Footsteps into History - Dodington
This week Gerry Brooke finds himself at Dodington Park, on the edge of the Cotswolds
I remember visiting Dodington House in the 1970s after Sir Simon Codrington had opened the grounds to the public.
As well as the carriage museum, I seem to recall an adventure playground, shops, children's farm and a miniature railway.
Although the house and grounds are now owned by bagless vacuum millionaire Sir James Dyson, and closed to the public, there is a footpath – the Cotswold Way – which allows access through the grounds from the A46 near Tormarton.
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There's bags of history here.
At the time of the Domesday survey, Dodington belonged to the Berkeleys of Dursley, whose line ended in 1382. Then, in the 16th century, the Wekys family sold it to Giles Codrington.
In 1700, the estate was bought from his relatives by Christopher Codrington, the wealthy governor of the Leeward Islands.
The Codringtons owned a huge sugar plantation, Betty's Hope, on Antigua, for nearly 200 years.
By 1754, they "owned" 800 slaves, looked after by agents and managers.
When Christopher died, he left two estates in Barbados and part of the island of Barbuda to the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel.
The money, he said, was to be used to train priests to minister to the island slaves.
But after the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807, and then the Abolition of Slavery itself in 1833, profits from the West Indies sharply declined.
Although the Codringtons believed they would be better off under their ownership, in 1834 all 310 slaves at Betty's Hope were freed.
As their West Indian estates fell into disrepair, the family received £14,754 in compensation.
Back at Dodington the grand estate was said to have large and beautiful gardens. The original house here – an H-plan, gabled building – was said to date back to Tudor times.
When the poet and man of letters Alexander Pope visited in 1728, he described the house as "pretty enough, the situation romantic, covered with woody hills, stumbling upon one another confusedly, and the garden making a valley between them with mounts and waterfalls."
The River Frome, which rises in the park, fed a series of mill ponds and a small canal.
Investing huge sums of money in the estate, the Codrington's employed Lancelot "Capability" Brown to begin landscaping work in 1764.
He opened up the valleys by tree felling, but left specimen oaks and beeches before planting more woods and creating two lakes joined by an aqueduct and cascade.
The cascade building, designed by Brown in neo-gothic style as part of the picturesque landscaping, aimed to hide a link between the lakes.
The specimen trees included Cedar of Lebanon, holm oak, fern-leaved beech, walnut, Corsican pine and Norfolk Island pine.
In 1798, Sir Christopher Bethel Codrington, the MP for Tewkesbury, commissioned James Wyatt to make substantial alterations to the house.
But the Codrington family fell on hard times. In the early 1980s parts of the park were sold off, and in 1984 the house and grounds were sold.
They were bought by property developer Michael Kent, who carried out a lot of restoration work.