National Trust Lodge Park: a grandstand of a historical place
What is National Trust Lodge Park?
Standing defiantly on a lonely plain in the heart of the Cotswolds, National Trust Lodge Park is England’s only surviving example of a 17th century deer course and grandstand. It was built by John ‘Crump’ Dutton who was driven by his passion for gambling, deer coursing and partying lifestyle.
Over the centuries, the building was modified into different forms before being finally handed over to the National Trust.
In this article, I aim to go through some of the basic history of Lodge Park, and some of the aspects of this place to look out for. Hopefully inspiring you to make a visit yourself.
The design of Lodge Park owes its inspiration to the architect Inigo Jones. More specifically, his design of the Banqueting House in London built in 1622 – considered one of most famous classical style buildings of that time.
History of Lodge Park National Trust
During the course of four centuries, Lodge Park underwent several phases of building and modifications….
In the early 1630s John ‘Crump’ Dutton created a deer course on his Sherborne Estate; this included a walled enclosure which stretched a mile long for the deer chase, and a grandstand.
The grandstand consisted of two storeys. The ground floor was taken up mostly by the entrance hall – used for welcoming guests. The Great Room mostly took up the first floor – if you were a guest, this was where you’d be entertained. From the first floor upwards, you could see the deer coursing either from the balcony accessed from the Great Room or from the roof.
The early 18th century saw the building transformed by Sir John Dutton. This included new flooring, a new plasterwork ceiling for the Great Room, as well as new furniture being fitted. The garden designer Charles Bridgeman was employed to redesign the landscape around the property.
After the buzz of the early 18th century, there were very few changes made to the building until the early 19th century. At this point the building was again transformed – this time into a home. The chimney piece from the Great Room as well as the staircase were removed. The removal of the staircase proved to be a mistake as this made the house unstable. The ceiling of the Great Room was also lowered in order to replaced the flat roof with a pitched one.
By the middle of the 19th century the building was gutted inside and converted into a row of cottages, making the building even more unstable.
At the beginning of the century the building was converted into a dower house for Lady Emily Sherborne – the wife of the 4th Baron Sherborne. The once Great Room was converted into a bedroom complete with en suite bathroom. The entrance hall on the ground floor was turned into a dining room. A new wing was built in the rear – this included a lounge and a staircase leading to a drawing room on the first floor.
However Emily died in 1905 before her husband, so she never got to occupy the house. The house was then rented out before Charles, the 7th Baron Sherborne, and his wife moved in in the second half of the 20th century. When he died in 1982 the house and the estate were left to the National Trust in his will.
Things to do and look out for
You would think that coming to such a grand place as Lodge Park, you’d expect to see a grand entrance. Technically there is a grand entrance, but you wouldn’t notice it. That’s because when you enter the grounds, you’re coming through a side entrance.
It wasn’t until I was halfway through the tour of Lodge Park that I noticed the main entrance gate in the distance looking out from the roof of the building.
I didn’t take any close up photos of this gate. However, the gates were added to the property in the 19th century, when Lodge Park was being used briefly as a family residence. A driveway leading from the gate to the building did exist , bisecting across the former deer course. However, this was later removed to restore the deer course.
Front of the Lodge
Looking straight at the front of the building at ground level, you can see the building has had better days. Hundreds of years of weathering and lichens growing on the stone help the building fit in well within its context of a barren-like flat windswept Cotswolds landscape.
However, this doesn’t take away from this grand beauty of classical architecture. You could certainly stand or sit in front of the building for a good while, taking it all in.
I had to look this word up to find out what it means. But for those who don’t know, a loggia is a gallery or a room with one or more open sides.
Usually loggias are meant to be a form of outdoor living room located at the side of a building. In this case, the loggia here is unusual as it is used for the main entrance to the building. Despite its unusual placement, it does serve two functions: first as a sheltered entrance; and second, as a viewing platform – the top of the loggia is used as the Great Room’s balcony.
An unusual but interesting feature of the building.
Walking into the building from the loggia, the first room you enter is the Entrance Hall. This room was designed to withstand the large crowds of people that typically attended a deer coursing event. The standout features of the room you’ll notice is a pair of white stone arches. One of which contains a fireplace – you’ll also see a beautiful heraldic shield on which the Dutton/Sherbourne family coat of arms adorns it.
The second arch leads out rather grandly to the staircase.
When you approach the staircase, you may think the wood it’s constructed from hasn’t aged at all over the past couple of hundred years. That’s because the staircase in its current form is a rebuild. While it looks impressive now, the original would have even been more as it would have scaled all the way to the rooftop. The present staircase just reaches the next level.
The staircase is unusual in that it is made from a type of wood called ‘brown’ oak. This type of wood is obtained from oak trees that are dead long before the trees themselves are felled. Apparently this type of wood isn’t susceptible to the yellowing effect you would get from using normal oak wood.
The Great Room
Walking from the top of the stairs into the grandest room of the house, this would have been the main room from where ‘Crump’ Dutton would have entertained his guests. From the room, guests could view the deer-course from its balcony. Alternatively they could also go up another flight of stairs to the rooftop for an elevated view.
There isn’t much to see in the room apart from a number of portraits that were previously hung in nearby Sherborne House. Much of the original fittings and furniture were either destroyed or sold off.
The room’s saving grace is its fireplace with an elaborate chimneypiece. It’s not the original – that was moved to Sherborne House in the 19th century. However, what you see here is a beautiful and faithfully made recreation by the masons of the Hereford Cathedral Workshop.
The rooftop is reached by a separate spiral staircase in a turret. Once you reach the top, you’ll be standing where guests would have enjoyed the best view of the deer-course. Looking ahead today, you’ll see the front gates in the distance with the almost-sweeping Cotswolds landscape beyond. During Lodge Park’s heyday, the view ahead would also be where deer-course races would reach their conclusion.
If it weren’t for the trees, you would have also had almost uninterrupted views of most of the deer-course.
Lodge Park is an unusual historic site to visit. From the outside, you’d be mistaken that this is another stately home of the landed gentry. It’s history proves otherwise.
The building and the surrounding estate gives a glimpse into a world of how the privileged in society once lived and how they entertained themselves. The Park was essentially an outlet for one man’s passions and pursuits. But it was also a demonstration of the wealth and status this person possessed at that time.
While ‘Crump’ Dutton’s interest in deer coursing could be judged as morally unacceptable in this day and age, Lodge Park is one historical place with visiting. If not for finding about deer-coursing then for the grandness of its building and the scale of the estate.
Visiting Lodge Park
The best way to Lodge Park is by road. Take the A40 from either Cheltenham or Oxford and follow the brown signs for Lodge Park going towards Aldsworth.
Getting there by public transport would be very difficult. There are no rail routes running near the immediate area. Even taking the bus could involve several changes, which would be time-consuming and inconvenient. If you really have to, I’d recommend taking a train to Moreton-in-Marsh and make your way down to Lodge Park from there.
The estate is usually open to the public from February until the end of September. Opening days and times can vary but the place is open every day in August.
Best time to go
The spring and summer months are best (April – August) for a warmer climate.
Prices can start from as little as £3.00 depending on if you’re an individual, a group or a family. National Trust members go in for free. To take advantage of National Trust membership click here.
- Although the summer months is the best time to go, just remember this is England. So, there’s always a chance you could get caught out by the weather. At the very least bring some waterproofs and a good pair of shoes for walking on the estate.
- After your trip to Lodge Park, take a trip to the nearby village of Bibury – reputedly one of the most villages in the UK. The Swan Hotel in the heart of the village has a brasserie where you can enjoy afternoon tea, drinks or something more substantial by the river. I recommended ordering the Bibury trout or the fish and chips.
Rent a car for the Cotswolds: https://www.kayak.co.uk/cars
Stay at the Swan Hotel in Bibury: https://www.cotswold-inns-hotels.co.uk/the-swan-hotel/