Mottisfont was originally an Augustinian priory. After the Dissolution the monastic buildings were largely dismantled or incorporated into a large Tudor mansion with two courtyards. Little now remains of the Tudor mansion. In the 18th century most of the Tudor buildings were demolished and a three-storey south front constructed, giving the building much of its present-day appearance. The Stables were rebuilt in 1836.
Successive owners made changes to the interior. in 1934 the house was bought by the Russells who repaired and modernised the house, changing the function and fittings of many of the rooms.
The principal rooms on the ground floor are open to visitors, and some upstairs rooms are open as exhibition spaces, and maids’ rooms can be seen on the attic level. The ground floor contains a collection of paintings, notably the Derek Hill collection. The Russells converted the original entrance hall into a grand saloon with spectacular trompe l’oeil murals by Rex Whistler.
At basement level, vaulted cellars and other features from the old priory can be seen. One cellar contains a poignant sculpture of estate workers disappearing into the wall, a reference to WWI.
Outside the house is a 20th century parterre. Further afield are a walled garden, a winter garden, the river and other features. The Trust manages an estate of over 1600 acres.
Mottisfont is well worth a visit, which could extend to over half a day.
Markers Cottage is a medieval cob house that retains many original features. Originally it had a hall open to the roof and a cross passage. Smoke blackened thatch can still be seen in the attic. A medieval wood partition has paintings on it, and upstairs a section of decorative plasterwork is preserved.
Later the cottage was given a first floor and sub-divided. The garden contains a charming cob summerhouse (a Millenium project).
The cottage is well worth a visit if you are in the area. I suggest you combine your visit with a visit to Clyston Mill in the same village of Broadclyst.
The discreet National Trust signs in the village will take you to the village car park. Look for the sign indicating how to walk to the cottage. There is no onward signage: essentially you walk to the far end of the car park, exit in the RH corner, turn left and proceed along the edge of the playing field till you reach a street with a yellow painted thatched cottage in it. You can drive to the cottage and park outside: exit the car park turning left, then right & right into Town End street. You should be able to park outside (except during the school run!).
Invitation to View
I visited Shilstone under the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme. Unusually for ITV, the visit was hosted by the Devon Rural Archive who are based in the adjoining outbuildings, and not by the house owners, the Fenwicks. Shilstone also trades as a wedding venue, so if you want exterior pictures, go to the Shilstone House website.
The Fenwicks bought a Grade II listed farmhouse on the site and rebuilt it, preserving the most intact wing and reconstructing the remainder, which was ruinous or non-existent. The result looks from the outside like a complete period building, but inside looks like a modern replica (which is what it is).
Some wings are two storey, and others (with lower ceilings) three storey, and the interiors are styled after different periods from Tudor to Georgian. There is an interior courtyard. One of the rooms contains panelling from a Jacobean house that originally stood on the site.
The Shilstone restoration may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is an impressive building.
In the Archive building is a small exhibition which includes pictures of ‘before’.
Kedleston Hall has a long frontage with a centre block and two semi-detached wings. The family still lives in the left hand one, which was always intended as a family home, the centre block being for display rooms.
The lower hall is a forest of columns supporting the heavy floor and columns above. The State floor of the central block has an series of rooms on two rows (front and back). The centre front houses the double-height Marble Hall with Roman theme decor. At centre back is a round hall, Pantheon like with an oculus, and black iron stoves to warm the room a bit. There are lots of paintings in various rooms by minor artists.
The lower floor has a museum of Indian relics (one past Curzon owner was Viceroy of India). The exhibits include a howdah. The grounds are mostly open grass land, with some bits of garden border and garden buildings at back.
The interesting church contains some fine family monuments. Click to enlarge
A house was built at Chatsworth by Bess of Hardwick, and the house was rebuilt and extended by her descendants, the earls and dukes of Devonshire. In its present form it is not so much a house as a ducal palace. The house is built around a central square courtyard, on three principal floors. On the first floor is a series of opulent staterooms. The grounds are large and contain a variety of features from a cascade to a long pond with fountain, a maze, greenhouses, lakes, woods etc.
When I visited most of the main rooms were occupied by a costume exhibition, and the objects restricted the view of the interiors in places. The North Wing with sculptures was very dimly lit by electric candles. Seemingly this mimics a past Duke’s preferred way of showing it after dinner. Elsewhere was an exhibit about an 1897 fancy dress ball in London, with aristocrats dressed up as nobles from pre-1815. It must have been amazing.
Many of the rooms are extremely ornate, with tromp d’ oeil paintings applied to walls and ceilings and lots of decorative carving.
The greenhouses in the gardens have limited access. The prominent hunting tower is a holiday let.
It took me two hours to walk around the house, and some more time just to walk to one extremity of the gardens and back. If you want to see everything Chatsworth has to offer and have a lunch break, I would suggest an all-day visit.
The Baroque western range of Wentworth Woodhouse was begun in 1725 for Thomas Watson Wentworth. However before this was finished, a new East Front, in fact an new house facing the other way, was commissioned. The house is said to be the largest private house in England and to have the longest frontage in Europe.
For many years, 1949-1979, the east front was leased to West Riding County Council and housed the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education.
After several changes of ownership and attempts at preservation, the house was acquired in 2017 by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust for £7 million. The Treasury has promised £7.6 million for subsidence repairs, but millions more are claimed to be needed.
I went to Wentworth Woodhouse on a tour organised by JustGo Holidays. We had guided tours of the state rooms of the central East block on two floors. IIRC we saw the Pillared Hall, rooms through to the Low Dining Room, then up to Chapel, and other east front rooms including the Marble saloon and grand staircase. The rooms are in quite good condition and some are fully redecorated. The whole house consists of several blocks -the long east front, the west front and a service block behind the north end of the east front. More of a housing estate than a house, it has around 350 rooms and 150 times the floor area of the average British house. There are no gardens on the east side. The west side, where the owners lived, and the gardens are accessible on some of the tours, according to the WW website.
We were not permitted to photograph the interior, but some pictures and floor plans can be found online.
The land to the west and south was dug up by open-cast coal mining to within yards of the house in the 1940’s. An example of class warfare conducted my energy minister Manny Shinwell.
Several monuments and a grand stable block exist in the lands around the house.
The H-shaped Tudor manor house is built on monastery remains recorded in the Domesday book, and remarkably complete. The building is timber-framed but was encased in brick in 1645. It was at one time the home of Sir Charles Caesar and his son Julius, Master of the Rolls. By grand house standards the house is small and compact, and all the rooms are of a domestic scale. The ground floor has flagstone floors, beamed ceilings, a very early fireplace, an excellent collection of paintings and objets d’art, collection of tea caddies. The upper floor has finely decorated bedrooms and study, with many silhouettes. A barn in the grounds houses a small art gallery with paintings for sale. Pleasant gardens slope down to a long pond.
I visited Rippington Manor under the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme. Tea and coffee with sandwiches and cakes were included. I had trouble finding the correct Church Street with sat-nav and would suggest taking along a note of directions from the main road running through the village. The Manor is next to the church.
Corsham Court dates from 1582, and was bought by Sir Paul Methuen in the mid 18th century to display his celebrated collection of 16th and 17th century Old Master paintings. A second collection was added through inheritance in the mid 19th century. The house was extended to accommodate the paintings using as architect Capability Brown, who also designed the gardens and park. The interiors retain many original features including plasterwork, wall hangings and furniture by Chippendale, Thomas Johnson, etc. The paintings include works by Van Dyck, Carlo Dolci, Fillipo Lippi, Salvator Rosa, Reynolds and Romney.
Surrounding the park today are the impressive gardens designed by Capability Brown and including a Gothic bath-house, a 13 acre lake and a ha-ha.
Bath Spa University uses parts of the house and grounds.
Free parking is available outside the house next to the church. The house and gardens are opened frequently throughout the year, in the afternoon. A curator and room guides are available to answer questions.
Historic Houses Association, privately owned, limited access
Access to Thorn is mainly by the ‘Invitation to View’ scheme.
Thorn is near the village of Wembury, on a spectacular site on the banks of the river Yealm. The estate has had a variety of owners. The Corys added a ballroom and billiard room (now vanished) for their royal and noble guests. In 1920 the estate was bought by William Arkwright, former owner of Sutton Scarsdale Hall in Derbyshire, who renamed it from South Wembury House to ‘Thorn’.
The present building at Thorn dates from the 19th century and the Corys but a much older building once stood on the site as evidenced by the Tudor cellars.
Arkwright started development of the gardens, and this work was continued by the next owner, Mrs Sebag-Montefiore. The present owners have lived here since 1981.
The house has three grand rooms downstairs, with interesting furniture and art. The gardens are terraced and extend along a steep hillside. They contain many trees including rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and eucalyptus. The gardens are well worth seeing.
My visit was hosted by the enthusiastic owner, Eva Gibson, and was very enjoyable, lasting for around four hours. Details of how to access the property were provided on booking via ‘Invitation to View’.
Surprisingly, the house is listed on Air B+B.
More pictures are on the Thorn website.
Caerhays Castle is situated near a beach not far from the village of St Michael Caerhays, south of St. Austell. The castle was designed by John Nash and built in the Georgian period. Its owner went bankrupt and to pay creditors the contents of the house were dispersed in a great auction, and even the lead from the roofs was sold, leaving the building derelict. Some decades later the wreck was bought by the Williams family who restored it, giving it Victorian interiors and starting to create the gardens. The gardens contain plants imported from various parts of the world, including rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas, which make a fine show in the spring.
From a distance, the castle looks as if it contains a vast number of rooms, but Nash’s castellated design conceals various service courtyards so the number of habitable rooms is in fact more modest.
Parking is in the beach car park and there is a stiff walk up to the house (except for disabled, who can park at the house). Caerhays is accessed through a maze of minor roads.
The house contains some fine interiors, including a circular (tower-shaped) drawing room. Admission to the house is by conducted tour and as numbers on the tours are limited, booking well in advance by telephone is advised. The gardens are a major attraction and well worth a visit. Note that the house opening dates and garden opening dates are not the same.