Old Campden House and Gatehouse Steeped in History and Mystery
In 1613, the newly enriched Sir Baptist Hicks began work on a new house in Chipping Campden in the very latest style, looking out over equally fashionable formal gardens. Thirty years later, his mansion was burnt to the ground by retreating Royalist soldiers and only a single fragment remains. Other lesser buildings on the site survived. Two little pepperpot lodges frame the gateway beside Campden’s church, and two exceptional Jacobean banqueting houses with exuberant strapwork parapets and barley sugar twist chimneys face each other across a former terrace. The skeleton of the Jacobean gardens is still visible beneath the Cotswold turf. There is also a fine little building of uncertain original purpose, known as The Almonry. Today, the banqueting houses provide the main accommodation for two Landmarks, the Almonry acting as an annexe for one. To get to either Landmark, you leave your car in the former henyard at the edge of the site and walk across the site along a short grassy path.
In the seventeenth century, Sir Baptist’s guests would have retired to these houses for their ‘banquet’ (or dessert course) at the end of the meal, to drink rare wines, eat dried fruit and sweetmeats and admire his domain. Whether you choose to sip Tokay and nibble on a crystallised petal or tuck into fish and chips with a glass of beer, in this place it cannot fail to be a banquet.
The West Banqueting House is also more spacious than it looks, with a large, barrel-vaulted chamber on the ground floor and a hearth at either end – perhaps once a kitchen, as it now is again. The first-floor chamber yields the only fragments of the Jacobean frieze of the rich and elegant plasterwork and panelling that must once have adorned all the buildings on this site. Yet this banqueting house was converted at an early stage for humbler domestic accommodation and it may well have been the house of William Harrison, steward to Lady Juliana Hicks and a key player in the mystery known as The Campden Wonder. We have allowed this era to continue to speak in the building, by keeping a rough stud work partition and leaving the loggia windows blocked, as we found them. There is a further sitting-room and twin bedroom (with cunningly concealed bathroom) in the little building across the former bleach garden, known as the Almonry for its proximity to Sir Baptist’s fine almshouses. It was previously rescued from decay in the 1920s by F. L. Griggs, providing a happy link with the Arts & Crafts movement that continues to flourish in Chipping Campden to this day.