As you arrive at Croome, a National Trust property 10 miles south of Worcester, you are greeted with a sign stating: Expect the Unexpected. Intriguing, but indeed it proved to be quite true when my wife and I visited Croome Court and Park on a cold but sunny weekday in January.
The first unexpected was maybe that the site was open at all on a weekday in winter when many other heritage sites are firmly locked up. And all parts of the site were open, other then the privately owned walled garden, which can only be visited in the summer (with a £5 entry fee).
It was also very unexpected for us to see a Gloster Meteor aircraft by the site entrance and to learn that the Visitor Centre and restaurant is in a wartime RAF building. The RAF Defford Museum within the site (no extra admission charge) provided a fascinating explanation.
The museum traces the history of the once secret RAF Defford airborne radar research station, built on Croome Park land requisitioned from the Earl of Coventry in 1940. After watching a video, we wandered around the many exhibits, which included personal accounts of those who had served there. The recorded sounds of planes added to the atmosphere.
The next unexpected was the magnificent landscape park that we viewed as we walked from the Visitor Centre past the Church of St Mary Magdalene towards Croome Court. The landscaping may have been Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s first commission, but clearly he was already very skilled. Even the rebuilding of the church appears to have been part of his landscaping plan.
There are unusual features around almost every corner including a grotto along the lakeside walk, a hill-top rotunda and a Chinese bridge.
What appeared from a distance to be a temple near the lake, on closer examination turned out unexpectedly to be a greenhouse, although a very fine one. The Temple Greenhouse was designed by Robert Adam, one of his earliest outside commissions.
The interior of Croome Court was unexpected in as much as it was largely empty and fairly dilapidated.
The mid-18th Century Neo-Palladian house has only been managed by the National Trust for ten years and although much renovation work has been carried out, a lot still remains to be done.
After the Second World War, the house was used as a catholic school for thirty years, before becoming the headquarters in the UK for the Hare Krishna movement and then being purchased by property developers.
All have left their mark including moving testimonies from former schoolboys and a large square modern bath left in the middle of a room by a property developer!
However there is plenty of interest to see inside the house in the renovated parts, including rooms designed by Robert Adam. The Long Gallery has a fine Robert Adam ceiling. Other rooms contain exhibitions of arts and crafts that change regularly throughout the year.
A final unexpected was to realise that we had walked nearly three miles by the time we had returned to the Visitor Centre. The interesting views and features along the way made it a pleasant stroll, even with the moderate slope down to the lake and one muddy patch to negotiate when approaching the rotunda.
A refreshment break in the tea-room in the basement of Croome Court provided an energy boost along the way.
For those less agile, mobility vehicles are available for free hire from the Visitor Centre or alternatively a golf-style buggy travels backwards and forwards from the house.
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 Croome
POSTED 5th FEBRUARY 2020 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.