A state of suspension
Owned by the same increasingly impoverished family for nearly 400 years until 1991, Chastleton remained a time capsule and hidden treasure-trove as the interiors and collection gradually yielded to the ravages of time.
Chastleton House was built between 1607 and 1612 and, with its beautiful garden, is a fantastic example and survivor of a bygone age. It is considered one of the finest and perfectly proportioned country houses of the early 17th century and was built as a statement of wealth and power by a prosperous wool merchant, Walter Jones.
Chastleton is a place which has always had a greater store of myths than money. Walter Jones set the precedent by fabricating a grander ancestry for himself, his family having become rich through success in the booming cloth trade.
In its sophisticated architecture, its lavish interiors and its advanced garden layout, Chastleton was meant to demonstrate how far its owner had climbed he social hierarchy.
Yet Walter’s heirs never rose above the status of county gentry, maybe because of their commitment to lost causes: they were Royalists then Jacobites.
Family legend goes that Irene Whitmore Jones, owner of Chastleton in the 1930s and 1940s, was fond of telling visitors in the late 40s that her family had lost all their money ‘in the war’ – by which she meant not the recent world war but the Civil War 300 years earlier!
A woman’s home
Irene Whitmore Jones was just one of the remarkable women who kept Chastleton going, managing the estate as widows or spinsters for 120 of its 400 years. Barbara Clutton-Brock was the final chatelaine in this tradition, living at Chastleton for 15 years as a widow, the last 5 alone except for her cats. Today, you can see the house much as she left it, not quite frozen in time but lightly touched by its passage.
Barbara Clutton-Brock left Chastleton in 1991 after the National Heritage Memorial Fund bought it, in a fragile condition, but with still much of its furniture and original contents. Chastleton was then handed over the National Trust, which chose the path of preservation rather than restoration – the intention was to retain as far as possible the romantic air of decline which hung to the building.
What followed was an extensive 6-year preservation project which included replacing the roof, making the building structurally sound and stabilising the interiors. Where it was judged safe to do so, decoration and furniture were left alone.
Today we endeavour to maintain the feeling of peace and calm in this beautiful corner of the Cotswolds: to let the place speak for itself and for you to imagine the stories of the past for yourself.