History of Hawkwood

Today Hawkwood is a centre for future thinking – bringing together people and organisations from many backgrounds in support of creative endeavour, a flourishing community, and a sustainable environment. Hawkwood is not just a beautiful Victorian stone built house, but a warm welcoming home for all who visit. Not just a large 40-acre estate, but a biodynamic organic farm, and a community managed ancient woodland. Not just a place people come to learn and create, but a source of ideas, challenging dialogue, art and artistry, new understandings, personal growth and human development.

“Not only a place people come to learn, but a source of ideas, challenging dialogue, art and artistry, new understandings, personal growth and human development.”

Since medieval times ‘The Grove’ has been a special place. We don’t know when people first decided to settle in the place where Hawkwood now stands. We do however know that there has been some form of settlement here from very early times. This is not surprising as the house is on the South facing slope of wooded hills which form a semi-circle of protection from the North and open to the South with views of the escarpment and in the distance the Severn Sea.

We can imagine the earliest settlers, whether farmers or monks, working hard to wrest a living from the land, and being rewarded by the well-watered gently sloping fields. The freshwater spring close to the house has been pouring forth, without ever running dry, perhaps for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Close to the on-site natural spring is an elegant, ancient sycamore tree, estimated to be over 400 years old. Clearly, this is a place completely in harmony with the environment. Since the earliest time, the estate has worked with the land, farming sheep, cattle and crops and providing a living for the local community. The early owners of what is now Hawkwood were mill owners using the power of the local streams to use the wool they gathered from Cotswold sheep, known as the Cotswold Lion, to create the finest woollen and felt cloth. The local mills produced excellent broadcloth, plus the finest quality tweed and the green cloth for snooker and billiard tables, which is still produced in the area.

The house itself is ‘Victorian neo-Gothic’ style built in the 1840s after the existing Jacobean house was severely damaged by fire. Parts of the stable block date from the Jacobean period (the early 1600’s) built on even older foundations.

The estate was in the hands of the Capel family for over 200 years before it was sold in 1936/37 to Colonel Murray who changed the name to Hawkwood after Sir John Hawkwood, who made a name for himself as a mercenary soldier fighting in Italy in the 1350s. Hawkwood recognises the difficulty we encounter in possessing such a historical association but it is important to acknowledge this unfortunate context of the name. We feel this in no way reflects the values of our founder of the charity Lily Whincop, nor our values of today as a forward-thinking, sustainable and community-focused arts and educational charity.

Hawkwood became an adult education college in 1947 when Lily Whincop, who had recently bought Hawkwood, and her friend Margaret Bennell (who wanted to set up an adult education college) met on the 20th November, and Lily said; ‘I have a house, you have a plan, couldn’t we put them together?’ And so Hawkwood in its current form was born.

For over 70 years, Hawkwood has provided a place for people to learn and develop. We hope, in the near future, to create a timeline of our history since 1948.

Today Hawkwood welcomes many and varied groups both to its own programme of courses, events and festivals covering, the arts, nature and sustainability, spirituality, and health and well being. Hawkwood is also a stunning conference venue within a sustainable environment and we actively support ethical organisations to run their own trainings, away days or events on a fully catered residential basis or simply for the day.

Come and join us as we continue our journey, creating day by day an even more exciting history.

If you have a story to share from your time at Hawkwood please get in touch.