Area Guide: regal rentals on The Gorhambury Estate
- Credit: Archant
Fancy living here? The Estate has a wide range of high quality residential and commercial property which is available for rent both on the Estate and within St Michael’s Village.
The Gorhambury Estate is a traditional rural estate located on the edge of St Albans. The Roman, Elizabethan and 18th century history of the area is encapsulated in the Roman Theatre, Old Gorhambury and Gorhambury House. The estate also boasts high quality properties to rent.
Gorhambury House was commissioned by James Grimston, the 3rd Viscount Grimston and constructed in the years 1777-84 by Sir Robert Taylor. The house is Grade II Listed and is built in a neo-Palladian style. It’s one of the largest houses completed by this architect who is known for his work on The Bank of England and smaller villas surrounding the City of London. The spiral cantilevered staircase and double height hall are features of his work. It was built when Old Gorhambury fell into disrepair (many of the same bricks were used). Further extensions were made to Gorhambury in the 19th century.
House tours are conducted by experienced guides through the main rooms in the neo-Palladian section of the house. The collection is historic and academic comprising Bacon and Grimston family portraits, a gallery of the great, two Piranesi fireplaces and other articles collected over time. Further highlights include 17th century painted glass windows commissioned by Francis Bacon and salvaged from Old Gorhambury.
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Viscount and Viscountess Grimston live at Gorhambury with their young family (the Grimston line has been in residence there since its construction)
Tours are conducted on Thursday afternoons from May to September, 2pm to 5pm and no booking is required. The house will be closed on Thursday 19th May 2016 and the gardens are not open to the public.
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Old Gorhambury House
The house was built by Sir Nicholas Bacon (1510-1579), who at that time was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Rumour has it that when the Queen visited Gorhambury in 1572 she remarked “My Lord, what a little house you have gotten” to which Bacon replied “Madam, my house is well, but you have made me too great for my house!” This comment struck a nerve and Bacon built a galleried extension in time for her second visit to Gorhambury in 1577.
The house passed to Sir Nicholas’s son Francis (1561-1626), who was a philosopher and statesman, serving as Lord Chancellor to King James I. The property was replaced by Gorhambury House in 1784 as Old Gorhambury had fallen into disrepair.
Old Gorhambury can be accessed daily on foot or on bicycle from 8am to 6pm, providing that the permissive path Gorhambury Drive is open to the public. As a ruin, it is quite beautiful.
The Roman Theatre of Verulamium
Gorhambury is actually the location for this famous St Albans landmark. The Roman Theatre of Verulamium is unique - built in about 140AD it is the only example of its kind in Britain, being a theatre with a stage rather than an amphitheatre. Initially, the arena would have been used for anything from religious processions and dancing, to wrestling, armed combat and wild beast shows. From about 180AD the stage came into greater use and the auditorium was extended. By about 300AD, after some re-development work, the Theatre could seat 2,000 spectators.
The ruins there today were unearthed in 1847 and 1935. Subsequent excavations in 1957 and 1961 revealed a row of shop foundations, a Roman villa and a secret shrine, all thought to date from the 1st century.
The theatre was refurbished in 2014 and is available to book for cultural entertainment.
The main driveway to the estate leads from Bluehouse Hill, Beech Tree Lane and Redbourn Road. Normally open 8am-6pm (but may be closed at the owners’ discretion at any time) it is surrounded by wildlife, farm animals and growing crops and is tremendously scenic. It leads visitors to the houses on the estate.
Fancy living here? The Estate has a wide range of high quality residential and commercial property which is available for rent both on the Estate and within St Michael’s Village (see our area guide archive online for more on St Michael’s).
The proximity of the Estate to the historic city of St Albans and its transport links has made it a highly sought after place to live and to work. The Estate is approximately 3 miles to the mainline station and offers superb communications with the M1, A1(M) and M25. It benefits from close proximity to prestigious schools including St Michael’s School, Prae Wood Primary, St Albans Boys, St Albans High School for Girls and St Columba’s College.
Properties to let include the charming Stud Cottage, situated at the heart of the Estate, overlooking stunning parkland; Praewood Farmhouse, a rarely available five bedroom Victorian farmhouse on the edge of Gorhambury; Garage Cottage, a three bedroom Grade II cottage situated in the stable yard; and St Michael’s Lodge, the lodge at the entrance to the land. Strutt & Parker deal with the associated lettings (01727 840285).
The estate has an excellent and informative website dedicated to it, which can be visited at gorhamburyestate.co.uk