Hereford’s distinction as the capital of the Saxon kingdom of West Mercia is an historical drawing card which still exhibits itself today as a primarily rural community with a cattle market still held there every Wednesday. The local history is presented in quite a few museums which range from the Cathedral itself, with its Lady Chapel and the curious chained library (with 1,500 books linked with iron chains to bookcases), to the City Museum and Art Gallery which specializes in Roman Mosaics. The Mappa Mundi housed at the Cathedral should not be missed. There is also the Cider Museum, Churchill House Museum with 18th and 19th century furniture and City Museum houses quite a number of local artist exhibitions.
At (The) Old House, located in Hereford’s High Town area, you’ll find an exceptionally well-preserved timber-framed structure which dates from 1621 and is a museum itself- furnished in Jacobean pieces- reproductions and original. It stands alone right in the middle of an ultra modern shopping area and looks rather out of place but is a wonderful curiosity to take in considering the history it retains along with its interior collection of furnishings and artifacts. It has been used, over the centuries, to many different purposes such as a butcher’s shop at ground level, as an ironworkers shop and even bankers have plied their trade here. Lloyds Bank was the last private owner and within a short period after its salvation, conversion to a museum in 1929 was almost inevitable. The purpose of its preservation is to give a vernacular perspective on the daily life in Hereford during Jacobean times. Much of what you will see is an important collection of old English Oak furniture along with rare wall-paintings, a period four-poster bed and prams which date from that period. Activities for children include replica clothing along with puzzles and various other amusements. Fully equipped for all visitors, there are virtual tours available on the ground floor, braille and audio guides and even tactile images for the blind and visually impaired on the premises. This museum is open free to the public every day except Mondays and main holidays from 10 to 5.
T- 01432 260694
Another medieval black and white half-timbered house built in a wooded valley, northeast of Hereford toward Bromyard, is Lower Brockhampton Hall at Bringsty. This typical old English country house will remind you of a Thomas Kinkade painting with its wonky but charming gatehouse along with the remains of a moat encircling three sides. Add mist and the whole scene takes one back to the idyllic life of the past. The Brockhampton family were known in this area as far back as the 12th century and were responsible for building the first chapel on the estate circa 1180. John Domoulton, a descendant, built the main house about two hundred years after the chapel was built along with the moat. Today the entire estate comprises nearly two thousand acres which provided John with all the timber and labor force of skilled craftsmen he needed to make his dream a reality. His home was the showcase of his status in the local community which has passed down through his family for over 500 years !
Originally built on an H-plan, as many such houses were built during the period, Brockhampton is no exception. Although this house and its grounds have been altered greatly, the excavations which have been carried out revealed the original configuration. Today, it remains as an L-shape, with the Great Hall and parlor forming the shorter wing, and the long hall as a 16th century two-storey stone extension (not accessible to the public). During the first half of the 16th century, the two-storey gatehouse was added, with the building of the stone extension to the original timber-framed house during the latter part of the same century- very much in the manner of Stokesay Castle in Shropshire. Major improvements were undertaken to the estate, as a whole, in the 18th century after Bartholomew Barnetby, an 18 year old heir, commissioned T.F. Pritchard to design a new family mansion on the extensive grounds. Brockhampton House was built in neo-Georgian style and it is still occupied privately and not open to the public but a portion of the original hall and ancient woodlands with oaks that date from the time of Henry VIII are available to walk through. Lower Brockhampton Hall was used as a farmhouse after the erection of Brockhampton House and the old Norman Chapel as an outbuilding. In 1946, on the death of the last heir, the whole of the Brockhampton estate was bequeathed to the National Trust. You will find a few of the old family gravestones on the property of the old Norman Chapel and a nice tearoom to stop in for refreshments.
T-01885 488099 infoline
Fine gardens can be found five miles northwest of Hereford near Swainshill at The Weir which overlooks a bend in the river Wye, a popular salmon leap and the Black Mountains in the distance. The Parr family created this garden in the 1920s as owners of the 18th century villa (which unfortunately is not open to the public) seated on 254 acres of prime woodland. With the home at the top of a series of slopes, a good part of the gardens are multi-tiered with paths and flights of steps and filled with all types of shrubs, bushes and trees which shelter herb and vegetable gardens. Landscaped lawns are adorned with every color and shade of flowers and a cheddar limestone rockery along with a lily pond and streams finish off this spectacular paradise with a view. The walled garden is a recent addition. As a National Trust property The Weir is available to view during most afternoon hours and it is recommended that you wear good walking shoes.
Headed northwest towards the Welsh border, Hergest Court and Hergest Croft Gardens are seated not far from Eardisley Castle remains on the west side of Kington, a short distance off the A44. The original manor built there was built by Hwel Ap Meurig in 1267 and it has since gone through many changes through the centuries although it is unknown if any original timber or stone remain where Hergest Court now stands. The house that exists there has the the distinction of being the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s book Hound of the Baskervilles, with the name coming from the Basquevilles who had possession of Eardisley at one time of whom Mr. Doyle may have been related to by marriage.
A red leather book for Hergest is known to exist, recorded during the time between 1375 and 1425 mixed with poetry and prose entries which cites Hopcyn as the earliest known owner. The Vaughn family took possession of the home by 1461 and through the centuries continued in their ownership along with the Clanvow family up until the early 18th century. What exists today is an exceptionally pretty Edwardian home in place of an old stone and timbered farmhouse, well-preserved, most of which was erected by Thomas Vaughn and his son Watkin. The estate became agricultural by 1912 when the house was purchased by W.H. Banks in 1912. Today the gardens include 50 acres of rare shrubs and trees in thousands of varieties, a kitchen garden of 120 varieties and an azalea garden bordered by a massive avenue of cedars, birches and maples which are part of the National Collections !
T- +44 01544 230160 owner, W.I. Banks www.hergest.co.uk
From there you can take the A44 toward Pembridge village headed for Burton Court which is 5 miles west of Leominster nearest to Eardisland. This Victorian mansion, over flowing with curios, was completed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1914. As a medieval manor it was mentioned in the Domesday book as Bueretune but today is a wedding and conference venue which Lieutenant and Mrs Robert Simpson run with pride, offering an eclectic venue for all types of functions- other than accommodation- including outdoor theater and open days on Wednesdays this summer.
The most wonderful remaining feature is the Great Hall which was built in the 14th century. Purchased in the 17th century by the Brewster family and then passed to the family of John Clowes in 1863, it was built upon as a Georgian villa. By 1912 it was embellished on the commission by Colonel Clowes in 1912 to give it the neo-Tudor façade reminiscent of Lutyens it displays at present. As a result it looks like pure delight upon first seeing it. The artifact collections inside are ostentatious but fun.
Burton is recorded as early as 1331 in surviving pipe rolls and during the reign of Edward III it is purported that Henry (the fifth), the Prince of Wales at that time, stationed his troops there to spy on Owain Glyndwr. Both families of Brewster and Clowes became squires and lords with one Dr. William Brewster distinctive as an eminent scholar in the late 17th century. A great collection of his books form part of the collection in the chained library at Hereford Cathedral. Casual visits are possible to those who contact Mr Edward Simpson well in advance.
T- 01544 388222 firstname.lastname@example.org
Three miles north of Leominster on the west side of the A49, Berrington Hall is a Georgian Palladian in the strictest classical sense which will not prepare you for the exceptionally lavish but tasteful interiors. It is backed by a matching courtyard of offices and stables. Interestingly, Capability Brown helped Thomas Harley, the 3rd Earl of Oxford’s son, choose the site for this exceptional mansion besides landscaping the surrounding parkland. This was to be Capability Brown’s last design before he passed on and the 14 acre lake and island he built there has been designated a site of special scientific interest. Thomas had made his fortune as supplier to the British Army and later became Lord Mayor of London in 1767 before he turned forty. When he commissioned Henry Holland, Capability Brown’s son-in-law, to build Berrington he had already retired in his mid-forties and money was no object.
The setting became a wide valley above a tributary of the River Lugg which imparted views of the west and southern portion known as the Black Mountains including the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Holland’s exterior may be quite strict in classical form but the lavish interiors include marvelous plaster ceilings which have been done over in muted pastel colors with sensitivity to texture. Only the Marble Hall, which is domed, offsets the exterior in Estruscan classical form carried with trophy roundels, heavy cornices and fine carved doorways appearing to be almost a heavy French style rather than Adamic. The drawing room ceiling was attributed to Biagio Rebecca, an Italian decorative painter who did prodigious work for both Holland and Wyatt rivaling Robert Adam’s style and the dining room shows off tributes to Admiral Rodney with a series of panoramic paintings depicting sea battles, three of which are by Thomas Luny. The library bookcases and fireplace were given pediment decoration to resemble classical exterior features and this motif is repeated in several other rooms on arch doorways with steep pediments.
Berrington’s most grand of features is Holland’s staircase hall which rises to the central dome supported by arches and offset with a surrounding mezzanine which seems to dominate the house with iron railings and umber marble columns. Scagliola, niches, statues and grisaille medallions adorn the landing, repeating the classical theme and in nearly monotone white with only hints of sea and sky. French interior furnishings include a collection that belonged to the Comte de Flahault (son of Talleyrand) and also those of Napoleon’s step-daughter Hortense! One room displays a collection of military outfits which belonged to the Cawley family of whom three sons perished in World War I and an Edwardian nursery has been turned into an historical museum for children with a large collection of furnishings, toys and clothes with accessories. Most of the furnishings were supplied by Elmar Digby bequeathed in 1981 to the estate and the costumes on loan from the Charles Wade collection in keeping with the historical setting of the home.
Some interesting surprises on the tour include the sitting room of Lady Cawley. She was the last heir remaining in residence until her death at the ripe old age of 100 in 1978 although Berrington was acquired by the National Trust in 1957- turned over by the Treasury in lieu of death duty. Imagine living in a home by yourself after it has been turned into a museum ! Many rooms are available to tour and the restored gardens, clear up to November with environmental restrictions.
T- 01568 615721 or info 01684 855367 Restaurant 01568 610134
Paytoe Hall is on a circular drive from Mocktree by way of Downton Castle. This black and white, half-timbered and resuscitated beauty is one of many near the village of Leintwardine which is well known for such structures. This Cotswold house dates from the 16th century and features steep sloped roofs and picturesque wall and window configurations. Many of the outbuildings and other houses have been restored around it. This is a private home- not open to the public, mind you- so you’ll have to admire it from the road. (See the photos of Paytoe in my Live photo album !)
Just north of Dorstone, and 12 miles west of Hereford, Moccas Court is seated in landscaping overlooking the River Wye, just outside the north side of the village of Moccas and adjacent to a marvelous landscaped deer park- all laid out by Capability Brown. Legend states that Moccas is the site of the residence of Llacheu who was the son of King Arthur. The village parish church was the abbey of Saint Dubric (aka Dubricius), the very bishop who crowned Arthur. This was one of the earliest Welsh monasteries and was founded by Dubricius in the 6th century.
Through the centuries, starting from the 1200s the estate has been owned by four families: the de Fresnes, Vaughns, Cornewalls and currently the Chester-Masters and in that order. Hugh de Fresne, one of William the Conqueror’s knights, was licensed to fortify the original manor in 1294, Moccas Castle, which can still be identified, although with difficulty, from the earthwork remains of a fortified manor laid out with two baileys and a motte. Records show that license was given to crenellate the manor in June 1293 by royal decree because it was without towers and less than ten feet in height below the laying of battlements, indicating that it was not to be strongly defended. It cannot be easily identified at its confirmed location which was ploughed down at some period and excavated in 1971 but evidence is apparent to the trained eye.
The original manor fell into ruin after it passed to the Vaughans, who lived at nearby Bredwardine Castle. A new property was built by Walter Vaughn in 1550. After its acquisition by Edward Cornewall in 1650 by marriage to Frances Vaughn (a widow to Henry Vaughn) their son married into money as well and became a member of Parliament. Thereafter, the progeny of Cornewalls, whose traditional seat was Byton Castle, escalated in honorary distinctions- many of them military and political. In 1771 Sir George Amyand, a baronet and London banker married the sole heiress to the estate, Catherine Cornewall and Moccas became a part of his conspicuous wealth and power although his marriage, under the terms of Catherine’s father’s will, forced him to change his name to Cornewall. Sir George became the initiator of the current mansion which was completed by 1783.
Under Amyand, Humphrey Repton was brought into the landscaping just before the turn of the 19th century. He and his son George put their picturesque touches to the area across the river from the house with prodigious terracing. Today’s 18th century Georgian mansion was a design by Anthony Keck (of Gloucestershire) and is filled with Adamic ideas incorporated into the interiors which include the round room and oval staircase. The porch was added to the house below the fine Venetian window in 1792 and the estate outbuildings were constructed in 1801 and 1804 with designs which came from the office of John Nash.
Occupied until 1916 by the Cornewall family, Moccas remained empty after Sir Geoffrey moved to one of the many lodges and sold off the contents of the main house. It was let on a long lease for a number of years and then inherited by the Chester-Master family in 1962. It has been in their possession since that time. They reestablished the mansion as habitable by 1969 and it has been undergoing a restoration program still in progress.
Moccas Court was converted to a hotel in the 20th century as a Grade 1 listed classical Georgian gentlemen’s home but is currently not available to guests. It is, however, offered to visitors for historical tours to groups of at least 20 on a prearranged basis. It is suggested to call way in advance and don’t forget to ask about the walk to Scar Rapids. Available for weddings, as well, you can check out this link for more information: www.moccas-court.co.uk/weddings.html
T-01981 500019 email@example.com
Moving further south and four miles southeast of Hereford, Old Sufton and Sufton Court at Mordiford stand above the Rivers Wye and Lugg and also imparts impressive views of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. A long line of Herefords- the family that is- have lived here from 1140 up to the present date. The old house is now tenanted and the smallish Palladian mansion that is Sufton Court is a picturesque Wyatt creation seated on landscaped parkland laid out by Repton still occupied by the present Hereford family.
Old Sufton was originally built in the 16th century as a timber-framed, wattle-and-daub, brick and sandstone dwelling. As a two-storied L-Plan structure its solar still retains braces that appear to have been decorated in the 16th century. It may be the oldest portion of the house since much was remodeled during the 18th and 19th centuries obscuring the older 13th century portions but it is clear that the staircase is an 18th century addition and the gabled roof pitched from the 19th.
On the same parkland, very close by, Sufton Court was built in 1788 under the commission of James Wyatt who clearly took the view into consideration. The three-storied mansion is delightful and so is the vista of Wales. Even though the exterior is built on strict lines, with the window glazing bars removed, the Victorian Gothic cast iron porch renders its face with character, four bays and the interiors are predictably delightful with a fine ramped staircase, paneled inlaid doors and plasterwork extraordinaire. The fireplaces are the newest additions to the interior. Particular attention should be paid to the drawing room which was the former music room. The plaster frieze still sports the instruments it hosted once and the doors are magnificent. The dining room was converted to a library which was a recent decision by the family defying Wyatt’s contention that no two main reception rooms should display the same view. As members of the Historic Houses Association the old house is available to tour only by appointment but Sufton Court is open to the public during hours set season by season. It will be best to call first, of course.
Mr and Mrs. James N. Hereford 01432 870268 or 850328
Closer to the southern Herefordshire/Worcestershire border, Ledbury, Eastnor Castle’s nearest town, is still a thriving market place and has some of Herefordshire’s most outstanding buildings. The Market House on High Street is notable along with the parish church, Feathers Inn and the Painted Room on Church Lane. Not far from the Market House, this room was discovered to contain 16th century frescoes when renovations were being carried out at the Ledbury Town Council offices in 1989. They have been considered the best examples of Elizabethan frescoes in the country. As an ancient borough which dates back to the Domesday Book, Ledbury is seated next to the River Leadon from which it takes its name. Several poets who hale from the town include Elizabeth Barrett Browning from her childhood at Hope End and John Masefield the poet laureate and more recently Richard Ashcroft of The Verve. One of the major festivals is the Ledbury Poetry Festival and a large music event is held at Eastnor Castle every year called The Big Chill.
A short distance from there at the town of Much Marcle, Hellens Manor is among the very oldest dwellings in England although it was altered during the Tudor era. Many elements of the old manor house go back as far as before 1096 when it was given to the de Balun family. Pilaster buttresses on the outer walls surrounded by ancient trees are testament to its antiquity and status along with the coat-of-arms over entrances and original fireplaces. Its most outstanding interior feature is the mammoth Jacobean staircase with its heavy balusters and an imported carved frieze which depicts mythical beasts. Many bedrooms contain a surprising collection of art outstanding in its variance and appropriated designations. The gallery which leads into the Great Hall is worth a perusal and the drawing room imparts a view of the gardens.
Eventually the manor came into the possession of the Mortimers and in 1391 Hugh Audley took possession decades before he was dubbed 1st Earl of Gloucester. From him, Sir James Audley (the Black Prince’s right hand man) took control of the manor in 1347 after his uncle died. Interestingly, the house is named for a tenant to whom Sir James leased the house by the name of Walter Helyon. A wooden effigy of Walter lies in Much Marcle’s parish church of St. Bartholomew along with an effigy of Blanche Mortimer. Helyon’s descendants have resided at the manor ever since, successively as Walwyns, Whartons and presently, Munthes.
Many features of this house make it distinctive. A spiral stairway in the Audley Tower has a large window and is the oldest remaining portion of the house constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries. The Stone Hall with its large fireplace bears the crest of the Black Prince. This house is a veritable museum of authentic artifacts and furnishings out of England’s history. Most of what you will see are not copies of anything but the actual deal. Some items are associated with Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, Robert Devereux, Charles I and the Duke of Wharton. Of course, there is a large collection of the inhabitants over the centuries, as well. In the room once occupied by Mary Tudor as a guest of the house, it is purported that it is haunted by the family priest who was sought by the Roundheads and was killed there under suspicion that he was the owner of the house and a catholic.
The condition of the house can be credited to Malcolm Munthe, an heir to Hellens and another property, Southside House at Wimbledon in London, both of which he restored to marvelous and sensitively true historic condition. He also wrote a book on the history of Hellens. Today the house remains a residence, in part, and also as a museum. A continuous cultural and educational program is part of the ongoing events making the house part of the cultural life of Much Marcle. The gardens are now being restored in the Tudor style with Jacobean patterns including a walled knot garden, a yew labyrinth and a 17th century octagonal dovecote. There is also a woodland and pond walk and an old cider mill, which contains family coaches, including a Derby coach. The cider mill is used for its original purpose each autumn and this area is well known for its cider, being referred to as Big Apple Country. A restored 16th century barn is now used to host events for private purposes such as theater with 150 seats, a recording venue and for weddings and conferences for up to a hundred attendees.
http://muchmarcle.net/local-places/hellens/ more photos and visitor info
Near Pontrilas and southwest of Longtown Castle, Abbey Dore Court Garden is a plant and garden lovers paradise of eighteen acres with river walks, open meadows and a prodigious collection of anything that grows out of the ground. Charis Ward, the current proprietor whose family bought the estate in 1967, has bequeathed the Elizabethan house and gardens to her grandchildren and she has left this paraphrased note for guest and visitors on their web site with a look to a bright future for the beautiful property:
This year promises to be an exciting year for all of us at Abbey Dore Court. The main house has had an enormous amount of work done on it both outside and in. It is now under the control of my grandchildren and they have set it up for country house rentals allowing a wide variety of people to come and enjoy both the house and the area which I am delighted about. Nothing rests in the Garden either. In the past year my grandson, Julian Sage, has been an enormous help and is with me again in between fire-fighting duties and his newly formed landscape gardening business. We have created a new entrance to the garden which is a little more comfortable for me and my dog to work from than the large open barn we have rattled around in for the past few years. The garden rejuvenation continues and we continue to work harder than ever. This year I am again supporting the Air Ambulance and the Brooke hospital for animals… As always, it is a pleasure to welcome returning and new visitors and I hope that you will enjoy your visit.
Abbey Dore’s estate dates all the way back to 1147 when it was established as a Cistercian Abbey and came into possession of the Scudamores during Henry VIII’s reign. None of the original abbey is believed to remain but portions of the current residence date from 1621 with a Jacobean staircase and a drawing room with a marvelous marble fireplace which was formerly the ballroom. Capt. Thomas Freke Lewis purchased the remaining house in 1861, which had existed as the Red Lion Inn for over two decades and added a Victorian Wing which shows off Italian mosaic floors and molded ceilings. The interiors are Victorian throughout the home.
Presently, you will find completely restored interiors of the house which have also been modernized and a large part of the landscaping is wandering but controlled ten acres of gardens by the River Dore, originally created by Charis Ward. If you click the link below you will also find a photo gallery showing off the new beautifully restored house. The gardens are open to the public from April to September. The grandchildren have recreated the stables into a busy tearoom and there is also a crafts shop and Teddy Bears’ Loft for the children to enjoy.
T- 01981 240279
Three miles southeast of Pontrilas and Abbey Dore, on the left bank of River Monnow which flows into the county from Wales, Kentchurch Court, the 1,000 year seat of the Scudamore family is now listed as a stately home and could also be considered a grand hotel seated in an ancient deer park of 5,000 acres. This handsome castellated mansion is seated at the base of the west slope of Garway Hill. Ralph Scudamore was brought to this location as a stonemason from Normandy by Edward the Confessor to build Ewyas Harold and his name is mentioned five times in the Domesday book of 1086. His family first lived at Corras, which had a motte and chapel located close by on the banks of the Monnow and then later they moved to a motte site at the end of what is now the drive to Kentchurch of today.
Kentchurch was partially altered by John Nash after 1795 but parts of the original 14th century house survive on lands bequeathed to the Scudamore family by King John circa 1536. The interior was redesigned by Anthony Keck in the 18th century and veneered with Nash’s Gothic Revival a couple of decades later. Further reconstruction took place in the 1820s by Thomas Tudor, commissioned by John Lucy Scudamore to complete work already started on the front entrance and great hall which has a barrel vaulted ceiling. The interiors are filled with Grinling Gibbons carvings in the dining room and terrace rooms and furnishings along with the art collection of portraits which date back to the 16th century.
Even though Sir John Scudamore was the official constable and steward of a number of royal castles in south Wales during the 15th century, he secretly married one of the daughters of Owain Glyndwr and also harbored her father at Kentchurch from his absence in 1412 until his death. Today a tower still exists that is named after this Welsh rebel hero and it is said that the portion where he resided dates back to Saxon times ! Both Abbey Dore and Kentchurch are among the subjects of Channel 4 documentaries in the Country House Rescue series this year. The twenty-five acres of gardens are a great place to start a tour and are quite extensive.
Game shooting parties arranged and wine appreciation weekends. Tours and prearranged accommodations.
T- 01981 240228 Mr. and Mrs. John Lucas-Scudamore http://www.kentchurchcourt.co.uk
A little further south and six miles west of Ross-on-Wye, Langstone Court is a lovely and unique five-bay William and Mary house showing Tudor features in the anterior portion which may have been built much earlier than the faade. The restructuring has been attributed to Inigo Jones who was commissioned by the Guillym family. This is easy to believe considering that the entrance greets you with a central doorway with a steep pediment above it and is supported with corbels. A bit of a curiosity is the south wing which has been supposedly separated from Langstone Court and is referred to as the farmhouse- it may be an original medieval house. It is listed as an historic farm from the 16th century with Herefordshire Historic Farmsteads.
At any rate, the showcase portion was obviously altered from a 17th century structure and has some remarkable features for an Elizabethan manor house. The anterior bow tower with large mullioned windows is a nice surprise especially since it is topped by a parapet with a balustrade. This, we find upon entering, is the dining room which was refashioned in 1825. Fine plastered ceilings can be found throughout the house without exception including the early 18th century drawing room. You’ll find a cruck truss beam in the anterior portion of the interior indicating much earlier beginnings to this house and a carved staircase which rises four floors all the way to the attic. There are many Tudor rooms in this portion, as well, along with one surviving medieval room whose ceiling has also been redone in plasterwork and displaying an old oak table along with pewter ware.
The court d’honneur of the front gives way to parkland which is supposed to have been laid out some time during the 19th century with an avenue of trees lining Llangarron lane up to the house. Mature trees with some exotic specimens abound outside a terraced garden.
Harewood Park was once referred to as Harewood End and it now has an exciting new destiny as a possible home to the newlywed Prince William and Duchess Kate. I will be covering this new revival property and the old Harewood End in a future entry as a special feature for Herefordshire as news comes in on the new building and its progress. That and the delights of Warwickshire are coming up soon so stay connected….
With lots of affection for castle and architecture lovers everywhere,
The Castle Lady