tree but an acorn “child” of the original). After part of a night and a day, he decided to take his chances in the house, using a priest hole (This is shown to visitors on a tour of the house) in which to hide. However he did partake of a meal before bedding down there. After another day he left and eventually escaped to France.
The oldest part of the house is the north timber-framed, two storey range. The main part of the house sits at right angles to it and is stucco covered. The parlour has panelled walls and a plaster frieze. Above the 19th century fireplace are black marble panels. A door from this room leads into the oratory, once the site of the original staircase. On the floor above the parlour was the squire’s room. Just to the left of a small fireplace with delft tiles is a door that leads into a small closet built into the chimney stack. Under the floor of the closet is a hiding place entered through a trap door. However, at only two feet/3 inches high it was probably not used by people, but to hide goods.
On the east side of the house is the White Room, so named as the panelling was, in the 1800s, painted that colour. The oak post in the middle of the room is part of the structure of the house. A second bedroom was created in this space in the 1800s. Up the stairs to the attic are a maid’s room and a small trap door leading to the hiding place of Charles. It is 4 feet x 3 feet, 4 inches and 4 feet high. The attic and the room beyond were bedrooms in the 1800s.
In the grounds is a 17th century timber framed barn, a display of farm machinery, a smithy, and gardens laid out in a pattern to mimic that of the 17th century. Also open for visitors is a dairy and an old cowhouse. An AV presentation and exhibition give the history of Charles and the house.
Boscobel House and the Royal Oak
Minor road between A41 and A5, 8 miles north-west of Wolverhampton
Tel. 0 1902 850 224
Open: April-end Oct, Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm; Nov-March, weekends only 10am-4pm by guided tour only; closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan
English Heritage property; virtual tour; shop; information display; parking; cafeteria
Photos copyright by Barbara Ballard except Royal Oak and garden by Brian Marshall courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland