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Witley Court

Great Witley, Worcestershire

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Witley Court is the impressive remains and grounds of what was one of Britain's major Victorian country houses, and home at one time of Queen Adelaide, the widow of King William IV.

Witley Court and the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain

Earlier houses on this site have developed over the centuries, we know of a manor around 1100, a 13th century manor house and part of its vaulted under croft is under the current building (section not open). Various expansions and redevelopments have occurred over time, with a major rebuild in 1498 by Robert Russell. It was modernised and extended between 1725 and 1730 largely built in brick, the architect was John Nash. Lord Foley spent much of the family funds on these alterations. When he died in 1833, his son had to sell Witley to clear the debt. The house was sold to William Ward, the eleventh Baron of Birmingham. The price was £890,000 equivalent to over £32million today

In 1843 Witley Court was lent to Queen Adelaide, the widow of King William IV. She requested the pianos in the house to be tuned and a local man, who had recently moved from London to set up his own music dealership and piano-tuning business, was recommended. That man was William Elgar (Edward Elgar's father), who was then to display the Royal warrant on his business stationery.

By the mid 1800's this was out of fashion, a hybrid of Gothic revival and 16th century Italian designs had become popular and Samuel Daukes took on the modernisation, cladding the building in bath stone and extending it. The gardens were also redeveloped by William Nesfield, this involved a major fountain, box hedges and lawns. The end of the 1800's and early 1900's saw lavish living, parties, Royal guests and more. At this time it had 50 household staff, 25 gamekeepers and a large staff of gardeners.

All came to a sudden end with the drowning of the wife of the 2nd Earl of Dudley in Ireland in 1920, within 3 weeks it was sold and the new owner lived in it the next 17 years until a major fire that started at 8pm on the 7th September 1937, that destroyed part of the house. The owner Sir Herbert Smith was away at the time. A newspaper report from the time says that the main building and east wing fell in but the major part of the west wing escaped.

As the insurance company would only cover a quarter of the cost of repair it was decided to sell, contents and garden ornaments were sold in a sale in 1938, and the house and farm sold off separately. In 1954 a salvage dealer bought the house and striped out all that remained and its was near demolition. In 1972 the Department of the Environment came to the rescue, and the building consolidated to avoid further collapse. Later in 1984 management passed to English Heritage.

The fountains have been restored and work at set times. They were designed to provide shows rather than constant flow. When the Dudley's were in residence, at the height of its time, the fountains worked twice a week. The main jet reached 36m, 120ft into the air. Water was pumped from pools and a reservoir. The fountain shows Perseus on the winged horse Pegasus rescuing the lady Andromeda from a sea monster.

Today the restored Perseus and Andromeda fountain, with even the original high cascades operating, can be seen firing between April and October, weekdays, 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Weekends, on the hour every hour from 11am to 4pm.

We can get a view of what life at Witley could be like, from an account in Berrows Journal of the second Earl Dudley's 21st birthday in 1888:-

"The celebrations began on Tuesday 7 August and continued for a week. At noon on the 7th, the Earl received the first address of congratulations from his tenants. At 3pm the tenants of Holt tendered their congratulations. In the evening the celebrations really got under way with the County Ball which was attended by 214 guests. The magnificent Ballroom gleamed with the light from the eight crystal chandeliers. An additional supper tent was erected with access from the Conservatory. The drives from the Worcester and Stourport lodges were lit by hurricane lamps, and fairy lights bordered the lawns.

Thursday 9 August was devoted to the Cottagers’ Festivities. From daybreak, wagons filled with food and equipment to provide for more than 1,000 people converged on the Court. Two enormous tents, 110ft (33.5m) long and 36ft (11m) wide, were erected in the park, just outside the Golden Gates. The dividing walls of the tents were removed so they formed one enormous tent and here, at 2pm, 893 cottagers sat down to an ample cold meal with plentiful supplies of beer. The tents were so arranged that a view of the ceremonies was easy from the south front of the house.

In the park there was a fair with merry-go-rounds, swingboats and coconut stations. There were pleasure boats on the lake, and in the shadow of the giant trees Signor Sisnefield and his troupe of six gave a two-hour entertainment including Punch and Judy shows, juggling, ventriloquism and musical eccentricities.

At 4pm the fountains played for an hour and in the tents, 416 of the younger children and 427 women sat down to tea. After tea the tents were cleared and dancing took place, on which a special floor had been laid, with two bands providing the music.

Athletic sports were then held throughout the afternoon. The fountains played again when it grew dark and were transformed into fairy-tale scenes as lights threw some forty distinct coloured rays on the falling water. The celebrations concluded with a fireworks display with many set pieces and 300 giant rockets let off in a final burst"

This was only one of many Dudley homes, other included:-

Witley Church next to the house, survived the fire and survives today very much as it would have been. It has a white interior with a lot of gilding, with lavish paintings, 10 painted windows by Joshua Price in 1719 and 1721, from designs by an Italian artist based on the New Testament and are said to be the finest example in Britain of combined stained glass and enamel painting. The ceiling paintings are oil on canvas by Italian artist Antonio Bellucci (1654 -1726).  Don't miss the church when you visit.

Inside Witley Church

What you can see today

An impressive largely outwardly complete roofless burnt out ruin, restored gardens, restored fountains, several extra rooms in the west wing have recently been made accessible. Showpiece woodland walk with many types of trees. Church in excellent condition next door.

The fountain runs to a programme, firing for a short period a number of times each day.

There are other events check their website for details.

See our gallery for more pictures.

Further information Grid



Witley Court, Great Witley, Worcestershire

Ceremonial County: Worcestershire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google Aerial



Best Times to Visit:





English Heritage    Gardens     Terrain guide

Other useful websites:

Wikipedia    Church website 

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Witley Court Gallery       Witley Church Gallery



Planning Grid



Witley Court, Great Witley, Worcestershire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

10 miles NW of Worcester on A443


Paths from car park


Own car park



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Ruined house, fountain (on at defined times), grounds, views, impressive church not to be missed next door.

What to take:


Nature highlights:

It is a country location and there are walks through the woods and by a lake as well, but I cant recall any specific wildlife I saw.






01299 896636 or Worcester office  01905 726311

Opening times:

1 Apr-30 Jun and 1 Sep-31 Oct Daily 10am-5pm

1 Jul-31 Aug  Daily 10am-6pm

Closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan

The restored Perseus and Andromeda Fountain, with the original high cascades operates between April and October, Weekdays 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm and weekends on the hour every hour from 11am to 4pm.

Also check church opening times - Church website


FREE entry to EH members

Adults £6.30, Concessions £5.70, Child £3.80 Family £16.40

Photo Restrictions:

No restrictions, in the church I was permitted to use flash.

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Most on paths, steps into house. For more accessibility information see the terrain guide
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities: Ideal location for children
Dogs Allowed: Assistance dogs and dogs must be kept on leads.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: Historic Houses Key:
Page Ref: Witley_Court Topic: Historic Houses Last Updated: 036/2011


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