DiCamillo Companion
England

Willey Park (Willey Hall)

  • Earlier Houses: There were two earlier houses on, or near, the site of the current house: a Tudor house, which still stands, and a Queen Anne house, which has been demolished.

    House & Family History: At the end of a drive that lasts for miles, the sublime setting of Willey Park is revealed, soaring high above a valley. Set masterfully on a terrace above a chain of lakes in a vast park that hides it from every trace of the outside world, Willey is the private family home of the Forester family (the name Forester comes from the family's ancient land holdings in nearby Wrekin Forest). The masterpiece of its architect, Lewis Wyatt, Willey is one of the last and most impressive revivals of the Palladian style. It was designed in 1812 and built from 1813 until 1820 on a new site for Cecil, 1st Lord Forester, who had married Lady Katherine Manners, a daughter of the Duke of Rutland. Unlike Lady Katherine's family home – the Gothic Belvoir Castle in Lincolnshire – Willey is a grand classical statement house. A stately Corinthian porte-cochère greets the visitor, while, around the corner on the Southwest Façade stands a full-height curved bow flanked by a hemicycle of Corinthian columns below a saucer dome (this masterwork houses the Library). The grandeur continues internally, with the porte-cochère opening into a sober classical vestibule, from which double doors reveal the full-height, top-lit segmental vault ceiling of the central Hall. Lined with 14-foot-high Corinthian columns of yellow Siena scagliola with white capitals, this galleried basilica, redolent of ancient Rome, is of enormous proportions: 40 feet long by 30 feet wide, with a ceiling that soars to 28 feet. Two sweeping semicircular staircases, from beyond which light streams into the Hall from the Orangery, are the finishing touches on this amazing house. The word sublime was clearly invented to describe Willey Park. (We are most grateful to Gareth Williams for this history of Willey.)

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The Willey Estate today spans approximately 7,000 acres.

    Chapel & Church: St. John's parish church sits on Willey Estate land and is owned by the Estate.

  • Architect: Lewis William Wyatt

    Date: 1813-15
    Designed: House for Cecil Weld-Forester, 1st Lord Forester.

    View all houses
  • J.B. Burke: Vol. II, p. 78, 1853.

    J.P. Neal: 2.S. Vol. II, 1825.

    Country Life: XLIX, 214, 1921.

  • Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 2008
    Reference: pg. 1191
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 9780300125085
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade II

    Park Listed: Not Listed

  • Seat of: Charles Richard George Weld-Forester, 9th Baron Forester.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No