In England we are spoilt with all the great houses we can visit. You are never far from several that have public access, and they are usually full of treasures and amazing architecture.
Witley Court is a bit different. It is a ruined Italianate mansion. Built for the Foleys in the seventeenth century on the site of a former manor house, it was enormously expanded in the early nineteenth century by the architect John Nash for Thomas Foley, 3rd Baron Foley. The estate was later sold to the Earls of Dudley, who undertook a second massive reconstruction in the mid-19th century, employing the architect Samuel Daukes to create one of the great palaces of Victorian and Edwardian England.
The declining fortune of the Dudleys saw the sale of the court after the First World War to a Kidderminster carpet manufacturer. In 1937 a major fire caused great damage to the court, the estate was broken up and sold and the house was subsequently stripped of its fittings and furnishings. Forty years of decay followed before the house and grounds were taken into the care of The Department of the Environment in 1972. Since that point, significant restoration and stabilisation have secured the house as a spectacular ruin.
Witley Court, and the attached Church of St Michael and All Angels, are both Grade I listed buildings.
In more recent times, the original plans and designs for the formal gardens have been discovered, and they are in the process of being restored. The main area of the gardens, the South Parterre, between the house and the Perseus and Andromeda fountain, has already been completed. Meanwhile, work on the East Parterre region is ongoing.
A video made in 1967 by the band Procol Harum for their song "A Whiter Shade of Pale", used Witley Court as the location. At this time the site was completely derelict.