Sherborne Lodge Park was built in 1630 by a gambling MP squire, John Dutton. It was the fashion in those days to run dogs after deer on a course, and he created this attraction to enable his betting habit. A park was needed to keep the deer together, a mile-long walled enclosure for a track, and, of course, a “grandstand” for viewers. This building was to the design of Inigo Jones’s banqueting house in London.
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A hundred years later deer coursing had fallen out of favour as an attraction with fox-hunting and racing taking its place as the activity of choice. In the mid 1720s the park was remodelled by landscape gardener Charles Bridgeman, when more than 10,000 trees were planted. The grandstand was modernised at the same time by William Kent. New stone floors in the porch, hall, staircase, and dining room were added.
By the end of the 18th century the building had fallen onto hard times, and in the next century it suffered re-doing, first as a house (the great room chimney-piece and staircase were removed and a pitched roof added), then as a row of cottages (the interior was gutted including 17th century first floor framing), and lastly as a dower house (rear wing rebuilt, front bedroom reduced in size, bathroom added, and further continuing changes). All these usages changed not only the interior but affected the structure of the buiding. Luckily, it was left to the National Trust in 1982 and in the 1990s was returned as much as possible to its former state. It is devoid of furnishings.
Entry to the property is through a pair of gate lodges. The lodge itself is symmetrical in the front with a loggia for viewing. A stair tower is in the rear section. The first room in the lodge is a hall large enough for groups of visitors. It has a pair of original arches that have survived, one with a fireplace and overmantle decoration, the other leading to the large staircase.
The staircase, not the original, leads upstairs to a “great room” with fireplace and chimney-piece. Before all the rebuilding and alterations the great room had more elaborate decoration. Chestnut boards have been used in the flooring.
Further up a narrow set of stairs is a viewing platform on the roof, complete with a cupola. In the basement is a kitchen with two hearths and a set of bake-ovens.
There are 4000 acres of countryside with walks in the beautiful Cotswold countryside.
Sherborne Lodge Park
Aldsworth near Cheltenham
Gloucestershire, South-west Counties
Approach via A40, three miles east of Northleach
Tel. 0 1451 844 130
Open: a few days in Feb (check website); March-May and Oct, Fri to Sun; June-Sep, Mon, Fri, Sun, 11am-4pm, on Sat until 3pm; estate open all year daily
National Trust property; shop; parking; plant sales; light refreshments
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard