visiting witley court and gardens

Visiting Witley Court and Gardens

One of the benefits of flexi days (outside of school holidays at least) means being able to spend my odd days off visiting places that my teen wouldn’t be keen on. Having said that he does quite like ruins, so maybe I’d have got away with visiting Witley Court and Gardens with him. The other benefit is visiting outside of peak times (weekends and school holidays) when it’s much quieter.

I was the first one through the visitor centre the morning I visited, dead on 10am for opening time. And had been the only person with an advance booking for the day. This made sure I went, even though the weather forecast hadn’t looked great. But you can buy on the door.

visiting witley court and gardens

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Where is Witley Court?

If you’re looking to visit Witley Court to explore the ruins of the great historic house, and the beautiful gardens with the famous water fountain, then you’ll need to head to Great Witley, Worcestershire. It’s easy to find with satnav or just by following the brown signs once you’re nearby.


There’s plenty of parking, including overflow if needed at peak times. But do note that if you’re not a member of English Heritage*, there is a £3 charge for parking. During the summer months, the solar powered parking machines work, but in the winter you pay at the visitor centre, by cash or card.  

It’s a fair walk around by the lake to reach the buildings, but there is a disabled drop off point nearer the actual ruins for those who need it.

Toilets are behind the visitor centre and the gift shop. There’s also picnic benches in the same area to enjoy your own food and sit and relax before or after your visit and you can picnic on grass areas in the grounds.

Hot and cold refreshments are available at the visitors centre, but the only tea room is independently run, and a walk past the ruins and church. It’s only open from April to October.

There’s a nice wooden play area for children on the way through the wilderness walks area.

The history of Witley Court and Gardens

There’s been a manor house at Witley Court since a medieval manor house was built, then further developed into a substantial Jacobean mansion by 1655 when Thomas Foley bought the estate. East and West wings extended the mansion, with the lake created by the mid 18th century.

The peak of Witley Court was in the 1850s, when William Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley, commissioned remodelling in the Italianate style, with a curving wing and glass roofed conservatory.  Numerous parties were held there, even attended by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).

The gardens were also ornately developed during this phase, with garden designer Nesfield introducing formal parterres and the famous Perseus and Andromeda fountain. 

Unfortunately a fire took hold in 1937, ending with the house being stripped and left to ruins, never lived in again.  The parterres have since been restored by English Heritage, as well as the fountain. The building is left as ruins.

Visiting Witley Court

I decided against taking the free audio guide, but there are various stop points for the guide around the walks, lake, ruins and garden so you can learn more about the estate and history.   

I walked directly to the ruins via the lakeside rather than going on one of the walks. There are 3 walks to choose from, from 15 minutes by the lakeside, up to 45 minutes for the woodland walk.

woodland walk pathway

There were a couple of Canadian Geese out on the lake, but otherwise it was so quiet and peaceful. It’s nice to see the waterfalls cascading from the lake down towards the woodland walks the other side too.

Front lake at witley court gardens

It’s then a walk over to the ruins through the wooded pathways.  The daffodils were all out, with some primroses blooming too. You can walk right down by the lake too, where further along there’s a Victorian boathouse to discover.

I was told I’d have to show my ticket on arriving at the ruins, but the little booth was closed up. Presumably it’s only open from April into the main visiting season.

Witley Court is pretty spectacular to see, looming above you as you walk up the hill to it. Even though it’s now ruins it feels very grand to walk up the steps and imagine how it might have been arriving in carriages for a society party. I could imagine Bridgerton being set there.

the view up to Witley Court ruins
frontage pillars and ruins of witley court
the steps and pillars up from the courtyard entrance

Some areas are out of bounds, but generally you’re free to walk through the different rooms of the ruins, sharing the space with the birds roosting there.

Some of the rooms have information boards and photos from the past showing how they would have looked before the fire. 

inside archways at witley court
looking along the ruins to the end archways
entrance hall ruins with a picture of how it looked back in time

You could only imagine how grand and luxurious the interiors were. But you get hints from the ornate decorative masonry work on the stone as you look through the arched doorways.

ornate decorative stone work flowers

At the back of the house, there’s more ornate pillars and steps, beautiful curving stone work banisters leading out to the gardens.

curved stone staircase leading outside
curved wall with open arches in with a church dome seen through an arch
side view of witley court conservatory
the view of the conservatory pillars at witley court

I enjoyed walking around the conservatory with the rose bushes already/still with flowers on them. They reminded me of Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts with the rose bushes being painted!

inside ruined stone conservatory garden
rose bushes under and against stone archways, towards open arches
white roses

The gardens are immaculate, with the formal parterres’ flowers already blooming in colour with the Flora fountain behind with the four Tritons (minus half of Flora who’s broken).

flowering parterre overlooking Flora and triton water fountain

You’re able to walk all around to get quite close to the Perseus and Andromeda fountain.  During peak summer season, the fountain fires on the hour each hour, but in March it’s too early to see that. It’s a great view to see the fountain with ruins of Witley Court behind it.

topiary cut hedge pattern in front of pond with water fountain
distance shot of witley court ruins from the perseus and andromeda water fountain
witley court rear from the perseus and andromeda statue
looking at witley court from past the water fountain

Walking around the ruins and gardens taking photos took me around an hour. Unfortunately I was too early to visit the church just to the side of the main house which opens from 12pm. It’s a historic church which is meant to be quite spectacular inside. Not what I’d expect from the outside.

After I’d had my fill of the ruins, I detoured slightly from the lake to walk over the bridge for a short stint through the woodland walk. I decided that as the rhododendrons weren’t out, I’d not not walk the full route. But there’s a short cut part way through back up to towards the play area and visitors centre.

looking down onto the bridge into the woodland walk

I’d seen what I’d come for in the ruins and gardens. You could make a longer day of it, bringing a picnic and enjoying the different walks.

It’s a shame that the church and tea room have different opening times to Witley Court, but they’re not owned by English Heritage.  There were plenty of pubs and cafe options on my route home though, so I’m sure if you needed to eat after your visit, there would be places to visit nearby.

I decided against upgrading my ticket to an annual English Heritage pass* because I don’t have many locations near me. This is my nearest, an hour away, and there’s only one other a similar distance. So it wouldn’t be worth it for me. But if you’ve got a few sites near you, it could be worth it, especially as you can take up to 3 children for free on an adults pass.

I’d quite like to visit Witley Court again in the summer, to see the gardens at that time of year. But it was nice to have the place to myself for the first 30 minutes being there. There’s still plenty to see and discover if visiting outside of peak season.

Find other places to visit nearby in Worcestershire.

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