Associated with the Middle Ages in Europe, Gothic is the swashbuckling architecture of pointed arches, rib vaults, pinnacles and spires, flying buttresses, and intricate window tracery, as demonstrated in the great cathedrals and minsters in Europe. Gothic also became associated with collegiate architecture, notably at Oxford and Cambridge, which inspired many college Gothic-style campuses across the United States.
In the mid eighteenth century, a Gothic Revival movement sought to reuse Gothic forms, often for its picturesque and romantic qualities without regard for its structural possibilities or original function. For example, flying buttresses are a necessary part of much Gothic architecture, which would collapse without them. Gothic Revival architecture, however, used the form purely for decoration.
The first well known Gothic Revival building in England is a house called Strawberry Hill, which made the style fashionable. It is located in Richmond upon Thames, an outer part of London, and was the home of novelist Hugh Walpole, who wrote “The Castle of Otranto” (1765), possibly the first Gothic novel. Walpole purchased Strawberry Hill in 1747 and gradually transformed it into a medieval fantasy. The first phase of English Gothic Revival is often, accordingly, called Strawberry Hill Gothic.
Stouts Hill in Gloucestershire, on the outskirts of Uley village (about 2.5 hours from Central London by car), is a completely refurbished Grade II* Strawberry Hill Gothic-style country house. (There are only about 4,500 Grade II* listed buildings in England, so it’s very special.)
Stouts Hill dates to about 1743 and was built for the Gyde family of local weavers. In the late 18th century, the estate was acquired by the Lloyd Baker family, whose principal estate was established at Hardwicke Court, near Gloucester, and was occupied as a secondary/overflow house by members of the family. From 1935 until 1979, the house was rented as a private boys’ prep school with about 100 boarders. Notable former pupils of the school include Stephen Fry and Captain Mark Phillips, former husband of Princess Anne.
Surrounded by 20 acres of gardens and grounds, the great house has been subject to an extensive conservation program and now combines modern country living with stately traditional design. For that, read: plenty of Gothic stuff and also what’s come to be known as a party barn!
On the first floor of the residence, a 500-square-foot reception hall showcases a massive Gothic fireplace with four Batty Langley columns. (Who?) An eccentric and influential 18th-century garden designer, architect and prolific writer of architectural books, Langley (1696-1751) sought to perfect and provide uniform order to Gothic forms by providing them with classical proportions.
The 25-plus-room house also boasts several sitting rooms, including an octagonal drawing room, a formal dining room, and a huge library with views over the gardens. The contemporary kitchen, with Aga range, includes a back kitchen/pantry and what the British call a “snug,” which is exactly what it sounds like, a cozy and casual sitting room. One of the main-floor sitting rooms has it’s own kitchenette and there’s a vaulted ceiling in the basement wine cellar.
In all, there are eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms, plus a couple of powder rooms, across the mansion’s 24,300 square feet. Seven guest bedrooms are divided between a mezzanine level and the second floor; each bedrooms has a private bath, two have dressing rooms and two others have private sitting rooms. With far reaching views over the gardens and beyond, the principal suite includes an octagonal bedroom with fireplace, a fitted dressing room and a spacious bathroom.
The 20 acres of land includes a lake and tennis court, as well as five two-bedroom cottages, which make for the perfect overflow accommodation, staff housing, or holiday rentals. And don’t forget the fabulous party barn! Finished to a high standard, the enormous building is wired so as to make it suitable as a deluxe home office. There is also a table tennis room and another room with two full size snooker tables. Like the cottages, the party barn offers opportunity to bring in some income renting it out for events.
Stout Hill is available via Clemmie D’Arcy Clark or Ed Sugden at Savills and the asking price for this beauty is about $7.4 million. But as Sugden says, “Arguably one of the most romantic homes in the Cotswolds, this outstanding house has been beautifully refurbished to an exacting standard and is deemed a major and important example of Gothic country-house style at its very best. In addition to picture-perfect architecture, the house is situated in a stunning hidden valley on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment and half a mile from the Cotswold Way.