Chavenage House, near Tetbury
Friday 27th April 2018
Chavenage is a family home (no, not the Poldark family) but the home of the Lowsley-Williams family. It was a great privilege to be shown around the house by George, who has lived there all his life. He was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the history of the house, that his two hour guided-talk flew by. The house has been used as a location for many films and television programmes. George, as a young boy, met many famous actors and has many anecdotes about them. He came home from school one day to find David Suchet (Hercule Poirot) attempting to learn the Belgian national anthem by whistling it!
Most visitors want to know about the filming of Poldark, but the history of the house with its connections to Oliver Cromwell and its ghost stories related to Charles I are much more interesting.
This ghost story is taken from the Chavenage website. It is certainly worth following the link below to read more.
After the cessation of hostilities whilst Charles I was imprisoned, it became apparent to Cromwell that the King would have to be executed in order to stop any form of Royalist uprisings. To this end he sent General Henry Ireton to Chavenage, to try to persuade Colonel Stephens to add his support to the regicide. Eventually Ireton obtained from Stephens his very reluctant acquiescence.
Shortly after his daughter Abigail returned from having passed the New Year elsewhere, she, in a fit of horror and anger, laid a curse on her father for bringing the name Stephens into such disrepute. The story goes that the Colonel was soon taken terminally ill and never rose from his bed again. When the Lord of the Manor died and all were assembled for his funeral, a hearse drew up at the door of the manor house driven by a headless man, and the Colonel was seen to rise from his coffin and enter the hearse after a profound reverence to the headless personage, who as he drove away assumed the shape of the martyr King, Charles I – this being regarded as retribution for the Colonel’s disloyalty to the King. Thereafter until the line became extinct, whenever the head of the family died, the same ghost of the King appeared to carry him off.
Read more about the history of Chavenage on this website:
Rousham House, Bicester
22nd May 2018
As most of us live in houses which are of comparatively recent build but which may have been home to families in no way connected with each other, it is always interesting to visit a house and gardens which have belonged to the same family for generations ..,…especially if, as at Rousham, the present owner is one of the same family who built the house in 1635. A small party of NT members visited this house and gardens with its many examples of the influence of the great designer, William Kent (1685 -1748) and we were given a tour guided by the wife of the present owner who is very conscious of the historical significance of her home. It is a fascinating house but still very much a family home with portraits hundreds of years old in the same rooms as piles of modern books and photographs of the present generation, giving a warm and welcoming feeling. The grounds and gardens, which are largely as they were designed by Kent, following their beginning by Charles Bridgman, are a rare unspoilt example of his work with many interesting and unusual features…..statues, temples, water features ….all as he meant them to be. To add to the interest in the estate, there is a herd of rare Long Horn cattle and some beautiful miniature poultry. No tea room but wonderful views for picnics and car parking close to the house. As usual, Pam had given us a great deal of background information to equip ourselves for an understanding of the house before our visit…thank you, Pam.
Elton Hall, Cambs.
21st June 2018
The visit to Elton Hall was not only a tour of an ancient family home…but a journey into another world…rural England as we like to imagine it! Villages of mellow stone, thatched cottages and scenes of a flourishing harvest…well worth the rather long journey. The arrival at the Hall was, in itself, a fitting entry into part of that world…an avenue of long established trees leading to a sudden view of an almost fairy tale building.
The Hall has been owned by the Proby family for 400 years and is still very much their family home. With a legacy of years of public service, they work to keep the Hall as ” part of the history of this country”. The contents show what this home has meant…and still means….to the family. The wonderful collection of paintings includes works by Constable, Millais and Joshua Reynolds. Perhaps the most fascinating item is the beautiful prayer book given to Henry Vlll by Catherine Parr. The written notes in the margin have been authenticated as those of Elizabeth, Mary and Henry, himself.
The garden, with its topiary and colourful flower beds, was beautiful and the chapel, through which we entered the castle, is still used for family events The guides, Nicky and Catherine, were helpful, interesting and welcoming…particularly to those of us with impaired mobility. (The castle is not the ideal place if stairs are a problem!!) Especially good that Pam was able to be with us!.
Carlton Hall, Carlton on Trent
2nd July 2018
Another very interesting, personalised visit with a guided tour by the owner. We were told about the many changes to the hall since it was purchased by the Verre family in 1833. As you can see the weather was ideal.
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Sulgrave Manor and Garden, Banbury
Tuesday 18th September 2018
The Manor House was a small but interesting one. It is connected to George Washington – the first president of the United States. There has been a Trust connection on both sides of the Atlantic which is to promote harmony between the two countries for many hundreds of years, and we were given a brilliant guided tour by Thea who also did our excellent cream teas and the shop as well as the tour. There is an interesting old herb garden with a large number of herbs including some rare ones and a couple that – although I knew of – I hadn’t seen them on the trees/bushes before – Mulberry and Quince. In the Orchard is one tree that pre-existed before the orchard was planted so is deemed to be over 1,000yrs old.
I wish I had had a guide book before-hand as I could have encouraged more people to come with more information about the house itself! The rooms are on two floors and are accessed by lovely old, slightly uneven, staircases – which we managed to negotiate. The one room holds a largish tester 4 poster with a beautiful embroidered surround and matching bedspread – made recently by ladies embroidery from the other side of the Atlantic and original rush matting is on the floors. A lot of the upkeep is done by trust members with expertise in various topics of restoration. Quite a lot is to be seen in each of the rooms although some of them are small. The kitchen itself is very interesting as it has a working set of ingredients and pans and other equipment on display and you can sit down in quite a few of the rooms as well!
We had no rain until leaving. The property is very uneven underfoot with very old oak flooring and the furniture is beautifully matched to the period of the room it is in although not a lot is original as the house was changed over the years.
Antonio very kindly consented to take myself and my two friends as my eyes are not up to it at present – so we had a lovely relaxing day into the bargain. Everyone who went has said how much they enjoyed the visit.
Pam Weaver, group leader