When most people think about Littlecote House Hotel in Berkshire they think of its beautiful gardens stretching over 113 acres, the wonderful Historic bedrooms and the mouth-watering food available at Oliver’s Bistro and the Popham Restaurant. However, back in the 17th century guests staying at Littlecote had something else on their mind… war!
It’s no accident that the museum at the Tower of London has an information board detailing past events at Littlecote. Back in the mid-17th century when England was in the grip of civil war, Littlecote’s owner Colonel Alexander Popham was a commander in the Parliamentarian army and the house was used as an armoury and garrison.
Despite supporting Oliver Cromwell during the civil wars, Colonel Popham went on to be instrumental in restoring Charles II to the throne in 1660 following Cromwell’s death and was rewarded for his efforts with a royal pardon. The king even paid a visit to Littlecote in 1663 – a stay later described as a “costly dinner”!
Colonel Popham’s armoury contained an impressive range of arms and armour, from matchlock muskets and cavalry and infantry swords to buff leather coats worn by cavalrymen and officers and flintlock carbines carried by cavalry soldiers. As the years passed, many collections of arms and armour dating back to the English Civil War were dispersed, until the Popham armoury at Littlecote House remained the only major example left.
A number of pieces belonging to Colonel Popham’s armoury remain at Littlecote today, although the vast majority of the collection was purchased by the Royal Armouries in the mid-80s to secure its future. It can be viewed at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.
Choose to spend some time at Littlecote House Hotel and you might want to find out more about Colonel Popham. Oh, and don’t forget to ask about the rooms where the D-Day landings were planned. And then there’s the secret passage behind the bookcase in the library to discover…