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.
Category: Parks & Gardens
Parks, gardens, landscape
Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire
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.
Abbots Ripton Hall, Cambridgeshire
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.
Floors Castle, Roxburghshire
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.
Castle Ashby Gardens
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).
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.
Rodmarton Manor, Gloucestershire
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.
Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire
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.
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.
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.