Burrough Court is the site of a former stately home, originally built in 1905 and owned by Marmaduke Furness (1st Viscount Furness 1883-1940 and chairman of the Furness Shipping Company), who used it as a hunting estate. The house and wider estate was used by royalty, gentry, and politicians for country pursuits. Viscount Furness and his second wife, Thelma (aunt of the famous fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt), were passionate about hunting, and the grounds were developed to house animals brought back from Africa. Today there still stands the original giraffe house and the paddock where zebra’s were ridden by the family.
Burrough Court is famous for its role in significant historical events. The romance between the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson began at Burrough Court, where they met at a house party held by Viscount Furness in November 1930. In September 1938, Neville Chamberlain flew from Burrough Court to meet Hitler with the famous paper declaring ‘peace in our time’.
Sadly the house no longer stands, being demolished following its destruction during WWII. The story goes that during its use as a military hospital for Canadians, the patients learned of the fine wine still held within the house and tried to detonate the doors to the cellar. Unfortunately the damage caused to the property was considerable, however luckily no one lost their lives.
Today, only the stable yard, chauffeur’s and grooms’ quarters remain of the original property, along with some agricultural buildings, 1,200 acres of arable land, woodland and habitats.
The Trust is lucky to be able to use the estate for demonstrating the various roles that functioning ecosystems play and for teaching sustainable land management techniques.
The Centre is named after Alexander van Humboldt (1769 – 1859). Humboldt pre-dated Darwin and was the founder of the science of modern biogeography and the study of ecosystems. Throughout his life he actively supported and encouraged young scientists. The Centre aims to be a space for learning and exploration. It contains a field study area, kitchen and laboratory space and is our meeting point for most of our activities.
Our craft workshop is specially designed for those larger projects, whether that be making an owl box, some willow fencing, or having a go at stonemasonry.
The Kitchen Garden is an important space for our volunteers and beneficiaries and it is an area designed and run by all of our users. It is where people can learn permaculture gardening techniques and where they can test ideas. All produce is organic and is given to users or made into meals, and surpluses are sold locally.
Marefield Corner is a three acre woodland and wetland site used by the Trust to teach habitat management, ecological surveying, and outdoor rural craft skills. Our users learn many techniques here before they can put them in practice on the wider estate. Until recently, it was the home to our Tamworth pigs, bred by the Trust and used for woodland management and restoration projects.