Croome Court: Magnificent & Mysterious
Croome Court is a magnificent mansion and estates just outside the city of Worcester. Formally a vast marsh with an old Stuart era house at it's centre, the 6th Earl of Coventry commissioned the famous “Capability” Brown to design and build a new palace and parkland in 1752. With the assistance of Sanderson Miller the supremely talented architect created a marvel that was a favourite of Queen Victoria and George III and still amazes visitors today.
While the huge mansion is impressive enough with it's sphinxes flanking the grand steps up to the doors, and during the 1980s it was the headquarters of the Hare Krishna movement in Britain when the Beatle George Harrison bought it for them, the many strange structures placed around the estate are perhaps more interesting – and mysterious. There are statues of various mythological characters and deities such as Sabrina the spirit goddess of the River Severn who lies in a grotto next to a lake, a romantic impression of a druid, and a rakish bust of Pan leers from a pedestal in a wooded grove. This has led a few conspiracy theorists to speculate that some kind of pagan or masonic rites took place in the grounds but if they did there is no trace of it now...or is there?
“Psychic questing” was a concept popular among new age and truth seeking circles during the 80s and early 90s, it involved those with some kind of psychic gift entering a trance state from which their non psychic associates could deduce locations where great powers or even magical objects were hidden. It spawned book after book with Andrew Collins and Graham Phillips among the most popular authors and questers. In his book The Eye of Fire Phillips claimed that his group had received visions showing a castle in Worcestershire, and that castle was one of the buildings on the Croome Court estate. Dunstall Castle was built as a fortified hunting lodge but in an intentionally ruined state, it has a fine tower that affords views across the entire estate and “intersects” with the other fantastical buildings that old Capability built. A young psychic named Gaynor said she saw a swan with a bag around it's neck taking flight from the top of a castle tower, then more psychic work led the group in a car to Dunstall castle. They climbed the steps and emerged onto the viewing platform through a hatch and lo and behold – at least according to Graham Phillips - disturbed a swan that flew off in fright.
They deduced that this means their treasure was at a place called Swan's Neck and was nearby. Sure enough, the “Green Stone”, passed down generations from the pharaohs to Stuart era English nobles, was allegedly found on the banks of the Avon at a bend known as Swans Neck. In his sequel to this quest Phillips returned to the Croome Court estate where he claimed they found an ancient sword concealed within the base of an ornamental bridge after seeing an ominous dark figure standing on Knights Hill next to the observatory, another Capability Brown project. Fantasy or not, a lot of people got excited about the psychic questing idea and still today there are groups out there searching for artefacts that Graham Phillips claims will ignite an apocalyptic battle between good and evil! In practical terms there is a big problem with the Swans Neck claims -anyone who knows the first thing about birds knows that swans need a stretch of water to land and take off from, there is no way one could gracefully perch then rise from a castle tower.
The conspiracy theories keep coming, with UFOs even being added to the modern folklore of Croome Court. The estate was sequestered by the Ministry of Works during the Second World War, with the intention of housing Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands but after a fortnight she left for Canada. RAF Defford was constructed on a plain to the east of the mansion, top secret research and development was carried out here into radar with great strides in airborne radar apparatus being made through their experiments. Tragically the worst non combat air disaster in Britain during the war actually occurred at Defford when a Wellington bomber carrying a group of scientists and airmen crashed there. On the other hand, the world's first hands free, fully automated landing actually took place here too, the technology developed here was incredible. After the war other projects were worked on including the new Skynet satellite tech that allowed the UK to have an independent satellite communications setup both for military use and for government spying at GCHQ.
Stories went round that alien technology was being studied and used at RAF Defford and that they had some kind of spacecraft there in a bunker. When one of the huge golfball-like biomes was taken down and shipped out in a convoy with police escorts, rumours broke out that it was actually a captured alien craft and the local Worcester News paper got in on it. Some notorious Youtube personalities are very much of the opinion that “something is going on there” but as yet haven't gotten anywhere near the place. A Freedom of Information Act request reveals that the majority of the base and bunkers are now actually leased to the West Mercia Police Force, presumably for sensitive case investigations.
Amid all this modern local lore though, some very old things still lurk almost forgotten on Croome Court. I noticed a small carved stone almost hidden by a hedge on the estate perimeter and took a good look at it, then made some enquiries. It has a curious hole in it. It is suspected to be an almost ancient Hundred Stone where Anglo Saxon moots would take place, and before that could even have been part of a lost megalithic structure. The path used to be the route of an old “corpse road”, along which the deceased had to be carried to a consecrated cemetery, often for some miles. When they reached the little stone at Croome, they left a coin in the hole as good luck and thanks for protection from evil on their journey.
When we open up a little in a few weeks it is well worth a trip to Croome Court and a long walk around the estate to take in some of it's weird and wonderful structures, but I can't guarantee any UFOs or psychic visions!
Dunstall Castle, the "swan tower" at front centre
Croome Court House, front view
The Observatory atop Knights Hill
RAF Defford, an older picture showing the array of biomes used in top secret satellite experiments
Bust of the god Pan, looking suitably disdainful
Stone standing by the roadside with it's curious hole, believed to be very old and used as an offering stone along an old corpse road
The sphinxes of Croome Court