Clumber: a lost house, a flourishing garden

Part of the two-mile-long lime tree avenue at Clumber Park. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

We have just purchased a 1937-1938 auction catalogue for the contents of Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, annotated by the original owner, from Patrick King Rare Books.

Nineteenth-century view of the house at Clumber by W. Watkins after Thomas Allom. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The house at Clumber was pulled down in 1938 and the collections dispersed. The National Trust will never be able to reassemble those collections, but it is useful to know what was there.

The lake at Clumber. ©NTPL/David Levenson

The park, as created by successive Dukes of Newcastle from about 1760, survives and thrives. There is a Brown-style serpentine lake, probably created on the advice of Joseph Spence and a series of meandering views and walks.

The chapel, epitomising the high Victorian period at Clumber. ©NTPL/Jerry Harpur

The garden designer W.S. Gilpin planted the lime avenue in the 1830s for the 4th Duke of Newcastle, to provide interest and grandeur in the flat landscape. Gilpin also created the areas of picturesque and formal planting, with conifers, rhododendrons and specimen Mediterranean trees.

The central conservatory and palm house in the walled garden at Clumber. ©NTPL/Stephen Robson

In the late 1880s G.F. Bodley built the splendid chapel. The stable block and the walled garden with its range of glasshouses are also still there, and one could easily forget that there is no longer a ‘big house’ at the centre of all of this.

8 Responses to “Clumber: a lost house, a flourishing garden”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    Ouah! That conservatory is a serious thing – I had no idea it was so huge.

    (Couple of typos you may want to correct – serpentine lake and the link to Clumber.)

  2. Guy Tobin Says:

    Do you think the catalogue will be scanned and placed online?

    I think annotated sale catalogues are absolutely fascinating – I’ve been trawling through a Strawberry Hill catalogue recently & the Deepdene sale.

    It’s rather nice in the old ones that the buyers name was deemed more important than the hammer price.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Susan, thanks for alerting me to those typos – too much haste!

    Yes that conservatory means business – 150 meters wide. But then, it is a duke’s conservatory, after all… :)

    Guy, I don’t think it will be accessible online in the near future, unfortunately, because of other priorities with regard to our limited research budgets. But I am sure it could be made available to those with a serious research interest. The relevant curator to contact would be Andrew Barber (andrew.barber@nationaltrust.org.uk).

    Such poignant sales, of Strawberry Hill and The Deepdene. Both collections seem to have been of that rare type that combines high intrinsic quality with obsessively picturesque atmosphere. The English country house at its most poetic, and both true ‘Gesamtkunstwerke’ – now only surviving in the pages of the catalogues of their respective sales and in a few printed views.

  4. graham daw Says:

    It seems odd that the family left standing so many elements of the estate and gardens,yet swept the house away entirely.I would have kept a wing or two.Maybe they were comfortable in a dower house or the like but the lakeside setting surely cried out for continued occupation, if in reduced measure.I went there once such a romantic place,sadly the chapel was shut.Thankyou Emile for your illuminating posts.

  5. CherryPie Says:

    This is a place I haven’t visited, I really must make the effort!

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Graham, crippling taxation was purportedly the reason for the demolition of the house. The Earl of Lincoln, heir to the Newcastle dukedom, initially lived in the Clumber rectory and intended to rebuild the main house on a smaller scale. But during the Second World War the Army requisitioned Clumber as an ammunitions dump, transit camp and testing range for the prototype Pickersgill tank, and in 1945 the estate was offered for sale. The National Trust then bought it in collaboration with the Forestry Commission and several local authorities.

  7. timawells.wordpress.com Says:

    In this day and age it shouldn’t be hard to reconstruct a replica house, I watched a program about reconstruction of a castle in Austria.

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    It would indeed be very exciting to try to reconstruct such a house. It would of course depend on how much information is still available in the way of plans, historical images of the exteriors and the interiors, inventories and so on. And it might be quite difficult (and extremely costly) to recreate a sense of authenticity.

    An attempt is being made to reconstruct the lost Hamilton Palace virtually (http://hamilton.rcahms.gov.uk/) and this illustrates both the possibilities as well as the challenges of such an undertaking.

    And this seems to be related too: an exhibition at the Soane Museum featuring 3D-printed artefacts designed (but never made until now) by Piranesi (http://www.soane.org/exhibitions): using the latest technology to bring the past to life.

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