The History of Glenfall House

Glenfall House is a regency villa with its origins in the mid to late eighteenth-century, with picturesque park and pleasure ground in a steep-sided valley dating from the early nineteenth-century. The terraced gardens to the west were added in the 1920s, and attributed to Sidney Barnsley and Norman Jewson.
The history of Glenfall House is fascinating, so to help document it for future generations we have named all of the rooms in the property after prominent people in the estate's history or features you will find around the grounds. Glenfall House does feature in some of the history books of Cheltenham and through some research we have been able to find out the following information. 

There is evidence of the pre-enclosure landscape in the parkland of Glenfall House and the surrounding fields, with ridge and furrow, old pollarded trees and the ridges of abandoned field systems. 

The field system which largely survives today was created in the eighteenth century; hedgerow oaks and ash survive from this time, as well as field oaks planted on the underlying ridge and furrow.

There is known to have been a farmhouse, named ‘The Gutterfall’, on the site since the mid 1700s. By 1808 this had been rebuilt in brick for the then owner Charles Higgs, and by 1817 the house had been renamed ‘Glenfall’. 

In 1819, the house and the surrounding farmland were purchased by Edward Iggulden, a wealthy brewer from Deal, Kent and agent with the East India Shipping Company. Iggulden improved the grounds and created a picturesque landscape, which included pleasure grounds within the coppices either side of the valley.

It was during his ownership from 1819 to 1828 that tourists were able to visit these pleasure grounds to view what had now become known as 'The Glen' and its waterfall. In 1826, SY Griffiths described it as ‘a most romantic spot’ and added, ‘though not on an extensive scale, this truly fascinating retreat combines within its precincts the local charms of hill, vale, wood and water.'

'Nature seems to reign here in her primeval simplicity and beauty and the soft sound of the waters from the miniature cataract, formed by rude rocks, breaking upon the stillness of the solitude, has the most imposing and soothing effect. The views from the lawn in front of the tasteful cottage residence are luxuriant beyond description’.

By 1827 some of the springs on the estate which fed Ham Brook were capped and piped to the nearby covered reservoirs at Hewletts, reducing the amount of water and affecting the impressiveness of the waterfalls. In 1828, the estate passed to Iggulden’s daughter, Mary, and her husband Lieutenant General John Molyneux who remodelled and extended the house in 1830-40. 

In 1890 the estate was sold to the Willis family and it is thought that many of the surviving estate trees date from this period. 

In 1920 the estate was purchased by the brewer Arthur Mitchell of Birmingham’s Mitchell and Butler. Mitchell was an admirer of the Arts and Crafts Movement and he employed Sidney Barnsley, Norman Jewson and Peter Waals to extend and furnish the house, and to create the terraced gardens to the west of the house, with the orchard beyond.

The decorative iron gates are attributed to Norman Jewson. In 1929 the south wing was added to the house by Healing & Overbury (Sidney Barnsley having died in 1926) and the adjacent paddock was included in the garden as a sloping lawn with vegetable garden beyond.

Mitchell owned the house until his death in 1965, after which the house was sold to a Martin Crabbe, who sold much of the Arts and Crafts furniture, and removed the top storey of the house and remodelled the hall and staircase. 

In 1980 the house and part of the grounds were bought by the Community of St Peter and St Paul, and in 1991 the community gifted the estate to the Diocese of Gloucester. The house and the gardens were subsequently restored by the Glenfall House Trust and opened as a conference centre in 1992. After 20 years hard use the property was seen as surplus to requirements and placed up for sale in 2011.

In 2016 Glenfall House and the 4-acre estate were purchased by Dianne and Dave Evans who felt it was important to preserve the historic building for future generations to enjoy. They set about a full renovation and upgrade of the property to turn it into the exclusive-use venue you see here today. The gardens and house are subject to an ongoing maintenance schedule to guarantee its future preservation.

All internal aspects of the house meet 21st century specification and the decor has been returned to an elegance befitting a substantial house of this period.

Guided tours of the house by appointment are welcomed.

Glenfall House occupies an elevated position to the north of Charlton Kings on the edge of the Cotswold Hills, two miles to the east of Cheltenham. The site offers far-reaching views south to the Cotswold Hills, west past Gloucester to the Welsh Mountains and north-west to the Malvern Hills.

The main approach is from Glenfall Lodge (Grade II) on a sharp bend in Mill Lane, to the north-west of the house. Glenfall Lodge built in 1855 for the Molyneux family is a single-storey octagonal building with twentieth-century additions and alterations. 

From the gates, also 1855 (with gate piers and walls, Grade II), the drive runs south-east through an avenue of small-leafed lime trees, oaks and fern-leafed beech to a stone bridge over the Ham Brook, with hazel coppices to either side.

The drive then sweeps round to run south-west, hiding the house from view apart from glimpses of the north elevation through a line of oak tress, one planted c1662. The evergreen shrubbery along the drive includes several rhododendrons. 

Re-aligned in the 1810s to its present route, the drive previously having commenced at a lodge (now demolished) by the brook, from where it led directly south to the house. This line survives as an earthwork. There was also a south drive which ran from the road to the south of the estate up to the house.

Glenfall House (Grade II), mid-eighteenth century, rebuilt in 1799-1808 for Charles Higgs in the cottage ornee style. Extended and remodelled in 1830-40. The South Wing was added in 1929. 

The house is constructed of brick with ashlar dressings; the brick has been rendered and painted white. It is of two storeys with a raised parapet and three stacks with cornices.

The entrance (north) façade is arranged as eight bays. The two bays to the left-hand end are set forward and have Doric pilasters to the corners and a pediment. The entrance is towards the right-hand end and set within a 1920s doorcase beneath an acanthus modillion cornice with a broken triangular pediment above.

The garden (west) façade is arranged as six bays. The ground floor projects forward and has a central canted bay, and is surmounted by a stone balustrade to the first-floor veranda. Between the first-floor windows are Doric pilasters. The east return of the south elevation has a nineteenth century bow window to the first floor.

Two, full-height bow windows with pilaster mullions flank the three window range with a balcony to the central first-floor window. Separated from the east elevation by a courtyard, the former stables and coach house have been converted to accommodation.
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