English Stately Homes and Castles - Midlands

Newark Park, Gloucestershire 

An interesting building but the contents reflect the somewhat eccentric tastes of the last occupants

Set on a plateau with steep sided valleys on either side, this has been described as ‘the coldest place on Earth’. Set to the south of the B4080 between Wotton-under Edge and Nailsworth, this is very much off the tourist map. Many of the signs are missing and you need a decent map to find it.

Newark Park, an Elizabethan Hunting Lodge, now in the care of the National Trust was built in 1550 by Nicholas Pointz using stones from nearby Kingswood Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He called it “New Place”. It was a simple box shape building with a reception area on the ground floor, banqueting hall on the first floor and bedrooms on the top floor. The roof would originally have been flat with four turrets at the corners, where ladies could watch the hunting.

Newark Park

The house passed into the hands of the Lowe family who extended the building in 1650 by adding two wings to form an H shape. In Georgian times in 1790, the H was filled in by the Clutterbuck family (whose memorials can be seen in Ozelworth Church). They added a central staircase which split the banqueting hall into two rooms which were used as bedrooms. They also added a false front to the building to maintain the symmetry.

Newark Park

Newark Park

At the end of the C19th, the house was leased to the King family who paid for a servants’ annex to be built to the east of the house. They must have looked after their servants well as they also installed a pump so hot water could be pumped to the second floor and a closet on the stairs with a tap for servants to collect water for the bedrooms.

The house was given to the National Trust in 1949 by the Clutterbuck family as their only son had been killed in the First World War. By the 1970s, the house was in very poor condition. Robert Parsons and Michael Claydon, two wealthy Americans, took on a ‘repairing’ lease. Michael continued to live in the house after the death of Robert, until a couple of years ago.

It is not your usual National Trust display house as they furnished the house very much as they felt fit and much of their furniture is still in the house. It still feels very much ‘their house’.

Visits to the house are by free flow. There are stewards in some of the rooms and some basic information. It is also possible to do a tour of the basements. This is available on request in the house, as long as their is a guide available.

This tour takes you down very uneven steps into the servant’s quarters below the house. These haven’t been restored and are cold and damp. The guide admitted they tend to be used as a dumping area.

The tour starts in the Georgian kitchen with stone paved floor and big fireplace. Off this was the scullery still with its original stone sink and reinforced ceiling. There would have been a separate room off this with a serving hatch to receive dirty plates. In Georgian times there was a huge boiler in here which pumped hot air into the entrance hall - an early form of under floor heating.

The wine cellar still contains the original brick bins.

Next is the bake room with an oven in the corner with a warming oven beside it. (The fireplace is 1970s when this room was used by the National Trust for working parties.)

Newark Park

The dairy on the north side of the house was surrounded by thick stone wall to help keep it cool.

The last room visited is the Tudor kitchen with a huge fireplace with a fire back dated 1634. This was later used as the servant’s hall. It has a double wall containing the chimney flues and also the shoots from the guardrobes.

Newark Park

Steep steps in a tunnel lead down to the well. Originally all water was collected from here by bucket, until the King family put in a pump to pump water to the top of the house.

Newark Park

Visitors only see part of the house, as much of the Georgian house is rented out as the ‘Clutterbuck Apartments’.

One of the rooms on the ground floor is used as a sitting area for visitors, who can bring food and drink in from the outside kiosk and eat it in here. With comfy chairs and a wood burning stove it is a cosy room.

The DINING ROOM is off the entrance hall and is the first experience of the somewhat unusual tastes of Robert Parsons and Michael Claydon with its burgundy walls and gold patterned William Morris wall paper on the ceiling. The huge dining table with chenille cloth is covered with books and magazine. The furniture is a real hotch potch of styles.

Newark Park

Off it is the DRAWING ROOM with a huge display cabinet with Robert Parson’s display of Staffordshire figurines. This has two cabinets on either side of the fireplace made of Amboyna wood from Indonesia with brass decoration and marble tops. This has a lovely view across the valley.
Newark Park

A splendid staircase leads off the entrance hall. This has a large window with glass painted with orange flowers.

The room on the left has a four poster bed, sage green walls and fireplace. On the right is the dressing up room with a selection of clothes to try on and a mirror. A second flight of stairs leads to the top floor. On the half landing is the small water closet which was part of the 1898 improvements and provided water for hip baths.

Newark Park

The top landing runs along the length of the house. It has a display cabinet with some blue and white china. On the left is the TUDOR GUEST ROOM with ‘in your face’ painted panelling on the walls and a fireplace with a 1664 fireback. It is furnished with old chests, chairs, child’s crib and a small knee desk. Off it was the garderobe.

Newark Park

The middle room is described as the ‘SWAN’ BEDROOM. This belonged to Michael who was an avid collector of swans and his collection of swans of all sizes and shapes is in here. The wallpaper has a pretty print of small yellow vetch flowers. The eiderdown has a gold silk border with Japanese style prints in the centre. There is also a rather nice eastern embroidery (no details) with lotus flowers and butterflies.

The final room contains second hand books for sale. The room on the right hand side at the far end is an exhibition space and contained a display of paintings when we visited.

There is a small terrace in front of the house overlooking the steep sided valley. Paths drop down to a lake. There are also three longer ‘estate walks’. On the south side of the house is a small Elizabethan garden with trimmed box hedges, flower beds, topiary yews and peacocks and hens running around.

Newark Park

There is no tea room, only a small kiosk by the house which sells drinks and cakes.

Being off the beaten track and not well signed, the house gets few visitors. There isn’t a lot to see inside the house and we found the underground tour the most interesting. It helped to explain the architecture of the house.

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