HERITAGE

Oversley Castle’s name dates back to the time of King Offa, who ruled over the kingdom of Mercia from 757AD until his death in July 796AD. Offa’s Ley means Offa’s pasture. This was later transcribed as Oversley.

Oversley Castle 1880s

The prominent strategic position of Oversley – which has views across seven counties – has attracted settlements throughout history, and artefacts found on the estate include a bronze age axe head from 800BC, and Roman and Celtic coins thought to have belonged to the Dovunni tribe and dating back to 30 BC.

A motte and bailey style castle was built at Oversley in Norman times, but this had ceased to exist by around 1283, and was replaced by an unfortified manorial property known as Oversley Court, which had a succession of owners in the 14th and 15th centuries as a result of marriage and sale.

Thomas Cromwell
Henry VIII

In 1537 the manor of Oversley was bought by Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and chief minister to King Henry Vlll. He fell from favour after arranging the unsuccessful marriage between the King and Anne of Cleves, was beheaded after his neighbour Sir George Throckmorton gave evidence against him at his trial for treason and heresy. Throckmorton then bought Oversley in 1540 for £774 9s 2d.

In the 19th century, the Prince Regent – who later became King George lV – regularly visited Ragley Hall, country seat of the 2nd Marquess of Hertford and the Marchioness of Hertford, who was his mistress.

Prince Regent
Marchioness of Hertford

The castellation of Oversley Castle to make it an ‘eyecatcher’ when viewed from Ragley Hall is said to have resulted from a comment in 1818 from the Prince Regent. In a Ragley Hall guidebook, the 8th Marquess wrote: “Oversley Castle… was built in the early 1800s because the Prince Regent, looking out of this room, remarked to his host: ‘My dear Lord Hertford, your view would have been improved by a castle!’.”

Local historian EW Jephcott wrote in an article called ‘When a Prince of Wales Came to Ragley’, published by the Alcester Chronicle in 1932: “From the eastern windows of Ragley the Prince would look out across the valley of the Arrow to the wooded hills of Oversley. Lovely as the scene was, the Marquess of Hertford considered that it could be improved for the royal visitor by the erection of a castle-like building at the highest point in the hills. Accordingly, the so-called Oversley Castle. With two towers rapidly made its appearance.”

Oversley Castle 1919

One of the towers was square and the other octagonal, but the octagonal tower fell into disrepair and was demolished to the level of the roof in the main part of the house in the late 19th century. This was despite a petition in 1904, which is now in Warwickshire Records Office,  running to four sides of pages of foolscap paper to save what histrorian EW Jephcott described as “one of the prettiest objects near Alcester”.

Sir William Throckmorton sold the Oversley Estate  on June 17 1919 to David Greig, owner of a chain of grocery stores that rivalled Sainsburys in the early 20th century. He and his wife Hannah never lived at Oversley, but used it as a rural retreat at which they hosted shooting parties and specatcular society parties.

The Greigs modernised Oversley in an Art Deco and Arts and Crafts style to turn it into a grand country house with oak panelling fitted to walls and doors, bathrooms decorated in mosaic tiling and gold leaf and an outdoor pool said to be the largest in Warwickshire at that time.

David Greig
Wood Panelling

In 1970, Oversley was bought by the Dillon family, owners of the national chain of newsagents. The estate was then sold in 1973 to the Wills tobacco family, and in 1986 it was purchased by the Price family, who sold it in 2012 to the partnership that has brought about the renaissance of Oversley.

Sympathetic Restoration
Oak Beamed Ceiling

Over two years were spent on design and planning work, and in 2015 a team of master builders and craftsmen embarked upon the transformation of Oversley Castle and the properties in its grounds into 14 unique luxury homes ideal for 21st century living, yet retaining the original features.

Oversley Castle sign
Oversley Castle window
Oversley Castle stonework sign