Woodchester Mansion is an incomplete Gothic Revival Country House commissioned by William Leigh in 1857 and designed by Benjamin Bucknall with references to earlier concept work by Augustus Pugin and Charles Francis Hansom. Located in Woodchester Park near Nympsfield, Gloucestershire, the building appears reasonably complete from the outside but is largely a shell with many unfinished rooms, missing floors and open ceilings that reveal the complexity of the timber supported roof. Many questions about its design, purpose, positioning and occupants remain unanswered. It is built in an unusual location deep in a largely hidden valley.
When William Leigh died in 1873 work on the house was discontinued and his descendants seem to have lacked the funds and William’s passion to see the project completed. The architect, Benjamin Bucknall even wrote to William’s son in attempt to encourage him to complete the project he is said to have written:
“There is nothing more sad to the sight than an unfinished work and it is even more forlorn than a ruin of a building which has [at least] served its purpose.”
Although William Leigh had hoped to sire a great Catholic family with Woodchester at the heart of a new catholic community, the last of his line, Beatrice Leigh, died in 1949. After passing through several owners it was acquired by Stroud District Council, who leased it to a building restoration organisation, the Woodchester Mansion Trust, in 1992.
Woodchester Mansion was most likely conceived by William Leigh as a religious retreat but it never fulfilled that purpose and instead became the bolthole of Vincent Leigh who was considered to be a borderline recluse, a training ground for WWII D-day American soldiers and, in 2006, the location for a horror film based on the story of Dracula. It has been portrayed as a commune for wiccans in the novel Caballito by Robin Baker and, until quite recently, was perceived by many local people as a place to avoid after dark. As recently as 2012 the mutilated carcasses of at least two were was found nearby leading to speculation that a ‘beast’, probably a large cat, was on the loose in the estate. The story was featured in several national newspapers including the Guardian and the Daily Mail. It is also said to be haunted by several ghosts including a young girl who can be heard singing beautiful folk melodies and an American soldier that has been seen near to the lakes in the valley below the house. It has been featured in television programmes such as Most Haunted Live (2003 and 2005), Hauntings and Ghost Hunters International. Other ghosts sighted include a phantom horseman, a floating head and a poltergeist said to buffet the unwary. These phantoms are largely believed to relate to an earlier building, Spring House that was demolished prior to the construction of the mansion.
Camping in the Forest Campsite
Bracelands Drive, Christchurch, Coleford
Gloucestershire, England, GL16 7NP
+44 (0)845 130 8224
- Address: Unnamed Road, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10, UK
- GPS: 51.71009192616143,-2.2750443799011464
- Phone: 0044 (0)1453 861 541
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: GL10 3TS
- Entrance Fees: Charges Apply
- Disabled Access: Poor
- Visibility from Road: None
- Image Credits: Paul Vincent