TODAY, it is a newly-refurbished hotel fit for the community having been converted from a conference centre run by the council.

But the history of Easthampstead Park, one of the jewels in Bracknell Forest’s crown, stretches back centuries.

Before the mansion house was built, records identified the manor of Easthampstead in William the Conqueror's Domesday Survey of 1086.

Bracknell News:

Down the centuries, Easthampstead passed with frequency as a gift or an exchange at “the whim of the Crown”, according to historian Penny Olsen.

By the mid 14th century King Edward the Third had built a Royal Hunting Lodge within its boundaries.

READ MORE: Take a look inside the refurbished Easthampstead Park Hotel

According to a report from Ms Olsen, royals would often sign various public documents here as a result of staying at the site.

In the summer of 1531, Catherine of Aragon was in residence when she received the fateful message from King Henry VIII asking her for a divorce.

Bracknell News:

Catherine of Aragon. (c) National Trust, Petworth House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

King James, the last royal monarch to enjoy Easthampstead Park, reportedly spent large sums of money enlarging his lodge at as a triple-winged mansion house.

By 1629, William Trumbull had been granted Easthampstead park from King Charles I.

READ MORE: The inside story of Easthampstead Park's £10 million transformation

He then passed the setting onto his son William, who then passed it onto his son, also named William.

William Trumbull the Third’s daughter married Colonel Martin Sandys, whose daughter Mary, his sole heir, married politician Arthur Hill in 1786.

Bracknell News:

The couple were elevated to become the second Marquess and Marchioness of Downshire, a title in the Peerage of Ireland.

Easthampstead Park was passed down through the Downshire family line and was occupied by Arthur and Caroline Hill, the 4th Marquess and Marchioness of Downshire, in 1845.

Almost twenty years later, it was decided the 250-year-old Jacobean House in Easthampstead Park was so dilapidated that it should be demolished and rebuilt on a more desirable space.

READ MORE: New owners take over the reins at Easthampstead Park

According to Penny Olsen’s chronology of the site, “The new 29-bedroomed residence known as Easthampstead Mansion, was designed in an eclectic, mock-Jacobean style with curved gables, pierced stone parapet and stone frontispiece of naive classicism. An attractive feature of the mansion was the large stained-glass window by the main staircase, in which were portrayed the coats-of-arms of the Downshire family and their ancestors.”

Ironically, the fourth Marquess of Downshire died shortly after the completion of the project and was denied the chance to live in the new mansion he had created.

Bracknell News:

Statue of the fourth Marquess of Downshire. Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The deceased’s son, also named Arthur, inherited the site before he too died aged 29, leaving the Park to his three-year-old son, also named Arthur.

The young heir, the sixth Marquess of Downshire, grew up at Easthampstead Park and later had a son, again named Arthur.

Born in 1894, he was the last Downshire to live in the Easthampstead Park Mansion. During his custodianship of the site, a miniature steam railway was installed in the grounds circa 1928.

During the Second World War, the seventh Marquess moved out to allow 600 boys from St Paul’s School in Hammersmith to use the mansion to escape the dangers of enemy bombs.

Bracknell News:

The Park was offered to the Army during this period, which attracted one German aircraft to the site in 1941 which dropped explosives along the main drive.

Shortly after the war, the Mansion House was devastated by a random fire which began on the second floor on the evening of May 24, 1947.

It took fire crews five hours to get the blaze under control but most of the building survived unscathed.

Bracknell News:

Following the fire, Berkshire County Council bought the site for £20,000.

Under the stewardship of the council, the mansion became Easthampstead Park College, a female teaching training academy.

It almost became the University of Bracknell in the 1960s, but this proposal never materialised.

READ MORE: Bracknell Forest Council sells Easthampstead Park

Instead, the mansion was extended and the cellar was converted as an emergency nuclear bunker for the county.

Having been recognised as a building of important architectural merit in 1972, the College was awarded a Grade II listing from English Heritage.

Bracknell News:

The College closed in the 1970s to temporarily become an adult residential college and a catholic school, until the residential wing became a conference centre in 1994.

Under Bracknell Forest Council’s control following the dissolving of the county council, the venue became a thriving wedding and events centre.

The next chapter in Easthampstead Park’s long and interesting history came in February 2019 when Active Hospitality completed the purchase of the site for £4.3 million.

Having undergone a £10 million refurbishment, the mansion now has dozens of new bedrooms, a new reception and lounge, a new health and fitness facility, and newly-refurbished conference rooms.

Bracknell News:

But the new owners of Easthampstead Park haven’t forgotten site’s rich past, with original plans for the mansion house displayed on the walls, one of the new restaurants named after the opening year of the mansion house (1864), and other tributes scattered around the hotel.

Bruce Cave, director of Active Hospitality, told the News: “Every single meeting room is named after a famous person in Bracknell.

“The ballroom is the Downshire Ballroom after the family who built it.

“We decided not to change any of the names to pay tribute to its history.

“That’s very important for the local community.”