Main Entrance of Witley Court

Justine Humphries

Bridgnorth, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

A hundred years ago, Witley Court was one of England’s great country houses, hosting many extravagant parties. Today it is a spectacular ruin, the result of a disastrous fire in 1937. Restoration work to the West Wing has made several new rooms accessible to the public.

The vast and rambling remains of the palatial 19th-century mansion are surrounded by magnificent landscaped gardens – the ‘Monster Work’ of William Nesfield – which still contain huge stone fountains. The largest, representing Perseus and Andromeda, which has been restored, was described as making the ‘noise of an express train’ when fired.

Before 1846, when William Humble Ward (later first Earl of Dudley) inherited Witley Court, the land surrounding the house was laid out in the English landscape style of the mid-18th century. As part of Ward’s transformation of the estate, he called in the leading landscape designer of the time, William Andrews Nesfield, whose skills in designing intricate and elegant parterres were complemented by his great ability as an artist and engineer.

Nesfield started work in 1854, creating the south parterre with its great Perseus and Andromeda fountain. His scheme involved elegantly designed plantings of clipped evergreens and shrubs, with parterres enclosed by more clipped evergreens. The central avenue of planting from the house led to the fountains terminating at the south parterre. The east parterre garden with its Flora Fountain was designed in the Parterre de Broderie style, meaning that it was intended to have the appearance of embroidery, with box-edged shapes filled with coloured gravel and flowers.

Following the disastrous fire in 1937 the Witley Estate, including its gardens, fell into long decline. English Heritage has restored the south garden. In addition, funding from the Wolfson Foundation has assisted English Heritage with major restoration works within the East Parterre garden, enabling us to repair steps and balustrades, and to plan development of the formal gardens based on the original Nesfield designs. The Woodland Walks in the North Park pass many different species of tree and shrub, acquired from all over the world to create a showpiece. A new garden in ‘the Wilderness’ is part of the Contemporary Heritage Garden project. This provides yet more opportunities for walking within Witley Court’s grounds. Site graphics include information on recent conservation work, and there is a new audio tour including information on local flora, wildlife and birdcalls. A terrain guide is available on the website.

Attached to Witley Court is Great Witley Church, which has an amazing Italianate Baroque interior (not managed by English Heritage).

Artwork Comments

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