Being another small clutch of near-misses, three estates of equally impressive longevity whose various approaches to seeking a viable future and sustained ownership of their hereditary piles – accessibility, basically – meant they just failed to make the cut…
Talk about lack of imagination! A seat of the Chichester family for well over 500 years, through two significant incarnations, ‘Hall’ really is all this place has ever been known as.
… they were designed to, being the introduction to Sotheby’s catalogue of a sale of contents held there in 1996.
Not that the owners were selling up, happily, just having a bit of a clear-out. Over the centuries, the catalogue tells us, the Chichesters always liked to buy new yet tended to retain the superceded: ‘Nothing appears to have been discarded’. Some of the £1 million-plus raised by the 683 lots went to meet inheritance tax liabilities after the death of Charles Chichester in 1995. (Chichester had three daughters and Hall is presently the home of his granddaughter, Clare Campbell-Lamerton).
The remainder was doubtless soon accounted for in maintenance of the ‘sizeable neo-Jacobean house of 1844-7, splendidly sited on a high ridge looking south, by Philip C Hardwick’ (most notably associated with the remodelling of Madresfield Court). A looming chapel-like presence at the mansion’s west end, ‘the baronial hall is the most eccentric feature of the house’,¹ and one vistors are now able to appreciate for themselves as of last year when…
…’for the first time ever’ Hall was opened to the public. Opportunities are limited – three dates have been announced for 2014, now booking – but then Hall does still have the benefit of a substantial (2,500+ acres) estate behind it, in contrast to somewhere like…
Browsholme Hall, Lancashire…an equally venerable survivor, ancestral home of the Parkers since 1507. But here, while much of the land may have gone, internally very little has been thrown away. Thus far the Parkers have resisted any urge to call in the valuers with the result that Browsholme is positively crammed with five centuries worth…
…of what current owner Robert Parker has cheerfully described as ‘tat’.
“It is a house where people live and have brought things into over the centuries. It’s unique in that the collection is intact. It’s not a difficult history – it’s a very tangible history and people like that.“²
Externally, G.I-listed Browsholme (pro. Brusom) has not really changed much since an existing H-plan house was given a substantial Elizabethan makeover. ‘Browsholme is an exception, a survival of a C17 family home practically unaffected by the “civilising” influence of the C18 or the romanticising of the C19, yet still the home of its original possessors‘, noted Country Life in their first visit here in 1935.³ (They returned in July 2013.)But the E and W wings were significantly enhanced in the C18 and early C19, particularly the latter by Thomas Lister Parker. His aesthetic enthusiasms are responsible for Browsholme’s most notable collections but, no less impressively, stopped short of obliterating the Hall’s Jacobean origins. When funds eventually ran low Thomas Lister Parker did in fact sell up – but the buyer was his cousin and male heir.
Lister Parker had inherited Browsholme aged 18; the present incumbent was just a year older when he took the place on in 1978. Robert Parker was the selective heir of his godfather and childless distant cousin Robert Goulborne Parker. Upon inheriting, his parents Edmund and the late Diana Parker threw in their lot behind him and together they set about bolstering Browsholme for its sixth century of service.
‘It has taken us 30 years to get where we are now where we can use every room in the house. We don’t have central heating, the panelling would just crack. The rule is it’s not cold unless you can see your breath.’²
Craster Tower, NorthumberlandIn the game of family heritage Top Trumps few in the land will still be at the table when the Crasters of Craster Tower come to play their hand. They had already been on the premises hereabouts for the best part of two centuries when licence was gained to build a Pele tower in the late C14. Shafto Craster gothicised the Tower in the late C18 and also created the arch across the lane at the end of the drive. Since 1769-70 Craster’s owners have been principally quartered in the substantial Georgian addition to the Tower’s south side, probably the work of north-east architect William Newton. All of which is detailed in the G.II*-listing text which concludes, ‘Interior not seen’. These days, however, you may have better luck than those inspectors (and Country Life which has yet to manage a visit) as the Pele tower has now been converted for holiday letting (l).
In the mid-1960s the then incumbent Sir John Craster reluctantly concluded that he could no longer afford the upkeep of the ancestral home.† But luckily he was able to fall back on the same solution as Thomas Lister Parker at Browsholme, selling the house sideways to several cousins who would co-occupy Craster. ‘Now, after a further 40 years and a number of vicissitudes, the house is back in the ownership of a single branch of the family.’ Hurrah!
¹ Cherry, B. & Pevsner, N. Buildings of England: Devon, 2nd ed., 1989.
² Woolley, J. Browsholme Hall: A piece of history, Live Magazines 2013.
³ Hussey, C. Browsholme Hall, County Life, vol.78, 13 July 1935.
† Craster, Sir J. North country squire, 1971.