History of Basildon Park

View of the Georgian mansion across the parkland at Basildon Park, Berkshire

From fortunes from the East India Company and wartime assistance to 1950s glitz and glamour, the history of Basildon Park is a rich and interesting one. Delve into Basildon Park’s treasures and find out more about this fascinating property.

The Sykes family

Basildon Park estate was purchased by Francis Sykes in 1771. Sykes had made his fortune in the East India Company and required a home befitting his status. He demolished the old house and employed architect John Carr to build the Bath stone mansion you see today. Given its proximity to London, a manor like Basildon was eminently suitable for a wealthy and ambitious man such as Sykes. The Sykes family owned the house until 1838.

The Morrison family

The Morrison family owned Basildon Park from 1838 to 1928. It was originally bought by Liberal MP James Morrison who passed it to his eldest son Charles. On his death it was inherited by his sister Ellen who died just seven months later leaving it to her nephew Major James Archibald Morrison. Major Morrison, whilst not living at Basildon was very much involved with the estate and local area, pursuing his passion for country pursuits, in particular shooting and fishing.

Wartime at Basildon Park

During the First World War Basildon Park was used as a convalescent home for officers and soldiers of the Berkshire regiments. The property gave local soldiers a place to recuperate and learn new skills, and provided materials for the community.

During the Second World War the estate was requisitioned. It served a number of purposes including being used by the 101st Airborne Division of the American Army for D-Day training and later as a prisoner of war camp for Germans and Italians. This was all vital to the war effort but inevitably resulted in damage to the house and estate.

History of Basildon Park Factsheet (PDF / 1,1MB) download

Convalescents and the Medical Staff at Basildon Park during the First World War
An old photograph of the Convalescents and Medical Staff taken during the First World War at Basildon
Convalescents and the Medical Staff at Basildon Park during the First World War

Edward and Renée Iliffe

Edward and Renée Iliffe married in 1938 at St Margaret's Church in Westminster. Later they would become key players in the survival of Basildon Park. Watch their wedding video below - keep an eye out for Lady Iliffe's stunning silver gown.

Life during the 1950s

In 1952 Lord and Lady Iliffe bought Basildon Park, which had been badly damaged during the war. The couple went about restoring the house sensitively to its former glory but with the addition of modern day comforts such as central heating, a modern kitchen and bathrooms. They enjoyed many parties with friends during their 25 years in the mansion house before moving into the South Pavilion on gifting the property to the National Trust in 1978.

Take a video tour

Enjoy a video tour below of the house with one of our volunteers, Nick, and learn more about the history of Basildon Park. 

Discover our collection

In recent years the national team have developed an online database, National Trust Collections, for recording information on our historic collections.  Discover the treasures at Basildon Park for yourself.