Muddy visits… Chastleton House (Nat. Trust)
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I visited Chastleton House when I was staying at Bruern Cottages in the Cotswolds a few months back (yes, the 5 star cottage holiday thats up for grabs on Muddy, have you entered yet?!!). Chastleton House is only a few miles from Chipping Norton so very much on the Oxfordshire side of the Cotswolds, very accessible for a day’s visit, and it’s really worth a gander if you someone who likes National Trust-style days out – not least because from the beginning of November your chances to visit substantially reduce as it’s only open two out of five weekends in Nov and two out of four weekends in Dec.
The main thing I liked about Chastleton, apart from the fact that it’s a stonkingly gorgeous Jacobean country estate that I’ve been meaning to come to for years now, is that it’s very different from the usual buffed and polished National Trust properties. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous looking place, all honeyed stone, layered up high and built between 1607-12 by a wool merchant who wanted to show his wealth and power.
But 400 years later, the interiors are largely unchanged because the family had no money to update over the years, and so the National Trust has taken the decision that the building and contents should being preserved in an elegant sense of fixed decay rather than tarted up again, so they’ve deliberately left the dust and cobwebs and in some cases some distinctly dodgy plasterwork – maybe not great if you’ve got asthma but it does give an elegant Ms Haversham air to the whole place.
Having said that, it has everything on the Jacobean glamour tick list – whopper fireplaces, oak-panelled walls, a secret room (obviously the round-head/cavalier thing going on) and an incredible view from the Long Gallery on the top floor out to the gardens and the distance beyond.
It’s well geared up for children too. Often when my children are handed rucksacks or packs of stuff from well-meaning staff, a little bit of me dies, as I know I’m going to have to carry a whole lot of rubbish around for two hours, while my children dig around for various implements they’ll then chuck over their shoulders. But actually the Chastleton pack was well thought out – my daughter had a map to ‘navigate’ the gardens, a magnifying glass, torch and measuring tape and things she could actually do with them like measuring the widest oak floorboard she could find in the Long Gallery. She loved it.
The gardens are pretty and doable, and if the weather holds you can play croquet or watch the gardeners tending the veggie patch. It’s maybe half an hour’s meander if you’re taking your time, and probably less if the weather is rubbish. There’s also a very pretty 12th century church next door where they sometimes catch Chastleton House trade for tea and cakes (there’s only a basic tearoom at the House itself).
You’ll probably spend a happy two hours for the whole of Chastleton House which will give you plenty of time to dive over to the foodie villages of Kingham, Nether Westcote or Daylesford, all close by, for lunch, or do some shopping in Chipping Norton or Camden or Stow-on-the-Wold afterwards if that’s your bag. Otherwise, if you fancy a NT but not the journey over to Chastleton, other Muddy NT tips for the top are Broughton Castle (similarly small and charming), Claydon House, or the grander charms of Waddesdon Manor or Cliveden.