Witley Court was once of the great country houses of England, reaching its peak in the Victorian period when it was the setting for extravagant parties and royal entertainments. After a devastating fire in 1937, however, it became one of the country?s most spectacular ruins. It is still possible to gain a sense of the opulence and scale of the 19th-century interiors, as well as to see the earlier layers of the building?s history laid bare by the fire.
For nearly two centuries Witley was closely associated with the Foley family, whose fortunes were at first based on the iron industry. When Thomas Foley bought the Witley estate in 1655, Witley Court was a substantial Jacobean mansion, which had developed in turn from a medieval manor house.
The Foleys ? whose business began with manufacturing nails ? gradually abandoned the industrial base that had made them rich, concentrating instead on being landed aristocrats and politicians. The 1st Baron Foley (1673?1733) enlarged the house significantly, adding wings on either side.