Area Guide: The historic Gorhambury Estate
- Credit: Archant
A history-packed hub located just outside the centre of St Albans, the Gorhambury Estate has plenty to offer offer locals and visitors alike.
Home to the Roman Theatre, Old Gorhambury and Gorhambury House, the Gorhambury Estate is a traditional rural estate jam-packed with history.
Its privately owned land is available to the public for historical and cultural education as well as scenic walks and exploration. Access to the Estate is permitted from Beechtree Lane, Bluehouse Hill and Redbourn Road, offering walkers and cyclists peaceful routes to the grounds.
Be it a crisp winter’s morning or a lazy summer’s afternoon, all year round this place is breathtaking.
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Nicholas Bacon built this mansion under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, during the 1500s. When she visited, which she is said to have done on several occasions, she famously commented that it was a very small home. To appease his worries of structural inadequacy, Nicholas extended the property.
Old Gorhambury was then passed to Nicholas’ son, philosopher, statesman and Lord Chancellor to King James I, Sir Francis Bacon.
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In the 1700s, after many years of hospitable service to the Bacon family, Old Gorhambury fell into disrepair and a new property was built on the grounds, Gorhambury House.
Today the remains of Old Gorhambury illustrate the landscape; a porch, chapel and clock tower are all available to view at the site.
Grade II* listed Gorhambury House was built between 1777-84 by Robert Taylor and commissioned by James Grimston, 3rd Viscount Grimston, in a neo-Palladian style.
The grand manor was constructed using bricks from the body of Old Gorhambury and Sir Francis Bacon’s salvaged stained-glass windows.
It is now home to Viscount Grimston, also know as the Earl of Verulam, and Viscountess Grimston, who live there with their young family.
While tours of the 18th century rooms are usually available, the house is currently closed to the public while major refurbishment takes place.
The Roman Theatre of Verulamium
Excavations on the Gorhambury Estate, beginning in the 1800s and continuing until the early 1900s, uncovered artefacts and buildings from our Roman predecessors.
The theatre was the most prominent structure discovered at the site, suspected to have been built in 140AD. Locals would have used the theatre for religious processions and dancing, or to watch gladiatorial combat and wild beast shows.
By 300AD the theatre had been extended and would have catered to 2,000 spectators.
Excavations from the early 1900s also uncovered evidence of a row of shops, a Roman villa and a secret shrine - all at the Gorhambury site. Artefacts and treasures can be viewed in the nearby Verulamium Museum.
It is possible to rent residential and commercial property on the Estate. There is currently just one home available, Stud Cottage, a detached period home which overlooks parkland in the heart of the Estate – yours for £2,750 per month.
The closest primary schools to the Estate are on opposite edges of Verulamium Park. St Michael’s C of E is a small church school which usually accepts just 22 children each year, while Prae Wood is a far larger, two-form entry school. Both were rated ‘good’ by Ofsted at their last inspections.
Marlborough Science Academy (‘good’) is the nearest secondary state school, while local fee-paying alternatives include St Columba’s College and St Albans School.