Broughton Castle (Oxon) – an Elizabethan house I like!

Broughton Castle - though I'd say more Manor House

I am never shy about admitting my general tendencies towards classical architecture and how I find Tudor and Victorian exteriors and interiors too dark and muddled for my liking.

However, I’m always delighted to visit an Elizabethan house that knocks the socks of its contemporaries.  Broughton was is one of these.

Yes, Simon Jenkins gives Broughton 5* so perhaps we should have expected a lot from the outset, but whereas Blenheim came with great expectations and left me deflated, Broughton made me sit up and pay attention.

Only open select afternoons and definitely a family home supported by an army of very knowledgeable guides and a small team in the converted stable that now houses the cafe, the tour meanders via the great hall, vaulted passageways, ancient dining room and many comfortable rooms en route to the roof tower, from where one can view the surrounding countryside like the master of the house.

View from the roof showing the gate tower, moat and wall which encloses Broughton, making it a defended manor rather than a moated castle.

View of the topiary from the roof

Broughton themselves do an excellent virtual tour on their website.

In general Broughton is a rare gem: a property largely unaltered since its main present day structure was completed in the mid-16th century.  The building incorporates an earlier 14th century Great Hall and chapel with a later medieval solar and undercroft.

The sense of early origins is most felt in the dining room (the original undercroft) and corridors to the left of the Great Hall, which itself is a bit of a mish-mash of styles: having being sliced to create a second floor, pierced to insert enlarged windows and plastered (both ceilings and walls) to create a smooth plain interior during the 16th century rebuild, in the 1760s the present ceiling was added.  Then, in 1900 the walls were uncovered.  The result can be seen below.

Fireplace in the Great Hall

Fabulous French fireplace in the King's Chamber upstairs

Upstairs also has a definite Georgian influence, with elegant bedrooms, a bust of Inigo Jones and more than a touch of chinnosiery in the form of hand painted Chinese wallpaper.

So taken was I, I got snap happy:

Look up at the ceiling in the Great Hall

The garden outside, while small in its manicured form, is delightful.  Two walled gardens dating from the 1880s (made within the walls of demolished Elizabethan kitchens) seclude the plants from the moat and the wider lawn.

From the back garden

Do spy the balcony from which the Fiennes family (yes, the same family as Ralph and Ranulph, which explains why the dancing scene in Shakespeare in Love was filmed in the Great Hall at Broughton) probably admire the garden when the visitors have gone home.  Those visitors may well be pleasantly stuffed with the cream teas on offer in the cafe. That is, before they are led back to the car park in search of the only public toilets, which are cunningly sited there!

Being only 10 minutes drive from Banbury even cycle-only families can get to this wonderful house.

When visited: 2011

House * out of 5: ****

Garden * out of 5: ***

Website: click here

Broughton’s own blog: http://www.broughtoncastle.blogspot.com/ (at the time of writing, not updated since 2009 – sob)

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