78. Cirencester Park
Cirencester Park, home to the Bathurst family, is just a short walk from Cirencester town centre and boasts some of the most stunning vistas in England.
One of the main secrets of this historic parkland is the fact that the estate has remained within the same family for over 300 years, which has helped maintained continuity in values and personal vision.
The estate, which was purchased by Sir Benjamin Bathurst in 1695, was formerly known as Oakley Grove. When Sir Benjamin died in 1704, his son Allen took over the estate and it was his sublime creation that became one of the greatest privately owned parks of the 18th Century - Cirencester Park. It remains amongst the most beautiful in the country today.
Lord Bathurst was a patron of literature and art, befriending many of the noted authors of his day, including Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, both of whom stayed frequently at Cirencester.
Indeed, there is a folly dedicated to Alexander Pope within the park, called 'Pope's Seat', and it was from this beautiful vantage point that it is said the poet and his friend Lord Bathurst spent many an hour discussing the planning of the great avenues and rides now seen today within the parkland, as well as many of the follies that are still enjoyed by the thousands of visitors the estate welcomes each year.
The family has always strongly believed in sharing the parkland and its beauty with the people of Cirencester and the surrounding area, as well as visitors from further afield. As a result, the public are permitted to walk and ride horses in the park.
The mansion at Cirencester Park was built by the 1st Earl on the foundations of the original Tudor-Jacobean house formerly known as Oakley Grove. It is also believed to be built on the same site as the original Cirencester Castle, built around 1107 but destroyed by King Stephen in 1142.
Unusually for a stately home, Cirencester Park sits within the town of Cirencester and is screened from the town by the tallest yew hedge in the world.
The world-famous hedge is a beautiful feature of the family grounds and has been received a great deal of interest, locally, nationally and international, especially when it comes to its annual trim - a job that takes two men two weeks to complete. Clippings from the hedge have also been used to further the research of the use of 'taxol' to treat cancer.
The present Earl and Countess Bathurst reside at Cirencester Park, where much of the estate management and planning is fulfilled.
Among the events held in Cirencester Park is the annual Cotswold Show, and it is also home to Cirencester Park Polo Club, which was founded in 1894 and is the oldest polo playing ground in the UK.
A Caravan Club site adjoins Cirencester Park and has a connecting footpath.
The Bathurst Estate Office