FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All


c. 1200                 

The Wyrriott family built the first known house at Orielton – a fortified manor. It was not at the site of the present house and was reputed to be haunted.


The Wyrriott’s only daughter, Elizabeth, married Sir Hugh Owen of Anglesey, so the house passed into the Owen estates. At this stage, there were 5200 acres of land, including 80 farms and 4 watermills.


The owner was now Hugh Owen. A new house was built on or near the site of the present house, it was said to have 17 hearths. The cellars of the existing house probably date from this time. 


Present house thought to have been built by Sir Arthur Owen and remained in the Owen family for over 100 years. At this time there were over 9000 acres of land.


The estate was sold at auction to Mark Saurin, who refurbished the property, including Victorian ceilings in the principal rooms, a new stableblock (the one we have today) and developed the nearby farms (East Orielton was most important at this stage).

c. 1900                 

The estate was sold to Mackworth Praed of Praed Street in London, as a summer residence. He planted the Japanese Garden, the acer avenue near the house, together with 3 rhododendrons and a magnolia about 1919, and probably built the pond in front of the house at the same time. He used the decoy lake for shooting, then bird ringing and research into moult, migration, lifespan etc – there were about 10,000 wintering birds at this time, mostly wigeon.


The estate was sold to Arthur and Alice Gaddum. The house was requisitioned by the RAF during the 2nd World War and used as a base for Australian Airmen, (the family were relegated to the top floor) – barracks were built on the back lawn, and they put in the sewage system we use today.                      


The estate was bought by Ronald Lockley for £5,000 (the original price was £12,500), and at this time covered 260 acres. The family lived on the top floor, with “guests” on the first floor (often rich and influential people), and Lockley’s son named the bedrooms as they are today.

Lockley carried out research into the causes of myxomatosis and wrote “The Private Life of the Rabbit” whilst at Orielton – he carried out extensive research into many other species as well. In 1977 Lockley wrote a book entitled “Orielton” about his time on the estate.


FSC bought Orielton from Lockley £12,000 (it covered 120 acres). Since then over £1 million has been spent on the fabric of the house. There have been 4 heads of centre: Barry Page (1963 – 1966), Eric Cowell (left of photo), 1966 – 1969  

Robin Crump, 1969 – 2002      

Chris Millican, 2002 to present