I am surprised the archaeology work currently being undertaken has not been mentioned in the articles on Copped Hall Essex. The Tudor foundations on the older Medieval Manor are undergoing excavation by West Essex Archaeology Group with Copped Hall Trust. The digs are open to the public in the summer, with opportunities to dig.
We visited the gardens on October 9th 2011 and was pleasantly surprised by what we found. The gardens were magnificent and the heritage was very interesting. The staff were extremely polite and helpful.
The cost of entry was excellent value for money and the entire facility was a joy and well worth a repeat visit.
Interestingly, the stables at Stratfield Saye were built out front on purpose. The house we were to visit was intended to have been demolished and replaced by a grand “Wellington Palace”. Knowing this one fact explains a lot about this house and its interesting history. Entrance to the house is by guided tour only and Neville, dapper in blue blazer and pink trousers, took us around.
In short, this Jacobean/Stewart H-shaped house (probably built circa 1630 by Sir William Pitt, Comptroller of the Household to James I) was modified and extended in the 18th century, given a coating of render and lived in ever since. The garden is mainly lawn, though to the front left corner is a domestic-scale fenced garden with herbaceous borders. Not really a plantsman’s house.
The house was originally red brick, showing the owner had the wealth to afford such a building material. Pitt, 1st Baron Rivers, however, decided stucco was more suiting and a white icing was applied to the exterior during a programme of extensive work to the house and park in the 18th Century. Today the colour is more golden honey.
After Waterloo, Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, had the enviable task of choosing a country house for himself – a gift from the State. He wanted somewhere close to London and Windsor, with good land. He rejected Uppark Park (poor land) and settled on Hampshire. The estate, accumulated by the Pitts, was sold for £263,000 by George Pitt, second Baron Rivers, to Parliamentary trustees for the use of the first Duke of Wellington in 1817-18.
The estate remains vested in these statutorily-appointed trustees (who include the Prime Minister, ex-officio) rather than in the Dukes themselves; the Dukes pay an annual rent of a flag, presented to the sovereign on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Location Location Location was the key. ‘Waterloo Palace’ would be built in the grounds in the north-east of the park and Stratfield Saye demolished. This explains the location of the stables.
Wyatt’s plans for Waterloo Palace are framed on the walls of Stratfield Saye. It would have resembled Blenheim and then some. In the events that happened, Wellington seemed to have had more lust and resources to purchase the furniture for his intended palace than he did building it. In 1821 the plans were eventually abandoned as being too expensive, in favour of extending and improving the existing house: turning the entrance hall into a double-height space (creating a rear wing with new bedrooms above) and adding a conservatory (1838 – now housing an indoor swimming pool) and outer wings (1846). The house has a very ‘Regency’ feel.
Wellington certainly took advantage of the French furniture that was going cheap during the late 19th century and he built quite a collection. He also received over 200 pictures from the Spanish Royal Collection, which had been looted during war. At the Battle of Vitoria in 1813 they were captured from Joseph Bonaparte: some had been ripped from their frames and used to protect horses from the rain. They survived remarkably well but the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, thought it more befitting that Wellington took them. 80 are sited at Stratfield Saye (including a series of reproduction Van Dycks), the rest at the Wellingtons’ London home, Apsley House.
Rooms on the tour are limited to the ground floor:
¦library: with elaborate, gilded paper mache ceiling;
¦morning room: now the study with a very well-used Chippendale desk;
¦dining room: added circa 1775 by Lord Rivers and housing pictures of many ladies who took the eye of old Arthur;
¦sitting room: with the ‘stolen’ Spanish Royal paintings and original wallpaper.
Part of the stable block houses the 1st Duke's hearse and an exhibition, which shows some effort has been put in to create an attraction here.
The visitor reception/cafe and toilet block are found in the grounds near the field where cars park. On offer is quiche and potatoes, cake and a pot of honey. Given their limited opening, it’s nice to see they go to the effort of producing hot food, though I’m sure they’d do better offering really good scones and clotted cream with a pot of tea for £5. I certainly would have bought that.
We visited Charlecote Park earlier this year. It is absolutely beautiful inside! Some of the guides chew your ear off a bit... (seem to find this at a lot of NT properties though!) Although the (we think) head gardener, was fabulous, he let us go into the 'staff only' greenhouse and showed us all the plants he was bringing on ready to go into the main gardens! It really was a lovely experience!
The gardens at the time we visited were at the end of a season and so slightly delapidated, but there were a lot of volunteers on site working hard! Definitely worth a visit! Also.... do make a detour to the little garden centre over the road! Not your run of the mill garden centre, but something rather beautiful about it!
Intent on making the best of the unexpected mini heatwave this weekend I headed to the ever popular National Trust Estate of Ashridge in Buckinghamshire.
There is free parking, a National Trust shop and information centre as well as Brownlows café which is open from 8am till 6 pm and sells the most wonderful homemade cakes. The Duke of Bridgewater Monument is open to the public for a small fee and after mounting the many steps the view is stunning across the Herts and Bucks borders, toilets and drinking water for dogs is also available.
I decided to park up and head towards the Ashridge Business College which was once Ashridge House which is a less busy route and ideal for walking at a leisurely pace. The warm sunshine was drying the still damp grass from an early morning shower that had washed everything clean. On this walk you cross the edge of the Ashridge golf course and head towards the cricket field that stands facing Ashridge House which is (now the business college). Today it was school boy footballers packing up after a practice sessions that covered the edge of the grass field. The cricket session finished for another year. Fallow deer darted through the dense trees and hid once again amongst the oaks leaving me still looking for the your camera. Red kites also nest here but I seen none today and the woodpeckers were quiet today.
I walked to the far edge of the cricket field and sat in the shade to enjoy an hour with a book and my picnic. My dog lay dozing amongst the fallen acorns, although he kept one eye open hoping for the return of the deer. Autumn is such a lovely time to visit Ashridge, the gold and maroon tints are only just painting the trees but enough leaves litter the ground to walk through and feel the childish delight of the crunch underfoot. It will be another few weeks before the full effect of the golden archways of trees on the drive through the estate is at its most colourful and dramatic.
There were plenty of people enjoying Ashridge today and although I stayed on the quiet paths it was nice to see families enjoying the sunshine. I left feeling envious of the people who live nearby and have access to the estate as their back garden.
We were most fortunate to be in the area on the one day a week that this property opens to the General Public [Tuesday]. It is only open for conducted tours and not free flow visits. We were welcomed by the custodian and spent the next hour on a detailed tour of the four ground floor rooms. There is so much to see in the Hall, Library, Lounge with Conservatory attached and Dining Room, that we could easily have spent a lot longer there. The house was rebuilt on the site of the previous one in 1803 to a design by John Nash, who did a lot of work next door at Attingham Park. At around that time the Park was landscaped by his colleague Humphry Repton,who was also involved in Attingham Park. The Burton family have lived on the site since the 14th Century and everything in the house originates from the family. The style is Tudor Gothic and the interior has Plaster Fan Vaulting in beautiful condition and the stained glass windows are magnificent. Nothing was too much trouble for our very knowledgeable guide who then took us outside to admire the circular Game Larder and Ice House. We also visited the Chest Tomb of Edward Burton who died in 1558, but was not permitted to be buried in Shrewsbury Church as he was a Protestant. What a memorable visit we had!
We spent a most enjoyable day here and were very impressed with the knowledgeable Guide that took us on a tour of the house, which lasted around 70 minutes (optional0. If you prefer you can wander around on your own. The Tea room is very good and with reasonable prices, a pot of coffee is £1.90 and freshly made sandwiches £3. We spent time in the Gift Shop which had a good choice of local items.
The gardens are extensive and well kept and one can spend a whole day at the property very happily. Do not forget the Butterfly House, which is included in the Admission Charge and will particularly appeal to children.
I am an American descendant of the Ruggles family who came to Boston in 1634. We have been to Spains Hall twice, both times honored to meet Sir John, who has since died. The home and grounds are beautiful, the 5 acre rose garden is exquisite. It is truly an English treasure. We took the train from London to Braintree, and rented a car. Taxis are also available. The village of Finchingfield is like a picture postcard, and the local church and pubs are well worth a visit. Everyone friendly and welcoming.
The house is truly amazing for a number of reasons. Firstly it is almost in 'as new' condition. Obviously some soft furnishings are showing signs of wear but otherwise the house is as it would have been and would, in fact does accommodate residence, albeit in a caretaker manner. The ingenious contraptions that are evident and the extravagance of a very wealthy owner, abound. It will take at least 1 hour to visit the house, much much more if you examine every room in detail. The gardens, or to be more realistic, estate could occupy all day. On our visit the weather was less than clement, but a 6 mile drive around the perimeter, on a one way road gives an idea of the vastness. Coupled with around 40 miles of footpaths to explore would take days not hours. May and June are recommended to appreciate the extensive Rhododendron display, which I will return to experience. An amazing house and well worth a visit, especially if you are a National Trust member and therefore get in for free, otherwise quite expensive but probably worth the cost for the opportunity to spend a whole day.
I went on a visit to Kenilworth Castle on Saturday the 3rd September. The site was absolutely amazing it was like being taken back in time, I just wished that it was not ruined so I could see everything but I loved it and the garden especially was great, to me it was history back to life. Thanks to my teacher and the English Heritage, who showed us around.
My husband and myself went to Port Lympne on a wet showery day. We were unable to see the elephants as one was poorly and the safari ride had to go on a different route. There were a lot of steep hills to go up,so wear walking boots when you go. A good day out, but not the best park we have been to by far. We wont be going back again.
A unfinished mansion in the valley of Woodchester with huge parklands surrounding including 5 man made lakes. On open days the mansion is run by volunteers with tours of the mansion regularly usually lasting an hour and a half. The mansion was left halfway through building and the workers just downed tools. The mansion includes its own Chapel which was almost finished when left but weather has tarnished this very interesting throughout. It is owned by Stroud District Council and leased to Woodchester Mansion Trust. There is a minibus shuttle operating on open days with no extra charge.
I visited Highclere last Wednesday and it superb and the setting was stunningly beautiful. The guides, restaurant staff etc. were all exceptionally pleasant and helpful. However, I do feel that the restaurant was totally inadequate for the numbers endeavouring to use it - in fact if you chose a hot meal, it was cold by the time you got a seat.
And the queues for the ladies' toilets were something - if you had been told about the length of delay to actually get your foot inside the outer door, you would have thought it was a total exaggeration, but not so. If the Castle is to continue as an attraction for the public, serious thought and consideration must be given to the limited restaurant facilities and the number of available toilets must be increased.
What a gem of a place to visit, no hassle or tours just browse at your pace in what is a magical personal place. Food in the Laird's larder is excellent and service really good. Even the gardener was friendly.
Visited this weekend. A real gem of a country house and probably the most access I've ever had to any heritage property I've visited. With the knowledgeable guides including one chap that had worked for 16 years at the property based in the Billiards Room - you really feel the history of this fantastic family home.
Would happily visit again and if you've never been and are in or around Doncaster. Go visit - you won't regret it. Thanks to all the guides in the rooms who made our trip so memorable - you do a great job and myself and my girlfriend really appreciated it.
A secret gem! Very atmospheric.
We met our two grandsons here in early August and spent a very good few hours there. There are two free Car Parks adjoining the site, together with free toilets. The Castle site is split into two parts with the majority being a large grassy area, ideal for picnics. The Castle Buildings/Ruins themselves are run by English Heritage and there is a charge for exploring this part of the site, with its rooms and many steps leading up to the spectacular roof area with views of 360 degrees, covering Portsmouth Naval Dockyard and The Isle of Wight. A comprehensive Audio Guide is provided to accompany the tour. The Ticket Office incorporates an imaginative Gift Shop greatly appreciated by our two grandsons. Back in the open grassed area we entered an Old Augustine Priory which is now an Inter Denominational Church, with a tempting Tea Shop adjoining it, which helped to complete a most enjoyable visit.
We visited Croft Castle in Mid July with a party of National Trust Members and were made very welcome. The house was one of the first N.T. Properties in the country to trial the Atmospheric Idea in 2 of the rooms. These were darkened to make them appear as they would have done in the 19th Century, with candles and soft music of the period. As a result of the experiment this idea has been adopted this year throughout many N.T. Properties. There were knowledgeable guides in the rooms and we were given a 20 minute talk on the History of the house in the Dining Room.
The facilities at the property were good although the Tea Room was let down by poor organisation of staff, with some visitors having to wait some 25 minutes to be served. The same bottleneck as we experienced on our visit last year!
We had some difficulty finding the footpath to the Iron Age Hill Fort of Croft Ampney around a mile away. Better signposting is needed there, but once reached gives a heavenly view well into Wales and the Black Mountains. Some of the trees in the parkland are over 350 years old and Chestnut, Oak and Beech abound.
This was our 3rd visit to Croft and we enjoy it more each time. Incidentally there is a good 2nd hand bookshop there as well as a Gift Shop offering locally produced goods.
We had heard good reports about the property from our daughter who loved it and we were not disappointed. We were given an in-depth tour of the house and chapel by the very knowledgeable owner, David Lowsley-Williams. He spoke to our party of 35 enthusiastically for 2 hours and we came away feeling we knew all there was to know about the History of the Estate. He told us amusing stories and we could have happily listened to him for another hour.
During the last 50 years I have been around dozens of National Trust and Private Properties and cannot remember a visit that I have found so fulfilling in all that time. The only slight criticism I would make is the lack of a tea room, which we soon solved with a visit to the nearby town of Tetbury.
If you get the chance to take a tour of Naworth guided by owner Philip Howard then I strongly advise you to take it. Not only is the building itself fascinating but the history of the Howard family as narrated by Philip really draws you in and has you desperate to know more. Yes, this is the same family that built Castle Howard in Yorkshire but you if want to know how and when the two branches went their separate ways you need to take the tour. A highlight of our trip to Cumbria.
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