This week, we take a step back in time to explore the history of Old Down Estate; what it was and what has made it the stunning 5* wedding venue that it is today.
Built in 1856, Old Down Estate was originally known as Fern Park before being sold to William Hartford, a well-connected city banker and resident at Blaise Castle, in 1881.
In 1905, the house was bought by Colonel Turner who moved in with his new wife Isabella, the daughter of John Walker; a whisky distiller who’s Jonnie Walker whiskey label is renowned the world over. Colonel Turner together with Algar Howard of Thornbury Castle formed the The Old Down Territorial Troop of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry. The troop was made up of local farmers and the area’s best horses and they trained daily at the mansion until they were called up in 1914 at the outbreak of the Great War. They served in the Middle East, Gallipoli and Egypt. Colonel Turner was awarded the DSO and Algar the Military cross and later Colonel Turner was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List.
In 1953, 48 years after the Turner family moved in, the mansion (now known as Old Down Manor) was struck by a tragedy. Colonel Turner was awakened by the barking of a dog to find that the house was on fire! Fire engines and fighters from seven stations attended the blaze but attempts to put out the fire were hampered by 10 degrees of frost. The beautiful mansion was burnt to a shell with only 3 of the 24 rooms remaining.
The house was left in ruin for 18 years after the fire until it was purchased by the Bernays family after the death of Colonel Turner. The house was then rebuilt in 1971 and the Bernays family was responsible for developing the estate as a tourist attraction before it was reverted back to a private residence in 2004; following its closure.
From 2004 to 2007 Old Down was owned by Mike Oldfield the rock musician responsible for Tubular Bells – one of the biggest selling records of all time – which also launched Virgin Records and its meteoric rise to fame.
The New Estate
The current owners have redeveloped the Park as a tourist attraction, creating jobs for the local community whilst breathing new life into this historical site. But most importantly of all Arron and Katya, with their exacting standards and meticulous attention to detail, have restored the gracious Victorian Manor House back to its former splendor; a magnificent Manor House, and in so doing are leaving a legacy to be enjoyed by many more generations to come. Why not come and view the manor for yourself at our Christmas Gift Fair on Sunday 26th November or at our Wedding Fayre on Sunday 22nd January.