There are two small National Trust houses – Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House – in the middle of historical Warwickshire, halfway between Warwick and Solihull. Both are Grade 1 listed buildings, but there any similarity ends. Each is an architectural gem in its own right.
Baddesley Clinton, which dates back to the 13th Century, is maybe the more striking of the two, as the house sits in the middle of a moat. However Packwood House holds its own with its impressive 16th Century timber-framed structure.
Both are surrounded by interesting gardens and both are open throughout the year – unlike many National Trust properties that close during the winter period.
If you are feeling active, then a five mile circular walk interconnects Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House. The walk includes a tow path along the Coventry Canal and follows part of the Heart of England Way.
When I visited with my wife on a cold, but sunny January day, we decided to forgo this walk, as recent heavy rains would have made the going heavy in parts. We’ll try it on our next visit.
On weekdays in January, house visits were only by guided tour. When we arrived the next tour was an hour later, which gave us time to look around the compact gardens, with great views back to the house.
At that time of year the snowdrops were the only flowers in bloom, but the trees and shrubs beside the Great Pool and Stew Ponds provided points of interest. The vegetable and walled gardens were just beginning to come to life. A curious feature of the glasshouses is a Black Hamburg vine, dating back to the early 1900s, which grows through one of the glasshouse windows.
The guided house tour involved several volunteers relating stories about the occupants of the house over the centuries, in particular the four ladies, Anne, Bridget, Georgiana and Rebecca.
Anne Vaux in the late 16th Century helped priests evade capture. The priest hole is still clearly visible, with a trap door covering the entrance. Bridget Ferrers lived in the house during the English Civil War when soldiers raided on at least two occasions.
Rebecca Ferrers (later Dering) lived in Baddesley Clinton from 1867 onwards, joined in 1869 by Georgiana Dering. The pair were prolific travellers, writers and artists. Rebecca remained in the house till her death in 1923.
We found 75 minutes touring the house to be a little on the long side, as the interior is relatively small, but that was made up for by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the volunteers.
From the outside, the house looks quite austere and indeed when the original house was built in about 1570, it was a simple timber-framed farmhouse. The Fetherston family who occupied the house until 1876 made various additions and changes to the premises, although by the time Graham Baron Ash inherited the house in 1925, it had lost much of its Tudor character. He gifted the house to the National Trust in 1941.
On our tour of the house, which was on a free flow basis, we were able to see how Graham Baron Nash had over a fifteen year period, restored many of the original Tudor features, including replacing a ‘modern’ wooden balustrade in the entrance hall. He added several items of 16th and 17th Century furniture, including some purchased from Baddesley Clinton.
The overall effect on wandering around the house was of stepping back into Tudor times. Again helpful volunteers provided interesting details as we passed from room to room, although we couldn’t visit the upstairs part of the house on this occasion as it was being renovated from November to February.
After about thirty minutes in the house, we moved on to explore the gardens. However, following wet weather, we could only view from the outside the impressive yew garden with its biblical topiary theme. Similarly the orchard was closed and we could only walk down one side of the lake. Even during good weather, the yew garden and orchard can only be visited by guided tours.
We were however able to walk around the gardens by the house including the Kitchen Garden and Carolean Garden with sunken pond. Notable features included a small 17th Century plunge pool and three large sundials high on the walls above the gardens.
There are longer walks around the Packwood area, including the circular walk mentioned above, and what is referred to as the Welly Walk – no doubt very muddy at this time of the year.
Joining the National Trust
If you visit heritage sites regularly, then Annual Membership of the National Trust can save you a lot of money. See my article: English Heritage versus National Trust – Which to join?
With regard to Winter Openings, see: English Heritage and the National Trust – Winter Openings
See our other articles on National Trust Sites.
Additional Photographs of Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House
POSTED 18th FEBRUARY 2020 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.