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History of Woodchester Park

The parkland in spring at Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire
The parkland at Woodchester Park | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Once home to a lavish house set in acres of wild parkland, complete with terraced gardens and a boathouse, Woodchester Park was the epitome of a gentleman’s country estate. Today, an unfinished Gothic mansion that stands within its grounds harks back to the human history of this landscape.

A home since the 17th century

Woodchester Park was the home of the Ducie family from the 1600s until 1845. Wealthy Gloucestershire landowners, the Ducies lived in a Georgian house surrounded by designed parkland. Here, the family and their guests could hunt, ride and enjoy elegant carriage drives.

You can still see the remains of the parkland, which were influenced by 'Capability' Brown and later by Humphry Repton, both famous landscape designers of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The boathouse

Located within the parkland surrounding Woodchester Park and built in the 19th century, the boathouse brings back memories of lazy summer days and the lavish boating picnics enjoyed by the Ducie family and their friends. It may have been designed by John Adey Repton, the architect son of Humphry Repton.

A family standing by the lake at Woodchester Park on a sunny day
Visitors by the lake at Woodchester Park | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

Terraced garden

Since the discovery of a historic terraced garden, painstaking work by archaeologists has uncovered its hidden treasures, from the remains of a temple to original paths and a water fountain.

The terraced garden was created during the 19th century and was linked to the Georgian mansion set within the grounds of the park, which was later replaced by Woodchester Mansion.

These gardens traditionally had raised walkways, from which to take in a beautiful view. The raised pathways would have provided well-drained, dry walking routes during wet weather, while subtly moving people from the man-made architecture of the house to the natural landscape beyond.

Overall, very little is known about the garden, which had been lost under a commercial forestry plantation. However, by examining documents dating from 1843, we have unearthed records of the terrace walks, a temple overlooking the view of the garden below and ornamental fountains.

A view of Woodchester Mansion on a sunny day in Woodchester Park, surrounded by green and brown trees in autumn
Woodchester Mansion at Woodchester Park | © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Woodchester Mansion

When the Ducie family offered Woodchester for sale in 1843, the sale particulars described the coach house and stables as 'everything the most fastidious Gentleman can desire.'

William Leigh, a wealthy ship-owner, bought Woodchester Park two years later, in 1845. He demolished the Georgian house and began building a new mansion. However, things came to a halt 16 years later when he ran out of money, leaving the Victorian Gothic house unfinished.

A view of Woodchester Mansion on a sunny day in Woodchester Park, surrounded by green and brown trees in autumn

Discover more at Woodchester Park

Find out when Woodchester Park is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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