The History of Stoke Park

Courtesy of the Glenside Museum

With additions


Stoke Park Sketch circa 1600

An old 18th century barn on the estate

Old Barn

Stoke Park Sketch from Duchess pond

The Dower House was built in 1553 by Sir Richard Berkeley.

Dower - The life interest in a part of her husband's estate allotted to a widow by law
Dowager - A widow possessing property or a title obtained from her husband

The Manor of Stoke Gifford was held by the Giffard family from the Conquest until 1337 when Maurice de Berkeley (2nd son of Maurice, Lord Berkeley of Berkeley Castle) gained possession. His descendant Sir William Berkeley was attainted after the battle of Bosworth, and his estates were seized, but Stoke Gifford was afterwards restored to him by Henry VII. Sir Richard Berkeley (1546-1604) purchased the manor of Rendcomb and the manor of Stapleton (a sub-division of the manor of Barton Regis) in 1564. The manor of Stapleton adjoined Kingswood, and by the 17th century, the Berkeley family in common with lords of other adjoining manors claimed a 'liberty' in Kingswood where they developed coal mines. The Crown contested the legality of such claims, and this led to frequent conflicts and litigation.

Sir Richard Berkeley built the first house at Stoke on a great artificial platform, and it remained substantially unchanged until 1750 when Norborne Berkeley (Lord Botetourt) rebuilt the house to Thomas Wright's designs. The rebuilding continued until 1763, and the house today is essentially as it was then. At the same time Wright designed a landscape park; Stoke Park is the only one of Wright's gardens to have survived. Thomas Wright was probably introduced to Norborne Berkeley by his brother-in-law the 4th Duke who was employing him at Badminton, but he soon became a close family friend, having his own apartments at Stoke Park. He was granted a handsome annuity by Norborne Berkeley, and after his patron's death in 1770, continued to visit Stoke and to advise the Dowager Duchess about alterations to the gardens there. The only relics of the Tudor and 17th century arrangements are the tremendous artificial platform at the southward end of a commanding hill ridge on which the house stands and the Jacobean balustrade running round that foundation platform on two poles

Stoke Park Obelisk sketch by Loxton

The present house with a battlemented skyline and castellated appearance, belying its classical interiors, is in plan an 'H' with three sided bows at each end of the two upright limbs of the H. The north porch is early 19th century Gothic, otherwise the house is all of the 1760's with a few decorative details of the 'Adam' period after 1770. The central staircase is of some merit and may be from a period about 1740, and hence a survival from the earlier house. One room downstairs has a definitely early 18th century fireplace and also some 'Adam' bookcases. Another building of note is the orangery (now the Chapel) a charming little building which is presumably of Norborne Berkeley's time. It has a central pediment and four Corinthian pilasters.  


On the death of Norborne in 1770 the estate passed to his sister the Dowager Duchess of Beaufort, who maintained it until her death in 1799. It then declined. The Duke and Duchess of Beaufort took up their permanent residence at Stoke Park in early April 1896, having relinquished Badminton to their son, the Marquis of Worcester. The 8th Duke died there 1899, and his wife in 1906.

Stoke Park Sketch 1610 The house was then rented to the Honourable Cyril Ward for 1 year, rent free. It was rented to the Reverend Burden on the 15 July 1908 for 21 yrs. at a rent 150 pa.  After carrying out missionary work in the backwoods of Canada the Rev. Burden  temporarily settled in Bristol where he was offered and accepted the Chaplaincy of Horfield Prison. Both he and his wife became interested in their social work in the lack of care and training for backward children and following a visit to Germany to see the problems in that country, were inspired to start the Colony System in England. Photographs from the Colony

Stoke Park engraving
Stoke Park was purchased and the first cases were received in 1909 boys being accommodated in Ivy Lodge (a converted stables) and the girls in the old Manor House, known as the Dower House, the orangery being adapted for use as a small chapel. The  conversion plans of the house were prepared and the work of Mr. & Mrs. Burden was so successful that further accommodation had to be found. A large hospital block at Stoke Park in 1913, Beech House, The Towers and Heath House, all in Stapleton followed.

Photo Rev Burden

These formed the nucleus of what is now known as Purdown Hospital. The first Mrs. Burden died in 1919 and there is no doubt that it was largely due to her interest and energies that so much accommodation was provided for the care and training of mental defectives in this country. Later Mr. Burden married Miss Williams the Superintendent of Stoke Park who after her husband's death in 1930 ably carried on his work at Stoke Park.
About 1936 a building for the surgical treatment of defectives was erected. The idea had to be abandoned and this new building eventually became the Burden Neurological Institute. This institute is one of the foremost of its kind in the country. It was opened in 1939 with its own Management Committee quite separate from that of Stoke Park. The photograph shows additional buildings on the left hand side.


Photo Stoke Park

Photo Mrs  Burden

The first patients were said to have arrived on the 1st of April 1909. The first admissions were on the  22nd of Apr 1909; and was averaging 300 by end of 1910. In 1909 a report states: "On this large estate of about 100 acres these are separate establishments for boys and girls, Stoke House, which has accommodation for 90 Girls, and Ivy Lodge, for 60 Boys. There is a large staff of trained nurses, attendants, and 3 certificated teachers, a medical officer attends daily, and the whole establishment promises to be one of the most carefully arranged and equipped of the kind in the country."

Photo Stoke Park Plate

A 1910 report says: Two new blocks of buildings have been completed with accommodation therefore for 275 additional cases, [bringing total to 425.] These new blocks were well built, carefully designed for convenience in working, ... and economical, having been provided at a cost of about 80 per bed. No great changes have been made in the Dower House or Ivy Lodge. All parts of the Institution were inspected, and found to be in good hygienic state, comfortably warm and clean. The staff is a large one, specially trained for its work, and consists of a Controller, four Matrons, three Certificated Teachers, with other Nurses and Attendants, numbering 48 in all. The Medical Officer is non-resident, but visits daily. Stoke Park is designed for the reception and control of feeble-minded children. Here, as in other similar schools, every effort is made to educate such children as are educable, and afterwards train them in some domestic or industrial occupation which will fit them to take some small place in the community. When children are found too defective for either school training or industrial training to be of much benefit, Stoke Park provides facilities for permanent care and control under most humane conditions. The Institution is meant for educable and uneducable, it being considered as necessary for the latter to be cared for as the former. For the benefit of the educable, the school arrangements are excellent, and the teaching staff capable. For the benefit of all, the teaching in laundry, kitchen, sewing room and in matters connected with ordinary house work, is all that can be desired.

Sketch Stoke Park Sketch Stoke Park

Stoke Park is one of several institutions that have been acquired and are being conducted by the ;National Institutions for Persons requiring Care and Control;. This establishment and others under the same association are managed from a London Central Office, by the Rev H N Burden, and others working with him. These persons are assisted by Visiting Committees for each separate undertaking, the members of which visit by rota and leave records of their visits. The visiting committee of Stoke Park consists of 16 local members, all resident within 1 miles of the institution. Stoke Park now consists of about 180 acres of well wooded park and garden land, together with certain buildings that have been erected there-on. These buildings comprise: (1) Dower House - an old family mansion acquired with the estate. This building up to the present has been un use for inmates, but is now empty to enable extensive alteration to be made to the structure. Provision for exit in cases of fire from some parts of the building was hardly sufficient for permanent use, and some rearrangements of rooms was found to be necessary for effective working. (2) St Catherine Blocks North & South - a recently constructed section consisting of 2 three storey buildings of red brick, connected with each other by a well equipped administrative block containing kitchen, dining room, store and ablution rooms. The whole contains accommodation for 275 female patients, allowing 600 cubic feet per bed; is of modern design, efficiently ventilated, steam heated and well lighted. (3) Ivy Lodge - a convenient and comfortable detached block, has been cleverly constructed out of stables originally belonging to the property, and contains accommodation for 90 male patents with 600 cubic feet per bed. (4) The Hospital - equipped with 55 beds; is now being extended, and will in course of time provide space for a further 100 beds. This is an excellent part of the institutions, well adapted to its purposes. It possesses, in addition to ordinary wards, an extensive open air veranda overlooking the park. Five double-bedded revolving shelters are also attached to the hospital for summer use. Taken as a whole the hospital contains the best accommodation for its purposes that has been seen for some time, and is equipped up to a modern standard in all respects. (5) A detached Chapel - with a large room adjoining which can be connected for chapel use (and so facilitate the separation of the sexes) or be disconnected for school, recreation, or amusement purposes. (6) Good Workrooms - filled with looms, rug making frames and other facilities for industry (7) a Laundry - ... good enough for immediate use ... is to be replaced shortly by a newly constructed modern substitute ....

Whilst every reasonable economy is practised by careful and efficient administration, expenditure has been liberal in all matters that affect the upkeep of the buildings and the comfort and well-being of the inmates.

Sketch Stoke Park

Staff: 59 Controller Capt Knowles, visiting medical officer Dr Ambrose, Visiting chaplain the Vicar of Stapleton, 4 matrons, 6 fully trained hospital nurses, 2 kitchen mistresses with 2 assistants, 1 laundry mistress with 2 assistants, 4 charge attendants, 2 trades instructors, 6 nurse attendant teachers, 20 ordinary nurse attendants, 1 engineer, 1 head gardener with 2 assistant gardeners, 2 stokers and 1 labourer.

In his will of 1939: R G Burden directed trustees to permit the trustees of the Institute to have the loan of Clevedon Hall and its grounds for so long as the war may continue and for a reasonable period thereafter.

With death of Burden in 1939 the property was sold.

Western Daily press of 13 May 1939 reports on the opening of Burden Neurological Inst by Sir Thos Inskip, sec state for the Dominions

In 1948 it was taken over by Stoke Park Group Hospital Management Committee

It was transferred to the various NHS trusts and in Jan 1985 the patients were removed, it was closed and sold,

It is has now been transformed into housing.