Croome, Worcestershire – Hall and St Mary Magdalene

Croome is a National Trust property not far south from Pershore, so we headed there on Sunday 26 May. The car park was filling up as we arrived, and there were queues to get in. However they soon sorted us, and the chap went to get the wheelchair accessible buggy. He drove us down – quite a way through the Park. When we got to the House we were introduced to the stair climber. It worked.

The landscape and the house are the product of the vision (and money) of George William, 6th Earl of Coventry (1722-1809). He employed Capability Brown to the do the landscape and Robert Adam to do the house. Adam has returned from Italy two years before he started designing Croome in 1760. The old house was used as a template, and was altered and extended in the Palladian style. My NT guidebook tells me this is “named after the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, whose work aspired to the symmetry of classical temple architecture.”

Once inside we found a house which was empty, but they had done some interesting things with it. The Main Hall and Billiard Room are welcoming spaces, full of bustle and nice volunteers, then into the Long Gallery. The fact that there is not lots of ‘stuff’ means you appreciate the ceilings and fireplaces.

In the Saloon they had Croome Court, Worcestershire by Richard Wilson, circa 1758, and the current view by Anthony Bridge (and a display of other works by him). A fascinating display.

The next room had painted plasterwork, and Garniture by Amy Jayne Hughes, a display of ceramic work as a response to the porcelain collection in the next room. The golden box was an interesting display – enough to be interesting, but not overwhelming.

There was a tapestry by Grayston Perry, with a message about the class divide, the haves and have nots. I did wonder what it says about privilege that it costs £33.40 for a family to come and see it.

Sadly Julie couldn’t get upstairs to see the Worcester Embroiderers’ Guild exhibition, which she would have loved. Will we ever get to stage where, when taking buildings on and spending money on them, we will include the installation of properly lifts. They did it at Kew Palace, so it can be done.

Even more annoyingly, she couldn’t get downstairs to the café. We used the stair climber to exit the property and walked round the back. I went up to the Rotunda, but the paths were not really Julie-friendly, and the weather wasn’t brilliant. We buggied back to Reception.

After a sandwich for lunch, I walked down to the Church – SO 886450. Although the property is in the hands of the NT – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome – the church is cared for the by the Churches Conservation Trust – https://www.visitchurches.org.uk/visit/church-listing/st-mary-croome.html. I’ve just found the church page on the NT website – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome/features/st-mary-magdalene-church-croome – which is great.

The original church was destroyed by the 6th Earl when he rebuilt the house, and this new one was designed as an ‘eye catcher’ by Capability Brown. There is something typical about moving the convenient church further away just so it looks better!

Robert Adam designed the interior – as the website says: “the church is a perfect fantasy of the period, with elegant Gothick windows and plasterwork, pulpit, communion rails, commandments and creed boards.”

Some of the monuments were transferred from the old church, but it is difficult to work out which Baron Coventry was this. The first one is John, 4th Baron, 1654-87. I like the way his hand is reaching up to a the bosom of the lady.

This is Mary Craven, who married Thomas, the 2nd Baron, in 1627 and died in 1634. He lies nearby, looking like he needs a pillow. He died in 1661. Then I did the maths and realise that she died after they’d been married for only 7 years, and he was younger than me when he expired.

I think this is the first Baron, died 1639 or thereabouts.

I have to say that this was not up to the normal standard of CCT presentation. There was no guidebook, no cared-for displays, and no real interpretation. But the church was buzzing. It is the a convenient stop on the long walk from the NT Reception down into the Park, and practically everyone stops, wanders in, wanders round, and wanders out. I suspect that someone from the NT unlocks and locks – and that’s about it. There should be a proper display about the church, this is an ideal to location to advertise other CCT churches nearby – not just with a pile of leaflets, but with a proper display. Surely there could be a link with the Diocese of Worcester to advertise other nearby churches worth visiting. Is it too much to hope that there could be something which explains the faith that meant this church was built?

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