Lower Brockhampton Hall, Herefordshire

This delightful black and white half-timbered property, set in a wooded valley on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire borders, epitomises the classic vision of an old English country house. Adding to the romantic character of Lower Brockhampton Hall is a slightly quirky gatehouse, and the remains of a moat encircling three-quarters of the house - the whole scene is completely idyllic.

The Brockhampton family were known in this area as far back as the 12th century, and were responsible for building the first chapel on the estate c1180. However, it was some 200 years later that John Domoulton, a descendant of the family, had his moated manor house constructed here. The 1700 acre estate he inherited provided all the quality wood needed for his timber-framed house and, with skilled craftsmen, John's home symbolised his status within the local community.

Many moated manor houses of this era were built to an H-shape plan, and archaeological evidence suggests Lower Brockhampton Hall followed this tradition, although it has been much altered over the centuries. Today, it resembles more of an L-shape, with the Great Hall and parlour forming the short-side of the L, and the longer side comprising the 16th century two-storey stone extension (not accessible to the public).

Lower Brockhampton Hall continued to be inherited by the same family for over 500 years. During the first half of the 16th century, the two-storey gatehouse was added, most probably to reinforce the image of a family 'doing well' for themselves. This fact certainly seems to be borne out before the end of the century, with the building of the stone extension to the original timber-framed house. Major improvements were undertaken to the estate in the 18th century after Bartholomew Barnetby inherited, aged 18, and he was responsible for commissioning a new family mansion to be built on the estate. Brockhampton House was a mid-Georgian mansion designed by Thomas Farnolls Prichard, who famously designed The Iron Bridge. When the family moved to their new home, Lower Brockhampton Hall was used as a farmhouse, and the old Norman Chapel utilised for agricultural purposes.

In 1946, on the death of the last heir, the whole of the Brockhampton estate was bequeathed to the National Trust. It is an extremely pleasurable experience to visit such a treasure in the gentle Herefordshire countryside - it has a strong family history, it is picturesque, and it is entirely charming. In the now ruinous chapel, a few family gravestones have survived.


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