Opportunity to explore a beautiful part of England
Wonderful choice of houses across many different periods
Dramatic landscape settings & some fine gardens included
Many private visits, frequently with lunch hosted by the owners
Exclusive use of lovely small hotel in quiet village setting, with good food
Shropshire remains delightfully old-fashioned, rural and mostly untouched by twentieth century modernisation - almost unknown and largely unvisited. This is a pity, because it is awash with wonderful houses, fine gardens and unspoilt towns and villages. This is the heart of ‘black & white’ building country, with fine examples to be found in almost every town and village. There is a wealth of stone from the Longmynd and Wrekin Hills as well as a large quantity of brick buildings.
After a turbulent early history it was the Tudors who brought peace and prosperity to this area when the local gentry started to build manor houses, some of which we shall see. During the eighteenth century it saw a great upsurge in country house building with many of these still in the hands of the original building families. Simultaneously, the Severn Valley was the cradle of the Industrial revolution, with the first iron bridge being built in 1770. The great wealth which flowed from these endeavours meant that the late Georgian period particularly provided Shropshire with a further series of fine houses as the neo-classical movement inspired by the work of Robert Adam and his contemporaries overwhelmed the preceding Palladian style.
Those who came on our earlier tours to Shropshire some years ago were amazed not only at the wonders that we saw but also the warmth of the welcome we received from the owners of the private houses that we visited. Indeed, it is the private houses and their owners who will welcome us, that will again form the major theme of this, our third visit to the county. A few houses may be familiar, while most will not have been included previously. All the houses to be visited are privately owned and lived in and none are open to the public.
Of the many ‘black and white’ houses in Shropshire the most famous is Pitchford Hall, indeed it is England’s finest Elizabethan half-timbered black and white house. Aldenham Park is, like so many English country houses, made up of a series of building campaigns over the centuries, and the resulting whole is entirely pleasing. Loton Park began as a Jacobean house, again much altered but it is a magnificent example of brick architecture at its best and has been the seat of the Leighton family for over three hundred years. Another fine brick house we shall see is Iscoyd Park, just across the border into Wales. Some houses which we shall visit cannot be named as the owners have requested anonymity.
We shall also make time to explore the handsome market town of Shrewsbury and some of the surrounding villages. Finally, several important gardens including Hodnet Hall and Wollerton Old Hall will also be included.
We shall be based in picturesque countryside north-west of Bridgnorth, in the village of Worfield. Our accommodation will be in the highly regarded Old Vicarage Hotel which also has an excellent restaurant.
Day by day
- Day 1: Sunday 15 July
- Participants should arrive in Worfield, a few miles outside Bridgnorth, in the late afternoon and check into The Old Vicarage Hotel. We meet formally for our first group dinner in the hotel and wine, water and coffee are included with all group dinners and most lunches. On the following days all the houses to be visited are privately owned and lived in and none are open to the public.
- Day 2: Monday 16 July
- Our first visit will be to Hatton Grange, near Shifnal, where Rupert and Christina Kenyon-Slaney will welcome us to their lovely Georgian house, one of many built by the talented Shrewsbury architect T. F. Pritchard. Here we shall enjoy lunch. We continue to Aldenham Park, built for the Acton family in the seventeenth century and altered several times since. Now the home of Henrietta Fenwick, she will give us a private tour. We return to Worfield and the evening will be free.
- Day 3: Tuesday 17 July
- This morning we drive up to the Welsh border near Wrexham for a visit to lovely Iscoyd Park, a Georgian house recently restored by the owners, Philip and Susie Godsal, who will host our private tour and subsequent lunch. We then visit the justly famed gardens of Wollerton Old Hall, one of the great gardens of England, ending our day at the nearby Hodnet Hall Gardens. We return to Worfield and the evening will be free.
- Day 4: Wednesday 18 July
- Oakly Park, the seat of the Earls of Plymouth, is an early eighteenth century house, stylishly altered in the early nineteenth by C. R. Cockerell which we shall visit subject to confirmation. We continue to Stokesay Court, the home of Caroline Magnus. Here we shall have lunch and marvel at what she has done to the house, virtually uninhabitable when she inherited it, for Stokesay Court is nothing less than one of the most important, unaltered Victorian interiors in existence. We return to Worfield and the evening will be free.
- Day 5: Thursday 19 July
- Shrewsbury has two natural advantages: it is built on a “Rocky Hill of Stone” (Leland) which not only provides a source of building material but also offers an intriguing skyline. The other is that the River Severn makes an enormous loop all the way round the medieval town centre and at its neck the distance between the river’s course is only three hundred yards. It prospered throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and after a decline flourished again from Tudor times through the Stuarts and enjoyed a resurgence in the eighteenth century. There is a wealth of fine vernacular architecture from black and white through Tudor and Jacobean stone houses to complete streets of red brick Georgian ones. Shrewsbury Abbey was from Norman days one of the most important in the land, the Norman and thirteenth century Collegiate Church of St. Mary has one of the best collections of late medieval stained glass (most of it German) and St Chad’s, built 1790-92 not only occupies a fine position, but with its wonderfully spatial interior is quite simply one of the finest neo-classical churches in existence. After lunch, not included today, we visit Loton Park, which began as a Jacobean house, again much altered, but it is a magnificent example of brick architecture at its best. It has been the seat of the Leighton family for over three hundred years. We return to Worfield and we have dinner in the hotel.
- Day 6: Friday 20 July
- Today we visit two privately owned houses, both of whose owners have asked us not to publish their identities. The first is a remarkable early nineteenth century neo-classical house by a member of the Wyatt family, sitting in a superb park, with excellent contents set within a series of ingeniously planned spaces and where we shall have lunch. The second is a no less remarkable house, this time in the ‘Grecian’ taste, set within a magical park, which we shall also explore. We return to Worfield where we have our final group dinner.
- Day 7: Saturday 21 July
- Of the many ‘black and white’ houses in Shropshire the most famous is Pitchford Hall, indeed it is England’s finest half-timbered house. In single family ownership since the Tudor period, tragically it had to be sold in 1992 but after years of neglect by the new owner, it has just been bought back by the Colthurst family. Not normally open to the public, we are very lucky to be able to see the house in the early stages of its much-needed restoration. Our visit comes to a formal end just before lunchtime.
- Price: £1,870 per person
- Deposit: £250
- Single Supplement: £225 (Double Room for Sole Use)
6 nights with breakfast at the 4* Old Vicarage Hotel, Worfield
3 dinners & 4 lunches with wine, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, the services of Tom Duncan
Travel to/from Worfield, 3 dinners & 2 lunches
Weather Conditions for Shropshire in July are:
Average Temperature between: 14oC - 22oC / 57oF - 71oF
Rainfall: 57mm / 2.2 inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.