Leap in visitors to unique Stroud attraction

Terry RobinsonVISITOR numbers have leapt by over 10 per cent since the architectural treasure that is Woodchester Mansion upped its opening hours.

This year 12.2 per cent more people enjoyed tours of the unfinished Victorian Gothic building near Stroud than in 2013.

From April until the end of October (2014)was the first time the charity that runs the property, the Woodchester Mansion Trust, had opened to the public almost every day.

Trustees’ chairman Terry Robinson said it had been a big step to take.

“We are experiencing the fruits of it still,” he said. “ We don’t think in one season we saw the full effect.  We expect to reap even more of the benefits in the future.”

The greatly expanded opening hours signalled the start of Woodchester Mansion’s step up to the big league of visitor attractions. The goal is to draw 50,000 instead of 6,000 visitors every year.

But Mr Robinson said: “It isn’t just visitor numbers. It is the whole enterprise, the way we make new money to fund the upkeep, and the quality of the experience for the people who come – which is going up as well.”

The trustees’ development plan includes the appointment of a chief executive officer. The search has just begun for a suitable person and it is expected he or she will be in post by the end of the year.

Mr Robinson said some big fund-raising efforts would then begin.

Woodchester Mansion was mysteriously abandoned mid-construction in 1873. Workmen simply dropped their tools and left them, and ladders and timber scaffolding, behind.

The building’s unfinished state therefore offers a glimpse of the stonemason’s craft that is unique in the world.

Grade One listed Woodchester Mansion lies hidden and untouched by time in the secluded Woodchester Valley near Stroud.

Its open days offer a regular mini bus shuttle service down the valley and guided tours of the house itself.

October 2014

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