It’s been a while since I visited a National Trust property, though I have visited Blists Hill Victorian Village and the Ironbridge Gorge Darby Houses in recent months. The delightfully bright and sunny late May bank holiday – well the Sunday anyway – provided the ideal opportunity to get out and visit some new properties, the first of which was Croome Court in Worcestershire.
A Little History
Croome Court has a very diverse history dating back to the 17th Century as the seat of the Coventry family. The house was completely redesigned in 1751 by George William the 6th Earl of Coventry after inheriting the estate, hiring Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who would become a renowned landscape designer as an architect, with neo-classical architect and furniture designer Robert Adam designing the interior and decoration.
During this redesign, the landscape around Croome was completely changed, with the addition of a man-made lake and “river”, temples and statues, numerous decorative buildings and ‘eye-catchers’ and the demolition of a medieval church and construction of a new church, all done under the designs of Capability Brown to add focal points to view from the house.
Croome passed down the generations of the Coventry family until World War Two, where things took a huge turn following the death of the 10th Earl who died in the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. During the war, Croome was requisitioned by the Government, as were many country houses during both World War One and Two, and an RAF air base was built on the estate, during the war the estate was hugely important as the RAF base was used for testing and evaluating airborne radar, and was identified as one of five locations for the Royal Family to escape to in the event of invasion, prior to relocating to Canada. Hearsay also places Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands at Croome briefly following her escape from the Nazi Invasion of the Netherlands. Today, Croome’s Wartime history can be viewed at the RAF Museum by the entrance to the estate.
Following the war, like many country estates Croome and almost all of its contents were sold off. During the 1950s-1970s, Croome was used as a Catholic boy’s school and later from 1979 to 1984 as a retreat for the Hare Krishna movement before being sold off to various property developers with the aim of turning it into a country club and golf course. In 1996 following decades of neglect and decay, it was purchased back by the Croome Heritage Trust and leased to the National Trust for 999 years, and opened to the public in 2009.
Entering the estate via the Visitor Centre and RAF Museum, you enter the park from which there is a considerable walk down to the house past the church built by Capability Brown. The house itself isn’t one of the largest National Trust houses, but is a lovely golden, symmetrical house built in the Palladian style.
On approaching the house, you enter from the North Front and the first room you see is the Main Hall.
The Main Hall
The house is spread over four floors, ground, first, second and basement and unusually you are able to access all of the floors, with guided tours available for the second floor. Unlikely many National Trust properties, Croome is largely unfurnished due to most of the contents being sold off.
The Main Hall leads to the Dining Room on the left, the Billiard Room on the right, and the Saloon straight ahead, with a corridor running the length of the three rooms to staircases on either side.
When viewing the house, you’re advised to go anti-clockwise and so the next room you enter is the Billiard Room, where you can view a short video of the history of the Croome Court estate.
Following on from the Billiard Room, there is a staircase that can be access to go up to the first floor, down to the basement, or you can enter the Long Gallery.
The Long Gallery
The Long Gallery was designed by so that through every window you see a different aspect of the gardens and park. The room was designed by Robert Adams, with a highly decorative ceiling and with a strong Roman influence.
Leading on from the Long Gallery you enter the Drawing Room, and then Saloon from where you later leave the house. After the saloon you enter the Tapestry Room. You may have noticed the lack of interior photos, during my visit the large number of visitors prevented me from taking any decent photos, and there does not seem to be a large number of photos available of the interior.
The Tapestry Room
The Tapestry Room was where vibrant salmon pink and gold tapestries were hung, purchased by the 6th Earl, but latest sold to cover gambling debts of the 9th Earl’s son. Today the room is pretty much a blank canvas, showing where the tapestries would have hung, however interestingly; the tapestry room has been recreated with the original tapestries and furnishings in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Following on from the Tapestry Room, you enter what would have been the library, and then the Dining Room.
The Dining Room
After the dining room, you can explore first and second floors and the basement. The first floor is where you can really see how time has affected Croome, with many rooms in a poor state of decoration, a stark contrast to many National Trust properties.
The basement allows you view older parts of the existing house and is also home to one of three tearooms.
On completion of the house tour, you exit via the Saloon down the steps of the South Front.
Croome is home to plentiful parkland full of interesting things to see, the walled garden is privately owned and is accessible certain days of the year for an additional fee, I did not see this as there was more than enough to see at standard National Trust price (which is of course free for National Trust members).
At the far ends of three corners of the park there are two castles and a panorama tower I did not see these as they were too far a walk for such a hot day, photos of these can be seen below;
Closer to the house there is the Church of St Mary Magdalene built replace the medieval church demolished by Capability Brown;
If you follow the path past the church you will end up at the Rotunda, a domed pavilion used to take tea during the summer.
On the other side of the park, a man-made lake and river was built by Capability Brown adorned with temples, sculptures and a grotto.
As you can see there is plenty to see at Croome, with a multi-mile walk to see everything on offer, and a full day of activities. I would highly recommend spending a sunny day here, and with the RAF Museum giving added appeal for those interested in the Royal Air Force or World War II.
- https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome – National Trust website for Croome Court
- http://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk/search?term=croome&filters= – National Trust Images of Croome
- http://www.geograph.org.uk/article/Croome-Court-and-Croome-Landscape-Park – Images of Croome
- http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/58.75.1-22/ – Croome’s Tapestry Room at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art
- https://cfileonline.org/exhibition-bouke-de-vries-the-golden-box-contemporary-ceramic-art-cfile/ – Dining Room exhibit of ceramic dinnerware