Two weeks ago I visited this local Tudor house with my husband Franc and mother in law Janet using our National Trust memberships. The property’s NT tagline is “Much-restored Tudor house, park and garden with notable topiary”.
It was a very sunny day and as we ate a picnic in the café grounds and as an aside I witnessed an odd scene. A tiny boy ran up to another tot his own size and happily stood in front of him, wanting to be friends. The mother of the second boy pulled her son along with no word of acknowledgment. People with dogs don’t do this – they allow the social for a short while at the very least.
Packwood House was built in the late 16th century by William Fetherston, a yeoman farmer and it is set in 134 acres. The land has one of the largest collections of yew trees in the world, known as the Multitude and are confusingly linked to The Sermon on the Mount.
The four large ones (which ones exactly I do not know as they all appeared large to me) are supposed to represent the Four Evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the rest symbolise the huge crowd requiring moral education. There was no mention of which piece of foliage represents the key note speaker, Jesus himself, but it could be the one in the centre here.
As I read later, this could have been a yarn of bullsh*t offered up when a Victoria gardener was put on the spot to explain his work.
The last owner of Packwood was Graham Baron Ash (1889 – 1980) whose father had purchased this fine gaff for him. Graham was a man with grandiose tastes. He was “new money” and loved nice things. Many of the items at Packwood are his finds from other ancient properties. He often put “Baron” before “Graham” in order to appear to be a British nobleman.
Graham remodelled the house during the 1920s and 1930s and converted a barn into the Great Hall with earnings from his Birmingham steel business.
The house today is how it was left in 1941 when Graham decided to move on.
Everywhere had to be in “apple pie” order, a trait of which I personally empathise with.
The busy bathroom with Dutch tiling.
It is bad luck to hang a horseshoe upside down but as there was also a correct version around the corner, good and bad luck perhaps cancelled each other out and made for a neutral residence.
There was never a Mrs Ash however his sister Beryl and his young niece Bunty often visited him, perhaps for impossible games of hide and seek amongst the forest of yews.
Or to marvel at black flowers.
Or to catch some shade here.
This cartoonish bird about to gulp down a spider in the bay window was one of my favourite things here. The artwork is a replica of one in York Minster and dates back to the 16th century.
Here is the bay window where this bird art belongs (along with other small illustrations). It has a fine tapestry window seat but I couldn’t get a good shot of it since old aged pensioners insisted on sitting down there, one lot after another as a coach party appeared. In fairness there are not many seats you can sit on when wandering around National Trust properties. Ancient chairs have decorative thistles carefully placed to ward off any idea of rest.
Queen Mary (grandmother of the current Queen) visited the house in 1927 after she had heard about the Mr Ash’s fine antiques and tapestries via a mutual friend. Furthermore the royals were on a publicity drive after World War I, attempting to gain favour public favour and overcome negative feelings in respect of their German ancestry.
Beds were shorter in Tudor houses. People worried that if they turned over during sleep their internal organs would twist around and be rendered useless hence they slept propped up. A bit like models do to avoid puffy eyes on an early morning shoot. This room was used by Queen Mary, although not for upright snoring in the bed though, just to refresh herself as she was only gracing Packwood with a day visit.
It is with some considerable good fortune that this teacup Queen Mary used is still here being bragged about.
Apparently Mary took a liking to many things on her travels; her tone of admiration forcing the owner to reluctantly hand over their prized possessions. Hopefully the “Baron” didn’t operate in this way in gaining his collectables.
A rarity – a baptism-esque bath in the garden:
St Giles, the church very close by where Mr Ash is buried:
After the excitement of the house and grounds, my vegan dinner of roast fig and walnut salad with a deep cup of oil and balsamic vinegar was just a short drive away at the Fleur de Lys pub on the Stratford upon Avon canal.