We recently visited 2 or 3 National Trust Houses in Warwickshire, one of then being Packwood, a Tudor Manor House with an ancient timber-frame near Lapworth ad originally built in the sixteenth century.
Packwood has a long history and has been owned by the National Trust since 1941.
It began as a modest farmhouse, constructed for John Fetherston between 1556 and 1560. When the last of the Fetherston family died it was purchased by industrialist Alfred Ash. It was inherited by Graham Baron Ash in 1925 who spent 2 decades turning it into it’s Tudor character. He converted a bar into the Great Hall. It is said Baron Ash was orderly and fastidious and the house would have been immaculate. What you see today is very much as he left in 1941.
I wasn’t as excited with Packwood as I was with Baddesley Clinton, but nevertheless, I was interested to hear of its history and view all the contents.
The family money came from a galvanised steel business in Birmingham. Baron Ash sold his interest in it after his father died in 1925 and invested wisely in stocks and shares. He never married but was often visited by his sister and niece.
En-suite bathrooms were added to all of the bedrooms which was luxurious for the time. All the bathrooms have the same taps and lion’s heads.
He bought a bed from Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire – in which Queen Margaret of Anjou was reputed to have slept before the Battle of Tewkesbury. He acquired tapestries and a great, medieval oak refectory table from Baddesley Clinton.
Baron Ash was a good host and he had a sprung floor installed in the Great Hall for his guests to dance on ! Although he would entertain two or three times a week, he would rarely do so at weekends. There would be small dinner parties for friends, or he would host Shakespeare plays – known as his ‘Follies’ – in the gardens for larger parties.
Baron Ash was a creature of habit. He would rise at 7.30 for breakfast at 9 am I the Parlour. Then he would walk his dalmatians before lunch, see friends and make calls in the afternoon with tea at 4 pm. Dinner was at 7 pm and finally, a brandy at 9 pm before going to bed.
There is a bedroom named after Queen Mary. She visited in 1927 and used the room to relax in after her journey. You can see the bed, wall panelling dating from Charles II’s reign, dressing table and window.
There is a preserved cup and saucer on display from which the Queen took her tea.
Ash took a number of photos to display along with two brass plaques commemorating her visit.
The garden has a raised terrace and yew garden beyond. The yew garden is reported to be it’s rarest and most famous feature and is said to represent ‘The Sermon On The Mount.’ An excellent example of a pre-1700 garden with a magnificent spiral yew crowning the summit known as ‘The Master.’ A dozen yews flank it said to represent the Apostles and beneath them are smaller yews called ‘The Multitude.’ These were planted to replace an orchard in the nineteenth century.
A set of 18th century gates lead south out of the garden. On the outer face of the wall can be seen 30 round-headed niches for bee skeps.
The raised area of the garden is a good spot for taking photos! Packwood was donated to the NT in memory of his parents and he continued to live there until 1947, when he then moved to Wingfield Castle. Here, he continued to live the life of a bachelor until his death at 91, in 1980.