Croome Court is a mid-18th century neo-Palladian mansion surrounded by extensive landscaped parkland at Croome D'Abitot, near Pershore in south Worcestershire, England. The mansion and park were designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown for the 6th Earl of Coventry, and were Brown's first landscape design and first major architectural project. Some of the mansion's rooms were designed by Robert Adam.
The mansion house is owned by Croome Heritage Trust, and is leased to the National Trust which operates it as a tourist attraction. The National Trust owns the surrounding parkland, which is also open to the public. The wider estate was established on lands that were once part of the royal forest of Horewell. Traces of these older landscapes, such as unimproved commons and ancient woodlands, can be found across the former Croome Estate
The foundations and core of Croome Court, including the central chimney stack structure, date back to the early 1640s. Substantial changes to this early house were made by Gilbert Coventry, 4th Earl of Coventry. George Coventry, the 6th Earl, inherited the estate in 1751, along with the existing Jacobean house. He commissioned Lancelot "Capability" Brown, with the assistance of Sanderson Miller, to redesign the house and estate.
It was Brown's "first flight into the realms of architecture" and a "rare example of his architectural work", and it is an important and seminal work. It was built between 1751 and 1752, and it and Hagley Hall are considered to be the finest examples of Neo-Palladian architecture in Worcestershire. Notable Neo-Palladian features incorporated into Croome Court include the plain exterior and the corner towers with pyramidal roofs (a feature first used by Inigo Jones in the design of Wilton House in Wiltshire). Robert Adam worked on the interior of the building from 1760 onwards.
The house was visited by George III, as well as by Queen Victoria during summers when she was a child, and George V (when Duke of York).
A jam factory was built near Pershore railway station by the 9th Earl of Coventry in about 1880, to provide a market for Vale of Evesham fruit growers in times of surplus. Although the Croome connection with jam-making had ceased, the building was leased by the Croome Estate Trust during the First World War to the Huddersfield Fruit Preserving Company as a pulping station. The First World War deeply affected Croome; there were many local casualties, although the house was not requisitioned for the war effort. This is possibly because it was the home of the Lord Lieutenant of the county, who needed a residence for his many official engagements.
Croome Court was requisitioned during the Second World War by the Ministry of Works, and leased for a year to the Dutch Government as a possible refuge for Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to escape the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. However, evidence shows that they stayed for two weeks at the most, perhaps because of the noise and fear created by the proximity of Defford Aerodrome. They later emigrated to Canada.
The Croome Estate Trust sold the Court in 1948, along with 38 acres (15 ha) of land, to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, and the mansion became St Joseph's Special School, which was run by nuns from 1950 until 1979. The house was listed on 11 August 1952; it is currently Grade I listed.
In 1979, the hall was taken over by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Hare Krishna movement) which used it as its UK headquarters and a training college called Chaitanya College, run by 25 members of the movement. During their tenure they repainted the Dining Room. The ISKC had to leave the estate for financial reasons in 1984. It held a festival at the hall in 2011.
From 1984 onwards, various owners tried to use the property as a training centre; apartments; a restaurant and conference centre; and a hotel and golf course, before once more becoming a private family home, with outbuildings converted to private houses.
The house was purchased by the Croome Heritage Trust, a registered charity, in October 2007, and it is now managed by the National Trust as a tourist attraction. It opened to the public in September 2009, at which point six of the rooms had been restored, costing £400,000, including the Saloon. It was estimated that another £4 million to £4.8 million would be needed to restore the entire building. Fundraising activities for the restoration included a 2011 raffle for a Morgan sports car organised by Lord and Lady Flight. After the restoration is complete, a 999-year lease on the building will be granted to the National Trust. An oral history project to record recollections about Croome was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The mansion is faced with Bath stone, limestone ashlar, and has both north and south facing fronts. It has a basement and two stories, with three stories in the end pavilions. A slate roof, with pyramid roofs over the corner towers, tops the building, along with three pair-linked chimneys along the axis of the house.
Both fronts have 11 bays, split into three central sets of three each, and one additional bay each side. The north face has a pedimented centre, with two balustraded staircases leading to a Roman Doric doorcase. The south face has a projecting Ionic tetrastyle portico and Venetian windows. It has a broad staircase, with Coade stone sphinxes on each side, leading to a south door topped with a cornice on consoles. The wings have modillion cornice and balustrade.
A two-story L-shaped service wing is attached to the east side of the mansion. It is made of red brick and stone, with slate roofs. It was designed by Capability Brown in 1751-2. On the far side of the service wing, a wall connects it to a stable court.
The interior of the house was designed partially by Capability Brown, with plasterwork by G. Vassalli, and partially by Robert Adam, with plasterwork by Joseph Rose, Jr. It has a central spine corridor. A stone staircase, with iron balusters, is at the east end.
The entrance hall is on the north side of the building, and has four fluted Doric columns, along with moulded doorcases. To the east of the entrance hall is the dining room, which has a plaster ceiling and cornice, while to the west is a billiard room, featuring fielded panelling, a plaster cornice, and a rococo fireplace. The three rooms were probably decorated around 1758-59 by Capability Brown. The dining room was vibrantly repainted by the Hare Krishnas in the 1970s-80s.
The central room on the south side is a saloon, probably by Brown and Vassalli. It has an elaborate ceiling, with three panels, deep coving, and a cornice, along with two Ionic fireplaces, and Palladian doorcases. King George III was entertained by George Coventry, the 6th Earl, in the house's Saloon. A drawing room is to the west of the saloon, and features rococo plasterwork and a marble fireplace.
To the east of the saloon is the Tapestry Room. This was designed in 1763-71, based on a design by Robert Adam, and contained tapestries and furniture covers possibly designed by François Boucher and Maurice Jacques, and made by Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins. Around 1902 the ninth Earl sold the tapestries and seating to a Parisian dealer. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation purchased the ceiling, floor, mantlepiece, chair rails, doors and door surrounds in 1949; they were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1958. In 1959, the Kress Foundation also helped the Metropolitan Museum acquire the chair and sofa frames, which they recovered using the original tapestry seats.
A copy of the ceiling was installed in place of the original. As of 2016, the room is displayed as it would have looked after the tapestries had been sold, with a jug and ewer on display as the only original decoration of the room that remains in it. The adjacent library room is used to explain what happened to the tapestry room; the former library was designed by Adam, and was dismantled except for the marble fireplace.
At the west side of the building is a long gallery, which was designed by Robert Adam and installed between 1761 and 1766. It is the best preserved of the original interior (little of the rest has survived in situ). It has an octagonal panelled ceiling, and plaster reliefs of griffins. A half-hexagonal bay faces the garden. The room also contains a marble caryatid fireplace designed by J Wilton. As of 2016, modern sculptures are displayed in empty niches along the Long Gallery.
The first garden at Croome was developed in the late 17th century by Ann Somerset, the wife of Thomas Coventry, 2nd Earl of Coventry, along with William Shenstone. A kitchen garden was laid out in the early 18th century, at a time when Gilbert Coventry, 4th Earl of Coventry was making large changes to the house and garden, which subsequently became the walled garden.
The earliest plan for a walled garden dates from about 1750, when George William Coventry, the heir of the 5th Earl at the time, changed the shape of the walls from square to the rhomboid shape that exists today, mentored by Sanderson Miller. This created a garden of over 7 acres (2.8 ha), which may have made it the largest 18th-century walled garden in Europe. The increase in size allowed the garden to encompass a classical greenhouse on the eastern side of the garden. The walls of the garden were under construction at the time, probably replacing hedges. The date that the walls were finished is uncertain, but there is evidence that they must have been completed by 1752.
Unlike the mansion and the park, the walled garden was largely unchanged by Capability Brown, but it did receive new hot houses to house melons, pineapples, peaches, and vines, and in 1766 a stone-curbed circular pool was created, with a sundial designed by Adam.
In about 1806 a 13 feet (4.0 m) high free-standing east-west hot wall was built, slightly off-centre, serviced by five furnaces. It is historically significant as it is one of the first such structures ever built. Almost the entire 18th century records of the garden survive; together with the garden they are a nationally important part of garden history, and the history of Worcestershire. The garden and its glass houses were mentioned in Gardening World in 1887.
During the 20th century the garden was abandoned and fell into disrepair. They were purchased by Chris and Karen Cronin, who started restoring them in Summer 2000, including restoring many buildings and the greenhouses. They opened to the public for the first time in August 2014. They are privately operated, not being part of the National Trust.
Over the last three centuries the garden has had a number of garden houses, forcing pits and framed structures recorded in Croome's archives. Today, The Walled Gardens showcases the fully restored melon and cucumber house and the peach and fig house, alongside the converted vinery house. The foundations still remain from the original tomato house, forcing beds, pineapple pits, and orchard house all which will be restored in years to come.
After three years of dedicated restoration the melon and cucumber house now channels the rain water from its roof into a large storage tank under the terrace which is then pumped inside through a network of pipes to water an array of produce from vines to bananas, fully supporting the owners' ethos of sustainable and eco-friendly living. The mechanical inventions of the 18th century have been put to their test in the peach and fig house, with the creation of bespoke steel winding mechanisms to open and close groups of sash and hinging panels, mimicking the old brass rollers now replaced with oil impregnated nylon in stainless steel housings.
Commissioned by the famous Capability Brown and constructed in 1764, The Dipping Pond is one of the gardens most significant features listed in the Croome Archives. It acquired its name from the function of dipping buckets to collect water to distribute around the garden, and for the nearby horse stable block.
As a crucially significant element of the gardens history, The Dipping Pond has undergone extensive restoration. It has been completely rebuilt with the addition of a new pressurised water system that has been linked up to a redundant well nearby, creating a pumping station for watering the future vegetable beds within the gardens. As a by-product of capturing pure rain water, the Dipping Pond has become a new haven for various forms of wildlife, with some rare species of frogs and newts being spotted.
The Hot Wall.
A key phase in English garden history between the late 1700s and early 1800s saw the introduction of hot walls and heated cavity walls. This became extinct by 1845 due to the abolishment of a glass tax and emerging technology in hot houses. The hot wall at The Walled Gardens, constructed in 1806, is the largest of its kind, stretching nearly 100 metres in length and 3 metres in height.
Much like the later Glass Houses and forcing beds, the purpose of creating a non-indigenous climate within the gardens was to propagate and extend the growing seasons for fruits and vegetables. The orientation to the wall is sympathetic to the rise and fall of the sun, not simply east to west, but to maximise heat and light against its southern face. However, sun was not the sole source for the heat of this wall; during the restoration five underground furnaces were discovered that spread along the northern face of the wall. The furnaces were all backfilled with cobble stones, which now make up the beautifully cobbled garden paths.
The east- and south-facing borders.
Both borders have unique attributes serving very different purposes. The east-facing border boasts 150 metres of length and features a curved inline to the northern end of the wall as it adjoins to the Head Gardeners Cottage. This border is significant in many respects because of its orientation to both the sun and its immediate environment. Currently this border houses an eclectic mixture of hardy shrubs and delicate flowers with Morello cherries, plums and heritage roses fighting for superiority against the wall.
The south-facing border extends from the end of the old Vinery to the northeastern corner of the gardens. Traditionally this wall is used mainly for growing exotic fruits, including peaches, nectarines, apricots and pears. In 2007 it was extended to border out its full depth; unlike the east-facing border a mixture of flowers and vegetables are grown here. Curiously, the leafy plants that grow against the wall, known as Echium, are native to North Africa and are known to grow on only the extreme south-west tip of Cornwall and nowhere else in the UK.
This was formerly the estate's dumping ground, and significant history has been pieced together from the materials recovered from the woodland. Several archaeological digs have been conducted revealing 200 years' worth of bottles, porcelain, masonry and iron artefacts stacked on top of each other.
** – The Park – **
Croome Park has a man-made lake and river, statues, temples and other buildings with the Court as the central focus. The other buildings around the park include Gatehouses, a Grotto, a Church and buildings termed "eye-catchers". These are Pirton Castle, Panorama Tower, Dunstall Castle and Park Seat. They are set away from the core of the Park and are intended to draw the eye into the wider landscape.
The park was Capability Brown's first complete landscape, and was set out from 1751 onwards. Croome and Hagley Hall have more follies and other similar features than any estate in Worcestershire. A lot of the park was designed to be viewed from the Croome Court house. Robert Adam, along with James Wyatt, designed temples and follies for the park.
A family trust, Croome Estate Trustees, was set up by the George Coventry, 9th Earl of Coventry, to manage the house and estate. In the mid-1970s the trust transferred ownership of the central core of the park to George William Coventry, 11th Earl of Coventry; in 1981 he sold it to Sun Alliance. The National Trust bought 670 acres (270 ha) of parkland in 1996, using heritage lottery funding along with a donation from Sun Alliance; the rest of Sun Alliance's property at the estate was sold to the Society of Merchant Venturers.
The National Trust owns and has restored the core of the original 18th-century parkland, and it is open to visitors throughout the year. To visit many of the features below, you have to enter the pay-for-entry National Trust parkland. Some areas, however, are accessible via public footpaths.
St Mary Magdalene Church.
The first record of a church at Croome D'Abitot is in 1283, when its dedication was to Saint James the Apostle. The precise position of that church is not known, but it is thought it was near the present site of Croome Court. In the 1750s George Coventry, 6th Earl of Coventry decided to demolish the Jacobean house he had inherited and replace it with another church on higher land. He commissioned Lancelot "Capability" Brown to design the new house, together with a church, and to landscape the surrounding garden and grounds. He appointed Robert Adam to design the interior of the house and the church, and also to design some structures in the grounds.
The church was consecrated and dedicated to St Mary Magdalene in 1763. Little has changed to the church since then, other than moving the pulpit and pews during the 19th century. The Coventry family cared for the church while they lived in Croome court, but they moved to Earls Croome in 1949. Although the congregation arranged for repairs to be undertaken in the 1960s, it was decreasing in size and was unable to maintain the church. It was declared redundant on 30 October 1973, and was vested in The Churches Conservation Trust in 1975. The World War II film Our Father was partially filmed on location at St Mary Magdalene's Church.
Described as a "garden room", the Rotunda was designed by Brown and built between 1754-7. The door and windows are pedimented and inside is a coffered ceiling and stuccowork by Francesco Vassalli in 1761. The joinery was by John Hobcroft. The Portland-stone panels above the windows and door are Robert Adam's design and were carved by Sefferin Alker and added in 1763. It is located in the shrubbery, 350 metres (1,150 feet) east of the mansion, and overlooks the parkland, with views to the Park Seat to the south. It is Grade 1 listed. It was purchased by the Croome Heritage Trust in 2007, at the same time as the main house. Some of the cedar trees that shelter it were planted at the same time it was built. The exterior has been restored in 2010 by the National Trust.
The Park Seat.
The Park Seat, also known as The Owl's Nest, was designed by Robert Adam in 1770 as a viewing station for the park. It was restored by the National Trust using a Natural England grant.
The London Arch.
London Arch is main entrance to the park. It was designed by Robert Adam in the 1770s. It gained its name from the carriages that used to pass under it from guests travelling from London. It once had railings on either side, which are thought to have been removed during the Second World War. Restoration of it started in 2013, including repairing of water damage to the central masonry, with the restoration due to last 5 years.
Ha-Ha and Ice House.
Both the ha-ha and ice-house were restored by the National Trust using a Natural England grant.
Temple Greenhouse was designed by Robert Adam. As of 2016 it is used as a tea room. This Grade I listed building was completed in 1763. It used to have large sash windows in the front of it, now only the grooves where they used to slide can be seen. It housed the Earl's collection of exotic plants and was heated in the winter by a fire lit in a brick bothy at the back, then the heat was channelled underneath through gaps in the floor.
Around the Lake.
50,000 cubic metres of silt and vegetation were removed when restoring the lake. Nearby are the Punch Bowl gates designed by Wyatt in 1793 to 1794. On one of the islands in the lake is the temple pavilion (1776–1777). There is also the Island Pavilion and the London Lodge, both Grade 1 listed buildings.
The Worcester Lodge.
Worcester Lodge was designed around 1800, probably by James Wyatt. It has been a Grade II listed building since 11 August 1952. It was built in 1801 and subsequently rebuilt in 1879. This sat on the main road to Croome from Worcester. A carriage drive used to run from the lodge directly to the Punch Bowl Gates in the Park itself and onto the Court beyond. The driveway no longer exists and the lodge is now cut off from the rest of the Park by the construction of the M5 motorway. Today, the lodge is a private residence and not part of the National Trust owned Park. Further down the road on the same side of the M5 is the keeper's house of the menagerie.
A circular eyecatcher temple, the Panorama Tower was designed by James Wyatt in 1801 using design ideas by Robert Adam. The building was not completed until after the 6th Earl of Coventry's death, probably in 1812. It is located on Cubsmoor, 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the mansion. It has views over the park and surrounding landscape, and it was used in hunting as a viewing platform. Grade 1 listed, it was in poor condition in 2009, and was undergoing essential repairs. It was purchased by the National Trust in 2009, and restoration of it was funded by a grant from Natural England. It is a prominent landmark that can be seen from the M5 motorway. The watercolour design, signed by James Wyatt, survives.
It is situated on Knight's Hill at the very edge of the park. The building had been in deterioration for decades. It is a circular two-storey building with a central interior staircase leading up to a viewing platform under a domed roof where there are views across Worcestershire to the Malvern Hills. The Tower is now separated from the rest of the park and Court, like the Worcester Lodge.
Pirton Castle is an eyecatcher and belvedere designed by James Wyatt and built by William Stephens in 1797 as an ivy-clad Gothic ruin. The watercolour design, signed by James Wyatt in 1801, survives. It is a Grade II listed building since 14 June 1985. It was purchased by the National Trust in 2009, and restoration of it was funded by a grant from Natural England. It was restored by Midland Conservation, who stabilised the structure, removed destructive vegetation from it, and repaired the masonry – including repointing it, and rebuilding the upper levels. Restoration was completed in August 2009.
It is located on Rabbit Bank, a prominent ridge in the landscape at Pirton to the north of the park and Court. The building was constructed among a row of Cedar of Lebanon trees, many of which still stand today along the ridge. Pirton Castle is a feature from the M5 motorway northbound, which cuts through the park.
Dunstall Castle was constructed in 1766–1767, and resembles a ruined castle. It was designed by either Sanderson Miller or Robert Adam as an eye catcher, and it is located on Dunstall Common, Earls Croome. In 2009 the stonework was in bad condition, and essential repairs were under way. It is Grade II* listed. It was purchased by the National Trust in 2009, and restoration of it was funded by a grant from Natural England.
It is cut off from the park as it is hidden by trees from within the park. The stones from the tops of the three towers have fallen off so that now about a metre is missing from the central tower. The right arch also had a wall at the bottom which has disappeared if compared with original pictures of the castle.
Earl's Bedroom Fireplace
** – Fireplaces – **
The fireplace or chimney piece is a focal point in most rooms, as well as being functional and providing warmth, in some houses the fireplace developed into a work of art. Croome Court which houses approximately 30 surviving fireplaces has some more notable examples.
The fire in the Butler’s Pantry which is lit during the winter months each year would have been top of the range at its time of installation. Made by Jones and Rowe of Worcester the chimney piece sits diagonally in the South West corner of the room. There is a water tank at the back of the chimney piece which would have been heated by the charcoal fire in the grate allowing for easy access to hot water for the various cleaning tasks that the footmen would have been required to complete in this space. The chimney for this fireplace travels at an odd angle to connect with the outer North Easterly chimney from the seventeenth century property. The chimney then travels up four flights to the roof top of the house.
The Long Gallery.
The marble chimney piece in the Long Gallery forms a highly effective focal point for Adam’s design. Carved by Joseph Wilton, the chimney piece helps to accentuate the size and grandeur of the room. It shows two life-size caryatids, Nymphs of Flora, holding a floral wreath.
The chimney piece which was designed and made by John Wildsmith in 1760 has white-marble decorative elements on a ground of orange Veronese marble. The large tablet of lapis lazuli, a bright blue metamorphic rock consisting largely of lazurite, used for decoration and in jewellery, set in the centre was provided by the sculptor Joseph Wilton, who specialised in richly ornamented chimney pieces and became in 1764 “Sculptor to His Majesty.”
The chimney piece you see in the Tapestry Room today is a replica of the original which was made when the original was sold to the Met Museum in New York along with the rest of the room in 1949. A condition of the sale was for an exact copy of the room to be re-instated at Croome. This work was executed by Brown & Muntzer of London. The marble chimney piece became subject to a delay of nine months “owing to the difficulty in procuring marble masons and carvers”. The Lapis Lazuli tablet in the fireplace was finally replaced by a piece of green marble.
The 9th Earl's bedroom.
The very large and ornate mahogany chimney piece which dominates the 9th Earls Bedroom would have been far more overpowering when it was gilded with gold – if you look closely you can still see the remains of the gilding today on the higher parts of the mirror.
The chimney piece with its iconic pilasters and an over mantel with a rectangular mirror and swam-neck pediment’ are possibly by William Linnell and probably date from the time of 9th Earl of Coventry. Rumour has it that the funds for the chimney piece were created after the 9th Earl won a large sum of money gambling on the horses in Dublin, although there has never been any evidence for this, it makes a nice story. Many of the Hare Krishna’s who used the Court do not remember the chimney piece, perhaps it was covered over during the Krishna period?
The Second Floor, S6 - Nanny’s room and S10 - Lumber garret.
The two rooms boast 17th century grand stone chimney pieces. The Nanny’s Room has a ‘simple’ eared surround and the lumber garret has an ‘arched head and plain pilasters’. It is thought that the chimney piece in the lumber garret could be the earliest in the house. The National Trust like to believe that the chimney pieces were moved from somewhere else in the property during the 18th century renovations and recycled by the Earl. You can see evidence especially on the one in the nanny’s room of where it has been chopped and changed during its different lives. … ask a guide to take you up to the second floor to explore these fireplaces.
** – Visiting – **
Explore the first floor of the house and hear it's story from the volunteers.
First Floor - Stairway hidden door.
The ‘hidden’ doorway connects the main house to the red wing. The door was created by the 6th Earl of Coventry, in the late 18th century, during his later life when he became less mobile. It enabled him to retreat to his lavish private quarters, especially during times when the house was full of visitors. The ‘jib’ door was decorated so that it blended into its surroundings. The door was also used during the time the house was occupied by the Hare Krishnas and nuns/pupils of the Boys School. At some point, prior to the property being taken over by National Trust, the door was painted over and sealing it shut.
First Floor - East.
The suite of rooms on the east side of the first floor includes a bedroom thought to have been used by the 6th Earl's first wife Maria Gunning. Chinese bedroom. Once decorated in 'chinoiserie' style, fashionable in the 18th century, this was the principal bedroom of the 6th Earl's first wife.
The room next to the Chinese Bedroom, in the south-east corner of the first floor, was originally a dressing room used by Maria Gunning. It housed a spectacular George II overmantel mirror, made by William Linnell which was at Croome until 1948 until it was sold for £58.
First Floor - West
This series of rooms had included the 6th Earl's main bedroom but subsequent history has left its mark.
This room, which matches another on the north side of the house, was possibily the 6th Earl's bedroom before he was married. The panelling predates Brown's remodelling of the house, so it may be original to the room or have been brought in from somewhere else.
This is where the 6th Earl slept while he lived at Croome Court. It's decor, however, comes from an altogether different period. It was chosen by one of the property developers who owned Croome in the 1990's.
There’s so much to see during your visit. Whether it’s an hour, half a day or whole day, the National Trust have compiled the ‘must sees’ to make the most of your time.
To make the most of your limited time:
•Visit the RAF museum and learn about the Second World War secret airbase.
•Let off steam in the RAF themed play area or wild play area.
•Encounter statues, temples and follies on a walk around the lakeside.
•Look inside the church and be amazed by the views of the parkland from its doorway.
•Spend some time in the bird hide in the Church Shrubbery.
•Discover the Rotunda with views to the Malvern Hills.
•Browse the second-hand bookshop, shop and plant sales.
•Visit the 1940s themed restaurant.
Half a Day.
A little more times gives you a chance to explore further afield:
•Grab one of their self-guided walk maps from the Visitor Centre with walks ranging from two to four and a half miles.
•Experience their Potter and Ponder sensory map which encourages visitors with disabilities to experience their beautiful parkland.
•Discover Croome Court at the heart of the parkland with it’s poetic introductory film, exhibitions and daily guided tours.
•Stop for a quick bite or a cup of tea in the basement of the court.
•The NT friendly reception team will give you a welcome map which has all the key things to see and do to help you enjoy your day.
•With more time, why not discover some of our outer eye-catchers such as The Panorama Tower or Dunstall Castle by following the way-markers from the Visitor Centre.
•Walk through the wooded ‘Shelter Belt’ with the chance to spot a variety of wildlife including deer and listen to birdsong including the nightingale.
•Bring a picnic and relax at one of the many picnic tables or deckchairs around the parkland.
** – Winter Welly Walk – **
A moderately challenging walk through the outer parkland to visit one of their eye catchers, Pirton Castle, with fantastic views across the Worcestershire countryside. The walk is classified as Moderate and is four and a half miles long. It should take between two and three hours. Free parking, toilets, shop and canteen available at Croome. It is dog friendly but challenging access for the disabled.
Start: Croome Visitor Centre.
1. Follow the path through the Wilderness Walk towards the church, go through the gate into the parkland and turn immediately right. Go through the kissing gate into the field and turn left following the footpath down the hill.
2. Just after the pond on your right, walk diagonally right aiming for the gate in the corner of the field. Go over the stile, cross the road and over the stile into the next field.
3. Walk diagonally left across the field keeping the ‘Lickmoor Wetland’ on your right and the Manley Grove woodland to your left until you reach the kissing gate.
4. Go through the gate and turn right. Keep walking with the woodland on your right. Follow the footpath across a wooden bridge and across a further two fields until you emerge onto the road through a large opening.
5. Turn right and walk along the road past the ‘Pirton’ sign. Follow the road around to the left.
6. Enter the field on your left at the Public Footpath sign and walk across two field to reach the top of the ridge. Go through the gate and walk along to Pirton Castle. You can walk round the back and into the tower.
Extract from Hortus Croomensis - 1824: 'The ruins of Pirton Castle...occupy a fine situation, on a lofty eminence; commanding from its high grounds, beautiful and extensive prospects'.
7. Retrace your steps to the gate. Head diagonally to the right and down the field until you see Pirton Pool. Keeping the pool on your left head for the metal gate in the woodland straight ahead of you.
8. Go through the kissing gate and along the track. Go through a second kissing gate to the road.
9. Turn right on the road and walk back to the junction, turn left passing Pirton Court and continue up to the T junction. Turn right and continue along the road back to Croome.
Pirton Court is a substantial part of a period Grade 11 listed court house which has origins dating back to the Domesday Book. In 1690 it came in to the hands of the Coventry family who kept possession of the Court until 1983. Pirton Court once being a medieval moated manor now stands with its period timber framed construction over mellowed grey stone and brick foundations.
End: RAF Visitor Centre.
** – Park Seat circular walk – **
A clear day rewards you with far reaching views across the Worcestershire countryside to Croome's outer eye-catchers and follies in the distance. This circular walk will guide you around the 'Capability' Brown landscape.
Classified as Moderate, the walk is two and a half miles long and should take about one hour. Access is described as Challenging. There are toilets, including accessible toilets, at the Visitor Centre, a 1940s style restaurant and dog tether points and water bowls.
Start: National Trust Croome, Visitor Centre, near High Green, Worcester.
1. From the Visitor Centre, follow the path through the Wilderness Walk shrubbery to a gate which brings you to the top of Church Hill. Walk around the front of the church and pass through a metal gate into Church Shrubbery. Follow the path eventually passing the bird hide on your left.
St Mary Magdalene Church. A church at Croome is first mentioned in 1283 and was dedicated to St James the Apostle, this church was close to the house but was demolished by George Coventry, the 6th Earl of Coventry, when he inherited the estate in 1751 and set about remodelling the house and landscape. He commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to design the new house, together with a church and to landscape the surrounding garden and grounds. He appointed Robert Adam to design the interior of the house and the church and also to design some structures in the grounds.
2. Follow the path, crossing a tarmac road. Continue along the path until you reach the Rotunda. Just beyond there are some steps leading down to a metal gate into the parkland. Go through the gate and follow the sign to Park Seat.
The Rotunda is a Grade 1 listed building designed by 'Capability' Brown in the 1760s.
3. Keep walking along the ridge of the field which has great views of the Malvern Hills on your right. You will see Park Seat in the distance in front of you.
Park Seat was designed as a viewing station in 1770 by Robert Adam. It earned the nickname 'The Owl's Nest' due to its long-time resident.
4. From Park Seat walk down the slope towards the river. Keeping the river on your left follow the path back to Croome Court which you can see in the distance.
The river (which is actually a lake) is 1¾ mile long, designed by 'Capability' Brown and is entirely man-made. It is thought to be a reconstruction of the River Severn, which lies at the edge of the Croome estate. Autumn is a great time to enjoy picking blackberries. There are blackberry bushes near the Chinese Bridge as you approach the house.
5. At Croome Court follow the gravel path up the hill back to the Church and Visitor Centre.
End: National Trust Croome, Visitor Centre, near High Green, Worcester. You made it!
** – Dog friendly walk at Croome. – **
Enjoy some spectacular views of the Worcestershire countryside around Croome's parkland on this dog friendly walk taking in the main sights of the 'Capability' Brown designed landscape. Please pick up a copy of our dog walking policy from the Visitor Centre which will explain where your dog is required to be on a lead.
This is a dog friendly walk, naturally, classified as Moderate, the walk is four miles long and should take between one and a half and two and a half hours. Access is described as Challenging. There are toilets, including accessible toilets, at the Visitor Centre, a 1940s style restaurant and dog tether points and water bowls.
Start: Croome Visitor Centre
1. From the RAF Visitor Centre turn left into the Wilderness Walk and follow the path towards the Church. As you go through the gate at the main entrance into the parkland turn immediately right and follow the fence line to a kissing gate.
2. Go through the kissing gate into the field and turn left keeping the fence and shrubbery on your left. This field is known as Horse Close and dogs are allowed off the lead in this area if there is no livestock. Walk down through this field passing a pond on your right, keep to the fence line until you reach a kissing gate and a gate into the evergreen shrubbery. There may be a temporary livestock gate in the field go through this first.
Horse Close. The field you will walk through was originally known as Horse Close, Autumn is a great time to do some blackberry picking and you will see lots of blackberries at the bottom of the field.
3. Go through the kissing gate to the right and continue walking along the fence line, the path will bear right past another pond and there is a footpath marker on a post.
Kissing Gate. A kissing gate is a type of gate which allows people to pass through, but not livestock. The etymology of the name is that the gate merely "kisses" (touches) the enclosure either side, rather than needing to be securely latched. That hasn’t stopped many clinging to a more romantic notion: that the first person to pass through would have to close the gate to the next person, providing an opportune moment to demand a kiss in return for entry.
4. Walk diagonally across the field away from the pond towards a large brick house and the corner of the field, this house was once the Coventry Arms public house.
5. Go through gap in the hedge at the field corner and turn immediately left along the lane (marked private), after 300 metres the lane turns 90 degrees left. Carry on through the gate at the side of the cattle grid and you will see the Punch Bowl Gate entrance into the park.
6. Go through the right hand gate into the park and after 30 metres turn right onto the path into the lake area. Turn right again and follow the path round the lake, past the Grotto, over one bridge to the Island Pavilion and then over the second bridge.
Punchbowl Gates. The Worcester Gate, designed by James Wyatt in 1793 to 1794, was the main entrance to Croome Park from the Worcester side. It is topped with a pair of ornamental coade stone urns in the shape of a Punch Bowl.
7. A few yards after the second bridge turn right and follow the path past the derelict remains of the boat house to a gate, on the left, into the parkland.
8. Go through the gate and turn immediately right to another gate. Go through this second gate and turn left following the lane again towards a farm. The lane bears left towards the farm and there is a metal gate which may be closed. Go through this gate.
9. As you approach the farmyard you will see a wooden gate to your left, (marked with a yellow footpath sign). Go through this gate and head diagonally across the field following the path heading for circle of trees and the dead tree in the centre. Pass between these and keep going until you reach a gate at the end of the lake.
10. Go through the gate, turn right and follow the path anticlockwise around the sluice pond, crossing a small wooden footbridge, until you reach a stile back into the parkland. Turn right just before this stile and in a few yards go through the gate into the parkland.
11. Walk up the hill, the Park Seat will be on your right. When you reach the crest of the hill bear left along the ridge and carry on for approx 800 metres. From the ridge if you look to the right you will see the buildings and runways that used to be RAF Defford.
Owls Nest. The Park Seat is also know locally at the Owls Nest after a former occupant!
12. Towards the end of the ridge you will join a farm track with trees on either side, at the end of the trees turn left and walk down the field towards the house keeping the brick wall of the ha-ha and the Rotunda to your right.
Ha Ha. A ha-ha is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier while preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond.
13. Join the path and walk around the house following the main path away from the house towards the church, once at the church return to the Visitor Centre through the Wild Walk.
End: RAF Visitor Centre.
** – Spring walk at Croome. – **
This relaxing circular walk around the outer parkland with superb views across the Worcestershire countryside to the Malvern hills and great spots to see the Croome's spring flora and fauna. This is a dog friendly walk, classified as Moderate, the walk is four miles long and should take between one and a half and two hours. Access is described as Challenging. There are toilets, including accessible toilets, at the Visitor Centre, a 1940s style restaurant and dog tether points and water bowls.
Start: National Trust Croome, Visitor Centre.
1. From the Visitor Centre, follow the path through the Wilderness Walk shrubbery (look out for spring flowering bulbs) to a gate which brings you to the top of Church Hill. Walk around the front of the church and pass through a metal gate into Church Shrubbery, a great spot to see swathes of bluebells. Follow the path eventually passing the bird hide on your left where you can see a variety of wild birds.
2. Follow the path, crossing a tarmac road. Continue along the path until you reach the Rotunda. Keep your eye out for their squirrels who frolic around in the trees. From the Rotunda follow the path to the right down through the Home Shrubbery to the iron gate at the bottom. Look out for the banks of daffodils on the right.
The Rotunda is a Grade 1 listed building designed by 'Capability' Brown in the 1760s.
3. Go through the iron gate into the park and follow the path to the right towards the Court. Continue along the path from the Court to the Chinese Bridge.
4. From the Chinese Bridge, staying on the Court side of the river, follow the mown path alongside the river for about three quarters of a mile until you reach a stile. Along the way you will see a lot of our birdlife, if you are lucky you will see a kingfisher or a heron. Cross the stile and walk clockwise around the pool.
An exact replacement was created using images of the historic bridge from a painting by Richard Wilson in 1758 of Croome and also a book from 1749 called “Developments in Architecture and Carpentry”.
5. Cross over a small bridge. Just before the bridge there is a bench, a great spot to sit awhile and if you are lucky you will hear nightingales singing.
6. Just after the bridge turn left across a wooden platform into the shelter belt, this is a narrow wooded area; follow the path for about a mile through the woods until you reach the end of the shelter belt. If you are quiet you might spot muntjac deer in the shelter belt. The NT have done a lot of conservation work in this area to improve the habitat for nightingales and ground nesting birds.
7. At the end of the shelter belt you will see, on the left, a National Trust sign. Turn right, away from the sign, go through the gate and turn right into the field, follow the fence along the shelter belt back in the direction you have just walked.
8. Shortly you will reach three gates on the right, go through the gates until you reach the farm road.
9. Turn left and walk along this road (there may be a further closed gate across the road, go through it). Walk along the road until you see a large gate on the right back into the park. Go through the gate, turn left and in a few yards on the left you will see another gate, into the lake area.
10. Enter the lake area and follow the path to the right past the remains of the derelict boat house. Whilst you are walking around the lake look out for spring flowering primroses, daffodils and as the season progresses bluebells.
11. Where you meet the main path round the lake, turn left and cross the two white bridges linking the island to the main path, look out for the primroses along the banks. Follow the path around the lake, past the Grotto until you reach the Dry Arch bridge. Turn left under the bridge and follow the path, past the Temple Greenhouse.
12. Continue through the Evergreen Shrubbery back to the Church. From here return to the Visitor Centre.
End: National Trust Croome, Visitor Centre, You made it!
NAAFI at RAF Defford
** – RAF Defford Museum – **
During the Second World War and the Cold War years that followed, RAF Defford, the secret airfield built in the grounds of Croome park, was one of the most secret places in the country. For it was at Defford that Airborne Radar was tested, developed and proven. Airborne Radar provided a decisive factor in Victory for the Allies.
Construction of RAF Defford was completed in 1941, and for a few months the airfield was used as a satellite station by the Vickers Wellington bombers of No. 23 Operational Training Unit RAF (OTU), based a few miles away at RAF Pershore.
In May 1942, the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), responsible for radar research and development, and located near Swanage, moved to Malvern College. At the same time the Telecommunications Flying Unit (TFU), later named the Radar Research Flying Unit (RRFU), which operated flight trials on behalf of the TRE, transferred its aircraft to Defford.
So hurried was the move to Defford that many of the personnel had to be accommodated in tents at first. However, at Defford the tempo of work carried out by TFU increased month by month, and by 1945 there were approximately 2,500 personnel and 100 aircraft on the station.
Civilian scientists, flying from Defford with aircrews drawn from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, tested radar systems which were to revolutionise the operational capability of Allied aircraft. Early successes with Airborne Interception (AI) systems were demonstrated by John "Cats Eyes" Cunningham and other night fighter pilots. While Air to Surface Vessel (ASV) radar enabled the German U-boat menace to be effectively countered in 1943, and thus was critical to the success of the Battle of the Atlantic. By 1944, H2S radar was enabling accurate navigation and target identification to be achieved by Bomber Command crews, taking part in the strategic bombing offensive.
There were many other notable "firsts" demonstrated by TFU. A converted Wellington bomber was the forerunner of the modern AWACS aircraft. This was successfully used to detect fast moving German E-boats, and to control their interception by other aircraft. The world's first automatic approach and landing also took place at Defford in 1945, paving the way for today's airliners which are able to safely arrive at their destinations, whatever the weather. The world's first demonstration of an aircraft making a "hands off" automatic blind landing, using equipment the forerunner of modern ILS, was at Defford in January 1945.
TFU remained at Defford after the war, and was renamed the Radar Research Flying Unit (RRFU) in 1953. However, the airfield at Defford was too small to allow the operation of the large "V" bombers on flight trials, and so RRFU moved to nearby RAF Pershore in 1957. Most of the technical and domestic sites at Defford were soon de-requisitioned, but the central part of the now disused airfield still houses the Satellite Communications facility operated by QinetiQ. The various dishes and aerials used can be seen from passing trains between Worcester and Cheltenham and from the M5 motorway near Strensham services.
Some of the Second World War buildings, once the Sick Quarters for the RAF Defford airbase, still remain and have been restored as Croome’s visitor centre and museum.
The museum reveals the once secret story of RAF Defford with wartime artefacts, emotive personal possessions, videos and costume displays.Much of the land required for RAF Defford was requisitioned from the Earl of Coventry in 1940, with the station’s technical area being built on the eastern part of Croome park. The laying of the runways necessitated the closure of a public road, and extended across Defford common.
Various communal and domestic sites, including the Station Sick Quarters, were clustered around Croome Court, the ancestral home of the Earls of Coventry, to house over 2,000 service personnel and scientists who tested radar at this secret airbase to meet new enemy. RAF Defford became the main station in Britain for the development of airborne radar during and after the Second World War. The airfield housed the Telecommunications Flying Unit (TFU), carrying out flight trials for the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), which had moved from Worth Matravers to Malvern in May 1942.
The experiments and developments carried out at Defford were of great historic significance, for they played a vital part in helping the Allies to win the war, and paved the way for many electronic applications that we now take for granted. 2016 saw the restoration of the Ambulance Garage, once part of the secret airbase of RAF Defford. In the Ambulance Garage, the forward section of a 1951 Canberra bomber gives you an idea of what flying in the RAF would be like after the war.
'Cold War' display.
They have a display about the Cold War Years, the post-war years following the closure of RAF Defford with the arrival of V-bombers, and the move of the staff and aircraft to Pershore airfield. The development of radar and infra-red systems changed after the war, as the Cold War brought new challenges and more sophisticated systems, taking the story up to the closure of RSRE Pershore in 1977.
Women of RAF Defford display.
By 1945, there were well over 2500 people at RAF Defford and up to 600 were women. They played an essential role in the fight to stay ahead of the enemy in the battle of the air waves and the NT display tells their story.
You can join their tour guide who will show you where, during the Second World War, a substantial part of Croome Park was requisitioned for the building of a large military airfield, known as RAF Defford. The RAF Guided Walks will start at 11am, departing from the Visitor Centre and returning around 1pm. These walks are very popular so booking is essential - tickets available at reception or phone 01905 371006 (please note numbers limited to 25) Sturdy walking shoes are advised.
Saturdays: April 13, May 11, June 8, July 13, Aug 10, Sept 14, Oct 12.
Tuesdays: Apr 16, May 21, June 18, July 16, Aug 20, Sept 17, Oct 15.
This walk highlights points of interest in Croome’s park that relate to the top-secret airbase which was home to Airborne Radar testing and development during the Second World War and the early years of the Cold War. The walk takes in key points of interest around the park including views across the airfield and the crash site of a Wellington bomber.
Retrace their steps with the NT walks booklet. The footsteps of wartime personnel are followed in a RAF Defford walks booklet (£2.50 available from reception). Discover for yourself where the secret Second World War airbase once stood on a 2.8 mile walk around the park.
** – Potter and Ponder, a sensory experience – **
A new sensory experience map called ‘Potter and Ponder’ officially opened with a launch party at Croome near Worcester towards the end of 2016. Local special schools for children with wide-ranging special needs and learning disabilities collaborated with the National Trust to create a new sensory map which takes you on a journey of different sensations such as sound, touch and smell to unlock ‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape in a very different way.
The project led by Katherine Alker (Garden and Park Manager) and Rachel Sharpe (Creative Partnerships Manager) at Croome has been described as ground breaking in its approach, co-producing the experience with a seldom heard audience. The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery through CB300 and has been an inspiring project for all those involved. Ceryl Evans, Director of CB300, was present at the launch and spoke of the innovative approach taken by the staff at Croome to create a very different way of looking at Brown’s landscapes.
How did they achieve this? They worked with 35 children who have profound learning, physical and medical needs and mapped their sensory moments of joy in the parkland. They approached Pallant House Gallery, West Sussex to find out how we could work with the charity Outside In which was founded at the Gallery 10 years ago. Outside In provides a platform for artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation.
Together with Outside In they developed an accessible ‘Artist’s Brief’ which was sent out through an open call to the 2000 artists they represent. Getting the right artist for the project was essential; Outside In were a pivotal partner, further ensuring the integrity of the project. To learn more about Pallant and Outside In please visit their websites.
Nine artists responded and William Hanekom was selected by the children and young people.
It was paramount that the children chose the artist to ensure the style fully appealed to their view of the world. Teachers used a variety of communication tools and translation methods to ensure that all children clearly made the choice; through tracking smiles, eye movements, gestures and dwell time. Artist William Hanekom was the clear favourite across all schools. He visited Croome’s sensory sites and created illustrations to represent the selected moments. Working with designers Blended Creative, William’s illustrations were placed on Croome’s site map. Outside In supported the process with Croome.
" ‘This project gave me an opportunity to be proud of my son, he’s made something that other’s will enjoy using his disability as an ability! He has never had the opportunity to be part of something like this, I am truly proud of what he has achieved’. " - Parent-Carer
They worked alongside the children, listened and learnt from them, took our inspiration from their thinking, entered their world – something which is so rarely done. This journey created an experience which can be used by all at Croome.
In addition to this they now have a Makaton key to their map with Makaton symbols linked to William’s images. One of these Makaton symbols (light and shade) had to be created for this map.
“Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order.”
" “We learn about the world through our senses: touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell. Creating safe and diverse outdoor learning environments can offer benefits across curriculum and developmental areas. The key to creating positive experiences in outdoor learning environments lies not only in the physical environment but with the modelling and behaviour of those around us; this is also how we learn about our relationship to the natural world around us. Sharing our experiences with others gives us an opportunity to become part of each other’s world.” " - Esther Richmond, Specialist Teacher at Sunfield School.
** – Facilities – **
• 1940s-style canteen.
• Free parking.
• Plant sales area.
• Dogs on leads are welcome at Croome, please ask at reception for details of where they may be off the lead.
• Baby-changing facilities.
• Pushchairs welcome.
• Only under 5s are permitted to bring bikes into Croome.
• The lawn to the south of the court is our designated area for ball games.
• Family trail.
• Pleasure grounds accessible - hard paths throughout garden but one steep slope. Manual wheelchair and a powered mobility vehicle available.
• Designated mobility parking in main car park. Ask at reception for lower car park to avoid the slope.
• An adult changing facility is available in the Visitor Centre.
• Braille and large print guide available.
• Sensory experience.
• Induction loop.
• Mobility shuttle to Croome Court available most days.
• Wheelchair access to Court by stair climber.
Location : Croome Visitor Centre, near High Green, Worcester, Worcestershire, WR8 9DW
Transport: Worcester (National Rail) OR Pershore (National Rail) then bus or taxi. Bus routes: from Worcester to Pershore, alight Ladywood Road/Rebecca Road crossroads, 2 miles. From Worcester to Malvern, alight Kinnersley, 2 miles.
Opening Times Park: Daily, 10:00 to 16:30; March through October until 17:00.
Opening Times House and Museum: Daily, 11:00 to 16:00; March through October until 16:30.
Tickets Whole Property: Adult $11.45; Children £5.70.; Under 5 free
Tickets Whole Property Group: Adult $10.00; Children £5.00.