Packwood House is a timber-framed Tudor manor house near Lapworth, Warwickshire. Owned by the National Trust since 1941, the house is a Grade I listed building. It has a wealth of tapestries and fine furniture, and is known for the garden of yews.
The house began as a modest timber-framed farmhouse constructed for John Fetherston between 1556 and 1560. The last member of the Fetherston family died in 1876. In 1904 the house was purchased by Birmingham industrialist Alfred Ash. It was inherited by Graham Baron Ash (Baron in this case being a name not a title) in 1925, who spent the following two decades creating a house of Tudor character. He purchased an extensive collection of 16th- and 17th-century furniture, some obtained from nearby Baddesley Clinton.
The great barn of the farm was converted into a Tudor-style hall with sprung floor for dancing, and was connected to the main house by the addition of a Long Gallery in 1931. In 1941, Ash donated the house and gardens to the National Trust in memory of his parents but continued to live in the house until 1947 when he moved to Wingfield Castle
The famous Yew Garden containing over 100 trees was laid out in the mid-17th century by John Fetherston, the lawyer. The clipped yews are supposed to represent "The Sermon on the Mount". Twelve great yews are known as the "Apostles" and the four big specimens in the middle are 'The Evangelists'. A tight spiral path lined with box hedges climbs a hummock named "The Mount". The single yew that crowns the summit is known as "The Master". The smaller yew trees are called "The Multitude" and were planted in the 19th century to replace an orchard.
The Yew Garden is entered by raised steps and a wrought-iron gate. The garden path follows an avenue of trees, which leads up a spiral hill where a wooden seat is placed beneath a yew tree. This vantage point provides views of the house and the Yew Garden. Some of the yews at Packwood are taller than 50 feet (15 m). The soil on the estate has a high level of clay, which is detrimental to the trees during wet periods. As a result, parts of the garden are often closed to the public while restoration work is undertaken.
Between 1924 and 1932 Baron Ash transformed Packwood. His driving ambition, to rid the old house of any trace of its Georgian and Victorian inheritance, was in tune with the fashion of the times. The classical style of the 18th century and the dark, heavily furnished interiors of Victoria’s reign were deeply unfashionable in inter-war England. Baron Ash aimed to create his own private world and a stage set against which he could live the life of an English country gentleman and where many came to enjoy his primly perfect version of country house hospitality.
Baron Ash felt that the perfect country house of Old England had to have a Great Hall and fortunately a large cow barn lay close to the manor house, divided from it by only a couple of hundred yards. With the addition of a full-height bay window, the installation of a sprung dancing floor and the conversion of the hay rack as a balustrade for a minstrels’ gallery, Baron Ash’s Great Hall was born.
The 1920s and 1930s saw much re-use of features from demolished historic buildings. The fireplace and its plaster overmantel came from a vintner’s shop in Stratford, the magnificent hall table was bought from Baddesley Clinton and some of the carved heads on the corbels supporting the roof beams are copied from originals in France. The entrance hall was re-modelled, a new staircase was constructed and modern comforts were not ignored. Vacuum cleaners were purchased to keep the house clean, a water purifier was installed and running hot and cold water was supplied en suite to all four bedrooms.
To furnish his perfect country house, Baron Ash had to find the perfect combination of antique textiles, polished wood, faded gold and extraordinary objects which would convey his ideal of timeless Englishness. Freshly cut flowers were of the greatest importance, to the extent that he made the provision of them mandatory on handing over Packwood to the Trust in 1941. Sunlight filtering through ancient stained glass panes in newly-minted windows perfectly harmonised the colours and textures in his beautifully restored country house.
Parties, concerts and follies at Packwood were legendary. In the era of the Jazz Age invitations were sent as ragtime lyrics and Christmas was always the excuse for a vast gathering with quantities of excellent food and drink. The visit of the glamourous socialite, Prince George Chavchavadze, caused ripples in local society. He was a White Russian, as the supporters of the deposed Russian monarchy were known and his recital on the late 17th Century spinet in the Great Hall at Packwood was the hot ticket of the season in 1931. He signed the instrument, which is now in the Drawing Room.
The crowning event of Baron Ash’s social career was in 1927 when Queen Mary visited Packwood for tea. Despite a torrential downpour at the moment of the Queen’s arrival, all went remarkably well. The visit was memorialised in the preserved cup and saucer from which the Queen took tea and the renaming of the room to which she retired to rest. Concerts and plays in the Great Hall and in the gardens were a recurring feature and were known collectively as ‘Follies’. Theatrical productions on the terrace were the occasion of great parties and further artistic endeavours in the visitors’ books. The floor in the Great Hall was sprung especially for dancing – take a twirl on your next visit.
** – Visiting – **
Country Life once stated that 'England would be richer if it possessed a greater number of gardens like those of Packwood'. With its grand topiary garden, abundant mingled style borders and bountiful kitchen garden - you have to agree. Come and explore this Warwickshire gem...
The Fetherston family of Packwood were gentleman farmers who were wealthy enough to farm for pleasure as well as income. The NT aim at Packwood has been to re-create what was a vital part of the Fetherston family's self-sufficient home here in the 1700s.
Pretty and practical. In the 1700s kitchen gardens weren’t yet the large-scale operations they would become under the Victorians. These gardens were a combination of beauty and commodity, humble in scale but designed to be enjoyed, not hidden from sight. With immaculate pathways, dipping pools and shady benches to sit and relax the Fetherstons would have enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of their delightful kitchen garden.
Quality over quantity. Kitchen gardens provided abundant resources including less familiar herbs and flowers which grew amongst the vegetables. These herbs and flowers were used as flavourings and dyes, sedatives and disinfectants and also medicine for people and animals alike. More than just a vegetable plot. Taking their inspiration from a survey of the house carried out in 1723 the team at Packwood took the opportunity to regenerate this forgotten area of Packwood’s gardens. They aim to blend traditional practices of producing fresh, home-grown food which is often used in the Garden Kitchen Café with encouraging biodiversity and experimenting with new exotic plants.
Packwood’s Memorial orchard comes into its own in autumn. The trees you will see here have been planted in memory of loved ones lost. In autumn however these trees provide a rich harvest of fruit, ripe and ready to become part of their home-made meals in the Garden Kitchen Café.
You won’t just see apples here though. Keep an eye out for their pears, damsons, quinces, plums, cherries and medlars. All the fruit was chosen because it represented local Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire varieties which might have grown at Packwood during the early part of the twentieth century. Local schools are also invited to pick some of the fruits, which are then taken to their harvest festivals. It is a beautiful area to have a wander through on a blustery autumn day and perhaps to remember one of your loved ones fondly.
** – A Circular Walk – **
Come and enjoy an easy stroll around Packwood House, going through the park and up to the church. The walk is classified as Easy and is three miles long. It should take about one and a half hours. Free car park, toilets, refreshments and shop available at Packwood House. Dogs welcome on leads on public footpaths, but not permitted within the property.
Start: Packwood House car park.
** – Packwood House to Baddesley Clinton – **
A beautiful walk through the Arden countryside, taking in the Stratford-upon-Avon canal and two tranquil Warwickshire properties. Cross the moat to see what lies inside Baddesley Clinton estate. Packwood was transformed by Graham Baron Ash in the 1920s from a 17th-century farmhouse into a dream-like vision of a Tudor country home, whilst just over the fields Baddesley Clinton is a secluded, intimate estate which was home to the Ferrers family for 500 years.
Classified as Moderate, the walk is five miles long and should take about two and a half hours. Car park, toilets, refreshments and shop available at Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton. Dogs on leads on public footpaths; dogs are not permitted within the properties.
Start: Packwood Lane, on the Causeway.
** – Packwood Welly Walk – **
There are lots of things to see along the way and if you are with children some nice distractions, such as building dens in two of the four play glades, woodland hoopla, tree xylophone, sitting down and picnicking on log tables and chairs (that you can arrange yourself!).
This is a dog friendly walk, classified as Easy. The walk is about one mile long and should take between half an hour and an hour. There is designated mobility parking in the main car park, Drop-off point, Adapted toilet by car park and in the in cafe and refreshments from the Garden Kitchen Cafe.
Start: Packwood car park.
** – Facilities – **
Location : Packwood House, Packwood Lane, Lapworth, Warwickshire, B94 6AT
Transport: Lapworth (National Rail) 1½ miles OR Birmingham International (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes: Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon, alight Hockley Heath, 1¾ miles.
Opening Times House & Gardens: Daily, 11:00 to 17:00; 5th November - Feb 15th until 15:00.
Opening Times Cafe and Park: Daily, 09:00 to 18:00; 5th November - Feb 15th until 16:00.
Tickets : Adult $11.45; Children £5.70.
Tickets Winter (November through Feb. 15th) : Adult $7.60; Children £3.80.
Tel: 01564 782024