History of the Stackpole Estate

Historic photo of Stackpole Court

It’s difficult to imagine the many buildings that may have graced the Stackpole Court site over the centuries. Occupied since Norman times, the Stackpole Estate has seen its fair share of boom and bust over the centuries.

Families that have owned Stackpole in the past include the de Stackpoles, the Vernons and the Stanleys.  We do know a little about the Lort family, who were agents to the Stanleys. They bought the estate in the 17th century.

Civil war and dicing with death

The Lort family were Royalists and took the side of King Charles I in the English Civil War. They quickly found themselves on the losing side and Stackpole was besieged by Parliamentarians. Legend has it that Roger Lort hid in a cave near Barafundle Bay to avoid being captured.  After a short siege the Lorts surrendered.

Stackpole flourishes under the Cawdors

Elizabeth Lort was the heiress of the Stackpole Estate and she married Alexander Campbell of Cawdor in 1689. Alexander was a university friend of Elizabeth's brother, Gilbert. Whilst visiting Elizabeth’s brother at Stackpole, Alexander and Elizabeth fell in love.

The Campbells built the early Georgian mansion of Stackpole Court in the Palladian style in the 1730s on the site of the earlier fortified house.

Sir John Campbell II inherited the estate in 1777 and began landscaping work on a grand scale. What was once a valley was later flooded to create the Bosherston Lakes, as part of a designed landscape, and thousands of trees were planted.

The decline and fall of a great estate

Two world wars heralded a century of decline at Stackpole. Half of the estate, around 6,000 acres, was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence to form Castlemartin Range in 1938.

Soldiers billeted in Stackpole Court caused devastating damage to the house by stripping lead from the roof, causing dry and wet rot. Sadly, the house was finally demolished in 1963.

Thirteen years later, what was left of this historic estate was broken up and the farms were sold. Thankfully the coast, woods and lakes passed to the National Trust and were saved for the nation.