Boscobel House, Brewood, Bishop's Wood, Shropshire, England, ST19 9AR. Tel: 01902 850204. Opening Dates and Times: All year
Daily from 1st April to 31st October. Open 10am to 6pm (or 4pm in winter). Closed 24th to 26th December.
Public Admission „
During the Civil War, when King Charles II's enemies (Cromwell's Parliamentarians) won the battle of Worcester in 1651, he needed somewhere to hide. This is one of the homes where the inhabitants helped him. While in fear of searches being made of the house, Charles II hid in a now famous oak tree in the grounds, after which a lot of pubs where named The Royal Oak.
The original oak no longer survives but its descendant does, and saplings with a Certificate of Authenticity can be brought for £9.99. (As our garden isn't big enough to have an oak tree grow in it without risking the roots causing damage to buildings, we weren't tempted by this offer.)
When we first arrived at the house, we were firstly greeted by ducks in the free car park, which is next to their pond. No doubt they were hoping we had a picnic to share. We met the friendly chickens, and not so friendly geese later in the part of the grounds right next to the house.
We got another friendly welcome by the staff at the reception. They passed us on to an entertaining guide. Our guide looked like he could be a cousin of John Cleese (the actor who played Basil Fawlty). He was tall, largely due to his long legs, slim, had a moustache, and also had a great sense of humour.
Entrance to the main part of the house is by guided tour only, but visitors are welcome to look around the grounds and the exhibition either while they are waiting for a guide, or after the tour.
Our tour took about 40 mins, but seemed to go more quickly due to the entertaining style of our guide. The house had been used as a farm and a hunting lodge. As well as the main rooms, which were furnished close to how they would have been in the 17th century, we saw the hiding places called Priest Holes, where the Catholic Gifford family hid clergy when their faith was out of favour with the authorities. They didn't realise when it was being built that their future king would need to hide there.
English Heritage do their best to show the building as it would have been in the 17th century, but are hampered by the alterations made by successive owners.
In the grounds the thing that struck me most was the painted imitation windows on the outside wall. With the introduction of a Window Tax, the owners of this house (like a lot of others) decided to block some up, so they paid less. I think that the mock windows look like a face looking out over the gardens.
*** Prices for 2009 ***
Adult £5.20, Child £2.60, Concession £4.40.
There was a couple of hours' worth of interest for me at this English Heritage property and as we have annual season tickets, we didn't have to pay the admission charges.
*** Opening Times & How to Get There ***
This property is open on 10.00 am to 5.00 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, plus Bank Holiday Mondays until 31 October 2008.
They have a tea room which is open at peak times only. You are likely to be relieved to know that the toilets are open during all opening hours though.
It is 8 miles north west of Wolverhampton on a minor road between the A5 and A41. It is signposted from these major roads.
Those with a sat-nav will want to know the postcode ST19 9AR.
The nearest public transport is Cosby station which is 3 miles away.
Tel: 01902 850244
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/upload/pdf/boscobel_ks1_2.pdf has information for teachers, which may also be interesting to other visitors. The guide book is a good souvenir but not essential to my enjoyment of the site.
*** Related Sites Nearby ***
The ruins of nearby White Ladies Priory is signposted from Boscobel House. (Charles II was also helped here.) We followed the signpost but would not recommend others take their car this way. We couldn't get our modest sized card (Ford Focus) down the White Ladies side road without our paintwork being scratched by the overhanging vegetation. Also in wet weather cars are likely to get stuck in the muddy field here. Admission is free.
Moseley Old Hall is now owned by the National Trust and Charles II also hid from Cromwell's men here. We were also very pleased with the entertaining tour of this house, given by a lady who was dressed as the housekeeper. This building is closer to how it would have been in the 17th century than Boscobel House.
*** Recommendation ***
I think that visitors interested in history would appreciate Boscobel House and grounds, but sadly most of the house is inaccessible to wheelchairs.
Boscobel House is located 8 miles North West of Wolverhampton, just inside Shropshire. It is a modest 17th century house which was originally built as a timber framed hunting lodge. After the defeat of Charles11 and his Scottish army at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles and several friends escaped. One can only imagine the fate of the soldiers left behind. They made their way to Boscobel House, which was owned by The Penderel family, supporters of Charles. In hot pursuit were Cromwell’s troops, and almost as soon as Charles arrived, he was forced to seek refuge in a large oak tree, where he must have spent a most uncomfortable day! The whole area was densely wooded at that time, unlike today where most of it is arable farmland. That evening, when it was safe for Charles to descend from his hiding place, he was given a meal and expressed a wish to spend the night in the house, rather than go back to the tree. In the morning he left, and continued on his way to France, seeking refuge and assistance from loyal supporters along the way. You can see the priest hole where the future king hid, it is very small, and I imagine he would have got little rest there. It is situated under the floor of the cheese room, and the smell from the ripe cheeses must have helped to mask the smell of the human beings who were forced to hide there during that period, sometimes for days on end! Imagine being in a really confined space and having to perform all your bodily functions there too. The nursery rhyme “Goosey Goosey Gander” originated from those days during the Civil War. It is when you read the lines - “Then I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers, I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs”, you realise that this is what the troops would do, go into peoples houses and try to get them to affirm an allegiance to the new order. Those who did not capitulate suffered their
inevitable fate. The house was changed over the years and the appearance inside is mainly 19th century, having been altered over the years, but parts of it are as the original. The house is in a pleasant rural setting, off the beaten track, and is now in the hands of English Heritage, who do guided tours roughly every hour or so. It has very pretty gardens too, tearooms and a gift shop. There are various events held at Boscobel House, Civil War re-enactments and 17th century musical events, if you plan to visit it is wise to check with English Heritage that no events are planned for your chosen day. Of course, with the present outbreak of Foot and Mouth, these historical houses and places of interest may well be closed for the duration. The tree in which Charles hid - The Royal Oak, was destroyed mainly by souvenir hunters, and another oak, “Son of Oak” was planted at the spot. Unfortunately in last year’s gales, the tree was badly damaged. However, a couple of weeks ago, a sapling from “Son of Oak” was planted by Prince Charles, let us hope it flourishes for a couple of hundred years! Many Public Houses and Inns bear the name The Royal Oak, it is easy to see where this name originated. There is some disabled access on ground floor level, also to the tea rooms and shop. Price per adult £4.30, children £2.20 and concessions £3.30. Before planning a visit check that it is open, in the light of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. Web site for English Heritage – www.english-heritage.org.uk