Updated: Oct 9
John Swann, Head of Humanities
Last weekend marked Gloucester Heritage Open Days 2023 and we were delighted to open our own front door to the public. We welcomed plenty of visitors, some of whom had lived or studied in our building in the past, some of whom live nearby or frequently walk past and were simply curious to see the interior and gardens of Wotton House.
Our talk was very well received, exploring a rich cast of characters who have inhabited Wotton House since its construction in 1707. From the rather sad story of the Hortons, to the Breretons and their possibly unwelcome association with Admiral Nelson, the fleeting Grevilles, the enigmatic Kitty Niblet, the opulent Charles Walker and the mercurial McCrea sisters, we had all the ingredients for a splendid murder mystery.
For the past 99 years Wotton House has been a college and we used the power of social media to gather together some memories of alumni. We are very grateful to those who have contributed to our more recent historical archive. The second part of the talk used old maps and plans to explore our gardens through time, charting garden design from the formal to landscape to recreational. We presented the results of our geophysical survey conducted by students in the summer term and contemplated the exotic trees we see today. For example, our Eughs (to use John Evelyn’s 17th century spelling) provided the opportunity to consider th
e Victorian attitude to pets and our little pet cemetery. We explored the notion of “walking” eughs making their way across a churchyard, and maybe our own grounds over the next few thousand years. The first (in our opinion) tree preservation order in 601 AD cropped up, our talk did have characteristics of a Humanities lesson!
We concluded of course with our magnificent London Plane. A hybrid of Oriental Plane and American Sycamore, possibly originally “hybridised” in Spain. This is a truly global tree, the International Baccalaureate of the arboreal world perhaps!
We intend to continue our student research of our fabulous historic school over the course of the year and will undoubtedly have plenty of fascinating new material to present in 2024 through formal and less formal community activities.