Clearwell Castle in Clearwell, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, is a grade II* listed Gothic Revival mansion. First known as Clearwell Court, it was built in the Gothic style by Thomas Wyndham in 1727, to the designs of Roger Morris, and replaced an older house which occupied the same site. He was a son of Francis Wyndham (d.1716), a grandson of Sir George Wyndham of Uffords Manor, Norfolk, 6th son of Sir John Wyndham (1558-1645) of Orchard Wyndham, Somerset, from whom was descended the Wyndham Earls of Egremont of Petworth House, Sussex, and several other prominent Wyndham branches. The building was constructed of local stone in Gothic style with battlements. It has an imposing gateway formed by two three-storey towers.
The Wyndham family
Thomas Wyndham (1686-1752) made substantial alterations and additions to the existing Clearwell mansion in 1727. He was the son of Francis Wyndham, a wealthy landowner. His mother was Sarah Darell, the daughter of Sir Thomas Darell. He was educated at Eton and the University of Cambridge and became a barrister and later a Member of Parliament. He married twice. His first wife was his cousin Jane Wyndham daughter and heir of William Wyndham who owned Dunraven Castle. She brought this estate into his family and it was passed through successive generations. His second wife was Anne Edwin, daughter of Samuel Edwin of Llanmihangel Place, Glamorgan. The couple had two sons. When Thomas died in 1752 his eldest son by his second marriage Charles Wyndham inherited Clearwell Castle.
Charles Wyndham (1731-1801) was born in 1831 in London. In 1862 he married Eleanor Rooke, daughter of James Rooke of Ifton and Bigsweir House. The couple had one son Thomas Wyndham (1763-1814. In about 1775 Charles had his portrait painted with his son Thomas who was then about 12 years old. At about the same time he commissioned an etching of Clearwell Castle which shows both the house and the stable. The painting and etching are both shown.
In 1776 his aunt Lady Charlotte Edwin died and as she and her deceased husband had no children Charles inherited their large fortune. In the following year he changed his name to Charles Edwin in accordance with the terms of the inheritance. The notice for this is shown.
Charles died in 1801 and his son Thomas Wyndham (1763-1814) inherited Clearwell Castle. In 1787 he married Anna Maria Charlotte Ashby. The couple had a son and a daughter. However their son died at a young age leaving their daughter Caroline the sole heir of the Wyndham fortune. Caroline (1789-1870) married in 1810 Windham Henry Quin (1782-1850) who was the eldest son of Sir Valentine Richard Quin owner of Adare Manor in Ireland. When her father died in 1814 she inherited Thomas’s estates and the couple changed their surname to Wyndham Quin. When Windham’s father died in 1824 he inherited the family property and titles and became Windham Henry Wyndham-Quin, 2nd Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl.
Caroline was known for her philanthropic work. She established schools in the towns where she and her husband owned land including Clearwell. In 1859 she built a new school there at her own expense. She also made large contributions to the church and opened a cottage hospital.
Caroline died in 1870 and the property remained in the Wyndham family until 1893 when it was sold.
Its name was changed to Clearwell Castle in 1908. For a time after 1947 it lay empty and deserted but in 1953 it was bought and restored by the son of the former estate under-gardener, Frank Yeates (d.1973). Frank sold his bakery business in Blackpool and along with his wife, Alice, and two sons, Graham and Bernard, worked quietly and tirelessly to restore the Castle room by room to its former glory until his death in 1973. Friends and relatives spent their spare time and holidays helping the family work on the Castle.
In the 1970s Clearwell Castle was used regularly as a rehearsal and recording studio by rock music bands including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Badfinger, Sweet, Mott the Hoople, Van Der Graaf Generator and Bad Company. Deep Purple rehearsed for their albums Burn and Stormbringer there in 1973 and 1974 respectively. Peter Frampton recorded his 1975 album Frampton there. Sweet wrote and recorded parts of their Level Headed and Cut Above the Rest albums there in 1977 and 1978 respectively. Led Zeppelin composed and rehearsed some of their album In Through the Out Door there in 1978. Black Sabbath came to the castle in 1973 seeking inspiration after a series of fruitless writing sessions in California. The band found what they were looking for (including "the riff that saved Black Sabbath") in an underground recording studio built by the Yeates family there, writing the critically acclaimed album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.
Clearwell Castle is now a wedding venue.
- "Clearwell". Royal Forest of Dean. Forest Web. 2001. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
- Rye, Walter, Cromer, Past and Present: Or an Attempt to Describe the Parishes of Shipden. London: 1889, pp.30-1
- History of Parliament website. “Thomas Wyndham (1686-1754)” Online reference
- History of Parliament website. “Charles Wyndham (1731-1801)” Online reference
- History of Parliament website “Thomas Wyndham (1763-1814)” Online reference
- O’Sullivan, E. 2017 Ascendancy Women and Elementary Education in Ireland, p. 267. Online reference
- "Clearwell Castle - a Family Affair" Cathryn Yeates 1987
- Rowan A (1970) Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire, in Colvin H and Harris J, The Country Seat: Studies in the History of the British Country House, Allen Lane, London, pp. 145–149.
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