I have visited Wootton Lodge many times throughout my childhood always being held fascinated by it’s hugely historic ambience and its incredible surrounding in the heard of the Staffordshire countryside, around a mile away from Alton Towers. A visit which sticks in my mind is with my parents who were showing their great friends from Memphis, TN around at some point during the 90s. I have visited many times with my brother to have a look round a play football on the grass during summer evenings. The building and surroundings are exquisitely beautiful and this remains one of my absolute favourite local places both due to it’s historic nature and its unparalleled setting.
The building and the extensive landscape are now owned by the Bamford family (of JCB Digger fame). There is a public footpath to enter the grounds through a secret passageway in the wall (which was another thing that initially intruigued me on my first visit)
The lodge dates to 1611 and was likely designed by Robert Smythson who was responsible for both the distinctive Hardwick and Wollaton halls which you can quite clearly see the similarities within this great building. It is Grade I listed.
The lodge played a role in the English Civil war where it was held for the Crown and badly damaged during a parliamentary siege.
In the 1930s it was the home of the British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley and his wife. Extensive shots of the house together with the interior were used in the 1947 film Blanche Fury.
Another fascinating fact is that one of history’s greatest writers Jean Jacques Rousseau lived at Wootton in the 1760s whilst on the run when the British philosopher David Hume arranged for him to come and seek refuse in the seclusion of the North Staffordshire countryside. He particularly enjoyed the remoteness of Wootton regularly walking into the village and down in to Ellastone and Calwich. Rousseau resided in the now demolished (1929) Wootton Hall which stood on the site at the top of the hill which is now occupied by a modern building complete with its own helipad and private car filling station.
Rousseau wrote much of the first part of ‘Confessions’ whilst at Wootton which is the precursor to the modern day autobiography and a huge influence on the French Revolution and thinking of the day. An adjoining Grotto within the grounds named Rousseau’s Cave still remains.
If you go into the hills and see an oddly dressed man who walks by you and does not say hello – try speaking to him in French!
Please check out the following page for a great, indepth look at Rousseau’s time at Wootton – https://philosophyk.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/rousseauinwootton_courtois.pdf
Date of visit – various / 30 December 2019