Downton Castle

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Downton Castle
Downton Castle.jpg
Downton Castle
Grid reference: SO44517473
Location: 52°22’4"N, 2°48’59"W
Built 1772-1778
Country house

Downton Castle is an 18th-century country house in northern Herefordshire, by the village of Downton-on-the-Rock. It is a Grade I listed building.[1][2] It is found about five miles west of Ludlow, the latter across in Shropshire.


The south-facing entrance front has a central square tower, six bays to the left terminating in an octagonal tower and five bays to the right flanked by a square tower, the whole resembling a mediæval castle with embattled parapets.[2] Pevsner considered the inspiration to be the French semi-fortified houses in paintings by Claude Lorraine or Gaspard Poussin.[3]


Downton Castle in 1880

The estate of Downton was acquired by Richard Knight (1659–1749) a wealthy ironmaster from Madeley, Shropshire, and proprietor of the Bringewood Ironworks. It passed to his grandson the art connoisseur and Member of Parliament Payne Knight (1750-1824), who rebuilt the house in the Gothic revival style.[2] Payne Knight was an enthusiast of the picturesque style, and commissioned the landscape artist Thomas Hearne to produce drawings of the grounds.[4] Construction started in 1772/3 and was largely completed by 1778.[3]

In 1824 the estate was inherited by the horticulturalist Charlotte Knight (c.1801-1843), niece of Payne Knight, the daughter and heiress the botanist Thomas Andrew Knight, brother of Payne Knight. Her inheritance was troubled: she faced a challenge in the Court of Chancery from a relative, over a provision of ambiguous effect in the will of her uncle, Richard Knight. The resulting judgment in her favour, in the case of Knight v Knight, became a leading case in inheritance law.

Charlotte was the wife of Sir William Edward Rouse-Boughton, 2nd and 10th Baronet (1788-1856), of Downton Hall, Stanton Lacy, in Shropshire, (about six miles to the north-east of Downton Castle), a Member of Parliament for Evesham in Worcestershire. As her eldest son was heir to his father's estates and two baronetcies, she bequeathed the estate to their second son Andrew Rouse-Boughton-Knight (d.1947), who in 1857 adopted the additional surname of Knight. He served as High Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1860 and at that time began improvements and extensions to the house, including a new entrance and porch, a north west tower, and a chapel.[2] He added terraced gardens in 1865 to the design of W.A. Nesfield. In 1881 the family resided there with twelve servants.[5] He died at Downton Castle in 1947.


  1. National Heritage List 1081758: Downton Castle and adjoining stable courtyard
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Heritage Gateway: Downton Castle
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nikolaus Pevsner: The Buildings of England: Herefordshire, 1963; 2012 Penguin Books ISBN 978-0-300-12575-7page 117
  4. Victoria and Albert Museum: The River Teme at Downton, Herefordshire
  5. Public Records Office. 1881 Census ref RG11/2613/40/7