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Port Eliot, Cornwall

Entrance front, Port EliotPrivately owned
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.

East Front, Port Eliot
East Front
Church from house grounds
Church
North Front, Port Eliot
North Front
Round Room & North front
Round Room & North front

Featured

Bradley, Newton Abbott, Devon

View of house exterior and lawn
Bradley Manor
National Trust.
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.

Polesden Lacey

House frontNational Trust

While there were houses on the site from the 17th century, the current house was built in the early 1900’s. It was bought by and fitted out for super-rich McEwan brewery heiress Maggie Greville and her husband Ronald. The principal rooms received showy interiors in a succession of different architectural styles with much use made of architectural salvage.  Maggie Greville was a famous society hostess who entertained the rich and famous, including royalty. During the wars she was apparently sympathetic to appeasement and entertained the Nazi ambassador, von Ribbentrop.

Maggie Greville added to her father’s collection of art, and the picture collection is impressive, including some Old Masters. There is also china and other objects of art.

The grounds include various formal and walled gardens as well as various lawns, areas of woodland, and walks.

At the time of my visit only the ground floor rooms were open, and these were decorated for Xmas.  Most of the items of interest could be seen in a 2-hour visit. It is probably worth having the guidebook to hand as you look around the house. There is also a more expensive guide to the pictures, but it only illustrates about half of them, so more use for taking around than reading afterwards.

Saloon decorated
Saloon

Hatchlands Park, Surrey

House

National Trust

The Hatchlands estate has passed through various hands. The present house is mostly as built in the 18th century for Admiral Boscawen and his wife. Boscawen died of a fever soon after his retirement, and his widow sold the house after a few years. The next owners, the Sumners, are responsible for the present parkland. The following owners, the Rendels, made some alterations and eventually presented the house to the National Trust in 1945. At this point the house was empty.  After various tenancies, the house was offered to artist and collector Alec Cobbe with the suggestion that he fill it with his family’s collection of musical instruments, furniture and pictures.

The interior has been redecorated and now contains a collection of grand pianos and harpsicords, and a large number of pictures, as well as some casts of classical sculptures.  All the instruments are kept in playable condition and there are occasional recitals. Guide leaflets for the pictures and instruments are available, and it would be worth taking round the (rather expensive) house guidebook rather than reading it afterwards.

In the grounds there are some walks and patches of woodland. There was no NT shop, seemingly a casualty of Covid19.

Longthorpe Tower, Peterborough

English Heritage.

The tower is now surrounded by housing, but was earlier attached to a farm.  Connected parts of the building originally formed the manor’s Great Chamber etc but English Heritage only own the tower, the remainder now being a private residence. The main chamber contains some extremely rare medieval wall paintings, uncovered in the 20th century.  The upper chamber can also be visited.  Visits are currently by booked guided tour only.

The wall paintings are of considerable interest, but parts are much damaged and one needs the guided tour for interpretation.

Visitor parking is in Woburn Close about 100 yards away. Note that there is no waiting area inside the building so visitors should arrive on time and wait at the foot of the stairs to be admitted.   There is no convenient waiting area outside either, other than the access lane.  The postcode covers a large area, so drivers should set their satnav for Woburn Close.

Croome, Worcestershire

House National Trust
Croome largely represents the vision of a single man, George William, 6th Duke of Coventry. The site was originally boggy land. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was responsible for the landscape and for the remodelling of the house – his first commission. Robert Adam designed a number of room interiors.
A walk (or route march) around the estate brings one past many features of this created landscape. First the church, constructed as an eyecatch after the previous church, judged too close to the house, was demolished. Then an ice house hidden in the wood. Then the walled garden, privately owned and only open at certain times. The Rotunda stands on a rise and forms a viewpoint for the house and several distant eye-catchers.
The house stands in the middle of the park. Nominally, all four floors are open to visitors but when I visited some rooms were closed for repairs and I did not get any guided tour to the top floor. The guidebook floor plan marks part of the Red House extension as open to visitors but the shortform leaflet didn’t and this wing was closed for repairs.
The rooms are mostly empty or used for exhibitions, the original furnishings and contents being elsewhere or lost in a warehouse fire. The Long Gallery has impressive plasterwork, apparently recently restored. The Dining Room plasterwork was colourised by the Kirshna movement when they were in occupation of the house. It looks great, but purists may not agree. Also in this room is a display of some of the Croome china, well worth seeing.
Above, the rooms mostly look unrestored. The Chinese Room has lost its plaster ceiling. Some fell down and the NT removed the rest for safety. Two rooms contain the last private owner’s bathroom fittings, retained by the NT as part of the ‘history of the house’. Personally I think they look awful and should go.
Moving on, a reconstructed Chinese bridge spans the river giving access to more parkland. A hard path leads on to the lake with various monuments, the Grotto with statue of Sabrina, and the Temple Greenhouse. Finally one returns to the church.
At the estate entrance are some black huts which house the reception, shop, and tea-room. The huts are one of the few remnants of RAF Defford, an airfield used during WWII for development work on radar. In another of the huts you will find a very interesting museum and exhibition of RAF Defford and its work.

Plasterwork
Rotunda interior
Rotunda
Rotunda
Fireplace
Fireplace in long gallery
Ceiling
Ceiling
Porcelain collection
Porcelain collection
Dining room colour
Dining Room
Grotto statue
Grotto

Cotswolds Villages

Hotel in Broadway
Hotel in Broadway
I visited four Cotswolds villages: Broadway, Bourton-on-the-Water, Bilbury and Tetbury. They all have buildings in Cotswold stone, and some have a stream running through, expensive shops and art galleries, and a host of restaurants and tea rooms.
Pilbury has a row of picturesque row of weavers’ cottages built in local stone and owned by the National Trust. They are probably the most photographed cottages in England.
Tetbury has an interesting Georgian-period church – St Mary the Virgin.
Village stream
Bourton on the Water
Bilbury cottages
Bilbury
Bilbury cottages
Bilbury cottages
Bilbury, garden
Bilbury, garden
Tetbury Georgian church
Tetbury Georgian church

Chavenage, Gloucestershire

House entrance Privately Owned
The core of Chavenage house dates from the 16th century, with additions in the 17th century and early 1900’s. The tour takes in the oldest rooms of the house, which have many original and interesting contents. The Chapel (restored and altered in 19th century) is also worth seeing.
Cromwell slept in one of the bedrooms.
Chavenage retains the atmosphere of a family home, and the family do not employ any staff for opening the house to the public. The tours conducted by George Lowsley-Williams or his sister Caroline are immensely entertaining and informative.
The house is frequently used as a film location for films and TV series, e.g. Poldark.
The grounds can be visited but are unremarkable.

House, South
House, South
Grounds
Grounds
House, south
House, south
Chapel & west wing
Chapel & west wing

Rodmarton Manor, Gloucestershire

House front Privately Owned
Despite its Jacobean appearance, Rodmarton Manor was built in 1909-1927 for Claud Biddulph and his wife. The project was much influenced by the Arts & Craft movement, and was built by hand using local labour and materials. The furnishings were made by craftsmen in Arts & Craft style, and remain in the house.
The interior design and furnishings are of particular interest.
Outside are various sections of garden – a pleasant terrace garden behind the house, and to one side a hedged long walk with fine borders, and a large kitchen garden, partly laid to lawn.
Well worth a visit, particularly for Arts & Crafts enthusiasts.

Garden walk
Garden walk
Walled Garden
Walled Garden
House rear (S)
House rear (S)

Gloucester Cathedral

Cathedral tower The cathedral was founded in Norman times, as can be seen from the massive round nave pillars topped by round Norman arches. Various alterations and additions were made in the medieval Gothic period.
The fine lattice stonework on the tower can be seen from afar. Close up, the size of the building both inside and out is impressive. The East window, one of the biggest such windows in England, is vast. There is a complete cloister roofed with vaulted and densely carved stonework. The Lady Chapel is very large, and decorated with stained glass and carved stone.
Everywhere one looks in the later built parts is a riot of carved stone, and carved woodwork in the choir.
Also don’t miss the cathedral library, up two flights of stairs.
The cathedral is not to be missed if you are visiting the city.
Admission for the irreligious is “by donation” (suggested donation £5). Conducted tours are available.

Cathedral tower
Cathedral tower
Nave exterior
Nave exterior
Library
Library
Mason's mark
Mason’s mark

Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire

House Privately Owned
There has been a castle at Sudeley since Norman times. Parts of the present castle date from the 15th century. The castle was fought over in the English Civil War and afterwards was partially demolished by the Parliamentarians, leaving it as an uninhabitable ruin. In 1837 the picturesque ruin was bought by two wealthy industrialists, the Dents, who restored most parts of the castle as a Victorian country house. Richard III’s hall was left as a picturesque ruin.
Detached from the house is an interesting chapel, also restored in the 19th century.
Many historic names are associated with Sudeley, including Richard III, Henry VIII, Queen Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey, Elisabeth I, and George III.
Various rooms are open to the public, but most of these are exhibition spaces. The ‘Castle Rooms’ contain some furnished rooms with interesting contents.
In the grounds are lawns, formal and informal gardens, and an aviary with a collection of exotic pheasants. The grounds are well worth a walk around the circuit.

Richard III hall
Richard III hall
Gardens
Gardens

Sezincote, Gloucestershire

House Privately Owned
Sezincote was built in 1805-1807, for Charles Cockerell, brother of John Cockerell who bought the estate in 1795. Both brothers had served in India. Charles appointed as architect another brother, Samuel Pepys Cockrell, to build a house in the Indian manner. Externally the house contains both Mogul and Hindu elements. The stable block partly visible beyond is also built in an Indian style, and various Indian-style sculptures can be found in the grounds: bulls on the entrance bridge, a 3-headed snake, and a pair of elephants.
The interior of the house is in a Greek Revival style. The principal rooms are on the first floor. The rooms on display are well furnished and finished. The central staircase under the dome is of ‘flying’ design, supported by curved cast-iron arches.
The house has two wings leading to pavilions, one being a curved conservatory and the other containing extra accommodation and ending in a pavilion where Charles Cockerell slept in a tent.
Apparently the house was in poor condition by the time the next owners, the Kleinworts, bought it in 1944. The interiors have been redecorated and restyled fairly recently.
There are sloping informal gardens around a stream near the entrance gate, and formal gardens at the far side of the house. The gardens are very attractive and worth a walk around.

Garden
Garden
Snake pool bronze
Snake pool
Pool
Pool
House wing
House wing
Conservatory
Conservatory
House & formal garden
House & formal garden