In the Middle Ages, Easthampstead Park was a part of Windsor Forest, and was reserved for Royal hunting. The lodge (originally situated on what is now the golf course) was an easy stage from Windsor, many orders were issued from here by the Plantagenet kings. Richard III is said to have stayed here for a considerable time and it was to Easthampstead that Catharine of Aragon, the first Queen of Henry VIII, retired when the King turned his attention elsewhere. King James I enlarged and improved Easthampstead "Walk", which was well stocked with deer, but his son, Charles I, gave the Park to William Trumbull, the Royal hunting lodge being incorporated in a newly built mansion.
Like Sir John Mason, who became Keeper of Easthampstead Park in 1548, William Trumbull was a diplomat. His grandson, also William (1639-1716) and the most distinguished of the family, was also active in the Royal service overseas. A fellow of All Souls', Oxford, and a barrister, Sir William Trumbull befriended Alexander Pope the poet, who lived at Binfield and was a frequent visitor to Easthampstead Park. Another poet, Elijah Fenton, was tutor to the fourth William Trumbull, who here lived the life of a country gentleman. His only child, Mary, married Martin Sandys, whose only child, also Mary, married Arthur Hill, who succeeded as the 2nd Marquis of Downshire. Easthampstead Park is only one of the estates in Berkshire which belonged to the Downshire family.
In 1860, the fourth marquis demolished the old mansion, leaving only a stable block which is to be seen as the low white building beyond the golf course, and built the present house which was completed in 1864. A similar house exists in County Down, North Ireland. Easthampstead Park is listed by the Department of the Environment as a building of historic and architectural interest, in Jacobean style with curved gables, pierced stone parapet and stone frontispiece of naive classicism. The garden wall to the south-west and the early eighteenth century wrought iron gate are also listed. An attractive feature of the house is the large window by the main staircase, in which are portrayed the coats of arms of the Downshire family and their ancestors.
In February 1856, the foundation stone of West Gardens House was laid by Lady Alice Maria Hill, aunt of the sixth marquis.
At about the same time as the present mansion was erected, the Marchioness provided for the rebuilding of Easthampstead Parish Church (St. Michael's) where there are memorials to the Trumbull and Downshire families, and to the poet, Fenton. For centuries the people of Easthampstead Park crossed the fields to the village church, whose tower can be seen from parts of the Park above the roofs of the Great Hollands neighbourhood of Bracknell New Town.
The Downshires were very active in the affairs of Ireland, but the sixth marquis lived principally at Easthampstead Park, dying in 1918. His were the great days of Easthampstead Park, especially during Ascot week each year. The sixth marquis and his son employed a large staff of gardeners and others, and look great personal interest in the estate, even to the point of assisting with the upkeep of the roads with their own steam roller. The Park also contained a miniature steam railway, since removed to a south coast resort.
During the Second World War, part of the Mansion was used by St. Paul's School, which was evacuated from London to Wellington College, Crowthorne. The Army made use of the Park, and built many Nissen huts. Some of the concrete road blocks made by the Army, and the concrete bases of huts, are still to be seen. The Army's presence in 1941 attracted German aircraft which dropped a stick of bombs down the main drive, the last one hitting the lodge at the main gate and damaging it without exploding.
After the War, Easthampstead Park was sold to the Berkshire County Council. One night a great fire destroyed the gabled roof. After repairs, a training college for teachers was opened and the mansion was altered and extended. Today it is a thriving conference centre.
Notes on the history of the estate
compiled by Mr. DGE Hurd, Principal (1972 - 1978).
Park is now a conference
Easthampstead Park is now a conference centre.
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