On 1 July, 18 members and guests enjoyed a guided tour of Chavenage, the home of the Lowsley-Williams family.
An English Augustinian community was established at Horsley in the late eleventh century, coming under the control of Bruton Abbey in Somerset. The administrative headquarters of the estate was presumably in Horsley, where the abbey had a small dependent monastery, but despite this, monastic buildings of some sort had been erected at Chavenage by the late fourteenth century. Parts of the present-day house are thought to date from this period. Around that time a fine medieval Cotswold barn, still surviving, was built on the adjoining farm.
After the dissolution of the monasteries, Chavenage was granted to Thomas Seymour (Lord Seymour of Sudeley, husband of Katherine Parr), but reverted to the Crown after Seymour’s execution for treason in 1549. In 1564 Edward Stephens became owner of the Chavenage estate; he gutted the medieval building he found, and added the two wings and the porch to create a manor house of the classic Elizabethan style. His grandson Nathaniel was a colonel in the Parliamentary army during the Civil War, and was reluctantly persuaded to support the execution of James I. The story goes that his daughter Abigail was so horrified by this that she laid a curse on her father for bringing the name Stephens into disrepute; the colonel was soon taken terminally ill and never rose from his bed again!
A highlight of the tour was the room in which Cromwell is said to have slept. The picture below shows its magnificent wall tapestries.
The tour was conducted by Caroline Lowsley-Williams, and was followed by an excellent buffet lunch and time in the gardens and the family chapel. Caroline enlivened the tour with details and anecdotes of family history; the image of the butler ironing the Beano every Thursday morning in time for breakfast, in addition to the daily newspaper, will live long in the memory.