My Blog

Friday April 5, 2019

The Gatehouse is coming to life ....

The Friends of Littlecote Roman Villa are really making an impact on the three-storey gatehouse to the Roman villa complex. At their second meeting they started tackling the most northerly of the twin towers - not easy because the remaining walls are not raised and lots of kneeling is required.  The director of the original excavation in 1978-1991 Bryn Walters and his colleague Luigi Thompson were there, and were delighted with the progress being made. The volunteers from the Hungerford Historical Association now number nineteen.  
Bryn also met with the Warner Site Manager Dean Lavisher and the Head Gardener Grove Russell-Allen to discuss ways of restoring the (originally) roofed areas which were gravelled in 1991. They are covered in moss and it was hoped the gravel had survived, but worm activity over the years has meant its complete disappearance. 

Guest tours of the Roman complex are currently suspended for the winter, but once the access ramp has been made safe, I shall consider reinstating them.

Monday March 18, 2019

FOLRV - Friends of Littlecote Roman Villa

Today saw the first meeting of a new group of volunteers, formed by the Hungerford Historical Association with the specific aim of restoring and maintaining the Littlecote Roman villa complex.   The impetus for the group came from the director of the 1978-1991 excavations, Bryn Walters.  Bryn and his colleague Bernard Phillips, who was responsible for all the archaeology, were at the meeting, together with Luigi Thompson who designed and produced all of the literature and information boards.

The Chairman of the HHA, Dr Hugh Pihlens, has been able to find a total of 18 volunteers, most of whom arrived this morning with trowels and brushes, ready to start work.  The first part to be tackled was the Roman gate house, and good progress was made to remove moss and soil from the walls.  The plan at the moment is to have fortnightly sessions over the coming months.  This will not impact the work of the Warner ground staff, who have overall responsibility for the site.  Bryn can be seen in the centre of the photograph above, instructing the volunteers; Hugh is on the far left. 

Tuesday  March 5, 2019
On the Tiles
The roof of Littlecote House has been in a poor state of repair for as long as I can remember. Things took a worrying turn last year when several huge stone slates slid off the roof of the Henry VIII wing, embedding themselves in the lawn. A similar thing happened on the north side over the Jerusalem staircase, and as a result the whole house was roped off to prevent guests from straying too close to danger.  A drone survey was carried out and the project has now been approved and work commenced. Parts of the house are not presently accessible, which made for a hasty revision of this morning's tours. Guests are being informed by means of some colourful information boards sited at the east and west entrances. The boards say:
"Parts of Littlecote House date back to the 15th Century, with the Elizabethan manor added in 1592. When Warner Leisure Hotels bought the property from Peter De Savary in 1996, we became custodians of this priceless piece of English history; part of that duty is to maintain Littlecote House for future generations.  We take our responsbiities very seriously, and as such we're embarking on a £1.5m project to repair the roof of our historic house over the next 3 years, which will help ensure that Littlecote House stays standing for the next 500 years too.  While we may not look quite at our best during the project, we sincerely thank you for your understanding as we carry out this vital work to preserve this piece of history."

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Warners New TV  Ad about to air!

Whilst you are enjoying your Boxing Day evening, keep an eye out for the new Warner Leisure TV advert for Littlecote breaks.  It is due to air around the early evening prime time slot, 7-7.30 pm.  The prominent theme is the Roman mosaic, the first time I have seen it used for marketing purposes.  I am not sure when it was filmed, and the advert does use a bit of artistic licence in terms of its exact location (it appears to be on the North lawns where the ornamental pond is) but I am pleased that the management team have thought it worth promoting.  2019 promises to be a good year for the Roman site - watch this space!

  Saturday, November 17, 2018

  William Leyborne RN

Last evening I was invited to a preview of the Dreweatts Fine Art Auction due to take place on 5 December 2018. The preview included, as Lot 35, a portrait with which I am very familiar (see  It used to hang in the old house, and  had a plaque at the time which caused great confusion, bearing the legend "William Leyborne Popham RN".   But he was not called Popham - he was William Leyborne.
Sir John Popham’s line of male descent failed in 1779 with the death of Francis Popham, eldest son of Edward Popham MP.   Francis had married Dorothy Hutton, daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury. They had no children, and when Francis died, Dorothy inherited.  When she died in 1797, she left the Littlecote estates to Francis’s illegitimate son.  However, he only outlived Dorothy by six years, and under the terms of her will, the estates then reverted to Francis’s nephew, Edward William Leyborne, eldest son of Anne Popham and  William Leyborne, who was obliged to add the name Popham to his own in order to inherit.
In 1762 Francis's sister Anne had married General William Leyborne Leyborne.  The Leybornes lived at Westwell House near Burford in Oxfordshire, and had four children.  The youngest, William, born 1773, entered the Royal Navy and died in service shortly afterwards aged  only 17.  He was buried in Chilton Foliat, where a memorial tablet in the church records his early death.

I shall attend the auction and see what becomes of him. I hope he goes to a good home. 

POSTSCRIPT: William sold for £12,000 to an anonymous telephone bidder.  Perhaps they will contact me for more information??