Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A Grand Day Out

I doth my hat

 As regular readers will know, Enville is one of our favourite places; a truly magical location set in the rolling hills and valleys in the West Midlands between the rivers Severn and Stour.  The scenery is breathtaking and the village is noted for the historic Enville Hall and a more recent discovery.  More on that later.

The Hall was originally the residence of the Grey family from Leicestershire, who also built Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, the home of Lady Jane Grey.  A minor branch of the family made the move to Staffordshire in the late 15th century and acquired the manor through marriage.  Thomas Grey built a new house with turrets and crow stepped gables in the 1530s.  A large number of the family were executed in the early part of the 16th century, but the Leicestershire branch survived.

The 2nd Baron Grey of Groby wed Anne Cecil, the youngest daughter and co-heir of William Cecil, 3rd Earl of Exeter in 1620.  Through his wife, Henry inherited land and property and in 1628 was created Earl of Stamford.  The title was at first held by the Bradgate branch until it descended to his cousin Harry, an Enville resident, on the death of the 2nd Earl.  His son (also Harry) became the 4th Earl and decided to make Enville his home.  The Bradgate house accordingly, was bricked up and the park retained for hunting and game.

The 4th Earl began work, assisted by Sanderson Miller, an architect from Warwickshire and local poet, William Shenstone.  The resulting great landscape garden in an already naturally beautiful area of hills, pools and streams became the envy of high society from the 1750s onwards, extending to over 750 acres with a variety of buildings, cascades and bridges.

"How sweetly smiled the hill, the vale

And all the landscape round!

The river gliding down the dale

The hill with beeches crown'd"

William Shenstone

Giant Purple Beech

It was the 5th Earl who completed the park in the 1770s before modernising the house.  There are suggestions that Capability Brown had a hand (perhaps he signed off on work carried out by one of his minions).  Plans for a new Palladian mansion were drawn up by Sir William Chambers, but the 5th Earl opted for a design created by Thomas Hope.  The original Tudor country house was encapsulated within a gothic castellated frontage which is what remains today (glimpsed here in November 2021).

Two years ago, after a break of around two decades, we were frustrated to have missed out on Enville Hall's decision to open its gardens to the general public, being away on holiday at the time.  So you can only imagine my excitement when, a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a sign in the village advertising another open day on 4th June.  This time, not only the gardens (listed as a Grade II landscape on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens) were open, but there was a Coronation Exhibition on in part of the hall.  I wasn't so interested in the exhibition, but a chance to catch a glimpse of the interior?  Yes please. Desperate to see and visually document everything in full, this date was immediately scrawled and underlined on the calendar.

Post viral fatigue aside, the perfect sunny day dawned and we met up with my Mom and Gareth's Dad after lunch for a leisurely stroll around the pleasure gardens, or as Gareth's Dad phrased it "We'm goin' up to the big 'ouse to collect our wages."  

Fancy joining me?  Warning.  This is a photo heavy post!

Let's first venture inside.  

A first for me and whilst the access granted was limited, isn't it divine?

It may be grand, but evidence of the owners and their country pursuits was plentiful in this entrance hall.

Still, there was no doubting its grandeur.

I loved these period radiators and even the pipes hadn't been overlooked!

Oh and don't forget to look up!

Various portraits adorned the entrance hall, including this one, of the aforementioned Lady Jane Grey (Queen for nine days in 1553, before being executed, alongside her husband, at the tender age of 16).  Lady Jane was rumoured to have visited Enville Hall during her short life and there have been numerous reported sightings of her ghost in the surrounding area.

The coronation exhibition was small and presented in an adjoining room, although photography was prohibited.  Shame, there was the most beautifully aged Porter's chair.  We've only ever seen another like it at the NT's Snowshill Manor.

Back outside, I couldn't resist popping into the outside toilet, purely to photograph these stunning floor tiles.

Let's head outside and up towards the lawn, 

past a pile of architectural salvage...

and these impressive potted hostas (no slug damage - what is their secret?)

Refreshments anyone?  Or shall we just carry on?

Just a few more steps away off to the right, we came across this beauty of a swimming pool, drained and jaded.

I followed Mom into this quintessentially English country garden along a delightful pathway through borders bursting with colour and life.

Clematis, poppies, alliums and peonies.

Roses, Phlomis Russeliana, Irises

Through the arch at the end, we encountered this enchanting little building, erected using reclaimed materials.

The sweet peas approved.

The path eventually opened out into a larger, more untamed area.  

No Mow May had clearly been observed, but winding pathways had been mown in readiness for the June open day...

Mom taking in the views

...some edging around the perimeter of the grounds and others leading to carefully trimmed box hedged corridors with statues and planters - stone and former water tank providing focal points.

Check out this very lifelike statue!

We were soon back to the wilderness and this stumpery with its exquisitely twisted branches.

Bugs were well catered for in this area of the garden.  A large bug hotel was located within the layers of sandstone.  

Once again this narrow pathway gave way to yet another open green space with a choice of routes.  We elected to follow this path, winding up a gentle incline with a tantalising glimpse of what lay ahead...

...the "Gothic Greenhouse."  It's quite possibly the most beautiful garden building I've ever seen (designed by Sanderson Miller) and used variously, throughout its history as a place to over-winter tender plants, a Billiard Room containing busts of Homer and Cicero and by the Victorians, as a tiny Natural History Museum!

You might recall my recent blog about the Knight's Templar graves recently uncovered at Enville Church - Winter Peach Photography: A Night for Knights and Greensleeves

If you look closely to the left of the photo above, you might spot a cordoned off grave.  Just out of sight was the distinctive Maltese cross marking.  The final resting place of another Templar Knight?  I think it might just be.

A glimpse inside before we move on....

...past the remnants of a boat house...

...and through the rhododendron walk.

By now, the hall looked very far away.

One intriguing area was out of bounds.  Whilst perfectly visible as just another field, it was once the site of this incredible conservatory, a Midlands Crystal Palace, delivered piece by piece by barge and horse and cart.  Sadly, the building was destroyed by fire, but in this surviving photo, you can see the impressive Moorish domes.

Finally, the Hall was once again in clear view, just beyond Seahorse Pool.

This fountain, built in 1853 to a design by local architect Edward Smith depicts Triton, the Greek sea god, surrounded by four seahorses.  These are very early concrete structures reinforced with iron rods and before builders became aware of the issue of corrosion that would result from a mix of water, iron and concrete.

We retraced our steps back towards the beautiful flower borders, this time via the vegetable garden...

...and the 'Eel Stew'; where once upon a time, eels fished from the ponds and lakes were left to detox before being served up at dinner!

The penultimate item on our to do list was a visit to the pet cemetery, accessed via a sloping path in front of the hall.  We passed this suitably creepy lightning casualty before spying a lengthy line of grave stones running adjacent to a fence in the shade of still living trees.

A few caught my attention, for various interesting name or detail of the occupant's demise.

Delialiah (1918-1921), Zina and Tom ("a gallant old dog") and Don ("Her Ladyship's dog, found dead on Enville Common, February 22nd 1895").

Finally, a breather in a shady nook....

Chair arm detail

...but I resist a rare opportunity to examine the front of the house at close proximity.

I'll leave you with a brain tease.  Can anyone identify this, taking pride of place outside the Hall's main entrance?

Thanks for reading and a fond farewell to Enville Hall!  I really hope to see you again some day.


  1. a machine to torture unpleasant visitors??? ;-D
    if there were a basin underneath i would think about a fruit press.......
    thank you for taking us with you on this rare opportunity!! its a stunning house and a beautiful park and your pictures make me feel like i was there with you - very athmospheric photos.
    love the colourful tiles and the gothic orangery of cause...... the red beech is giant indeed - hope for the best - in our beloved park the old, huge red beeches had to be felled because of climate damage - way to hot, way to dry. sad.

    1. Hahaha! That must be it! ;-D
      Thank you. It is a stunning place. Glad you enjoyed your virtual trip!
      Very sad to hear about the beech trees. xxx

  2. What a treat indeed. I too would have jumped at the chance of having a peek inside and I loved taking a stroll with you through that quintessentially yet quirky English garden. Loving the enchanting little building, the statues and planters, and of course that magnificent stumpery, but it was the sight of the Gothic Greenhouse which made my heart skip a beat! What a fascinating place! As for that contraption outside the main entrance, I'm intrigued, but I'm loving Beate's suggestion which made me laugh! xxx

    1. The Gothic Greenhouse windows were incredible. It was bijou, but I could happily have moved in!
      Beate might be onto something! xxx

  3. What an absolute treat your visit to Enville Hall was! The photos are stunning. We really ought to go. I don't think I was aware of the Lady Jane Grey connection.
    The stumpery is rather lovely , I wouldn't mind a water feature like that or some of the statuary to accompany mine!
    Can't wait for Thursday! xxx

    1. Thanks Vix. You would have loved it! I'll definitely give you the heads up next time they open the gates! But any time you fancy a wonder around, let us know. It's still well worth exploring.
      I would happily find a place for a few of the estate's bits and pieces!
      Looking forward to seeing you too! xxx

  4. What a treat, to visit this lovely place along with you - thank you! Your pictures are marvelous! I laughed at that statue arm - so lifelike! *snort*

  5. An amazing looking place Claire! I think you might find the large weighted stone as seen in the picture at the end is actually a 16thC method of straightening hair AND skirt hemlines at the same time. It was uncouth for a lady to bend down however, so she simply had to grow the hair long and just straighten the ends. This gave way to the hairstyle 'frizzed topped pancake ends' which was quite rage until 'full out curly' became the dominant style. Now that living armed statue and eel pit are a little creepy. Loving the posh pipes though :) xXx

    1. I love your theory and the attention to detail! ;-D I can relate to "frizzed top." I think Ann is probably closer to the truth. She suggested it could be a cheese press.
      The eel pit freaked me out too.
      Thanks for spotting Gareth's handy work on the statue! xxx


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