Lost waltz written to woo owners of Witley Court discovered

  • We have uncovered lost sheet music from the 1860s named for the grand Witley Court estate, the 'Versailles of the West Midlands'
  • Live piano renditions of The Whitley Court Waltz by Robert Hoult will be performed this weekend for visitors to enjoy

We are thrilled to reveal we've found and reproduced a lost piece of music named after one our grandest properties, the ruined Witley Court in Worcestershire.

And this weekend, we're bringing the music back to play at the estate.

The Whitley Court Waltz was likely composed during the early 1860s by an otherwise unknown musician from Birmingham, Robert Hoult, and was recently found by an English Heritage historian at the Library of Birmingham.

Witley Court was once one of England's greatest country homes before an accidental fire devastated its interiors in 1937.

The original 17th-century house was remodelled at vast expense between 1855 and 1860 to transform it into an Italianate palace for entertaining, complete with an extravagant gilded ballroom and acres of gardens with magnificent floral displays and one of Europe's largest fountains.

It was said that the Earl of Dudley, the estate's owner in the 19th century whose wealth was founded in the coalmines and ironworks of the Black Country, hung his Christmas trees with real jewels and ordered his gardeners to change the flowers outside the house overnight to impress his guests.

The fame of the Dudley fortune would have certainly reached Robert Hoult in Birmingham, who seemed to be trying to capitalise on the Earl's connections and wealth by dedicating one of his piano compositions to him.

Steven Brindle, Properties Historian at English Heritage, says, 'We know this piece of music was not a commission. If it was the name would have been spelt correctly and we would not have a dedication on the title page as we found in the sheet music.

'Hoult had The Whitley Court Waltz published by Joseph Williams, a leading music publisher in London, but in composing this was probably trying to attract an eminent patron to advance his career. Ultimately, it looks like it did not pull off as the name Robert Hoult has been lost to the archives of history until now.'

The piece is a Viennese Waltz, a fast and lively rendition that we believe would have likely been enjoyed in Witley Court's ballroom – despite the embarrassing spelling error in the title. It has now been reproduced by local musician Jerry Price and will be played at the property live this weekend (29 and 30 June 2024) alongside other music from the era which the Earl of Dudley and his guests would have enjoyed.

Steven Brindle adds, 'Witley Court was the Versailles of the West Midlands in its heyday and a place that only a select strata of society would have got to experience.

'We're delighted to have uncovered a small piece of its history by chance that we can now use to help our visitors better imagine the house's earlier time of glamour and splendour.'

  • Find out more about Witley Court and Gardens here.
  • The Whitley Court Waltz can be found at the Library of Birmingham, reference Birmingham Music I/1 LF 55.9.