National Trust. Berrington Hall is a substantial Georgian mansion built of sandstone, with attached service wings surrounding a courtyard. Service rooms occupy the basement of the house, and also lie under the service buildings at the sides of the courtyard. A walled garden lies near the house. Further afield one can take walks in the parkland. (This may involve braving a herd of cows). The parkland was designed by Capability Brown.
The house contains some fine ground floor rooms. In the dining room, paintings commemorate the victories of Admiral Rodney, a former occupant of the house. The bedrooms are mostly given over to exhibition space. Notable is an elaborate mantua, or court dress, worn by Ann Bangham, wife of the Hon. Thomas Harley.
In the basement under the house, various servant’s and service rooms can be visited.
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.
Newton House at Dinefwr, and Dinefwr Castle. National Trust.
The Gothic-style mansion is a recent NT acquisition with some elegant ground floor rooms having fine ceilings, and a grand staircase. The first floor rooms are set up as exhibition rooms displaying a collection of objects found during restoration of the house. One exhibition features ‘125 objects from Dinefwr’ including things found under the floorboards.
Externally the house has an odd look with four square corner towers, a nineteenth century addition.
The house is set in an extensive park, including a deer park, woods and with the ruined Dinefwr Castle on a hilltop. White cattle, famous for having a long association with the area, can be seen in the park. Various walks are available. The old castle can be reached by a 20-minute walk uphill through woods, and is worth the effort as substantial walls and towers remain. The castle is thought to have been built by Rhys ap Gruffydd, king of Deheubarth. The castle changed ownership a number of times but fell into disrepair after Newton House was built around 1600.
Tredegar House was built from 1664-74, largely replacing an earlier Tudor house of grey stone. It was built by William Morgan, one of the powerful Morgan family who owned the house until the 1940s. The principal state rooms on the ground floor are the New Hall, Dining Room and Gilt Room. On the first floor are various suites including the Best Chamber, the King’s Room ( not actually used by a king) and the Master’s Bedchamber. Descending again, one can visit the basement area, with the bells passge, butler’s room, Great Kitchen, Pastry Room, Housekeeper’s Room, Still Room and the Servant’s Hall. The latter is in the old part of the house. In the centre os a courtyard (currently out of bounds to visitors because of objects falling from above.)
A fine set of gates face the entrance front of the house, and nearby is a stable block and orangery (currently under restoration.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.