Archive for the ‘Croome Court’ Category

How to build a ha-ha

February 17, 2015
A section of ha-ha being rebuilt at Croome Court. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

A section of ha-ha being rebuilt at Croome Court. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha, a ditch with a wall built along one side, was developed as an aesthetically pleasing way of keeping grazing cattle out of the pleasure garden. Even from a short distance the ha-ha is invisible, and its name is said to have been derived from the exclamations of surprise it provoked.

The ha-ha at Croome Court before repair and rebuilding. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha at Croome Court before repair and rebuilding. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha at Croome Court has been undergoing a rolling programme of repair and rebuilding. Previously it is was  in quite poor condition and it had even collapsed in places.

Sections of the ha-ha had completely collapsed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Sections of the ha-ha had completely collapsed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Advice was sought from a structural engineer in order to provide a more durable solution for the collapsed sections. A backing wall of concrete blocks was inserted first, which was then covered by historically appropriate bricks.

Stable sections were preserved. The large blocks further behind provide structural support to contain the earth. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Stable sections were preserved. The large blocks further behind provide structural support to contain the earth. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The sourcing of new, ‘old-look’ bricks proved to be quite challenging, as the colour and texture of the bricks of the original ha-ha varies considerably along its length. In the end different bricks and mortar mixes were used in different sections.

Concrete blocks provide the containment structure for the sections that had to be rebuilt. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Concrete blocks provide the containment structure for the sections that had to be rebuilt. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The stable sections of the ha-ha were preserved as much as possible and repointed with traditional mortar. As time goes by the new brickwork will further blend in with the old.

An original section of ha-ha is repointed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

An original section of ha-ha is repointed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

A significant proportion of the funding for this work was provided by Natural England.


Croome’s Home Shrubbery coming to life

October 18, 2011

Croome Court, set in its Capability Brown Park. ©NTPL/David Noton

There is good news from Croome Court, Worcestershire, where this autumn the Home Shrubbery has been opened up, so that visitors can now walk up to the Rotunda.

The Rotunda, also designed by Brown, its roof and external stonework restored. ©National Trust

In 2008 the Rotunda was near collapse (an image of it pre-restoration can be seen in this post), but through extensive restoration work its roof and external stonework have now been repaired. The work was funded by substantial donations and grants from members of the public, from a legacy and from Natural England and the Wolfson Foundation.

Croome property manager Michael Smith contemplates what still needs to be done on the interior of the Rotunda. ©National Trust

The team at Croome hopes to be able to start restoring the delicate plasterwork decoration on the inside in 2012, allowing visitors a close-up view of the ongoing work. There are also plans to recreate the original exotic planting in the Home Shrubbery, as soon as funds allow.

The Temple Greenhouse. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Another improvement has been the reinstatement of the large sash windows of the Temple Greenhouse. This will allow it once again to be used to grow exotic and tender plants, as in the time of the 6th Earl of Coventry in the eighteenth century.

The steps on the north front, photographed before their recent restoration, with a view towards the Temple Greenhouse. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The restoration of the steps on the north side of the house has now also been completed, once again thanks to a generous legacy.

One of Capability Brown's drainage culverts in the park at Croome, still in situ but in need of restoration. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

However, much remains to be done at Croome, including the restoration of the interior of the Rotunda, but that all depends on further fundraising. Donations towards the conservation work can be made through the Croome webpages.

Croome contemporary

May 9, 2011

©Hitomi Kai Yoda

Although the conservation work at Croome Court gathers pace, many of its rooms are still empty. Now We Made That, a cross-disciplinary architecture and design studio, has been asked to recast the experience of being in a ‘drawing room’.

©We Made That

We Made That partners Holly Lewis and Oliver Goodhall investigated the notion of a ‘drawing room’ room through archival research and workshops with visitors, volunteers and staff. Historically, such rooms evolved to answer the need for a family to ‘withdraw’ and find some privacy and relaxation within the wider context of a large house full of servants and dependents.

©We Made That

The result of the project was an immersive installation called Withdrawing Room. It is a room within a room constructed with layer upon layer of suspended mesh fabric.

©We Made That

The work plays with notions of interiority and exteriority, boundaries and openings, withdrawal and emergence. It comments on the formal rooms of an eighteenth-century country house where the spatial and decorative semiotics would have guided people’s movements and interactions.

©Hitomi Kai Yoda

The fluid, insubstantial and yet structured nature of Withdrawing Room also echoes the experience of the park outside, with its vistas and enclosures, its paths and bridges, its shimmering waters and rippling leaves.

©Hitomi Kai Yoda

Further images as well as a time-laps film can be seen here. Withdrawing Room will be at Croome until April 2012.

The larger view at Croome

February 25, 2011

The south front of Croome Court. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

There is a lot going on at Croome Court, in Worcestershire, at the moment, and some of this will be featured on BBC1’s Countryfile on Sunday 27 February.

Amy Forster, Croome Visitor Services Manager (left) with Countryfile's Julia Bradbury (right). ©National Trust/ Amy Forster

The programme will feature the replanting of 5,000 trees by staff and volunteers in the Old Wood to the east of Croome.

View from Croome towards the Malvern Hills, showing some of the arable fields that replaced parts of the park in the twentieth century. ©NTPL/David Noton

This is to replace woodland that was lost in the twentieth century because of the construction of an RAF airfield in the 1940s and the expansion of arable farming in the area. It will also improve the views from the house.

Croome Property Manager Michael Smith. ©NTPL/Layton Thompson

Countryfile also interviewed Property Manager Michael Smith about the restoration of the Rotunda at Croome.

The Rotunda. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

This garden pavilion, designed by Capability Brown, has needed extensive work to its exterior and interior surfaces. It is hoped that the Rotunda can be opened to the public later this year.

Interior of the Rotunda before the restoration work began. ©NTPL/Layton Thompson

Apart from just being good news, these projects also show how estates like Croome are an integrated whole, where nature, art and history all have to work together.

Towards an outdoor nation

November 5, 2010

The south front of Croome Court seen across the lake. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The National Trust has started a project called Outdoor Nation to examine the British public’s relationship with the outdoors.

Visitor walking in the park, with a view to the church, designed by Brown to act as an eye-catcher. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

Have we lost touch with nature? What benefits do we get from being outdoors that we cannot get through other experiences?

The Rotunda. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Croome Court, in Worcestershire, is a great example of a designed landscape that allows people to reconnect with nature.

©NTPL/David Noton

It was created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown during the second half of the eighteenth century for George William Coventry, later the sixth Earl of Coventry.

The icehouse - evocative, but obviously in need of restoration. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Croome established Brown’s reputation as the creator of the new English landscape style garden. Robert Adam and James Wyatt also contributed various garden buildings.

Urn by Robert Adam, park by Lancelot Brown, sky stylist's own. ©NTPL/David Noton

In the 1940s an RAF airbase was built on the estate, and in 1948 the house was sold off. In 1996 the National Trust acquired the heart of the estate, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and began to restore the landscape.

©NTPL/David Noton

The house has recently been acquired by the Croome Heritage Trust, which is working with the National Trust to allow visitors to experience Croome as a whole once again.

Key people: The property manager

March 5, 2010


Michael Smith, Property Manager at Croome Court. ©NTPL/Layton Thompson

In this post, the first in an occasional series about the people involved in the acquisition process, I want to feature the property manager. At the historic houses and estates of the National Trust the property manager more or less takes on the role that the owner would have had in the past – although, for better or for worse, he or she has to do without the deference and the priviledged lifestyle. 

Croome Court, Worcestershire, in its park designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The content of the job varies enormously from property to property. A manager might run a group of small properties, or a large single property that includes an agricultural estate and perhaps even a village. At some properties the focus is on the architecture of the main house and its contents, while at others the garden or park might be the most important element. Different properties attract different types of visitors. 

Sian Harrington, Property Manager at Osterley Park. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

But in all cases the property manager has overall responsibility for the running of the place: from car parks, ticket sales and building maintenance to tea rooms, volunteers and concerts. Because of their key role, people like Michael Smith at Croome Court and Sian Harrington at Osterley Park are always involved in the discussion about a potential acquisition. 

Osterley Park, Middlesex, with its portico inserted by Robert Adam into the earlier, Elizabethan house. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Each acquisition is decided on its merits. The criteria to be considered include the intrinsic importance of the object, its relevance to the house and estate, whether it can be suitably and safely displayed, what its condition is and whether funds can be found to meet the costs involved.


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