This is an understated country manor by National Trust standards but, for us, it’s one of their most enchanting.
Yes, it’s a fine example of Jacobean architecture built on the back of the Cotswold wool trade. But the decision to maintain its air of faded grandeur – instead of sprucing it up – keeps the spirit of the place alive. Chastleton’s imperfections are central to the story of its declining family fortunes.
Before you go in, take a walk around the ‘best garden’ and see the unwieldy topiary that’s long outgrown its original form. There’s a kitchen garden and a well-kept croquet lawn (the English lawn game is said to have been invented here).
Step inside the house’s honeyed walls and the smell of wood smoke leads you into the Great Hall with its gaping Jacobean fireplace and sooty ceilings.
Stuart interiors survived because the resident families couldn’t afford a re-fit. Dark wood panelling, heavy tapestries and stag heads evoke the atmosphere of a hunting lodge.
There’s a dramatic contrast when you step inside the White Parlour. It has a distinctly feminine feel and its oak panelling was reputedly painted white to mark the marriage of the Whitmore-Joneses daughter Frances to Reverend Charles Dickens (no relation to the author) in 1855.
Continue through to the Great Parlour – set for an intimate family dinner – and take the East Staircase, which reaches skywards with sharply pointed obelisks.
Bedrooms populate the first floor but go up to the top for Chastleton’s absolute highlight. Prepare for a sharp intake of breath. The Long Gallery is glorious.
Adorned with ornate, creamy plasterwork and measuring 72ft – almost 22m – it’s the longest surviving example of a barrel-vaulted ceiling from the Stuart era. Once you’ve soaked up the sheer beauty of the room, take in the sweeping views of the garden and surrounding Cotswold countryside.
Thirsty? There isn’t a National Trust café at Chastleton – part of their ethos to maintain its untouched look and feel. If you’re lucky, they might be serving cream teas at the church next door. Come prepared with some bottled water if you’re planning a walk.