Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire

In which we didn’t quite freeze…

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I think these may have been the only other visitors while we were there, sorry but my editing abilities fall far short of deleting this couple…

It’s confession time. Baddesley Clinton has to be one the National Trust’s most photogenic properties, but a combination of extreme cold and having so much fun chatting to the room guides, means that I didn’t take a lot of photos on our recent visit. In all the following, I just want you to imagine what it would be like to use your camera in a dark freezer …

And so, Baddesley Clinton, what can I say…

Well, I’ve been several times before (although not for some years), and never on such a cold afternoon. But without doubt, despite the temperature, this was my favourite visit – not because of the house, which as I suppose we’d all hope, hadn’t changed much, but because of the wonderfully enthusiastic and dare I say it, mildly eccentric room guides we met (eccentricity in the best possible tradition).

Right from the start, we found ourselves involved in a series of conversations which were somehow both informative and simultaneously quirky. I’ve been visiting historic houses since they built the Ark, but I’ve never before met so many characters in one place, who in their individual ways engaged with us.

Perhaps the cold was encouraging all of us to be more chatty than normal, or maybe it was because there weren’t a lot of people walking around and in a small house it feels impolite to ignore someone standing inches away from you – whatever the reason, by the time I came away, I felt that we’d well and truly enjoyed ourselves.

I can’t really recreate that experience here, so instead I’ll show you the pictures that I did actually take and just say that if you’re ever near Baddesley Clinton on a Wednesday afternoon – go!

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I really do feel that any home should have a jolly big sword hanging on the wall of the gatehouse, don’t you…

Once you walk through, you find yourself in this delightful area.

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Not what you imagine from the outside.

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Inside looking out from those windows.

Sorry, my interior shots were pretty terrible, I’m no good in low light at the best of times.

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The fireplaces are impressive at Baddesley Clinton. I hope you can see from this picture that it has a wonderfully live-in-able quality.

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I forgot to ask about this… Cromwellian armour with an alarming hole in the breastplate, but pictures of men who were Royalists? intriguing…

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Jacobean paintwork. I adore this mantlepiece and would have loved to have sat and stared at it for hours.

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Spot the bloodstain in front of the fireplace? Legend says it was here that Nicholas Brome killed the local priest for tickling his wife in around 1480… Sadly apparently tests say it’s actually pig’s blood, I have to say I’m going to carry on believing it to be the priest’s.

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You might be wondering why this is here, but we had to do a double take – I have that same tea-service, it was my grandmother’s wedding present.

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Who wouldn’t love to be able to stare out of that window across the moat to the trees – sublime.

What of the house’s history?

The part that captivates my heart most of all, is the connection to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Baddesley Clinton was rented in the 1590s by the Vaux sisters, who were recusants, providing safe hiding places for Catholic priests at a time when they were forbidden to practice their faith. There are three priest-holes at Baddesley Clinton, purportedly built by Nicholas Owen at the behest of Anne Vaux, who was particularly attached to Father Henry Garnet, one of the most famous Catholic priests of that era. The house was raided while priests were present, but the hiding places did their job and they weren’t found. I like to imagine the atmosphere inside the house on that morning, what was it like to be woken by frantic pounding, to quickly have to hide the priests and all their paraphernalia, to turn warm mattresses so that they wouldn’t give away the presence of other people, and then to act super cool while your home is ripped apart, all the time knowing that men’s lives depended on you.

Anne Vaux is suspected by some people of being responsible for the Monteagle letter which warned William Parker not to attend Parliament on 5th November, and thereby eventually tipping off the authorities that the Plot was afoot. Whatever the truth, Anne Vaux lived to see the demise of the priests she harboured. A sad end in so many ways.

So much of the Elizabethan and Jacobean fabric of Baddesley Clinton remains, that it is easy to recreate it in your mind’s eye. I do wish the National Trust hadn’t Victorianised the Great Parlour, it was such a wonderful space, grand and airy, that re-creating the overdone interior of the Victorian owners seems to stifle the life out of it. But then, I’m no great fan of things Victorian in general, and I suppose it will appeal to some people. Just try to see beyond the stuff if you go and imagine it as the builder intended.

 

There’s so much more to see and enjoy at Baddesley Clinton – especially if you go an a warm day. The tiny church which is just a little walk from the house is also worth a visit. But based on our experience, I’d try very hard to make sure you go on a Wednesday afternoon!

For more information…

For visitor information, go here to the National Trust page for Baddesley Clinton

Packwood House is also owned by The National Trust and is only a few miles from Baddesley Clinton, if you have time, go to both.

My favourite book about the Gunpowder Plot is by Antonia Fraser:  The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605. You can pick it up second-hand from a couple of £s on Abe books etc.

Another house with an incredible collection of priest-holes, is Harvington Hall, Worcestershire (one of my top ever houses, but for very quirky personal reasons). Let me know if you get the same feelings from there.

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19 thoughts on “Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire

  1. Helen Devries says:

    My mother was at Naworth Castle near Carlisle during the war and was taken to see the priest hole there and the concealed steps leading to an escape tunnel…but I believe that Naworth is in private hands, unfortunately.
    Baddesley Clinton is just beautiful….

    • Anny says:

      I love these little pieces of the historic jigsaw – you’re right, Naworth is privately owned and I think a hotel now, but there was a Lord William Howard who was a recusant who was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time of the Plot, so your mother was lucky to have seen a secret part of the castle. I wonder how many more are still out there to be found…

      • Helen Devries says:

        Belted Will! There was a portrait of him on the staircase, she remembers.
        If it’s a hotel then i wonder if they use the room in which there was always a light (this was in the wartime days of the blackout) and which no dog would enter….or the room where my mother slept on her first night there when she thought her friends upstairs were playing ghost games with chains rattling – and they thought it was her….

  2. rusty duck says:

    What a fantastic house! It’s just the sort of place I love to visit.
    I think I’ve been following the wrong blog, Mostly Motley… for months. I have loaded Dreaming in Stitches on to my reader, is that your main blog now? Sorry to have missed so many posts!

    • Anny says:

      Hi Jessica, it’s entirely my own fault, ‘flakey’ is my middle name! I’ve experimented with trying to keep to single topic blogs, but frankly now I’d prefer to be myself in one place and Dreaming is my natural home. I suppose I’ve changed my attitude quite a lot since I started blogging. I’m wondering about bringing the historic places posts in under Dreaming too, but for now I’ll just mention them and see what happens. So glad to hear from you and thanks very much for sticking with me.

  3. Perpetua says:

    Oh, super, Anny. I’ve heard of Baddesley Clinton, but have never visited, so I really must remedy the omission. As you say, the interior looks so much more domestic and liveable than the frontage implies. I love places with nooks and crannies to explore which is why I so much enjoyed our visit to another NY property, Rufford Old Hall, which I blogged about recently.

    Incidentally, that china pattern must have been very popular in Victorian times. I too have a tea-set passed down from my grandmother, which she had inherited from an elderly neighbour. 🙂 The cup shape is different and the pattern on the plates and saucers differs too, but the patterning on the cups is almost identical.

    • Anny says:

      I have to say it is one of the houses I could imagine living in, but I’d need to do something about the heating – I don’t suppose being surrounded by a moat helps!

  4. Jo Woolf says:

    Anny, I would love this too! What a delightful looking place, and I can only imagine the guides! I had a similar experience at Falkland Palace recently! I have a feeling that, if I were to volunteer as a room guide, I would be tempted to hide somewhere and scare people. I do agree that every household should have a polished sword at hand, and I’m going to find one now and put it in our hall, ready for the next person who stuffs rubbish through the door.

    I was also interested to read this post because I too have a horror of all things Victorian. I have no idea why – this period in history interests me very little, and even their furniture is usually horrible. I certainly think with your tea set you could perhaps claim a distant ownership of Baddesley Clinton, especially since you felt at home there!

    And a local priest was stabbed to death for tickling someone’s wife? Goodness me. There’s a story there! There’s also a story in the Monteagle letter which I was interested to read about. Why did William Parker not burn it as instructed? I also got quite excited from reading one of the comments, about a room into which dogs refuse to go, where there was always a light showing… but I see that’s referring to Naworth Castle (which I now wish to visit!).

    Finally, and sorry for such a long comment, I love your photos, especially the one looking at the garden through the stained glass!

    • Anny says:

      Hi Jo, I’m sure you’d love it, as indeed I think the room guides definitely do too.
      The whole story behind the Gunpowder Plot is fascinating, it has everything, mystery, thriller, love story, crimes, politics, religion – you name it! A lot of the houses associated with Plotters still stand – I once worked out a sort of journey plan that included them, I must try and dig that out some time.There were families dotted around the Midlands in particular with men involved in the Plot and I find it enormously moving to imagine how they must all have felt as the Plot failed and their loved ones fled in desperation. I can never visit any of those places without thinking about them.

  5. threadpaintersart says:

    Hi Anny,
    I am a new follower from Canada who absolutely love ancient, cold, stone things. So much history still evident today for the British. Canada is so young in comparison. My Scot/Irish ancestors came here in the 1840’s and I have spent the last six years trying to find out everything I can about them … but very difficult to glean anything before their arrival in Canada.
    I busy myself with tracking down where they lived with photos of farms, their hand-built field stone houses, barns, silos, etc. Luckily several generations lived in these places and some evidence is still there … even if it’s just a tree.
    I appreciate the history you provide … fascinating ! And … I agree, the place is stuffed and ready to live in … not what I want to see …so sorry that it is now a hotel (though, if I ever were to visit, I think I could overcome my distaste to stay there a while !

    • Anny says:

      Hello, thank you for your lovely comment. It must be very challenging, tracing your ancestral history from so far away – in distance and time, it’s hard enough for us to do it with the resources right on our doorsteps. I’m not sure why you think it’s a hotel – I wonder if I’ve confused you somehow – it’s owned by the National Trust which is an organisation which preserves historic buildings, opening most to the public – so definitely one to visit if you come here! If you ever do visit, let me know, there are so many wonderful places you’d enjoy seeing that don’t get much publicity, I’d be delighted to suggest some for you. Best wishes Anny

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