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.
Doddington Hall was built between 1593 and 1600 for Thomas Tailor, who was a lawyer. This Elisabethan prodigy house has a wide frontage but is only one room deep in the centre. Internally it was largely updated in the 1760’s, and underwent some restoration in the mid 20th century.
The interior is said to be impressive but the house was not open at the time of my visit.
The grounds include floral and kitchen gardens which are pleasant but not exceptional. Behind the house a vista extends to a pyramidal obelisk. To the right of the house front is a small church, rebuilt in the 1760’s.
On the other side of the house are various outbuildings including a farm shop, and a barn containing a collection of farm wagons.
Lincoln Cathedral is one of the great cathedrals of England. Unusually, it has three towers. Construction started in 1071. Subsequently the cathedral had an eventful history, with a great fire ravaging it around 1124, partial destruction by an earthquake in 1184, a lengthy rebuilding, the collapse of the central tower in 1236, and further alteration over the centuries. The West Front survives from the Norman period.
Inside and outside, one is impressed by the scale of the cathedral. Well worth a visit. Don’t miss the Chapter House.
An admission charge may apply, except on Sundays.
The Romans were the first to build a fort on this hilltop site. The Normans also built a castle on the site, initially as a wooden fort on a mound. The mound of the Lucy Tower was the original Norman motte, and it is now thought that the Norman bailey, or outer yard, was bigger than the current walled enclosure, following the line of the Roman settlement walls and enclosing the whole hilltop.
The massive earth ramparts and curtain wall are thought to have been built in the late 11th century. A stone keep, the Lucy Tower, was built on the original motte, and a second motte was constructed and topped by another stone tower, now known as the Observatory Tower.
The castle featured in several medieval battles and sieges, culminating in a siege in 1644 during the Civil War. After 1660, the castle ceased to be a military fortress, and instead was used as a gaol.
A prison built of brick was erected within the walls in the Georgian era, and partly replaced by a Victorian prison block behind.
The courthouse building within the walls dates from 1826, replacing an earlier building.
Visitors may be confused by the pricing structure: entry withing the curtain wall is free, the basic fee entitles you to go on the “Wall Walk”, and the premium fee in addition admits you to the Magna Carta exhibition, prison chapel and Victorian prison. If you are expecting a massive stone keep inside the walls, there isn’t one. There are also hourly free guided tours of the grounds.
There is plenty to see if you opt for the full ticket, and viewing the exhibits in the prison block can take some time. Lincoln Cathedral (admission fees may apply) is next to the castle.
Construction of the present house by Sir William Massingberd began in 1696. The house was extended in 1873 and 1896 with a two-storey extension in a matching style. The stables and coach houses were built by William Mieux Masingberd in 1735/6.
The musical Lushington family is associated with the house.
The gardens were in existence in the 18th century and restored to their present form in the 20th century. They include a kitchen garden and some fine trees, notably a Cedar of Lebanon planted in 1812.
The basement, ground floor and first floor of the house can be visited, and have interesting contents.
St Peter’s parish church stands just outside the gardens.
The house and garden are both well worth a visit. To avoid disappointment, check the house opening hours.
In 1433, Lord Cromwell, Treasurer of England, began replacing a small crenellated manor house with an impressive brick castle. The castle later passed to various other owners, notably Charles Brandon who turned it into a Tudor palace.
In 1643 large parts of the castle were destroyed or damaged during the Civil War. The Great Tower narrowly escsaped demolition after the King’s defeat, but was spared after repeated appeals.
In 1693 the last Earl of Lincoln died and the castle was inherited by the Fortesque family who never lived in it, allowing it to fall into a derelict and ruinous condition, with the ground floor used as a cattle shed. The Fortesque family sold the castle in 1910 to an American consortium, and the fireplaces were ripped out and sold separately to an American collector.
Following protests, Lord Curzon of Kedleston in dramatic circumstances bought the castle and recovered the fireplaces, which were reinstated. Lord Curzon had the castle restored to its present condition.
Adjoining the castle is a large church which is worth a visit, and also a row of almshouses.
It is possible to visit all the levels of the castle and the roof, from which there are fine views of the countryside. Each principal floor has a large, high room and various niches.
I visited Abbots Ripton Hall under the Historic Houses Association’s “Invitation to View” scheme.
The Hall was built in the 18th century of red and gault brick, with a plain entrance front to the northeast and a garden front to the south-west, with shutters and loggia. The house was altered in the 1850s and again in the 1970s.
The house has some pleasant ground-floor rooms, including a library, containing some good furniture and pictures. The contents were mostly acquired by the current owner. The glory of the property however lies in the extensive gardens. A huge London Plane tree stands close to the house and is contemporary with it. A series of lawns and paths spread out from the house into wooded gardens containing a long double herbaceous border, a rose garden, a rose tunnel and pergola, and other features.
The Abbots Ripton Brook flows through the gardens, feeding a canal near the house, and a lake.
Many of the plants have numbered labels, and visitors are provided with a guide to the plants. I spotted one flower that was the same as a plant in my garden I had never been able to identify (Anemone).
A view across the lake provides a glimpse of a Chinese fishing pavilion (built by Peter Foster in the 1970s, like many of the garden features.)
The gardens in particular are well worth a visit. I would have liked to explore them further but one of our party was on an electric buggy which might have induced our host (Lord de Ramsey) to shorten the tour.
Finding the Hall, near Huntingdon, was straightforward except that my sat-nav took me to a commercial courtyard on the B1090. Exiting from there to the left, the inconspicuous gates to the Hall were about 100 yards further on to the SE, on the same side of the B1090. Hall Lane, shown on the maps, is the road behind the gates. Once one has actually visited the gardens, the main features are clearly identifiable on Google Satellite View.
Paycocke’s is a surviving example of a Tudor merchant’s half-timbered house, standing on the main street of Coggeshall, Essex. Paycocke’s oldest part was owned by John Paycocke, a meat merchant. His son, Thomas, a prosperous cloth merchant, built the front main range as a showroom for his cloth business. In the 18th century, the property came into the hands of the Buxton family, who eventually sold it and moved to London. After numerous changes of ownership and increasing disrepair the house was about to be demolished when bought by Noel Buxton in 1904. Buxton had the house restored, and in 1924 it was donated to the National Trust.
The house is well worth a visit, as the wood carving on the frontage is outstanding, and there is also much carving and some interesting exhibits in the interior. The pleasant garden, whose design dates from the early 20th century, is worth a look. Note that entry to the garden and tea-shop is free, but there is a charge for entering the house. At the time of visiting (Aug. 2022) entry was by conducted tour only, and the last scheduled tour was at 2pm. The website says that advanced booking is advised.
If you arrive by car, with luck you should find free parking on the street near the house, or at the nearby Grange Barn (also NT, not seen).
If you have time, Coggeshall also boasts a clocktower, St.Peter ad Vincula church, The Woolpack Inn, St Nicholas’ Chapel and a host of old listed buildings.
I visited Ingatestone Hall under the Historic Houses Association’s “Invitation to View” scheme. The Hall is also opened to the public on selected dates.
At the dissolution of the monasteries, one William Petre, a lawyer from Devon, purchased a manor at Ingatestone that had belonged to Barking Abbey. Petre constructed a brick house that is substantially the same house we see today, still occupied by the Petre family.
Extensions were added at one side, incorporating two priest’s holes. In the 18th century the west wing, containing the Great Hall, was demolished, leaving the U-shaped plan we see today, and the windows and other features were ‘modernised’. The Petres moved to Thorndon Hall nearby and the house was subdivided into apartments.
In 1919 the Petre family moved back to the house and the 16th Lord’s widow immediately set about restoring the house to its original Tudor appearance and layout. This was a mammoth task, which was sympathetically carried out. Today it is hard to distinguish the original parts from the restored or reproduced features of the house.
The conducted tour was very informative. The house interiors and contents are generally in an Elizabethan or Jacobean style, and there are some pleasant grounds to explore. We were able to examine the priest holes.
During our visit a film crew was working in the house, filming an episode of ‘Horrible Histories’.
On approaching the area from the South, take care when leaving the A12, and follow the signage for the village rather than your satnav. My satnav sent me back onto a slip-road and a detour of many miles up the A12 and back.
I visited Stanstead Bury under the Historic Houses Association’s “Invitation to View” scheme.
The house is of Tudor origin with additions made at various periods They have all left their mark and the house is now an unusual mix of architectural styles. The earliest visible part is a half-timbered newel staircase and the most recent addition was built in 1963. It has a fine William and Mary front. It is very definitely a family house – the inside is filled with Trower possessions accumulated over the last 150 years.
The tour includes the ground floor, first floor including bedrooms, 17th century walls surrounding the vegetable garden, and the gardens (to view the exterior of the house). The St James church nearby is also opened for visitors.
I enjoyed my visit – our guide was enthusiastic and the house has some attractively furnished and decorated principal rooms and upstairs has a warren of floors and differing levels. The newel staircase is an unusual feature. There is also a large walled garden.
The house is quite difficult to find, so should you visit, be sure to check out its exact location on a large scale or online map. My Satnav + the postcode sent me up a left fork ending in totally the wrong place on the wrong side of the A414 expressway.
King Alfred’s Tower is a brick-built folly on the Stourhead estate, intended as an eyecatch and viewing point. Construction was completed in 1772. The size of the tower is impressive. It is triangular in section with rounded projections at the corners, with a spiral staircase in the corner furthest from the door.
To visit the tower, you can drive there or walk. If you follow the sparse brown signs from the Stourhead entrance, after driving through a wood for some distance, look out for an inconspicuous old-style round National Trust sign. To the right is the entrance to the car park, not obviously visible. Crossing the road from the car park, after a few yards you should exit the trees and see the tower at the end of a field to your right.
Alternatively you can walk from the Stourhead gardens – you will need a map and directions, and time to complete a 5.5 mile round trip walk.
The tower can be visited at any time free of charge, but is open (for ascent) only on weekends in the summer. Check the Stourhead NT website for specific dates.