Monday, 8 January 2018

Donnington Castle - Berkshire

There are countless ruined castles in Britain that do not attract our attention, but there is something about Donnington Castle.

Donnington Manor was bought by the Abberbury Family in 1292. In 1386, Sir Richard Abberbury decided to build a castle. In 1398 it was bought by Thomas Chaucer, son of Geoffrey. However, the family (by thern known as the Dukes of Suffolk, fell foul of the Tudor monarchs and in 1514 the castle became Crown Property.

The castle experienced some neglect, but in 1644 it was held by Sir John Boys, who withstood a siege for 18 months at the start of the English Civil War. When the castle eventually surrendered, Parliament voted to raze the castle, and today only the Gate House remains. It is now under the care and protection of English Heritage.

Donnington Castle

RG14 2LE

Bracknell Forest - Berkshire

Bracknell Forest lies to the south of Bracknell. It covers a good size area and is very popular with families, nature lovers and walkers. There is something there for most tastes, especially when the weather is kind. You can glide around on Segways or you can enjoy the well populated play areas where young children can play in safety. You can climb and slide through the tree tops at Go Ape, or you can walk the passageways between the wooded areas, sometimes enjoying swathes of bluebells, at other times simply charting the changing of the seasons.

Bracknell Forest

RG12 7QW

Friday, 5 January 2018

Ditton Park Manor - Berkshire

The origins of Ditton Manor House are hazy, but a crenelated house was recorded there in 1331. It’s longevity is also borne out by the impressive moat. It is known that the park belonged to the Crown during the Reign of Elizabeth I. The current house is probably the third. It was rebuilt, smaller than its predecessor, in 1812, by the Duchess of Buccleuch, some 50 years after the near destruction by the blaze.

As the house deteriorated, ownership of the lands became disputed and in 1917 it was taken over by the Admiralty Compass Observatory. The Radio Research Station was established in 1935. There then followed concerns about radioactive material buried in the grounds. In 1997 it was sold to the company now known as CA Technologies and is a very popular venue for weddings.

Ditton Park Manor


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Basildon Park - Berkshire

The house at Basildon Park was built between 1776 and 1783 for Sir Francis Sykes. It was designed by John Carr. The exterior adopted the Palladian style but the interior was neo-classical. The house, which was never4 properly completed,  is now run by the National Trust.


When WWI broke out, Basildon Park had been unoccupied for 4 years, and so it was requisitioned as an hospital. In 1929 the house was bought by an American who intended to disassemble it and rebuild it in the USA. However, the plan only got as far as removing most of the fixtures and fittings.


During WWII the house was requisitioned for use as a barracks, and the parkland was used for tank training. By 1952 the house was an abandoned wreck. Then along came Lord and Lady Iliffe and they restored the house beautifully, before placing it in the hands of the National Trust in 1978.

Basildon Park


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Ashdown House - Berkshire

The purists will say that Ashdown House is in Oxfordshire, but when it was built it was in Berkshire, and the house hasn't moved, only the county boundary. For this purpose, it is in Berkshire, mainly because the local village of Upper Lambourn most certainly is.

The exact year of construction is not clear. It had been intended as a refuge from the Plague for Elizabeth of Bohemia, but she died in 1662 and the house had not been built at that time. The style chosen was Dutch, which makes it unusual in England where French and Italianate designs are common, and even English.

The house was intended as a hunting lodge. There is a deer park that had been owned by Glastonbury Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. The parkland (Ashdown Park) and woods are still open to the public.

Ashdown House was requisitioned by the military during WWI and, as was the case with many such great building, it was left in a sorry state. The National Trust took over in 1956. They effected renovations, and then found tenants, who also continued the renovations. For that reason, public access is restricted to certain parts of the house, but with the Park also available it is nevertheless worth a visit.

Ashdown House

RG17 8RE

Sunday, 31 December 2017


As we approach the New Year, I hope it is happy and prosperous for everyone. If that is not possible, then I wish for peace.

2017 has been a difficult year for me, but I am hopeful for the year ahead. I plan to tackle all of the places I have been over the past seven decades, or are of interest to me, starting with England and proceeding county by county. We finished 2017 with Bedfordshire and so January will start on Berkshire. Places to be included will be:

Ashdown House
Basildon Park
Bracknell Forest
Donnington Castle
Dorney Court
Douia Abbey
Duchess of Kent Mausoleum
Englefield House |gardens
Eton College
Frogmore House
Maisenhead & Cookham Commons
Mapledurham House
Queen Mary's Doll House
Sandham Memorial Chapel
Shaw House
St George's Chapel
Stanlake Park
Stonor Park
Taplow Court
Welford Park
Wellington Country Park
West Woodhay House
Wickham House
Windsor Castle
Windsor St George's Chapel

 If anyone has a specific interest, or would like to know more about any certain place, please let me know at

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Wrest Park - Bedfordshire

The Wrest estate has a history going back more than 600 years. The extensive park and gardens that we see today, and which house Wrest Park were established during the 17th century. The current house itself was created during the period from 1834 to 1839, incorporating both English and French architecture.

It was the Duke of Kent that first created the gardens but it was his granddaughter who brought Capability Brown into the picture. Brown was sensitive to the work done by his predecessors and kept the changes to ones of subtlety.

The last 100 years saw many changes. not all of them pleasant or planned. First the house served as a home for the American Ambassador, then it became a military hospital during WWI. In 1916 a large fire destroyed much of the house. It was rebuilt to a degree and became the home for the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering. English Heritage took over in 2006 and an extensive rebuilding and development programme was begun. This has wrought many changes, but the full project is not expected to be completed until around 2026.

Wrest Park

MK45 4HR