Morville Hall is a grade I listed country house and gardens in the care of the National Trust in the county of Shropshire, England. Morville Hall is located at the junction of the A458 road and the B4368 road, three miles outside the market town of Bridgnorth. It is a large grey stone mansion with projecting wings, originally built in two storeys in the 16th-century but increased to three as part of an 18th-century enlargement. Once part of the Aldenham estate, the house stands on the site of the abandoned Morville Priory.
Morville Hall was originally an Elizabethan country house dating from 1546, at the time the site was acquired by Roger Smyth, who married into the local Cressett family. It was enlarged and expanded around 1750 by Arthur Weaver, MP for Bridgnorth. The property has belonged to the National Trust since 1965.
The gardens are the main attraction for many visitors and incorporates the Dower house Gardens and features such as a Cloister garden and Elizabethan knot garden. The gardens have been a 15-year project for Katherine Swift who wanted to show how gardens have developed and evolved through history. Each section of her garden relates to a previous occupant of the Hall, from the Elizabethan Smyths through to the 18th century Weavers, and finally to the seven Victorian age Warren sisters who lived on in the house long after the death of their father, the last one, Juliana, dying in the 1920s.
The Dower House Garden occupies a 1.5 acre site in a beautiful setting within the grounds of Morville Hall (National Trust), near Bridgnorth in Shropshire. The garden aims to tell the history of English gardening in a sequence of separate gardens designed in the style of different historical periods. Particular attention is given to the use of authentic plants and construction techniques. Old roses are a speciality of the garden.
The garden was designed by Dr Katherine Swift, the garden historian and writer, who has lived at The Dower House since 1988. The garden has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, including Hortus, Gardens Illustrated, House & Garden, The English Garden, Gardening 'Which?', Garden Inspirations and The Saturday Telegraph. Since 2016 Katherine has also been writing a monthly gardening column about events in her garden for The English Garden magazine, for which in November 2017 she won the Garden Media Guild’s top award, 'Garden Columnist of the Year’.
The main areas of the garden are the Cloister Garden (c. 1450) with its Cloister Walk of clipped yew and its shady turf seats; the Knot Garden (c.1580) with its intricate pattern of sweet-smelling herbs; the Plat (c.1650) with its quinces, medlars and boarded beds of old tulips; the Canal Garden (c.1710) with its 60-foot water feature and clipped evergreen shapes; the New Flower Garden (c.1780) with its secluded Greek Temple and cascades of roses; the Victorian Rose Border (c. 1870) with its luscious peonies and swooping rose garlands, and the Edwardian Fruit and Vegetable Garden (early 20th century), with its 80-ft apple and pear tunnels festooned with white roses. At the centre of the garden is the intriguing Turf Maze based on a design dating back to the Bronze Age.
The formal parts of the garden are enclosed by high yew hedges, which give the garden an air of great antiquity. Outside the yew hedges, and in strong contrast to the garden within, are several variations on the theme of natural gardening: a late 19th-century Wild Garden at the north end of the garden, containing wild roses from all over the world underplanted with leucojums and camassias amid English wild flowers; a pocket-handkerchief sized Lammas Meadow in the south-east corner of the garden, traditionally mowed at Lammas-tide (August 1st), containing native wild flowers such as daffodills, fritillaries and Tulipa sylvestris; and a little Spinney, consisting of native tree species such as small-leaved lime, wild service and field maple, underplanted with dog roses, spindle and guelder rose.
In addition there is a Plum Walk along the west side of the garden underplanted with autumn crocus, an Iris Border along the wall at the top of the garden, and a Snowdrop Walk along the east side. Finally there is the small formal Ivy Garden beside the house, where in summer Katherine serves her famous cream teas.
The best times to visit are April and May for a stunning display of tulips and other bulbs, June for the roses, July and August for agapanthus and clematis, and September for michaelmas daisies and heritage varieties of apple. But this is a garden for all seasons. Whenever you visit, a warm welcome awaits you at The Dower House Garden.
Originally an Elizabethan house, Morville Hall was extensively enlarged and expanded around 1750, giving it the appearance of a Georgian home. After the Norman Conquest, Morville was given to Earl Roger de Montgomery, who made it part of his newly founded Benedictine Abbey in Shrewsbury. Monks arrived at Morville in the 12th century and established a small priory and built the church you see today.
Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries brought ruin to the priory at Morville. In 1546 it was granted to local man, Roger Smyth. They do not know whether it was Roger or his son George who completed the two storey Elizabethan E-plan house you see today. The Hall's construction, re-using materials from the ruined priory, is undeniably a lasting monument to Roger's success in life. A central great hall, later divided into two floors, linked the projecting wings each with a staircase tower.
Roger died in 1562, leaving the estate to his wife Frances Cressett. Teenage son George won a lengthy legal battle to reclaim the estate from his mother, who married a string of wealthy men, all of whom she outlived, thus accumulating considerable wealth. Five Weaver generations made great changes at Morville during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1748 Architect William Baker of Audlem remodelled and enlarged the house into the Georgian style you see today.
Morville was given to the National Trust in 1965. Today it is the home of Chris and Sarah Hodsoll, who moved here from London in 2018.
** – Visiting – **
Set against the River Severn and the rolling hills beyond, Morville is a perfect example of pastoral Shropshire. The community is made up of nine households, including the Hodsoll family who live in Morville hall today.
Next open days.
Entry is free for National Trust members and under 5s. For non-members admission charges apply, adults £4 and children £2 (cash payments only, we are unable to take card payments). Feel free to pop into St Gregory the Great Church for hot drinks and delicious homemade cake. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this 900 year old church so please do pop along when you visit Morville.
** – Dower House Gardens – **
Open Sunday 1st April 2018 - Sunday 30th September 2019
** – Facilities – **
Location : The Dower House, Morville Hall, Bridgnorth, Shropshire WV16 5NB
Transport: Bridgnorth (Severn Valley) then bus. Bus routes: 18 and 436 stop close by.
Opening Times House: 8 days, see above.
Opening Times Garden: See Dower House Garden above.
Tickets Morville Hall : Adult $4.00; Children £2.00.
Tickets Gardens : Adult $4.00; Children £1.00.
Tel: 01746 714407