My Blog




Sunday July 7, 2019
Meet Oliver
One of the tasks awaiting the Friends of Littlecote Roman Villa will be the cleaning of the famous Orpheus mosaic. First found accidentally in 1727 and then considered lost, it was rediscovered in 1976 and restored over a 13-year period.
A visitors' walkway and canopy were added in 2002 but the roof has proved to be a mixed blessing. Birds such as jackdaws have found it an ideal roosting and nesting place, and the local barn owl regards it as his own. The resulting mess on the walkways, handrails and the precious mosaic itself is a constant source of dismay and concern to everyone who sees the site, not least the original team of archaeologists now advising on its restoration.
In an attempt to find a solution to the problem, we have now installed Oliver. A very ferocious-looking decoy owl with rotating head is on duty in a prominent place overlooking the west range, and we wait to see if his presence deters not only the nesting birds but the resident owl as well.  I trust visitors and passers-by will understand the need for Oliver and will ensure he comes to no harm.


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 Saturday June 22, 2019
 Master George's Sitting Room
Things are changing at Littlecote. Starting on Monday, Oliver's Bistro and the bistro lounge will be stripped out and the whole area transformed into a single lounge with coffee bar - where the Costa Coffee franchise used to be, for those with long memories.  The new Lounge will be called "Master George's Sitting Room", a reference to the servants' bell board in the inner hall. The board was installed in the 1920s by the Wills family, when all of the major rooms were fitted with a bell push to summon the servants. One of the lights on the bell board is labelled "Master George's Sitting Room", and corresponded with the room belonging to a young George Wills.
Major George, as he later became, was the younger son of Sir Ernest Wills who purchased the Littlecote estate from Hugh Leyborne Popham in 1929. George served in the Second World War as a Major in The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry. He fought at El Alamein, was mentioned in dispatches. and was awarded the Territorial Decoration.  George inherited Littlecote on the death of his father Sir Ernest in 1958, but lived at Eastridge Manor on the Littlecote Estate. Littlecote House was opened to the public to generate income, and George gave it to his son David Seton Wills (known as Seton) on his 21st birthday in 1960 to avoid death duties. George died in 1979 and was buried in the churchyard at Froxfield on the Littlecote Estate.
George was very much involved in the local area and duing the 1930s captained the Littlecote football team. They seem to have been very successful, judging from the trophies in the photo above, in which George can be seen holding the ball .  All these changes are in the name of making the old house more guest-friendly, I am told.


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.  So they will be re-lined and re-gravelled over the coming months, which will greatly enhance the appearance of the gatehouse and stable block.




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."