The Mansion now houses the Museum in the Park, but like many grand houses it to has a tale to tell…
The exact origin of the Mansion is unknown. Like a lot of houses and estates it has had a variety of owners and uses over the years. The following is a summary of what we know. For a more comprehensive account we recommend purchasing the book published by the Stroud Local History Society and Friends of the Museum “Stratford Park and its Mansion House” by Marion Hearfield. This is available to purchase in our shop. Contact Us for further information.
1672 Nathaniel Gardner, a mercer (a dealer in textiles) died and left Stratford Mill and 54 acres of land to his son, Giles.
Stratford Mill was on the site of Tesco which is opposite the Park today; it was a cloth mill until converting to a corn mill in 1735. It closed in 1984.
1674 Mansion built or remodelled by Giles Gardner (GG 1674 above door which can be found in the courtyard). In 1759 Giles Gardner’s son, also called Giles Gardner, owned the estate.
1765 Giles Gardner died; Sarah Gardner (his sister) inherited the estate.
1778 Part of Mansion leased by Sarah Gardner to Henry Shepard, a yeoman. Sarah later died in the Mansion; a story is recorded about her wake (Source: Fisher, Recollections of Stroud, 1871).
On the Sunday morning after her decease, while the coffined remains were lying in her chamber, the female servants in charge of the house were startled by the ringing of the bell that communicated with the mistress’s room. Terror prevented their attempting to ascertain its cause, until other servants returned from church; when they summoned courage to visit the apartment of the dead, they discovered that an owl had made its way down the chimney; and in flying about, had entangled its claws in the bell wire, and caused the alarm.
1784 Nathaniel Winchcombe, 2nd cousin of Sarah, became the owner of Stratford Mansion. During his ownership Nathaniel took to remodelling the Mansion. The front and side elevations were modernised to give a much grander appearance. It is thought that much of the internal detail such as the staircase and cornices etc. were added at this time. There is also evidence that the first floor was raised. It should be noted here that the Mansion did have a second floor at this time. The architect is thought to have been Anthony Keck.
Nathaniel owned a number of other properties in the district including Bownham Park and the Clifford Estate at Frampton on Severn (after which he changed his name to Clifford). The Mansion then seems to have passed through the hands of a number of agents and prospectors.
1805 Mansion owned by Sir Samuel Wathen (High Sherriff of Gloucestershire), father of Sir Paul Baghott (whose portrait is in the Museum’s main staircase hall).
1819 Mansion bought by Joseph Watts for £7,808 (Watts is the upper portrait on the Museum’s main staircase). He owned Stroud Brewery.
1855 On the death of Joseph Watts, the Mansion was inherited by his grandson, Joseph Watts Hallewell, who pictured in the centre portrait on the main staircase.
1863 Hallewell leased the Mansion, firstly to Stewart (?) and then to Robert Hastings, who manufactured cloth at Vatch Mill near Slad.
1891 Hallewell died and his estate, which included Stratford Park, Stratford Court and Callowell Farm, was sold. The sale particulars show a photograph of the Mansion with three floors (it only has two today).
1891 The Mansion was bought in 1891 by George Holloway, MP for Stroud, who is the lower portrait on the main staircase. Holloway was in the process of refurbishing the Mansion when it is said that the 3rd floor (which no longer exists) was damaged by fire, although there is no evidence of this in the attic or in any records.
1892 George Holloway MP died in August; his Trustees let the properties and grounds. Mr John Strudwick, George’s Brother-in-Law and Director of the Holloway Brothers resided at the property.
1907 Stroud Choral Society Concert in front of the Orangery (a photograph of this can be found in the room Time Off). Permission for this event was given by Mrs Isabella Lort Philips (nee Allen) who was renting the Mansion from at least 1904.
1920 Mr Holloway’s trustees sold the Mansion and estate to a George Ormerod (possibly around 1920). Mr Ormerod was a silk mill owner from Brighouse in Yorkshire, who it is believed commissioned the removal of the top floor of the Mansion shortly afterwards.
1934 George Ormerod died in February, followed by his wife a year later in April 1935. The Estate was sold to Stroud Urban District Council (a predecessor of Stroud District Council).
1935 The Council opened new tennis courts and a bowling green, followed in 1937 by the outdoor lido (now part of the Leisure Centre). The Mansion was initially the home of the head grounds man, with other tenants living in the out buildings (which by the 1960s had become derelict; the Museum’s modern extension sits on the footprint of these buildings).
Since 1935 the Mansion has housed a café; been used for wedding receptions and contained a nursery. Much of the time it was wholly or partly leased to private tenants, including during the 1960/70s to monks of the Community of Glorious Ascension (Anglican Monks who followed secular vocations). The last private tenant moved out in 1991. Towards the end of the 20th Century the Museum in the Park project was conceived and opened in 2001, the rest, as they say, is history!
Today the Museum offers educational and cultural experiences in a relaxed and friendly environment, with the historic collections and people of the district at its heart. We look forward to welcoming you soon!
To discover the collection on display at the Museum please click here.