Built in 1856 and then known as Fern Park, the house was opened with a grand celebration. In 1881 the house was sold to William Hartford, a well-connected city banker and resident at Blaise Castle. His daughter Emily married the 9th Duke of Beaufort.
In 1904 Colonel Turner bought the house and moved in with his new wife Isabella, daughter of John Walker, a whiskey distiller who's Jonnie Walker whiskey label is renowned the world over. Colonel Turner together with Algar Howard of Thornbury Castle formed The Old Down Territorial Troop of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry. The troop, made up of local farmers and the area’s best horses, trained daily at the mansion and were called up in 1914 at the outbreak of the Great War.
The Troop 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 Years Honours List. The mansion, now known as Old Down Manor was struck by tragedy in 1953. Colonel Turner was awakened by the barking of a dog to find 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 lay empty and in ruins for 18 years until it was purchased by the Bernays family after Colonel Turner’s death. The house was rebuilt in 1971 and the 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.
ARRON & KATYA BANKS
The current owners of Old Down Estate are Arron and Katya Banks. They 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 splendour, and in so doing are leaving a legacy to be enjoyed by many more generations to come.
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