Woodchester Mansion to reveal its mysteries



Woodchester Mansion, the mysterious abandoned Gothic country house hidden in a 400 acre park in South Gloucestershire, is about to unveil all its mysteries with a dramatic reopening on April 2nd 2011.

Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust, will cut the ribbon on completion of the ‘Time Stands Still’ project, supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £49,800, that for the first time allows visitors to share the hidden archives and lost history of the building that was abandoned in a hurry by its builders in 1877, leaving their hand tools and even their wooden Victorian scaffolding in place.

Trust Chairman Stephen Davis has been searching out and buying up letters, photographs, maps and documents in a ten-year effort to piece together the history of the devout Roman Catholic Leigh family, who came to the secret valley in the 1840s with a vision of reestablishing the old Roman Catholic religious order in the county of Gloucestershire.

“We found papers and letters hidden in attics as far afield as the south coast, all miraculous survivors of a close-knit family with a somewhat tragic history, who died out after the last war.  We pieced together their story and now we’re ready to share it with our visitors,” says Stephen.

Already, the Mansion is a window into a lost past of medieval-era building, the only such building in the world that exposes to view the secrets of the cathedral-builders of the Gothic era.

Now, permanent exhibition displays, linked to a new educational website for schools and even a ‘digital completion’ of the unfinished building, will create a new visitor experience.

“We founded our own Living Classroom when we became the first heritage site in the UK to train young craftsmen in the traditional building skills that are presently in danger of dying out in Britain.  Now the Mansion’s human history will become part of that Living Classroom, as well as a compelling voyage back in time for visitors of all ages.”

The unique Woodchester Mansion attracted the enthusiastic interest of HRH The Prince of Wales when he became the Trust’s Patron in 2002.  Sir Simon Jenkins, whose National Trust became owners of the magnificent landscape park at Woodchester in 1994, says;

“Woodchester Mansion is unlike most traditional National Trust properties but it is being brought to life in the way we are bringing our own properties to life, and we look forward to the Mansion becoming an unmissable part of the visitor experience for all those who want to see how this extraordinary and unique estate came down to us.”

Commenting on the ‘Time Stands Still’ project,  Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the South West said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Woodchester Mansion Trust again, on this exciting project, which brings to life the hidden history of a unique and highly significant building.  The emphasis on the involvement of young people in the project was particularly important for us, as they are one of our priority audiences, and the future champions of heritage.  The comprehensive range of activities provided by the ‘Time Stands Still’ project will ensure that they, and indeed visitors of all ages, will be able to learn about and understand the fascinating story of Woodchester Mansion.”

 - ENDS –

For further information, please contact:
Hannah Jones, Administrator at Woodchester Mansion Trust
on 01453 861541 or office@woodchestermansion.org.uk
For further information on the Heritage Lottery Fund see the HLF website

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