Floors Castle, Roxburghshire

Castle centre block
Centre block

Privately owned
The most immediately striking thing about this castle is its size – I had to take three shots of the frontage or take a long walk to get it all in – and its turreted skyline. There was a fortified 15th century tower house on this site, replaced in 1721-26 by a Georgian mansion designed by William Adam. This had four corner towers and outlying two-storey pavilions housing a kitchen and stables. In 1837-47 the Scottish architect William Playfair extended Floors, adding substantial wings, a porte-cochere at the front entrance, and multiple square and hexagonal turrets.
Around a dozen rooms on the main floor and basement are open to visitors, including much of the floor area of the central block at this level. A ground floor plan of the castle is available here.
The display rooms contain some fine paintings and furniture. The visitor route includes entrance hall, ante-room, sitting room, drawing room, needle room, ballroom, billiard room, bird room, gallery, dining room, robe room and basement. The Drawing Room has a fine set of tapestries, inherited by the then Duchess in 1929, and the room decor and ceiling were made plainer to highlight them. The Ballroom has more of the tapestries, and the original decor was covered over with plain panelling to highlight them. The Bird Room has a remarkable collection of hundreds of stuffed birds in cabinets covering all the walls. A few of the species, e.g. the passenger pigeons, are now sadly extinct. The Dining Room was formerly the Billiard Room in Playfair’s design. The basement contains a remarkable model of the castle, made of sugar icing, sporting exhibits, and a carriage and fire engine. Interior photography was not permitted.
To reach the walled gardens one has to make a substantial walk to the west. The walled garden contains flower and vegetable planting and from it one can access the Millennium garden, with pathways forming the crest of the 10th Duke and Duchess.
The castle is the centre of a 21,000 estate including tenant farms and a wind farm.

East service wing
East service wing
West service wing
West service wing
Turrets on E. wing
Turrets on E. wing
Millennium Garden
Millennium Garden

 

Castle Ashby Gardens

The House

Privately owned. Not to be confused with the National Trust’s Canons Ashby.

I remember cycling to Castle Ashby some years ago, when I was younger and fitter, and entering the central courtyard. The house is no longer open to the public, but the gardens and church are regularly open.

The gardens are impressive, and include an area of formal gardens with an Orangery and other structures, an arboretum (woodland), and a walk past stretches of water. Adjacent to the gardens is the walled garden, laid to grass. It can be looked into but not entered, and the house’s terraced garden likewise can be looked into but not entered.  There is a menagerie housing meerkats, monkeys, exotic birds, pigs, a giant tortoise and a miniature horse.

The church is normally open but I did not find the interior of especial interest.

The gardens are well worth a visit. Allow 2 to 3 hours.

Entry to the gardens is much cheaper in the winter months but some auxiliary facilities may be closed.  Admission was by online booking only. If you need the loo on arrival, it is in the left hand end of the row of reception buildings (not well marked).

Beehives
Meerkat
Birds
Arboretum
River
House terrace
Orangery interior
Formal Gardens

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

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)

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

Hidcote, Gloucestershire

Garden building National Trust
The glory of Hidcote is the series of gardens, the house being small and not of particular interest.
I started my tour by heading for the kitchen garden, which as well as the inevitable vegetables contained some attractive swathes of tall flowers. The rest of the gardens follow Arts & Crafts principles, being arranged as formal garden ‘rooms’ near the house with a more naturalistic style in the outer reaches. The outer parts include a Great Lawn and a Long Walk.
The creator of the garden, Major Lawrence Johnson, acquired the house and estate in 1907. Johnson had a serious interest in plants and plant collecting.
The estate is well worth a visit if you are interested in gardens. It is possible to walk round everything in under 2 hours.

House
Manor House
Flowers
Flowers
Borders
Borders

Woodchester Mansion, Gloucestershire

Ext approach side Private trust The mansion is managed by a private trust, while the grounds are managed by the National Trust.
The construction of Woodchester Mansion, a Gothic Revival house, was commenced around 1856 and abandoned around 1870. The house was never completed as the family ran out of money and heart for the project. Externally the house looks complete with roofs and windows in place, but internally floors are missing and walls and vaulting are unplastered allowing the underlying structural elements uniquely to be seen.
In tune with the Gothic style, the house has a considerable amount of internal stone vaulting, which requires to resist its thrust the buttresses visible externally. The intended vaulting was not fitted in the Dining Room and Library, and these spaces remain open to roof level. Most parts of three floors and the cellar can be visited.
Parts of the house have sustained considerable water and frost damage since the 19th century, and the Woodchester Mansion Trust is attempting to carry out repairs and return the mansion to its 1870’s condition.
The mansion is of considerable interest, particularly to those interested in architecture. The NT estate offers long walks through woodland and past lakes.
Parking is at the NT car park by the road. Visitors to the mansion face either a 1 mile walk or a wait for the shuttle buggy. There is an entrance charge for the house. The lakes are another mile further on – that’s a 4 mile walk to see the lot on foot. On your return, watch out for the inconspicuous and unsigned steps up to the car park. 🙁

Dining Room shell
Dining Room
Drawing room
Drawing room
Ground floor corridor
Gnd fl. corridor
Chapel detail
Chapel
Stone bath
Stone bath

Dunster Castle, Somerset

House entrance
House entrance
National Trust
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.

House from below
House from below
Mill interior
Mill interior
House front
House front
Room
Room
Ceiling
Ceiling
Room
Room
Room
Room
Conservatory
Conservatory

Holdenby, Northants.

House frontage Privately Owned

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.

Nearby church
Nearby church
Church wall painting
Church wall painting
Church altar
Church altar
Ornamental Tudor arch
Ornamental Tudor arch
Replica cottage
Replica cottage