400 years of decline in the heart of the Cotswolds . . .

The entrance to Chastleton House

The entrance to Chastleton House

It seems that Chastleton House – a Jacobean mansion built between 1607 and 1612 in north Oxfordshire in the heart of the Cotswolds near Moreton-in-Marsh – was destined for decline. The same Jones family lived at Chastleton House for almost the entire period, until it was sold and became a National Trust property in the early 1990s.

Although the house itself has a rather grand façade, it has rather modest grounds, and is located in the centre of Chastleton village. The journey from Bromsgrove took us south around the historic town of Evesham, and a steep climb up the Cotswold escarpment near Broadway. On a glorious day like yesterday the views of the Cotswold landscapes were wonderful.

What makes this National Trust property different from most others is that there has been essentially no attempt to restore the house to its former glory (as with Calke Abbey in Derbyshire). Instead the Trust has made essential repairs to prevent further deterioration of the property’s fabric, but what’s on show is what was there when the house was vacated. And quite a number of rooms, such as the Great Chamber, with its magnificent plastered ceiling and fireplace, appear today much like they did several centuries ago.

And because the Trust is preserving not restoring, many more rooms are open to the public, who can access the house on timed visits. This means that the number of visitors in the house at any one time is limited which enhances the visitor experience.

Over four floors from the magnificent entrance hall, the dining room (with a fine display of Staffordshire salt ware from the 17th century), up the East Stairs to the Great Chamber, a library, and some of the bedrooms, and finally to the top floor to the Long Gallery that stretches the entire width of the house, and faces east. Apparently the family used the Long Gallery for exercise on days when it was impossible to go outside.

The gardens are not large, and must have been much finer in the past. The topiary bushes deteriorated many decades ago when it was no longer possible to maintain them. The village of Chastleton lies just beyond the garden walls, and the lack of several ‘expected’ facilities in the house (such as a laundry) is apparently down to these having been provided by villagers living close-by.

There were fewer visitors to Chastleton House yesterday than I expected, and it was lovely to experience the tranquility of its surroundings. Definitely well worth a visit, and one of the Trust properties that I have enjoyed most.

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