Chastleton House (National Trust)
Between Moreton and Chipping Norton
Chastleton House is a National Trust property between Chipping Norton and Moreton-in-Marsh. It’s not so well-known, but what we have here is a thrilling example of a Jacobean House with an unbroken chain of ownership for 400 years.
To call Chastleton a 'time machine' is to indulge in a heritage-industry cliche but there is, literally, a tangible sense of continuity and history here. The house was completed in 1612 for Walter Jones, a wool merchant. This family of Royalists backed the wrong side in the Civil War, losing a fortune in the process. Subsequent Joneses stayed too poor to rebuild or furnish the house to any great extent. Some work was done in 1800, basically a few repairs, but then nothing really happened, the house passing to generations of the Jones family, and multiple cats, until things fizzled out altogether and the house passed to the National Trust in 1991.
The visitor these days will see cats (three were introduced early in 2018) and a sequence of rooms preserved 'as it is' not 'as it was’. We take that to mean that the house is presented as you would have found it in 1991, when it was a palimpsest* revealing various periods since Jacobean times. Few houses repay exploration quite so much, speak to the staff and volunteers and you’ll discover stories of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Guy Fawkes or croquet (the game was codified here). The impressive Long Gallery and Great Chamber are the star attractions, the latter a room for great occasions in the history of the house, for music and for entertaining guests.
The Gunpowder Plot connection is direct - the house was owned by Robert Catesby, a devout Catholic incensed at James I’s hostility to the religion.
He inherited the Chastleton estate in 1594 and, in 1601, he took part in an attempted coup against Queen Elizabeth. The Essex Rebellion led to the execution of Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux. After some time in prison, Catesby was fined the enormous sum of 4,000 Marks, the equivalent of perhaps £7m today. To pay that he had to sell off the estate.
Although Guy Fawkes commands attention, it was Catesby who was the real leader of the Gunpowder Plot, the failed attempt to blow up the House of Lords in 1605.
You’ll enjoy more than just the house. The gardens also suggest that they have been laid out as they are for more or less 400 years. That said, a burst of energy in the 19th century saw a 'best’ garden laid out in a circular design and two croquet lawns added. Cloud topiary forms a simple, green and charming backdrop to the house.
Chastleton House was used as a location for Wolf Hall, the BBC dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s novels.
Admission is by timed ticket, so do book ahead. There is a field opposite the house where you can give your dog a run. Combine a visit here with a visit to Daylesford Farm Shop or the Antiques Centre in Chipping Norton.
* such an underused word.
Cotswolds Finest Hotels Nearby
The Manor House Moreton in Marsh, Lords of the Manor, Cotswold House and Charingworth Manor