Barnwood Park and Arboretum are situated off Church Lane, across the road from St. Lawrence’s church. The current Park and Arboretum are the remainder of the Barnwood House Estate. The main house was demolished in 2001.
The original Barnwood House was built in the first five years of the 1800s. Robert Morris of the nearby
James Woodbridge Walters died in 1852 leaving bad debts. Eventually the house was sold with 48 acres of land to a committee of subscribers wanting to establish a private mental hospital. New wings were added to the existing house and the house was supplied with water pumped out of Wotton Brook by two hydraulic rams situated at the weir. It is thought that this is when most of the landscaping was done with unusual tree varieties, many of which still exist today. Most of the mature trees are therefore now more than 150 years old. The original walled kitchen garden was reserved as an airing ground for the ladies and a separate area was enclosed with a paling as a “court for the more excited gentlemen patients”. A bridge was built near the weir so that patients could do a circular walk, returning via a bridge further east. The line of the original path can still be seen near the weir on the park side of the brook, where there is an obvious dip coming across the grass towards the existing path.
The patients were encouraged to take part in musicals, readings and concerts such as Blue Beard, which they performed for the public on Friday 14th April 1882. The programmes for many of these concerts can still be found in Gloucester Records Library.
In mid 1869 the chapel, now situated in the park, was bought and a bridge erected where the current bridge to the Arboretum is now situated. The path joined onto the vista that ran up to the main house and this can still be seen in the Arboretum today, running straight ahead from the bridge. Towards the end of the 1800s Barnwood House was replaced, due to its poor condition, with a four-storey building. More facilities and land were added to the estate in the beginning of the 1900s. Houses such as North Cottage and the Manor House were owned by the estate and used to house staff and patients. In May 1924 torrential rain on Cooper’s Hill caused so much water to surge down Wotton Brook that the wall over the Church lane weir was destroyed and it had to be rebuilt.
It is thought that Spike Milligan, Ivor Guerney and several other well-known people were inpatients of Barnwood House Hospital. The hospital gradually fell into decline and eventually closed in 1968. The majority of the land was sold off for development and many of the hospital buildings were demolished. Barnwood Park was formed from part of the remaining land. The central block of Barnwood House survived as a private residence until 2001 when it was demolished for development. At that time the rest of the land was given to Gloucester City Council. The council built a new pedestrian access bridge from the Park and formed the Arboretum. The dry balancing pond next to the Park is situated on what was the old cricket pitch and North Cottage, which used to house residents and staff, is now occupied by the Emmaus charity.
Most of this account is based on research undertaken by local historians Hugh and Rosemary Conway-Jones.
Other research was based on documents on Barnwood House kept at Gloucester Reference Library