Wick Court, Gloucestershire
The Country Houses Foundation is pleased to be able to support the repair of the Elizabethan roof at Wick Court, one of three working farms in the UK operated by the charity, Farms for City Children.
Farms for City Children provides for 3,000 children a year to come from inner cities in Britain to spend a week on a real working farm, getting a chance to enjoy a taste of an authentic rural life which is increasingly unavailable to urban children. Children’s author Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare founded Farms for City Children at Nethercott House in Devon in 1976. Some of their young visitors are lucky enough to stay in a remarkable late Elizabethan house at Wick Court.
Wick Court has existed here little altered since around 1600, the very end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It’s a tall house, with five gables and a two storey porch, the interior also preserves many of the features of Elizabethan life. In medieval times, the house belonged to the Berkeley family of Berkeley Castle who used it as a base for catching salmon and lampreys in the River Severn. When a Berkeley daughter married into the Wykes family, it was time for a large and fashionable new house.
Wick Court has an extraordinary air of timelessness. It sits safe within its original moat caught in a horse-shoe bend of the River Severn. From the wooden seats inside the porch to the carved open well staircase, much of the original interior survives. There is fine plasterwork on some of the ceilings and strapwork detailing on the fireplaces, original flagstones on the ground floor, collar beams and mullioned windows.
The farm has brought its own bit of history; it is not just the house that got stuck in a time warp. The Dowdeswell sisters who farmed here in the 1960s protected one of the last herds of Gloucester cattle and descendants of this herd are now the only authentic source of Single Gloucester cheese, which must be made with milk from pure bred Gloucester cows in Gloucestershire. There are Gloucester Old Spot pigs too. The primary school children who come here have a rare opportunity to experience a little bit of 17th century England much as Queen Elizabeth might have seen it.