We have been wanting to visit Sledmere House for several years, so set off with high hopes having read about the beautiful rooms with splendid plaster work and fine examples of Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton furniture. Their web site is gushing as are those written for Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit Hull and East Yorkshire.
We specifically chose to go on a day when there were no guided tours and visits were by free flow. We prefer to go at our own pace and find that guided tours can place to much emphasis on the family portraits which we find boring.
What we hadn’t realised was that there is virtually no information in the house about the rooms and contents. This is a major omission and could easily be remedied with a bit of time and thought. The most prominent labels were ‘No photography in the house’ and ‘Take care when going down the stairs’. There were no room stewards around to talk to or ask questions. There was a large disabled group going round so perhaps they were all tied up in helping them? A very few items of furniture did have a tiny sign with a little bit of information. If we saw the Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton furniture, we didn’t recognise it. Rooms are also roped off, which may cause problems with viewing if the house is busy.
And what about the beautiful rooms? The grand entrance hall with its staircase, dining room and the library were impressive and the Turkish room is definitely different. The rest of the rooms were unmemorable. I usually take copious notes during a visit, but today they were very brief.
At £9 (or £8.50 for seniors) we felt this was expensive, especially compared by nearby Burton Agnes Hall which is the same price. We won’t be making another visit. It was raining when we visited, which may have coloured our views.
I have used the internet to flesh out this review as the Sledmere House website is also lacking in information and is quite basic.
The house was built in 1751 for Sir Christopher Sykes to replace a medieval manor house. The family had made their money from shipping and finance and he wanted a house to reflect his rising social status. His son added another two wings to the house. It is a Neo-classical design which is best seen from the knot garden to the west of the house. The east facade with the entrance is rather uninspiring and photography is not allowed in the house, which is why there are no pictures to go with this review.
The house suffered a disastrous fire in 1911 which gutted the house. Fortunately most of the contents were saved and the house meticulously restored.
The old village of Sledmere was cleared to make way for a vast estate of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown. The present village is the estate village for the house, with a big Home Farm across the road from the house. The Eleanor Cross is a replica of one in Northamptonshire. Eleanor’s body never rested here as she died near Lincoln. It was erected in 1895 and was later adapted to become a was memorial for the dead of the First World War. The massive Waggoner’s Memorial with its graphic scenes of war commemorates the men from the estate who joined the Wagoner’s Special Reserve and were some of the first men to go abroad in the First World War. There is a small museum about them by the house entrance.
The house is still surrounded by parkland with mature trees. There is a walled rose garden and also a knot garden.
It is a short walk from car park and ticket office to the house. There is a small rather austere entry hall with with whitewashed walls. At one end is a painted barometer. At the other a wind gauge.
This leads into the GRAND HALL which stretches nearly the length of the house and is a splendid room with white and green walls with decorative plaster panels. Above the doors are panels with gilded eagles. Along the walls are display cupboards with china. In the centre are four mock marble pillars surrounding the fire place with its easy chairs. This contains a small organ which is played some days. The grand staircase leads up from the hall.
Round the hall are a series of rooms. The HORSE ROOM has paintings of horses on the walls. Sir Tatton Sykes I was keen on horse racing. The room has a small desk as it as used for work in connection with the Sledmere Stud. There is also a lovely C18th German marquetry bureau cabinet.
Next to it is what the web site describes as the MUSIC ROOM as it contains a fine organ case. Google tells me there is nothing behind the facade of pipes and the organ can’t be played… This is an elegant room with pale grey walls with pink plaster panels, decorative plaster ceiling and a chandelier. By the fire is a large ebony screen inset with mother of pearl.
Across the hall is the DRAWING ROOM with a glorious cream, pale plum and blue plaster ceiling. Mirrors on the walls surrounded by narrow gilt frames reflect light back into the room. There is a central round table with upholstered chairs around it and more arranged along the walls. Near the door is a lovely embroidered panel worked with silk thread on what is described as filet lace. This depicts Christopher Columbus presenting his model of the new world to the Spanish Court.
Beyond this is the BOUDOIR with deep red damask wall coverings, plaster ceiling and chandelier. There are lots of family portraits on the walls, easy chairs and marquetry furniture.The windows look out over the knot garden.
The next room is the DINING ROOM, with pale blue walls and deep red curtains. There are decorative plaster panels on the ceiling around the chandelier. Two long mirrors on either side of the fire place have small chandeliers in front of them, so providing extra light. In the centre is a large dining table which is unlaid. Around it are what the website describes as Chinese style Chippendale chairs. The apse at the far end of the room with its supporting mock marble pillars, has a sideboard with a big clock on it. Hanging on the walls are blue and white plates.
Beyond the entrance hall and opposite the servants’ staircase is the TURKISH ROOM. This is most unusual with walls covered with blue and white glazed tiles and an enamelled chandelier. In front of the fireplace is a filigree peacock’s tail. There are small occasional tables inlaid with mother of pearl and two small chairs inlaid with ivory and different coloured woods. There is a hookah pipe. The website says this was designed for Sir Mark, the sixth baronet, and is a copy of one of the Sultan’s apartments in the Yeni Mosque in Istanbul. Sir Mark had travelled extensively through the Middle East and was a crucial figure in Middle East policy making during the First World War.
The GRAND STAIR CASE leads up to the first floor. At the top are two decorative black and gilt cupboards hiding old fashioned radiators. A corridor round the top of the staircase gives access to a series of bedrooms and bathrooms. These are mostly unmemorable and there is little to say about them except they contain Georgian four poster beds and furniture. The ORANGE BEDROOM has a display of 18th or 19th century children’s clothes, but again with no information about them. There is a sign about the bed which is unusual as it was made by the estate joiner in the early 1900s using the black and white keys from an old organ.
At the end of the house is the LIBRARY, possibly the most impressive room in the house with deep gold curtains, pale lemon walls and lemon, pale blue and gold barrel plaster ceiling. Walls are lined with big bookcases set between mock marble wall pillars. A big mobile wooden ladder gives access to the top shelves. There are two fire places with mirrors above and two large floor standing Chinese vases.
It was raining steadily so we didn’t explore the grounds. There are garden tours with the head gardener. We gave the Wagoners’s Museum and Terrace Cafe a miss too. Plants on sales in the courtyard looked to be past their best. Our overall verdict was could do better. The house does however offer excellent disabled access.
Sledmere House prides itself on having a lift to the first floor rooms, which was installed before planning regulations forbid additions like this to listed properties. It is popular with groups of disabled visitors as all of the house is accessible.
There are two wheelchairs which it is advisable to book before a visit.
The Coach park is across the road from the main entrance. There is disabled parking in the car park just inside the main gate. It is a short walk from the ticket office with small shop to the house, which has a ramp at the door. Assistance dogs are allowed inside the house.
Carers are admitted free.