'Haunted' Gothic mansion featured on The Crown secures funding to fix roof

  • Report by Ken Goodwin

A Gothic Revival mansion which has remained unfinished since building work began in the 19th century has secured grants of more than £300,000 to help fix the roof.

Woodchester Mansion near Nailsworth in Gloucestershire is described as an unfinished masterpiece.

It is thought to be haunted and has featured in the TV series Most Haunted a number of times. It even offers overnight ghost hunts for brave members of the public. It featured in the 2006 TV film Dracula and - perhaps unsurprisingly - is also the home of hundreds of bats.

More recently, the house was used as a filming location in the royal drama The Crown where it doubled as Gordonstoun, the school which both Prince Philip and Prince Charles attended.

The Grade I listed stately home lies in a valley at Nympsfield near Stonehouse in Gloucestershire. It is owned by Stroud District Council and managed by the Woodchester Mansion Trust.

Work is underway on the mansion Credit: ITV West Country

Building work started in 1855, but the project was beset with problems.

John Goom, one of the Trustees says, "Because the building was never finished, you can see all the structure behind it. And more particularly, it is a gothic structure. If you go inside it, floors are missing, the carving's never been finished. It's a building site, rather than a traditional old house." 

Woodchester Mansion has been described as an 'unfinished masterpiece'. Credit: ITV West Country

Just keeping the place weatherproof is a major job but now the Trust has secured a grant of more than £300,000 from Historic England, the Historic Houses Foundation and the Government's Heritage Stimulus Fund.

The roof and chimneys are getting some much-needed repairs.

Trustee John Goom said: "Major works, such as we're embarking on now, have to be the result of major fundraising. The fact that this money has materialised very suddenly to help recover from covid has been a real boon. It has brought forward our repair programme by about a year."

One of the intriguing things about the house is why it was unfinished.

William Leigh commissioned the building of Woodchester Mansion but all work stopped when he died in 1873. Credit: Woodchester Mansion Trust

John said: "That's one of the big puzzles. There is the story of the ghost appearing, and scaring all the builders away but, more realistically, William Leigh - who was building it - was getting rather old, rather ill and also rather short of money."

The building is home to a rare colony of lesser and greater horseshoe bats. They roost and breed in the roof, and can number up to one thousand during the summer months.

Bat researcher Dr Roger Ransome has been studying the creatures since 1959.

Some of the rare bats caught on Woodchester Mansion's 'batcam'. Credit: Woodchester Mansion Trust

Dr Ransome said: "The attics are very large and spacious. They are on the south facing side of the valley, and this warms them up, because both species are Mediterranean in origin, and they are not too keen on our average colder temperatures. So you need a place that is kept warm."

The bats can be observed in the visitor centre on special infrared cameras.

The mansion is due to reopen to visitors in April 2021. Find out more here.