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Chastleton goes into National Trust ownership

Jacobean Oxfordshire house purchased for £2 million

London

After protracted and very public negotiations the National Heritage Fund has acquired Chastleton House, its contents and park for £2 million. These have now passed to the National Trust. The Fund has contributed in all £4 million, £2 million going towards the cost of the endowment. The house, in north Oxfordshire, was sold by Mrs Clutton-Brock, and its condition will necessitate extensive repairs and conservation, costs to be met by the National Trust, together with those of opening the house to the public. English Heritage will contribute up to £800,000 towards the repairs, and the Trust will launch a public appeal. In 1919, Country Life described the house as “one of those rare things that once seen can never be forgotten...for the retention of its ancient furniture, fittings, pictures, pewter, glass and tapestries...it stands out as a wonderful survival...” The house’s similarity with Hardwick Hall’s architectural style has led to its connection with Robert Smythson. Its south front is one of the most unusual and sophisticated compositions in English Renaissance architecture. Possibly of greatest interest is the fact that many of the contents listed in the 1633 inventory of the house remain in situ. Martin Drury, Historic Buildings Secretary at the National Trust, commented, “The financial settlement for Chastleton is particularly fortunate. It is a glorious relief that the Trust now has the house. Our challenge is to present the house without changing its wonderful atmosphere. A comparable case was Castle Ashby, from which we learned a great deal, and our policy is to change as little as possible unless there is a structural necessity. This will be our guideline at Chastleton.”