Alscot Park Estate A Brief History

Alscot Park lies mainly in the parish of Preston-on-Stour, about 3 miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon. The parish was originally divided into the manors of Preston and Alscot, and was part of the county of Gloucestershire until it was transferred to Warwickshire in 1931. The land falls from 250 feet at its highest point to 130 feet at the river Stour itself. The House is situated to the south of the Stour, with the gardens running down to the river. The park is largely to the south of the House, although the parkland once extended to the north and to the west of the river beside the village of Preston-on Stour. The soil is loamy, overlying Lias clay, and the lands of the estate, apart from the Park itself, are predominantly agricultural. The House is a remarkable survival of the rococo-gothic style of the mid-eighteenth century.

Early history of the estate

The land at 'Sture' is mentioned in 804, when it was given to the monastery at Deerhurst, in Gloucestershire. In 1086 part of the land was held by the abbey of St. Denis in Paris, to which some of the possessions of Deerhurst had been granted in 1059. Alscot Park was established to the northeast of the Stour by 1401, when the lord of Alscot was granted free warren, and in 1411 the demensne of Alscot amounted to two ploughlands. In the early sixteenth century Alscot manor was held by George Catesby, whose widow Elizabeth afterwards married Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote. At the dissolution of the monasteries both the manors of Preston-on Stour and Alscot were sold. The park at Alscot was infringed in 1593, and early in the seventeenth century both manors were owned by Sir Hugh Brawne. In 1686 the park at Alscot was enlarged and land was taken in to the south of the river Stour. The family was probably Parliamentarian, since the estates were not confiscated after the Civil War. The combined estates descended from Sir Hugh in direct succession, his great granddaughter inheriting the property towards the end of the seventeenth century. She married Thomas Mariett (d. 1691), the marriage joining the estates of Alscot and neighbouring Whitchurch. Their grandson Richard, who altered the House in the 1720's, was probably responsible for the formal layout of the gardens and the planting of trees in the park, including the avenues running north, south, and west from the House. His son, another Richard, succeeded in 1739 and died a bachelor in 1744, leaving the estate to his married sister.

 

 

 

The mid-eighteenth century

In 1747 Preston and Alscot, together with the adjacent manors of Whitchurch, Wimpstone and Crimscote, were sold to James West, MP., (1703-1772). James West was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a noted collector of books, manuscripts and coins. He also became President of the Royal Society. In 1746 he was appointed Joint Secretary to the Exchequer, a post he held until 1762 when he retired to live at Alscot. James West's father was a successful London cloth merchant, but his grandfather had been Mayor of Banbury, and the West family already had property at Priors Marston in Warwickshire. Through his parliamentary connections West knew many members of the gentry and nobility who had country mansions in the Midlands, such as George, later Lord Lyttleton of Hagley, Lord Aylsford of Packington and Lord Coventry of Croome. Mrs. West, writing to her brother abroad about her husband's purchase of Alscot, says: 'it is the comicallest little old house that you ever saw. The grand Entrance is by a sweep in the Park, which brings you to a Bowling Green where you enter a Little Tiny Hall, on the right of which is a long narrow Drawing Room....' There is an undated map in the possession of the family which shows the House and park as it probably was in 1747 or soon afterwards, with the bowling green immediately in front of the entrance. In a later letter to her brother Mrs. West describes the estate: 'it really is a sweet place & we have a river which winds very beautifully through the park & close to one part of it is a very quick rising hill upon which is the finest growth of tall firs I ever saw; besides the river we have 3 very fine pieces of water in the park which fat the finest carp, tench, perch and pike. The house is a very bad one, but if I get a good prize in the Lottery we are to build in the spring.'

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