While there were houses on the site from the 17th century, the current house was built in the early 1900’s. It was bought by and fitted out for super-rich McEwan brewery heiress Maggie Greville and her husband Ronald. The principal rooms received showy interiors in a succession of different architectural styles with much use made of architectural salvage. Maggie Greville was a famous society hostess who entertained the rich and famous, including royalty. During the wars she was apparently sympathetic to appeasement and entertained the Nazi ambassador, von Ribbentrop.
Maggie Greville added to her father’s collection of art, and the picture collection is impressive, including some Old Masters. There is also china and other objects of art.
The grounds include various formal and walled gardens as well as various lawns, areas of woodland, and walks.
At the time of my visit only the ground floor rooms were open, and these were decorated for Xmas. Most of the items of interest could be seen in a 2-hour visit. It is probably worth having the guidebook to hand as you look around the house. There is also a more expensive guide to the pictures, but it only illustrates about half of them, so more use for taking around than reading afterwards.
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.
The tower is now surrounded by housing, but was earlier attached to a farm. Connected parts of the building originally formed the manor’s Great Chamber etc but English Heritage only own the tower, the remainder now being a private residence. The main chamber contains some extremely rare medieval wall paintings, uncovered in the 20th century. The upper chamber can also be visited. Visits are currently by booked guided tour only.
The wall paintings are of considerable interest, but parts are much damaged and one needs the guided tour for interpretation.
Visitor parking is in Woburn Close about 100 yards away. Note that there is no waiting area inside the building so visitors should arrive on time and wait at the foot of the stairs to be admitted. There is no convenient waiting area outside either, other than the access lane. The postcode covers a large area, so drivers should set their satnav for Woburn Close.