Fulham Palace, London

Fulham Palace Trust
Fulham Palace was formerly the palace of the Bishops of London. The older part of the palace, the Tudor Courtyard, dates from around 1495. In the 1760s the house was remodelled in a Gothic style, with crenellations, but in 1813-30 it was remodelled in a Georgian style.
The last bishop to reside in the palace left in 1973.
Now the site offers a small museum, a number of viewable rooms on the ground floor with good plasterwork ceilings but little furniture, a chapel, shop, and a cafe.
The extensive grounds, originally enclosed by a moat, now filled in, include a walled garden. The site extends alongside the Thames on the west side of Putney Bridge.
If you approach from Putney Bridge tube station you will come to first a church, then an inconspicuous entrance that leads to the east end of the grounds, then a long fenced path that takes you to the main entrance.
Worth a visit if you are in west London.
Admission to the Palace and grounds is free.

Walled Garden

Toddington Park, Beds

Not to be confused with the nearby Toddington Manor.
The house had changed hands about two years before the date of my visit. I visited via the HHA’s ‘Invitation to View’ scheme.
The house is early 19th Century with late 19th century additions. The family who built it also owned Toddington Manor at the time. The extensive grounds are attractive. Mostly laid to lawn, they include a pond, a lake and a large number of trees, some of which are rare species. The period features of the house interior were mostly removed by a previous owner in the 1970s, consequently there is very little to see inside other than some attractive cornices. The house tour included only two of the principal rooms, one of which was used to host the afternoon tea. We did have the opportunity to look in the cellars, which contain an impressive array of central heating equipment and pipework. The grounds include an original Victorian dairy.
Our host gave an informative tour of the gardens and a description of the house and its history.

Front entrance
Side view

Croft Castle, Herefordshire

National Trust. The present version of the castle was built in the early 17th century in a ‘medieval revival’ style, but has undergone some revisions since, including the demolition of the servants’ wing. The Croft family were forced to sell in 1746 but their trustees repurchased the castle in 1923.
In the late 1580s, the original castle was converted into an Elizabethan house, which was severely damaged during the Civil War. The house was remodelled in a Gothic style in the 1760s by its then owner Thomas Johnes. A lesser remodelling took place in 1913, with changes made to the entrance front and the crenellations. In 1937, a 17th century service wing to the north-west was demolished. In 1957, after fears about demolition, funds were raised for an endowment and the house was donated to the National Trust.
The principal rooms have some fine interiors with furniture and paintings.
The adjacent church is older than the house. The walled garden and glasshouse are also worth a visit. On the wider estate you can find the Fishpool Valley and an ancient hill fort.

Library ante-room fireplace
above fireplace
china cabinet
Pietra Dura table
Blue Room
Chest of drawers
Oak Room
Dining Room
Gothick Bay Room
Tiles in church
Monument in church
West front
Walled garden
Walled Garden
Repro. picture in walled garden
Walled Garden
Walled Garden
East side

National Botanical Garden of Wales

The National Botanical Garden of Wales has (they claim) the largest single span greenhouse in the world. The site is set in a large park where you can go for walks of up to 1 or 2 hours. The less adventurous can walk or (if you have an excuse) take the buggy ride from the entrance up to the Great Glasshouse, and make your way back via the Double Walled Garden, Tropical House and whatever catches your eye on the way. The site owners say that to see everything requires an all-day visit.
The Great Glasshouse contains endangered plants from a number of regions with a Mediterranean climate, including South Africa, Australia, California and Chile as well as the Mediterranean basin. There are a number of specialist gardens and exhibitions scattered around the site.
Worth a visit if you are interested in plants, particularly exotic ones. When I visited at the end of June, there were not many flowers to be seen. Some familiar vegetables were growing in part of the Double Walled Garden.
Some re-purposed older buildings remain on the site, but not the mansion, which burnt down in 1931.

Great Glasshouse
Wild flowers
Apothecary’s Hall
Tropical House
Tropical House
Tropical House
Tropical House
Double Walled Garden

Doddington Hall & Gardens, Lincolnshire

Front of house

Privately owned
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.
Rear of house
Farm wagon
Temple of the Winds
Kitchen Garden
St Peter’s Church
St Peter’s Church

Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire

House front
National Trust
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.
Dining Room
Circle of friends
Field Marshal’s Bedroom
Field Marshal’s Bedroom
Guide plays piano
St. Peters Church

Abbots Ripton Hall, Cambridgeshire

Privately Owned
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.

Long Border
Long Border
Grey Border
Entrance front R
Entrance front L

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).

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.

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