West Woodhay House
The Earliest 'Modern' Country House

There is no sign of the original medieval manor house that replaced the old castle on this new site in West Woodhay. Perhaps there was also a later Tudor mansion built here for Lord Cheney's family.

The present West Woodhay House was built in 1635 for Sir Benjamin Rudyard. The architect was probably Edward Carter, Inigo Jones' deputy during his extensive repairs of St. Paul's Cathedral. Rudyerd may have given considerable input himself however, having been inspired by the work of his friend and patron, the Earl of Pembroke, at Wilton House (Wiltshire) and also by his conversations by Jones himself, with whom he sat on the Privy Council's Commission for New Building in London. The date and Latin inscriptions appear in stone panels on the north and south fronts.

This compact building is quite simple in embellishments, having only decorative corner quoin stones and an ionic door surround. However, the overall design was quite revolutionary for its time. It has no medieval-style hall, but a double-pile (two-room thick) central range with rather stunted side wings at the front only. Particularly of note, is the fact that the hall is entered from a central doorway and is heated by a fireplace in the wall immediately opposite. These developments were not uncommon after 1660, but West Woodhay was one of the very first and, as such, is of National importance. A large unsympathetic additional wing and huge gables were added by Arthur Blomfield for William Henry Cole in 1880 but, fortunately, these were removed in 1948. The house has been the home of the Henderson family, cousins of Lord Faringdon of Buscot Park, since 1920.

The old church used to stand just to the south-east on the site of the walled garden. It was rebuilt in 1716 by Vanbrugh for William Sloper, who had bought the manor from the Rudyerds four years previously. This was demolished in 1883 and replaced by the new church which was built on a different site on the edge of the estate.

West Woodhay House is a private residence. The gardens are open to the public during its garden show every summer.

    Nash Ford Publishing 2010. All Rights Reserved.