I’m just back from visiting my daughter who lives in Worcestershire. We like to explore her local area where you’ll find lots of National Trust properties and this time she suggested we went to the Brockhampton Estate, about a half hour’s drive into adjoining Herefordshire.
Brockhampton is a 1,700-acre farmed estate and within it lies Lower Brockhampton Manor House, a timber-framed house dating back to 1425. The owners of the estate lived there until 1764 when Bartholomew Barneby inherited it. He decided the house was too small and old-fashioned for a gentleman so he built a new house, high above on the estate in the fashionable Georgian style, allowing farm workers to move into the original house.
The surrounding countryside is stunning (even on a rather cloudy day) and thus you can easily see the attraction of building a home high up for the views.
We arrived just before opening time at 10.00am but were allowed into the car park near the Old Apple Tea-room and told the Manor House didn’t open until 11.00am and its car park at 10.30.
We didn’t need much incentive to go into the tea-rooms and have a morning coffee (tea for Nicola). We also had some delicious home-made cake with our drinks and by this time 9-month-old Rufus had woken up and was ready to join in the excitement of our expedition.
Nicola suggested we drive down to the Lower Brockhampton car park near the Manor House as it was quite a long walk with the baby in the pushchair.
Walking from the car park we passed a sweet little bookshop full of lots of secondhand books.
The Manor House itself is beautiful. Surrounded by a moat, it seemed perfect timing to visit for the moat was full of water lilies in bloom. I couldn’t help thinking that Monet would have loved it!
You access the house by going through the gatehouse which crosses the moat and was built in 1530-40. As you go through you can climb some stairs to see inside.
We were warmly welcomed at the front door and told we could leave the pushchair there while we walked round the house.
The house has seen many changes in its history and has thus been laid out to take you through 500 years from the Medieval Great Hall through to the 1950s.
From the Great Hall you go up a staircase into the Minstrels’ Gallery and through to the bedrooms. The first bedroom was Isabella Barneby’s and set up as it was in 1685. You walk through that into a bedroom used by the farm workers who moved in in the 18th century. A much more simple affair.
Walking on you come into the eaves of the Manor House where a small house frame was set up with pieces of wood to allow you to continue putting it together. Apparently families can challenge each other, working from different ends, to complete it. We didn’t do that but spent some time there as Rufus simply adored the little house, which was just the right size for him. He wandered in and out, laughing at us from between the gaps.
Off this area was a bedroom dedicated to a young 21-year-old local lad, Albert, who fought in the First World War and was killed on the Western Front in 1917. It was really quite moving to see his things laid carefully out and read that he was the only son of Alfred Sprague, a local gamekeeper, and his wife Sarah.
Downstairs we entered the kitchen, known as ‘Alice’s Kitchen’. Alice was the wife of one of the gamekeepers so partridges and pheasants would be brought to hang and she would cook for hunting parties using not just the game but vegetables and fruits from the farm. This was a ‘modern’ kitchen in 1910.
A little further on was the ale room. Ale was the diet of ordinary people at the time – a safer option than drinking the water then.
The lounge (sitting room) is set up as it was in 1952, when our present Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne (she wasn’t crowned until the following year). An old wireless (radio) was playing; a tea service sat on a side table; a treadle sewing machine was ready for making and mending clothes and furnishings. There were a few children’s toys, a writing bureau, but this was still too early for there to be a television.
The ‘Gentleman’s Study’ dates back to 1936. Newspapers of the time, announcing King George V’s death lay on a table; a record player sat on a side table with long-playing records; and a decanter of whisky waited by a chair on a small table.
Outside again, you can walk round and into the ruins of a chapel that dates back to 1283 in documents and maybe even further back to 1166.
The Granary Shop is a delightful place with a small but beautiful collection of plants to buy.
Inside there are many temptations. And no, I didn’t resist! I bought amongst a couple of other things some Brockhampton Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil. You can also buy some snacks and sit at tables outside.
We sat with some chilled apple juice for a while then, once refreshed, we decided to take a look at the orchard. We got a great view of the Manor House and surrounding countryside as we walked on.
There’s currently a large restoration project going on in the orchard. It is rather neglected-looking at the moment, it has to be said, but great to know that work is under way to restore it to its former glory with apple, pear and cherry trees.
We had a great time and saw a lot but there’s plenty more to do and see, especially for families with a Natural Play Trail and regular events (see the website). There are a number of walks shown on a map that you’re given when you arrive, from the 1-mile Bottom to Top Trail to a Parkland Walk of 3 miles and a 3¾ mile carriage walk that traces the route taken by Georgian carriages.
I had a wonderful time, not just because it’s lovely to spend time with my daughter and youngest grandson, but because Brockhampton itself was such a delight. It was one of the nicest National Trust places I’d ever been to, I told Nicola as we were leaving. This was in part because everyone we encountered, from the man at the main entrance when we arrived, the woman in the tea-rooms, the lovely woman at the ticket kiosk by the second car park who was selling tickets to non National Trust members (£10) to go into the house and its grounds, and who told us about the orchard project, which made us want to see it; the man at the front of the Manor House, the woman in the Granary Shop … everyone was so welcoming and friendly, which added to the intimate feel of the place. But Brockhampton is also beautiful and beautifully maintained with a true sense of love and care. It made it a joy to spend a couple of hours or so there.