Littlecote House is a large Elizabethan country house and estate in the civil parishes of Ramsbury and Chilton Foliat in the English county of Wiltshire (the latter formerly Berkshire). The estate includes 34 hectares of historic parklands and gardens, including a walled garden from the 17th and 18th centuries. In its grounds is Littlecote Roman Villa.

The first Littlecote House was built during the 13th century. A Medieval mansion, it was inhabited by the de Calstone family from around 1290. When William Darrell married Elizabeth de Calstone in 1415, he inherited the house. His family went on to build the Tudor mansion in the mid 16th century. Henry VIII courted Jane Seymour at the house; her grandmother was Elizabeth Darrell. Sir John Popham bought the reversion of Littlecote, and succeeded to it in 1589; he built the present Elizabethan brick mansion, which was completed in 1592. Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II and William of Orange stayed there, William on his march from Torbay to London in the Glorious Revolution. Popham's descendants, the Pophams and (from 1762) the Leyborne Pophams owned the house until the 1920s. The Leyborne Pophams refurbished much of the house in 1810. They retained it until 1929, when the house was purchased by Sir Ernest Wills, 3rd Baronet. In September 1943 the US 101st Airborne Division requisitioned the house and it became home to regimental staff, regimental headquarters company and headquarters company of the 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Parachute Infantry Regiment. The house provided office space and sleeping quarters for 506th officers with the best rooms being allocated to Col. Robert F. Sink, Regimental Commander and Lt. Col. Charles H. Chase, his executive officer . The colonel used the library as his office and a memorial plaque can now be found in this room . From airfields in this area, including Ramsbury just to the west of here, the Airborne Division took off on D-Day, 6th June 1944, as part of the invasion of Normandy. Easy Company from this Regiment have become famous through the book and TV mini-series Band of Brothers . All other ranks lived in Nissen huts built alongside the main drive between the house and the east lodge. After the war, the owner's younger son, Seton Wills, inherited the estate and sold the house to the entrepreneur Peter de Savary in 1985. In 1996, Warner Holidays acquired the house and estate and now operate it as a country house hotel and resort.

Wild William Darrell
The last of the Darrell owners is connected with several scandals and the house's resident ghost story. William Darrell's father had left the house to his mistress Mary Danyell, but Darrell was able to recover it when he came of age in 1560. He spent lavishly, left his debts unpaid, and went to law with most of his neighbours, acquiring enemies in the process. Sir John Popham was his relative and lawyer. He had an affair with the wife of Sir Walter Hungerford, his neighbour; when Sir Walter sued for divorce, she was acquitted, and Sir Walter sent to prison. Some years later, Mother Barnes, a midwife from Great Shefford, recalled being brought blindfold in 1575 to the childbed of a lady, with a gentleman standing by who commanded her to save the life of the mother, but who (as soon as the child was born) threw it into the fire. Barnes did not name or indicate either Darrell or Littlecote, but his enemies quickly ascribed this murder to him. Darrell's financial troubles increased, and he mortgaged Littlecote, first to Sir Thomas Bromley, and then to Popham. He moved to London; but died in 1589, of a riding accident while visiting Littlecote. Legend has it that the ghost of the child appeared to him. Darrell is said to haunt the site of his death, known as Darrell's stile (as well as the church at Ramsbury, two miles away). Rumour managed to increase this scandal, suggesting that the sale of the estate was fictitious to avoid confiscation if Darrell was ever convicted, and that Popham kept Littlecote from Darrell's heirs (which he did not have). John Aubrey tells that Littlecote was a bribe to Popham as his judge in a criminal case, which is impossible: Darrell was not charged or tried, and Popham was not yet a judge. Nevertheless this story was borrowed by Sir Walter Scott, in Rokeby , and by Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities .

Littlecote House is located on the banks of the River Kennet between the villages of Ramsbury and Chilton Foliat and about two miles northwest of the small Berkshire town of Hungerford. It is also in the heart of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Position: grid reference SU303703 Nearby towns and cities: Hungerford, Marlborough, Newbury, Swindon Nearby villages: Ramsbury, Chilton Foliat Nearby places of interest: Crofton Pumping Station, Wilton Windmill


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