Saturday, 24 September 2022

Claydon

Over the nine years of this project, I have discovered a category of National Trust properties that I call 'Doesn't Look Like Much From The Outside But Inside It's Amazing'. Claydon in Buckinghamshire is firmly in that category.

Claydon House

To be honest, I don't even know where to start with it. I'll try and begin with some of the rooms before I move on to the history of the Verney family.

The North Hall

The house was built for Ralph, the second Earl Verney, in the 1750s-1760s by Luke Lightfoot. He was a stonemason and woodcarver who had impressed Ralph with his work and it's easy to see why: all of the elaborate wall carvings you see in the terrible picture below are wood carvings by Lightfoot.

Unfortunately, Lightfoot had his limitations. The planned house was actually three times the size of what we see today - there was originally also a rotunda and a third wing. But he made mistakes in how the house was built - a respected architectural expert at the time referred to him as "an ignorant knave" - which probably resulted in the demolition of the rotunda and the other wing after only 20 years. (The demolition of the rotunda also explains why the house doesn't have a front entrance.)

During construction, it was also discovered that Lightfoot had been defrauding the Earl, and he was dismissed from the project before it was completed. (In a later court case, it was established that Lightfoot had been paid £30,000 but had only delivered £7,000 of work or goods.)

North Hall Claydon

The Saloon

The sacking of Lightfoot means that there is a mixture of styles in the house. The North Hall is fully Rococo and then you walk into the Saloon, which is Palladian. It's another show-stopper of a room, however, with a huge expanse of space covered in elaborately designed fittings.

You can probably guess what's coming next: the second Earl ended up in financial ruin and in 1784 work on the house stopped. The furniture was sold to cover his debts.

Saloon Claydon

The Chinese Room

I had done no real research on Claydon before I visited. If I had, I might have seen the guidebook descriptions of the Chinese Room as "the glory of Claydon" and "one of the most extraordinary rooms in any English country house". 

But I hadn't seen any of that, so I unsuspectingly wandered into the upstairs room and was completely dumbfounded by it. The alcove is a show-stopping sight, with its intricate wood carvings. The rest of the room is also covered in elaborate decoration. I've never seen anything like it. 

Chinese Room Claydon

Florence Nightingale Bedroom

After the jaw-dropping ostentation of the Chinese Room, you find yourself in rooms that are much simpler in style but come with huge amounts of fascinating history.

In 1858, Sir Harry Verney married Parthenope Nightingale, the older sister of Florence. (Both women were named after their birthplaces - Parthenope being the Ancient Greek name for Naples.) 

This meant that Florence spent a lot of time at Claydon from the 1860s through to 1895. There are various rooms that provide insight into her life, her former bedroom being one of them:

Florence Nightingale bedroom

There's a portrait of Florence in her room that really didn't match the image I had of her in my mind, but I liked it all the more for that: 

Florence Nightingale portrait

The Claydon Museum

At this point in my visit, I was sure that Claydon couldn't possibly have any more rooms that would wow me. But Claydon wasn't done and I walked into the final flourish; The Museum. It was created by Sir Harry Verney in 1893 to showcase his artefacts from around the world. I failed to get any good photos of his gamelan, a set of gongs and other instruments from Java. But I did get this picture of the case dedicated to Florence - it's a replica of the type of Turkish lamp that she would have used as a nurse in the Crimea when she became famous as the Lady with the Lamp.

Florence Nightingale Lamp Claydon

Until now, I have always avoided doing 'room by room' descriptions on this blog but it really is the best way to describe the Claydon experience. To be clear, there were other rooms too - I've only shared the most awe-inspiring ones.

Anyway. Before I get to the scone, let me tell you a bit more about the Verney family:
  • There have been Verneys in Buckinghamshire since the 1200s
  • In around 1463, the manor of Middle Claydon was bought by one Sir Ralph Verney who had been Lord Mayor of London
  • The house was leased to a Roger Giffard, who built a house on the site of today's building as well as the chancel of All Saints church that stands next to it
  • In 1620, Sir Edmund Verney decided he wanted Claydon back - he bought the Giffards out of their tenancy and became the first Verney to actually live there
  • Sir Edmund was a very interesting man: he had served both Charles I and his older brother, who died prematurely. When Charles acceded to the throne, Edmund was a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber.
  • He was staunchly loyal to the King during the Civil War, even though he didn't agree with him. There's a lovely paragraph in the guidebook that explains his position: "I have eaten his Bread, and served him for nearly thirty Years, and will not do so base a Thing as to forsake him; and chuse rather to lose my Life (which I am sure I shall do) to preserve and defend those Things which are against my Conscience to preserve and defend."
  • Edmund was right about one thing: he did lose his life. His son Ralph had sided with the Parliamentarian cause and begged his father not to get involved but Edmund ended up as the King's Standard Bearer and died at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. 
  • It all gets a bit grisly in the guidebook after that: the enemy troops who killed him couldn't get the Standard from Edmund, so they hacked his hand off. That's the only bit of him that lies in his tomb in the church, as the rest of his corpse was never recovered.
  • Ralph was not rewarded for siding with Cromwell. He refused to sign the Solemn League and Covenant, and had to go into exile. Claydon was sequestered.
  • Ralph's wife, Lady Mary, came back to Claydon and found it in a terrible state. The house was returned to the Verneys and things improved under Charles II, with Ralph becoming the first baronet.
  • His son John was very successful as 2nd baronet and became Viscount Fermanagh in 1703
  • John's grandson, also Ralph, ended up as the second Earl in 1752 and it was he that built Claydon as we see it today
  • Claydon is located near Stowe, another NT property, which was owned by Sir Ralph's political opponent at the time. Sir Ralph upped his spending on Claydon to compete with the splendour of Stowe. Bad move, Ralph. 
  • But the house wasn't Ralph's only financial mistake. He was patron to Edmund Burke, the philosopher and economist, who wrote that Ralph "suspects nothing, fears nothing, he takes no precautions, he imagines all mankind to be his friend". And Burke would know - he and his cousin William owed Ralph £71,000 between them and they never repaid it. 
  • Ralph died a broken man. His niece, Mary, became Baroness Fermanagh. She took on the job of sorting out Claydon, demolishing the rotunda and other wing. 
  • Mary died in 1810. She was the last in the ancient line of Verneys, and the title died with her too. She left the house to a half-sister who had no children, so she passed it to her cousin, Harry Calvert, who changed his name to Verney.
  • He married Parthenope Nightingale after the death of his first wife 
  • My favourite fact of the whole day: Sir Harry was an MP and was known affectionately in Parliament as "the Member for Florence Nightingale" - I can't imagine there were many occasions in the 19th century when a man was known for being the brother-in-law of a woman more famous than him
  • The sixth baronet, Sir Edmund Verney, still farms the estate and lived with his family at Claydon until quite recently


The Claydon Scone

I wasn't 100% sure that I actually needed to include Claydon in this project. The house is owned by the National Trust but the rest of the estate, including the Phoenix Kitchen cafeteria, is still owned by the family. The Rules of the National Trust Scone Blog state that only scones baked by the National Trust are mandatory. But at this late stage of the project, I'm taking absolutely no chances of missing one.

I was the first customer in the cafeteria today, so the assistant offered to bring my scone over to my table. It turned into the opening titles of Grange Hill, except that instead of a cartoon sausage, it was a ginormous scone that suddenly appeared over my shoulder.

Claydon Scone

It is definitely the biggest scone I have encountered in my nine years on this quest. And although that was great, it also brought problems, because the jam and the cream barely stretched to cover half the scone. On the plus side, it was warm and very fresh.  

I'll finish by reminding you all that, although Claydon was brilliant, there is only one National Trust property that can win the Gold Award for 'Doesn't Look Like Much From The Outside But Inside It's Amazing' and that is Clouds Hill in Dorset. It's a tiny little hovel, basically, but it's where Lawrence of Arabia wrote his books. Both properties are highly recommended.

Claydon: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Number of times I said "Oh my God" or heard other visitors saying it as I walked around: at least 20

Sunday, 11 September 2022

Lorna Doone Valley

I've now visited 237 National Trust properties in my quest to meet every NT scone in the land. If I sort the properties by how much time I spent researching the place in advance, then Lorna Doone Valley in Devon would be at the top by a long distance.

The reason for this is very simple: before I set off, I decided to read Lorna Doone, the novel. It is a very long book; 552 pages in fact.

Lorna Doone

But before I tell you about Lorna Doone the novel, I have to tell you that reading it didn't really prepare me for Lorna Doone the valley. It's very much a walking property, with lots of different routes that can take you in various directions. For example, you can walk 5 miles to the very lovely Watersmeet, or do an 8-mile loop to take in the medieval settlement of Badgworthy, which inspired the book.  

But I hadn't really appreciated any of this in advance and I hadn't left enough time to complete any of the walks. I'd already done a jaunt through the very lovely Heddon Valley earlier this morning and I was on my way to Castle Drogo, so time was a bit limited. 

Maybe a lot of people turn up clueless like me, because when I arrived a very nice NT guide was waiting in the car park to provide walking directions. He pointed up a distant hill and then, on seeing my worried face, changed his tack to something a bit easier. And so my leisurely walk took me through a field alongside the river:

Lorna Doone river

It's a really beautiful area. On my way back along the path, I took this picture below and it looks just like a painting.


If you haven't read the book and want a quick summary then I can oblige. Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor was published in 1869 but is set in the late 17th century. It focuses on John Ridd, a farmer's son, whose father is murdered by the Doone family, a bunch of villains who live in an enclave in the area. John is brought home from his boarding school after the killing and on the way he happens to witness the Doones kidnapping an aristocratic young child. The child grows up as Lorna Doone. 

Later, when they are both grown up, she meets John and they begin a secret relationship. John eventually liberates Lorna from the Doones but then her true parentage is revealed and she goes to London. The story is set against the Monmouth Rebellion, where James Scott (who was Duke of Monmouth and the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II) attempted to depose his uncle, James II, from the throne. This ended in the Bloody Assizes and the beheading of James Scott. Judge Jeffreys, who led the Bloody Assizes, is featured in the book. Anyway - a lot happens during those 552 pages before you get a very dramatic ending. 

The novel is a real love letter to the area and it's fantastic that the National Trust is protecting and preserving it. You don't need to read the book to appreciate the region but it definitely helps.

Lorna Doone Valley Scone

I had really loved Heddon Valley during my first visit of the day but it had not been able to provide me with any scones. Yesterday's trip to Lundy had been sconeless as well. I was therefore feeling very anxious about Lorna Doone Valley - had National Trust scones become an endangered species? Or had I just managed to leave all the sconeless places til last? Was this project about to fizzle out?

The cafeteria at Lorna Doone Valley is called The Buttery and it's in a lovely location by the River Badgworthy. I was extremely relieved and pleased when I saw a pile of scones on the counter. My scone was pleasant enough - it was a bit heavy and possibly a little underbaked but to be honest I was just glad to see it. 

Lorna Doone Valley Scone

I later did some research on the author of Lorna Doone, one Richard Doddridge Blackmore, to find out exactly where he had lived in Exmoor. I was quite shocked to discover that although he had spent some of his childhood in Lorna Doone country, from the age of 22 he had lived in Teddington, which is just down the road from my own home. I might have to go over and find his grave and thank him for his book. I'll keep you posted if I find it. 

Lorna Doone Valley: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5
Handiness of RD Blackmore's final resting place: 5 out of 5

Heddon Valley

I now have just SIX more National Trust properties to visit on this 10-year quest to try all the NT scones across the land. I could - and let's face it, I probably will - write a very long post about everything I have learned from this project.

But here's a quick preview of the main thing I have learned so far: if the scone is underwhelming but the property is great, you're fine. If the property is a little underwhelming but the scone is great, you're fine. You only really have a problem if the scone and property are both underwhelming. And do you want to know how many times that has happened in 10 years, readers? None. No times. It has never happened. To paraphrase the great Sandie Shaw, there's always something there to be happy about.

Heddon Valley in Devon is a great example of this. I unexpectedly loved Heddon Valley today. It went straight into my Top 20: a beautiful little spot perfectly set up for walking, with hills and cliffs and beaches all around.

Heddon Valley walk

The history of Heddon Valley is an interesting one. It was bought by the National Trust in 1965, having previously been part of a grand design by a solicitor called Benjamin Lake. He bought it as part of the Martinhoe Manor Estate in 1885 with plans to turn it into a fashionable holiday resort. He poured lots of time and money into it but it all went horribly wrong and he ended up in prison for embezzlement (you can read more about it here).

Hunters Inn, which is still there today, was built by Benjamin. It had originally been a thatched cottage serving ale to locals from the 18th century. Benj had it rebuilt to look like a Swiss chalet, as the terrible picture below tries to show:

Hunters Inn Heddon Valley

There are numerous walks that you can do in the area. The easiest one is a mile-long walk from the NT carpark down to Heddons Mouth, with its little beach. 

Heddons Mouth

Heddons Mouth also gives you the lovely experience of having the sea on one side and green countryside on the other (a bit like Penrose in Cornwall). I even recorded a little video for you! Get me! I'll be on the TikTok next!


But onto the scones. If you are a regular reader, you will know that it's Scone Blog protocol to always have the scone as soon as I arrive at a property, just in case they run out/have a power cut/get hit by bad weather and have to close early (all of which have happened to me). But today I got to Heddon Valley early, so I did the walk first. 

My walk had been so perfect that I didn't even think about scone availability. But as soon as I walked into the visitor centre, I realised the kitchen was a small operation and I might have a problem. (When I asked for tea, the lovely woman had to put the kettle on.) I was right: the only available sustenance was brownies or flapjacks. I don't know what I have against chocolate brownies - somehow they always feel to me like 15 Mars Bars and all their calories squashed together in one stodgy brick - so I went for the flapjack.


Was I sorry not to get a scone at Heddon Valley? Of course, but Heddon had already given me a lot to be happy about, plus I still had plenty of scone potential ahead, with both Lorna Doone Valley and Castle Drogo on my list for the day.

So my recommendation is to visit Heddon Valley if you can - it's a beautiful little place. 

Heddon Valley: 5 out of 5
Scone: 0 out of 5 - there weren't any
Getting to Heddon Valley very early and being the only person on the path: 5 out of 5

Saturday, 10 September 2022

Lundy

It takes a bit of commitment for a visitor to get to Lundy Island in Devon. A boat trip lasting just under two hours takes you from Ilfracombe harbour. You can then either get the boat back again a few hours later or you can stay in accommodation on the island. 

The large boat at the jetty is how you get to Lundy Island.
It stops running in October though and you need to get a helicopter instead. 

I had worked out before I set off that I probably didn't actually need to go to Lundy at all. It's owned by the National Trust but the island is run by the Landmark Trust, an organisation that rescues interesting buildings and makes them available for holiday rental. The rules of the National Trust Scone Blog state that I only need to visit properties where the scones are provided by the NT itself.

But before anyone says "National Trust Scone Blogger, you really don't make it easy for yourself", let me tell you that this fastidiousness is caused by one thing only: FEAR. I am so fearful that I will slump over the finish line on this project, only for someone to say "You haven't been to Lundy. I was there in July and they have a huge NT cafeteria serving 15 types of scones," that I am covering places that probably don't need to be covered, just to be on the safe side. 

So I went to Lundy and it was well worth it. Let me tell you a bit about it.

Lundy History

  • Lundy is just 3 miles long and half a mile wide.
  • The burial ground near the Old Light lighthouse contains four Christian memorial stones from the 5th-8th centuries.
  • The de Marisco family seems to have leased the island in 1150. In 1155, Henry II became king and tried to give Lundy to the Knights Templar but the de Mariscos refused to hand it over. They used it as a base for piracy.
  • In 1238, William de Marisco was implicated in a plot against Henry III. He was captured, found guilty of treason and hung, drawn and quartered.
  • To avoid further trouble, Henry III ordered the castle to be built and it was completed in 1244.
  • Lundy was then owned by a lot of people, including Sir Richard Grenville (of Buckland Abbey fame) and countless others. It's not clear why so many people decided to take Lundy on, only to dispose of it again - probably because it was so expensive to maintain.
  • William Hudson Heaven bought Lundy in 1836. He had - look away now, Restore Trusters - inherited sugar plantations in Jamaica and received compensation when slaves were emancipated. However, he ran out of money and set up the Lundy Granite Company. It thrived for a few years before the enterprise collapsed.
  • In 1968, the island was up for sale again. This time, wealthy philanthropist Jack Hayward of Wolverhampton Wanderers fame stepped in and gave £150,000 so it could be bought and given to the National Trust. 

Lundy Landmarks

Lundy has had many owners and each has contributed to the island's development in different ways. I highly recommend the guidebook for a full run-down. Some of the buildings you can see today include:
  • Castle
  • South Light lighthouse
  • St Helen's church
  • Millcombe House, built by William Hudson Heaven and known originally as The Villa
  • Old Light - the original lighthouse opened in 1820. Lundy is located in the Bristol Channel and was always a shipping hazard. Old Light wasn't successful - it got obscured by fog and workarounds had to be found:

Old Light Lundy

Lundy Scones

Lundy also has a shop and a pub but that's about it as far as sustenance goes. The Marisco Tavern never shuts apparently - it only serves alcohol during licensed hours but it's the only building to keep its lighting on even after the generators have stopped and everything else is dark.

The Marisco Tavern was originally the shop. It was built during the 1860s to serve the 300 men who worked in the quarry and it offered a "Refreshment Room" as well as supplies. (My Scottish Great Auntie Nessie always referred to a drink as a "wee refreshment" so she'd have approved of that.) Once the quarry had gone, it retained its dual purpose as pub and shop.

Marisco Tavern
The Marisco Tavern, if you need a refreshment.

I didn't see any scones on display today and I didn't have the heart to ask if they had any. Instead, I had a piece of Victoria sponge and it was fine.  

Lundy Wildlife

Scones weren't the only thing to elude me today. Lundy is famous for its wildlife, especially its puffins. I was extremely excited about seeing some puffins but I realised a few weeks ago that this wasn't going to happen. Puffins spend the winter out at sea, bobbing about and eating fish. They only come inland in March to mate and nest and have their young. In August they go back to sea again, like little mini sailors. I hadn't missed them by much. But I'd definitely missed them.

Everyone on the boat was hoping to see a dolphin - we didn't. The boat announcer told us to beware of the Lundy ponies, adding with some interesting certainty "because they bite". I didn't see them either. I did see a seal though, so that was very exciting.

In short, I highly recommend Lundy Island to you. It might not have any scones but it's a great place to spend a few hours or even a few days if you like very dark and quiet nights.

Lundy Island: 5 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 5 - there weren't any
Someone playing the recorder very loudly - mind you, this was late in the afternoon. Maybe they just wanted us all to go home: 0 out of 5

Sunday, 28 August 2022

East Soar

It's the final countdown, scone fans! Only 10 National Trust properties to go on this scone quest. East Soar on the Devon coast was one of the final 10 and I knew it was going to be a problem. Firstly, it was the most difficult one for me to get to. But secondly, I HAD ALREADY BEEN THERE. I visited East Soar in 2019 but had been stupidly negligent about its facilities and no scone purchase had been attempted.  

East Soar

Luckily for me, I have the support of my friend Kathy. We have been best friends for a long time and have helped each other through our chosen endeavours. Example of Kathy's chosen endeavours: an Ironman triathlon. I watched her doing her huge swim, I cheered her as she sped past me on her bike, and I shouted support as she ran past me several times while completing a marathon. Example of my chosen endeavours: driving around Devon looking for a scone. Yes, I do often wonder why she is friends with me but I am beyond grateful that she has persevered these past 30 years. 

Anyway. East Soar is a great place for coastal walks but it also contains a lot of history. There's a very good podcast episode by an archaeologist called Bill Horner who explains how the East Soar National Trust car park was once part of RAF Bolt Head. It played an important role in World War II - its location enabled incoming enemy aircraft to be intercepted.

There's also a lot of wildlife in the area. Highland cattle, Dartmoor ponies and all sorts of other species can be spotted as you walk along:

Ponies at East Soar

Kathy was on holiday in the area and had done a recce of the East Soar scone facilities during the week. She texted me with some concerns that there might not be any and I had to explain that it didn't matter: the National Trust handbook states that refreshments are available at East Soar and, as I couldn't be 100% sure that they weren't NT, I had to go there. Even if all I found was a hole in the ground, this blog needed to report that the hole contained zero scones. To be fair, she hid her bafflement well.

She didn't hide her National Trust Scone Panic though: as soon as we got to the Walker's Hut, she basically turned into me. I was sanguine about the chances of finding a scone in a barn but she was utterly determined that East Soar would deliver. It was like having an out-of-body experience and watching an action replay of yourself at 200+ National Trust cafes over the years.

The Walker's Hut is located on a National Trust farm and is a lovely little place serving a good array of cakes and drinks. There's an honesty box for the money and you help yourself:

East Soar Walker's Hut

Kathy's determination was rewarded - what I thought were baked potatoes turned out to be scones. It's almost exactly 30 years since we collected our A'level results - frankly, I think she might have been more relieved by today's scone than she was with her 3 As :)

East Soar Scones

It was a very nice scone as well - light, fluffy and very fresh. Kathy wanted to give it a 4.5 but if you are a regular reader you will know that I have a Crumbleometer that automatically deducts a point if a scone disintegrates into more than six pieces during preparation or consumption. The East Soar scone did fall apart a bit but it was still delicious.

East Soar National Trust Scone

If you'd like to know more about my Devon road trip of 2019 where I probably came within 300 feet of the East Soar scone but failed to realise it at the time, you can read about nearby Overbeck's (also starring Kathy), as well as Cotehele, Lydford GorgeBuckland Abbey, and Antony. We even stopped at Wembury and South Milton Sands, even though I knew we probably wouldn't find any National Trust scones on the beach (I was correct).

Only nine scones to go!

East Soar: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5
Watching someone else having the Scone Panic: 4.5 out of 5
 

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Best National Trust Scones 2013-2022

Happy 9th Birthday to the National Trust Scone Blog! When I started this project, I really believed that I would complete it within 7 years at the absolute most. And we're nearly finished, as I only have 10 properties left to visit. But I must face facts: it is going to take 10 years for me to review every single National Trust scone.  

In the nine years since I created this blog:

  • 232 National Trust properties have been visited!
  • 93 scones have scored a 5 out of 5 top rating!

National Trust Scone Birthday

To recap: nine years ago today, I decided it was time to up the ante on my National Trust membership. I would start a blog to help me learn about each property and I would reward myself with a scone at each place I visited.

Only National Trust properties with an NT cafe are mandatory - you can read the Rules of the National Trust Scone Quest here - but I have also included below a few tenant-produced scones that I have met along the way.

So here is the National Trust Scone Blog Birthday Honours List - the 93 properties with 5-star scones, in reverse order of when I visited:

  • Dunstable Downs - the town of Dunstable and I had fallen out many years ago, but stunning views and stunning scones means all is forgiven.
  • Carnewas at Bedruthan - it's not strictly an NT scone as it's a tenant-run cafe but it was excellent so I'm including it.
  • Godolphin - an absolute showstopper of a scone served in a former pigsty in a fantastic property. If Godolphin isn't on your list, add it immediately!
  • Brean Down - never trust a bus timetable on Good Friday but you can trust the Brean Down scones to be brilliant.
  • Aira Force and Ullswater - William Wordsworth wrote a poem about Aira Force and he'd have written one about the scone if he'd known about them. 
  • Claife Viewing Station - the scone was triangular, suggesting it was a tenant-run scone and not strictly NT. But it was so good it deserves to be included anyway.
  • Ormesby Hall - a scone needs to be good when you travel all the way from London to Middlesbrough and back in a day for it. And it was spectacular.
  • East Riddlesden Hall - another excellent scone that was snatched from the jaws of disaster when another cafe closed early, this time due to Storm Eunice.
  • Ilam, Dovedale and the White Peak - people ask if I'm jam first or cream first. I never divulge but I will tell you that when I visit a property, I'm scone first. None of this earning it lark. It paid off at Ilam as the tea room closed due to Storm Malik and we only just got our excellent scone.
  • Stackpole - after six months of lockdown, I made a bid for freedom in September 2020 and made it to Pembrokeshire for a fantastic scone. 
  • Wentworth Castle Gardens - little did I know when I set off for Barnsley in March that it would be my last National Trust scone for months. Lucky I ate two.
  • Lavenham Guildhall - it hasn't always had the happiest of histories but the scones made me very cheerful indeed. Absolute perfection.
  • Fell Foot - my attempt to eat three scones in one day in the Lake District got off to a promising start at Fell Foot. It subsequently won Scone of the Year 2019.
  • Cotehele - here's a top tip: it always bodes well when the property has a mill that produces flour for the scones. 
  • Buckland Abbey - previous owner Sir Francis Drake might have a bit of a questionable history but there was nothing questionable about the scones.
  • Antony: I loved Antony. I loved the name, I loved the house, I loved the scones, and I loved the fact that there's a street called Sconner Road nearby (check the photos).
  • Florence Court - located near a mountain where a legendary horse appears every July to talk to people (and have a scone I hope, as they're good).
  • The Argory - you can get there by canoe but however you get there, make sure you have one of their superb scones. 
  • Dudmaston - there was a wand workshop going on when I visited and the scones had indeed been touched by magic.
  • Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses - people lived in these caves until the 1960s and although rock buns may have been more apposite, the scones were super.
  • Arlington Court - see the house, visit the National Trust Carriage Museum, but definitely don't miss the excellent scones.
  • Dunster Castle - a very old estate with a working water mill, a leather room, and very good scones.
  • Watersmeet - the beautiful place that inspired me to keep going with the National Trust Scone Blog did not disappoint. Excellent scones.
  • Mottistone Gardens - Benedict Cumberbatch wasn't there but we did find some very superb scones.
  • Kinder, Edale, and the Dark Peak - the Pennypot Cafe is next door to Edale station. Kinder Scout is not. But we all know which part of the property is most important.
  • Erddig - donkeys, a thief housekeeper who stole £30,000, and fantastic scones can all be found at Erddig.
  • Oxburgh Hall - everybody loves a moat and everybody good scones. Oxburgh has both.
  • Croft Castle - Owain Glynd┼Ár may be buried under the floor but they don't bury the scone baking talent at this cosy castle.
  • Nunnington Hall - I went to try and solve a mysterious peacock murder case and found some very excellent scones.
  • The Workhouse - I was certainly tempted to say "please, sir, I want some more" but I restrained myself, although the scones were excellent.
  • Shugborough Estate - the ancestral home of society photographer Patrick Lichfield was a picture! Ha ha!
  • Chirk Castle - murder, scandal, adultery, violence, great scones...it's all going on at Chirk.
  • Longshaw Estate and Eastern Moors - I thought the mud might defeat me, but no - I finally found my Peak District scone and marvellous it was too.
  • Mount Stewart - was Castlereagh a great statesman or a despicable murderer? I don't know but I do know that the scones at Mount Stewart were fantastic.
  • Peckover House & Garden - Lonely Planet has just announced that a cream tea at Peckover is one of the top eating experiences in the world! I concur!
  • Clumber Park - it might have lost its house to the demolition men but Clumber offers beautiful gardens, a beautiful lake, and beautiful scones!
  • The Needles Old Battery - chalk rocks, guns, secret missile testing. And now - outstanding scones!
  • Wicken Fen - home to 9,000 species of wildlife, flora, fauna and a first-class species of scone! Bravo.
  • Berrington Hall - even Capability Brown couldn't improve the scones at Berrington Hall - they were berri-good!
  • Tyntesfield - maybe one day someone will describe Tyntesfield without saying "the man who built it made his money from Peruvian bird poo" but that day isn't today. The scones were a bird poo-free zone.
  • Sudbury Hall - a great house AND the Museum of Childhood starring Sooty and Sindy AND an outstanding scone! What more do you want from life.
  • Melford Hall - famed for its celebrity resident, the original Jemima Puddleduck! Her views on scones are not known.
  • Wallington - the former home of Charles Edward Trevelyan, the third most hated man in Ireland (after Oliver Cromwell and Thierry Henry), who was name-checked in The Fields of Athenry.
  • Belton House - the kids book and 80s TV show, Moondial, was set at Belton! And when I tweeted that I'd been there, the actor who played Tom responded! Fantastic.
  • Felbrigg Hall - poor old William Frederick 'Mad' Windham - all he wanted to do was dress up as a train guard and blow a whistle on the station platform at inopportune moments. Instead he ran up huge debts and lost Felbrigg. Amazing scone. 
  • Hidcote - a beautiful garden built by "a dull little man" according to James Lees-Milne but we loved it AND we loved the scones!
  • Plas Newydd - a fantastic scone on Anglesey! We only really went there to see the Victorian dude who dressed like Noddy Holder 50 years before Nodders was born!
  • Dyrham Park - superb scones AND free 17th century hot chocolate (the recipe is from the 17th century, not the actual hot chocolate)!
  • Trengwainton Garden - the 5th NT scone we'd eaten in 48 hours during our Tour of Cornwall and it was FAB!
  • Trerice - a quiet little manor house near the not-so-quiet town of Newquay, with AMAZING scones!
  • Trelissick - the house may be relatively new to the NT but they've certainly got to grips with the scones!
  • Boscastle - a little Cornish fishing village that was almost washed away in 2004 - unusual scones but absolutely top-rate!
  • Acorn Bank - the third top-class scone on the Spring Tour to the Lake District!
  • Sizergh Castle - amazing scone AND a copy of Wham!'s Greatest Hits!
  • Wordsworth House - I was moved to compose a poem about the Wordsworth House scone - I expect a call about being Poet Laureate any day!
  • Saltram - everything went wrong on our first trip of 2016, apart from the scone!
  • Fountains Abbey - it was in the video for Maid of Orleans by OMD! And it had fantastic scones!
  • Lanhydrock - our first foray into Cornwall and we were not disappointed! Fantastic scone!
  • Biddulph Grange Garden - they had a singing tree and a golden water buffalo but nothing could upstage the scones!
  • Nostell Priory - one of the best properties EVER with THREE types of scone!
  • Coughton Court - 7 of the 13 Gunpowder Plotters were Throckmortons! Somehow they kept hold of Coughton and are still there today! 
  • Tredegar House - fantastic scones AND they keep a Dalek in the stables (Doctor Who is filmed there)! 
  • Anglesey Abbey - they have a working flour mill! You can buy bags of flour that you transform into scones that won't be as good as the ones here!
  • Montacute House - they filmed Wolf Hall here! If only Anne Boleyn had been able to bake scones like these, it could all have turned out differently!
  • Goddards - brilliant scones at the house once owned by Noel Terry, of Chocolate Orange fame! There used to be a Terry's Chocolate Apple as well! 
  • Beningbrough Hall - spectacular works of art (and a few pictures on loan from the National Portrait Gallery as well, boom, boom!)
  • Sissinghurst Castle - did you see the scones, Orlando? They were great - and fantastic gardens too, in the former home of Vita Sackville-West!
  • South Foreland Lighthouse - excellent sconeage in this 'shining' example of a National Trust property HA HA! 
  • The White Cliffs of Dover - I really was inspired to ransack the Vera Lynn back catalogue and sing "we'll meet again" to the WCoD scone - it was that good. 
  • Speke Hall - it has the River Mersey, it has a priest hole, it has a baker on Twitter, it has fantastic scones, I LOVED it!
  • Studland Beach - famous for the UK's most popular naturist beach, for inspiring Noddy's Toytown, and now for very good scones!
  • A la Ronde - a round house full of trinkets AND fantastic scones, what more do you want from life? 
  • Upton House and Gardens - a lot of pictures, an outdoor swimming pool, and truly excellent scones!
  • Treasurer's House, York - they had a Christmas pudding scone with brandy butter that I literally still dream about!
  • Hinton Ampner - lots of sheep and fantastic scones!
  • Uppark - burned to the ground a few years ago while it was open to visitors, but now restored and serving very excellent scones!
  • Stowe - it costs £30,000 a year to attend Stowe school - I'd rather spend that on scones, personally!
  • Charlecote Park - William Shakespeare was once caught stealing a scone from Charlecote Park. Did I say scone? I meant deer.
  • Bateman's - "Well I'm the king of the sconers/the tea-room VIP", as Rudyard Kipling would have written if he'd had scones at Batemans!
  • Claremont Landscape Garden - more of a park than a garden but who's counting - the scones were fantastic!
  • Standen - tests proved that the Standen scone was genetically closer to a cloud than a baked foodstuff!
  • Nymans - another place that burned down (before the National Trust was involved), now serving amazing scones!
  • Waddesdon Manor - they have a mechanical elephant that flaps its ears at Waddesdon but as an attraction it's no match for the top-class scones!
  • Scotney Castle - the scones were EPIC. Scotney also had a Banana and Walnut Scone of the Month and Richard Gere, who filmed Yanks there!
  • Dunwich Heath - they had 20 TYPES OF SCONE at the Sconeathon we attended! Sticky Toffee, Chocolate Orange, Apple & Cinnamon, Malteser...!
  • Morden Hall Park - big, warm, and glazed. 'Morden enough' to warrant a five out of five (ha ha ha! Sorry.)
  • Sutton House - Sir Ralph Sadleir of Wolf Hall fame built Sutton House - go along and see them bring out the sconies!
  • Quarry Bank Mill - amazing scones in one of the most fascinating NT properties ever - you can even buy a tea towel made in the cotton mill!
  • Flatford Bridge Cottage - we helped bake the scones at Flatford but we gave them 5 because they were mince pie scones and they were ruddy delicious! 
  • Winkworth Arboretum - a very understated place - not a fridge magnet to be had - but serving fantastic scones!
  • Houghton Mill - the Scone Blogger was very hungover but she soldiered on and tried the scone made from home-milled flour, which was DELICIOUS!
  • Brownsea Island - we didn't see any red squirrels, which shows that they don't have very good taste as there was a Sconeathon on the day we visited!
  • Bodiam Castle - our very first 5 out of 5, setting the benchmark for all!  

There's also a National Trust Book of Scones, which is available in NT shops or on the internet.

As ever, I send my ever-lasting affection and thanks to all of the fantastic Sconepals that send in photos and show ongoing support and enthusiasm for this mad project. 

Keep sharing your National Trust scone sightings, either on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. I love them. 

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Barrington Court

I have a secret affection for National Trust properties where you approach the house saying things like "There it is! It's nice. Quite small and, er, I can't see any sign of the enormous multi-year roof repair project from here. Maybe they haven't started yet?" before you turn your head to the right and see the enormous Tudor house that you're meant to be looking at, rather than the random outbuilding you've been admiring for 10 minutes.


I'm not a heritage professional but if I was and someone told me that the building I was working in needed roof repairs, I would put my coat on and never, ever come back. I can't think of anything worse. Roof repairs take years and cost millions and cause total upheaval for something that 99% of visitors will never directly see or appreciate. It must be absolutely awful.


Anyway. You've probably gathered by now that we didn't get to go inside Barrington Court as it's closed. But it's a fascinating place so I'm going to share some details anyway:

It was restored by Arthur Lyle of sugar fame
It's an amazing story: Barrington Court was gifted to the National Trust in 1907 - it was actually one of its first acquisitions. But Barrington was a partial ruin and, with no endowment money, it threatened to become a huge drain on NT resources. Luckily, Colonel Arthur Lyle came to the rescue. He was the grandson of Abram Lyle, who invented Lyle's Golden Syrup. He took on a 99-year lease of Barrington and began the long process of restoring it with his architect, James Edwin Forbes.

Gertrude Jekyll worked on designs for the gardens
Jekyll was 74 when she worked on Barrington, with failing eyesight. She never actually visited the place and had to rely on drawings, biscuit tins of soil samples and visits from Colonel Lyle's wife, Elsie, who did much of the planting. I was pleased to read in the guidebook that Jekyll had a "dislike of rich people who gardened only through 'hirelings'", so she'd have approved of Elsie getting her hands dirty. (She would have approved of me too, as you won't find any hirelings in my garden. You won't find anything else either, but never mind.)

Barrington White Garden

The house was completed around 1560
A London merchant called Sir William Clifton actually built the house. His son John succeeded him but then it all went wrong - his son, Gervase, ended up in the Fleet Prison, where he killed himself. Gervase's son was mauled by a bear at a bear-baiting event and died of his injuries. The Strode family then acquired Barrington and extended it with an impressive stable block. 

It appeared in Wolf Hall
Barrington was in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall (as was Montacute, which isn't far away). It had a starring role as York Place/Whitehall, the home of Cardinal Wolsey.

The stables became Strode House
There are quite a lot of secondary buildings at Barrington. The impressive stable block built by the Strodes was restored by the Lyles so they could live there. It's a really striking building in its own right:

Strode House Barrington

There are Artisan Workshops
The Artisan Workshops are close to the house on the estate and they were very nice, with jewellery and chairs and other items on sale:


The Barrington Court Scone

Barrington was the final stop on a mini Somerset road trip. We'd started at Lytes Cary, which is a beautiful place but the scone wasn't the best. We then went to Knightshayes, which is a barnstormer of an NT property, where the scone was a bit better.

The Barrington scone didn't fill me with hope. It looked a bit over-baked and I was fearing the worst. But it was actually very nice. It was fresh and tasty and I ate all of it.

Barrington Court scone

I'll hopefully get to go back to Barrington when the roof is fixed, as the interiors look very impressive even if they are empty. In the meantime, I'm sending all my positive thoughts to the Barrington team - it can't be easy running a National Trust property that's actually shut.

Barrington Court: 3 out of 5 (I'm sure it would be a 5 when the house is open)
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Gertrude Jekyll's approach to life: 5 out of 5