While I was home for Easter, myself and my family visited a National Trust house and grounds that we haven’t been to before in the neighbouring county of Gloucestershire. As I mentioned in my Charlecote Park post we have been to most of the houses and estates that are nearby in Oxfordshire so it was great to explore somewhere new! With 450 years of history, Newark Park has been home to many families who have all made modifications to the lodge, resulting in the house seen today.
Originally much smaller than today, Newark started life in 1550 as a hunting lodge. After Protestant Nicholas Poyntz married Catholic Joan Berkeley in 1527, he used his connections with Henry VIII to obtain stone from the recently dissolved nearby Kingswood Abbey and built Newark House.
In 1593 Sir Thomas Lowe bought the house. Several modifications were made to the lodge by his son Sir Gabriel Lowe – enlarging the lodge by building a matching block to the west and adding a long ceilinged gallery on the top floor running north-south. Although the central staircase which joined the two blocks can no longer be seen, the top floor gallery can still be partly seen inside the house.
In 1790 Reverend Clutterbuck, who inherited Newark from his Godfather James Clutterbuck, set about modernising the house. Externally, Clutterbuck added battlements and a Gothick portico to the new south front, as well as landscaping the surrounding grounds. Internally, the changes were more radical and demonstrated a classical style, including the production of a new central hall.
In 1898 the Clutterbuck family let the house to Mrs Annie King, who made Newark into a home for herself and her children. She added a servants’ wing to the north of the house and her youngest daughter, Alice lived here until her death in 1949, when Newark Park was bequeathed by the Clutterbuck family to the National Trust.
From 1949-1969 the house was let as a nursing home until in 1970 Texan architecture Robert Parsons visited Newark Park and seeing it’s potential decided to take on the tenancy. Tenants Robert Parsons and Michael Claydon conducted a lot of work to make the house livable again, as well as modernising it by filling the rooms with art and furniture from around the world. From 2001 The National Trust began directly managing the house and garden, with the final tenant Michael Claydon moving out in 2011.
Typical of many historical properties, entry to the house and gardens is along a winding drive through open grassland. This offers beautiful views across the surrounding woodland and down into the Ozleworth valley to the Mendips beyond. Once parked, visitors can follow a track from the car park through the surrounding grounds and gardens to the house and walled garden.
When we visited, national trust volunteers were dressed in traditional clothing from throughout Newark’s long history, with several taking the personal history of particularly prominent individuals. We were greeted by a gentleman who told us that there were guided tours of the surrounding grounds and gardens, and that the next would begin in 10 minutes. We decided that this would be a brilliant way to get a good introduction to the house and grounds before we explored on our own so we waited around in the nearby garden.
Our guide was a very enthusiastic, welcoming and knowledge lady who took us from outside the house, down the landscaped drive through the lower garden, ponds, summerhouse and peacock tree before heading back up to the house for a final tour of the walled garden. Overall, it took around 45 minutes to an hour and gave a whistle-stop tour of the beautiful surrounding grounds and gardens, including the history of and changes made by Newark Park’s many residents. I particularly enjoyed hearing about ‘Spike’ the gold gilded dragon weather vane who was used as shooting practice during the lodge’s hunting days and the unusual carved gateposts which resemble wood from a distant but are in fact stone.
Newark Park House
Once we had finished this tour we decided to explore the house. On entering the house you immediately find yourself within the central hall created by James Clutterbuck in 1790, with several rooms leading off. The kitchen can be found downstairs to the left, just below the sweeping staircase. On the ground floor make sure to explore the dining room with it’s William Morris ceiling paper and model of Newark Park, which really helps you to understand the changes made to the house over the years.
As you move upstairs, it is hard to miss the beautiful stained glass windows which let in the sunlight. Definitely take time to explore the first bedroom on the left, especially the four poster bed and historical window in the modernised bathroom. Following the staircase up another floor, you find yourself on a large landing where the size of the original hunting lodge can be observed by the visible brickwork.
In the back right corner of this landing you will find a small wooden staircase which takes you up to the final floor. Look out for the intricate tiling behind a tap and basin on the stairs before you enter the first bedroom on your left. This room was one of my favourites, in particular the assortment of historical artifacts and garderobe found behind a curtain at the back left hand corner of the room! I also really enjoyed seeing the portrait stilettos in the bedroom next door, the beautiful views out across the grounds from the landing windows and the art exhibition in the fourth room.
I really enjoyed my visit to Newark Park! If you have time I would definitely recommend taking the garden tour as it gives a really good introduction to the history of both the house and gardens. If not, then a quick walk around the lawn, walled garden and house are enough to see some of the beautiful artifacts and history of Newark Park. There is plenty of room to enjoy a picnic or piece of cake and cup of tea on the lawn, and I would recommend having a play of the lawn games available (Bowls, croquet and chess when we visited).
…Just watch out for peacocks!
A Day in the Life…