A grand house and grounds near the Saltash estuary. Parts of Port Eliot are extremely old – there are fragments dating from the 4th, 9th, 10th and 13th centuries, but most of the house dates from a makeover by Sir John Soane in the 18th Century. It was previously known as Port Priory. The estuary water used to be closer, but was diverted by a dam in the 18th century.
A notable feature of the contents is a series of family portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds. They belong to the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, having been accepted in lieu of death duties, but remain in the house on condition that they are available for viewing on 100 days per year. There are a number of fine rooms with contents including valuable furniture – the Morning Room, Drawing Room (library), Big Dining Room and the Round Room. I don’t recall seeing the Conservatory annex.
The Round Room was designed by Sir John Soane and is considered one of his outstanding achievements. It is painted with a 20th century mural by eccentric artist Robert Lenckiewicz, which is regarded as his masterpiece. It depicts dozens of people known to the Eliot family and is an outstanding work. In the same room is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, restored and presented like an art exhibit.
A look on Google Satellite makes the house plan, with its two almost separate blocks, clearer.
I found that all the house guides (stewards) were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The house is still a family home, and visitors may see family possessions lying around – and the family dog. There are extensive grounds, which I did not have time to fully explore.
Visiting – the house is about 200 yards north of St Germans village on the B3249. Approaching from this direction you will come on an entrance with gateway and lodges forking to the right, at a small car park. The pedestrian entrance is here. You could park here and walk down past the church, as the house (behind the church) is much closer than it looks. I’m still not sure what they expect car-borne visitors to do – apparently there is another entrance and car park 1Km further on, to the west, which you’d come on first if approaching from the A38. I visited on a day of low visitor numbers (they do have an annual literature festival), and not finding anyone to ask, I drove through the gate and parked in front of the house. There was plenty space and nobody objected. Important Notice: The owner of Port Eliot is in negotiations to sell the house to a trust run by Prince Charles. The implications for visitor access are unclear, but the interior will no longer look like a family home. As with privately owned mansions in general, the message is: Visit It While You Still Can.
For interior photos see Port Eliot website.
A white manor house sits in green meadows surrounded by woodland. The L-shaped house, with many gables and tall chimneys, retains most of its medieval features. The dining room (former kitchen) has a fireplace opening formed of four tons of Dartmoor granite. The hall is the only spacious room. On the walls of an upstairs room is preserved a late medieval pattern of stencilled black fleur-de-lys. Also upstairs in a panelled room is some fine seventeenth-century plasterwork in high relief, looking well preserved. There is a collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and Arts & Crafts furniture. Much of the furniture is 18th century and listed on room cards. The chapel, which has an array of carved wooden bosses on the ceiling, should not be missed.
The interior was interesting. Outside, one can walk round with the guidebook and look at when each part was altered. Extensive woodlands surround the house. I finished my visit by exploring these, and found a back exit which eventually leads into a housing estate.
The house is half a mile from Newton Abbott town centre, on the Totnes road. The opening dates and times are somewhat restricted. The signs on the main road are inconspicuous. Note that there are no toilet facilities or tea room on site.
Good news: you can park at the site from 1.30 for the opening at 2:00 pm. It’s possible to get there by train, but I found that, unless you figure out the bus routes, it’s rather a tedious walk from the station and you need to know what foot route to take. Leave the house grounds on foot the same way you came in, if you don’t want to get lost in a housing estate.
In May 2019 I paid another visit to the Leighton Buzzard narrow gauge railway, not having been there for over a decade. The track, formerly used for sand extraction, runs for about two miles from Pages Park to the Stonehenge Works, past housing estates, across several roads and alongside a country road and the Redland works.
The line has a substantial collection of steam and diesel narrow gauge locomotives collected from various places. The specially adapted passenger carriages are normally steam hauled.
The run is about 25 minutes each way. There are now a number of static exhibits at the Stonehenge end which will occupy the visitor for at least the duration between trains. A further extension of the track is planned.
I first visited Dunster Castle some years ago but this account is from April 2019. Dunster Castle is a former motte and bailey castle, now a country house, in the village of Dunster, Somerset, England. The castle lies on the top of a steep hill called the Tor, and has been fortified since the late Anglo-Saxon period. After the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century, William de Mohun constructed a timber castle on the site as part of the pacification of Somerset. A stone shell keep was built on the motte by the start of the 12th century, and the castle survived a siege during the early years of the Anarchy. At the end of the 14th century the de Mohuns sold the castle to the Luttrell family, who continued to occupy the property until the late 20th century.
The castle was expanded several times by the Luttrell family during the 17th and 18th centuries; they built a large manor house within the Lower Ward of the castle in 1617, and this was extensively modernised, first during the 1680s and then during the 1760s. The medieval castle walls were mostly destroyed following the siege of Dunster Castle at the end of the English Civil War, when Parliament ordered the defences to be slighted to prevent their further use. In the 1860s and 1870s, the architect Anthony Salvin was employed to remodel the castle to fit Victorian tastes; this work extensively changed the appearance of Dunster to make it appear more Gothic and Picturesque.
Following the death of Alexander Luttrell in 1944, the family was unable to afford the death duties on his estate. The castle and surrounding lands were sold off to a property firm, the family continuing to live in the castle as tenants. The Luttrells bought back the castle in 1954, but in 1976 Colonel Walter Luttrell gave Dunster Castle and most of its contents to the National Trust, which operates it as a tourist attraction. It is a Grade I listed building and scheduled monument. (source: Wikipedia).
The interior of the house is interesting and various rooms on the ground and first floors can be seen. The gatehouse and other castle parts remain, but if you are expecting a medieval castle, look elsewhere!
The site has a number of pleasant walks curving around the hill. The top of the hill (above the house) is flat and laid as an open lawn. Below the hill is an old watermill to the south and the village of Dunster to the west. A folly tower tops a nearby hill to the north-east.
There are foot entrances from the village, but if arriving by car, the car park entrance is on the A39 north of the village.
Unusually, the name of this property is just ‘Hall’. I visited Hall under the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme. The present house was built in the Victorian period on the site of two earlier houses. Only ground floor rooms are open to visitors and these have some interesting contents, including some carved wood panels from one of the earlier houses. At the back of the house is the service or North wing, unused since the 1940’s and mostly in a derelict condition. The tour concludes in the impressive Great Hall, of medieval appearance but built as the last phase of the house construction.
Most of the numerous outbuildings predate the house. There are walled gardens, one of which once contained heated greenhouses. A medieval barn remains in a perilous condition and there is in interesting granary raised on pillars to deter vermin.
The house is of medieval origin, remodelled in Tudor times by the Wake family and further modernised in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Elton family. The floor plan is somewhat irregular. The principal downstairs room is the double-height Great Hall. A fine staircase leads up to the Thackeray Room which commemorates the house’s literary connections. Also on this floor is the large State Room, now set up as a bedroom. Adjoining it is the restored Chapel, with a fine rectangular stained-glass window with reticulated tracery.
Downstairs on the east side of the screens passage is the Justice Room, originally a medieval buttery for beer butts, and now a museum room for a collection of colourful Nailsea glassware. From the screens passage, another passage leads to a triangular courtyard. beyond is the Old Kitchen, a much altered double height room now used as an exhibition space. The Old Kitchen predates the other parts of the house.
Outside, a steeply terraced garden with summerhouses rises behind the house to the wooded land beyond.
I visited Holdenby some years ago but have no record of the details. The recent visit was in April 2019. The core of the house is the remains of the kitchen wing of a vast Elizabethan palace, restored and extended in the Victorian era. Two unusual arches, once part of an entrance court, stand in the grounds. The house is open to the public on only a few days of the year. The tour includes the entrance hall, the boudoir (sic) the piano collection room which contains a number of antique pianos and other instruments, the Pytchley Room (with sporting pictures), the Ballroom, the Inner Hall, the Library and the Dining Room.
The grounds include smaller areas of formal garden, a kitchen garden, a primitive-looking replica wattle & daub cottage and a falconry.
Below the house is an interesting church, now in the care of a preservation trust.
Visited on 20 Oct 2018
Parsonage Farm is a late medieval/early Tudor timber-framed former farmhouse with an original inglenook fireplace, a signed late 16th century glass window and has original beams throughout the house. The owners have an unique collection of authentic late medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan and Stuart furniture which is on display throughout the house.
The grounds are no longer part of a farm but around the house are a vegetable garden, orchard, re-created medieval pleasure and herb gardens, Oriental-style “banqueting house”, and several other themed garden areas.
I visited the house and grounds under the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme. The enthusiastic hosts gave a guided tour of the old rooms of the house, followed by a guided garden tour and then refreshments with the option to try some Tudor-style snacks and soft drinks, followed by a talk on various medieval subjects.
The Old Warden estate has a number of attractions including the Shuttleworth Collection of old aircraft and cars, and the Swiss Garden. Also on the estate are the Mansion, and Queen Anne’s Summerhouse. I visited on a Heritage Open Day when the Mansion, Swiss garden and Summerhouse were opened free of charge.
The Mansion is occasionally opened to the public and the Summerhouse is normally let out by the Landmark Trust.
The Shuttleworth Collection is open daily and well worth a visit if you are interested in old aircraft, cars etc. The Swiss Garden is also open daily (charges apply).
Architect Peter Aldington designed and built three houses, The Turn, Middle Turn and Turn End in the 1960s in the village of Haddenham. Then, as now, English villages suffered from insensitive development, but Adlington set out to create a modern development that was sensitive to the village site. The three houses all have gardens, Adlington’s house Turn End having the largest garden. A number of fine trees have been preserved on the site.
The houses are the antithesis of the estate developer’s ‘box’ in their design, materials and finish, and the large Turn End garden is now widely admired. The houses are small, low and open onto internal courtyards and their gardens. The ‘plant wall’ – a kind of top-lit covered apace – is a new take on houseplants. A section of ‘witchert’ wall (non load bearing) is preserved in the house.
The houses are built mostly of blockwork, whitewashed internally (in Turn End) and the roof beams are exposed. The Town End garden is laid out in a number of sections with a variety of exotic plants.
Turn End and its garden are occasionally opened to the public and well worth a visit. When I visited in August 2018, a queue had gathered by opening time.
Invitation to View
I visited this medieval house under the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme in August 2018. 25-27 was once part of the long closed Sun Inn. It dates approximately from the late 14th century and is particularly well known for its 17th century pargeting (decorative external render). The interior also contains much interesting historic fabric.
When I visited, the house was unmodernised, but it is currently the object of renovation. Each of the two houses (now connected) has two principal rooms downstairs and two bedrooms above in no. 27 and three in no.25. There are cellars under no.27, and small flint-walled courtyards at the rear.
The structure is predominately timber frame with a ‘crown post’ roof. The spaces within the timber frame are infilled with wattle and daub, with some brick infill.
The pargeting on no 25-27 is of the rare raised form, and includes two unique giant figures, together with birds, foliage, various architectural motifs, a dog and even a stocking.