30 May 2012

Bosky Boscobel

Built as a farmhouse in the 16th century on lands that had, prior to the Dissolution, belonged to White Ladies Priory, Boscobel was converted into a hunting lodge, in around 1632, by John Giffard, who gave the house its name. This is believed to derive from bosco bello, the Italian for "amidst fair woods", and the root of the word "bosky." 

The Giffards were recusant left-footers, and it has been suggested that Boscobel was intended to hide persecuted Catholics. It thus boasted at least one priest-hole, but the two described as such at the property would have been too easily found to be considered genuine.

A priest-hole at Boscobel hid the future King Charles II, the night following a day he had spent hiding in the nearby branches of what became known as The Royal Oak. Charles was on the run after the Battle of Worcester, of 3 September 1651, and later escaped to France.

The surrounding woodland has gone, and the original tree fell victim to souvenir hunters in the 17th and 18th centuries. But a scion of Charles's oak remains, although badly damaged by a storm in 2000. Ten years later it was strapped to prevent splitting of the main trunk.

The three phases of building are very distinct - the 16th-century farm at left in the photograph at top, the large 19th-century additions, in painted brick, to the right, and Giffard's hunting lodge to the rear (second photograph). There are extensive cow byres and stables. Unusually, the farm had its own blacksmith, the forge and bellows still in full working order.

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