This beautiful estate is a survivor of the Welsh Revolt, the Wars of the Roses and both World Wars.
THIS BEAUTIFUL ESTATE IS A SURVIVOR OF THE WELSH REVOLT, THE WARS OF THE ROSES AND BOTH WORLD WARS.
Croft Castle is A stately Home in the HEART of Herefordshire, ENGLAND. The estate has a fascinating history: it belonged to the Croft family in the 11th century, was sold in the 18th century and repurchased in the 20th century.
A fortified manor was constructed on the parkland in the 14th century, which survived the Welsh Revolt and the Wars of the Roses. In 1553, Sir James Croft was implicated in an attempt to overthrow Queen Mary of England and Ireland. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he refused to implicate Princess Elizabeth in the plot. When Elizabeth became queen, she remembered his loyalty and gave him new estates in Herefordshire and Kent. He demolished the old manor at Croft, built Croft Castle and served as the member of Parliament for Hertfordshire from 1563 until his death in 1590.
His son Edward lost the family fortune, but Edward’s son, Herbert, restored their wealth by ‘marrying well.’ During the English Civil War, Herbert’s son, William, joined the Royalist army. Disgruntled Irish mercenaries ransacked Croft Castle after they had been employed by the army, but not paid. The Royalists then dismantled Croft Castle to prevent Parliamentarian troops from taking over, but William was shot and died after losing a battle at nearby Stokesay Castle.
Herbert Croft, William’s youngest brother, inherited the estate with the castle in ruins. Yet he was determined not to leave it this way. A Church of England bishop, he slowly rebuilt Croft Castle, using money from his annual £800 salary. The family’s dedication to Croft lasted centuries, but when the South Sea Bubble burst in 1720, Herbert’s grandson, a politician and speculator, got into financial trouble and had to sell the Croft estate in 1746.
The new owner, a businessman named Richard Knight, purchased the property for his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Thomas Johnes. A fashionable gentleman, Johnes loved to entertain on a grand scale. He redecorated the castle in the 1760s in a Rococo-gothic style, commissioning architect Thomas Pritchard to do most of the work.
The couple’s oldest son, Thomas Johnes II, dreamed of creating a picturesque landscape in a wild and remote part of Cardiganshire, Wales. He bought land at Hafod, about 65 miles from Croft Castle, planted more than six million trees and arranged guided walks through valleys and across mountains, attracting the interest of many well-known artists of the day, including J.M.W. Turner, who painted scenes of the estate.
There was a house at Hafod, which Johnes filled with treasures until he ran out of money in the 1780s. He then had to sell Croft Castle to pay his debts, while his furious mother retired to London. In 1807, Hafod House and its contents burnt to the ground and Thomas’ only child Mariamne, died in the flames.
The new owner of Croft Castle was Somerset Davies, businessman and MP. In 1913, his tenant, Major Atherley, modernized the castle. The Crofts finally returned to Croft Castle in 1923, when trustees for young James Croft, whose father had been killed in the first World War, decided to buy back the family estate. They demolished the service wing in 1937, but in 1941 James was also killed at war.
Sir Henry Page Croft, his cousin, inherited the estate and during WWII the castle was occupied by a convent school. In 1946, Henry revived the property and fixed the roof. Unfortunately, he died before he could complete the job. His son, Michael, faced crippling death duties, so he sold the estate to his cousin, Owen, whose wife couldn’t afford the upkeep when he also died in 1956.
Heritage organizations stepped in to help and, together, they saved the property, eventually raising funds to rescue and restore the estate, which is now managed by the National Trust, inhabited by the current Lord and Lady Croft and open to the public.
Although it has an Elizabethan appearance, this room was actually created in the mid-18th century to complement the Gothic staircase. The 17th century paneling and stone inglenook fireplace were installed in 1923. The oak furniture dates from the 17th century, including a court cupboard that displays tableware and serves food.
During WWII, the castle was occupied by a convent school.
THE OAK ROOM
In the 1760s, Thomas Pritchard remodeled this room in a GothicRococo style. It was the dining parlor until 1913, when the white painted paneling was stripped back to reveal bare wood—the height of fashion at the time. The plasterwork on the ceiling is also a Pritchard design.
THE BLUE ROOM
In the 1760s, Thomas Johnes I brought the Jacobean paneling from Stanage Park. Pritchard painted the paneling blue and added gilt rosettes with shadows for a three-dimensional effect. Pritchard may have also been responsible for the decorative ceiling. The overmantel is the most ornate chimneypiece in the castle and portrays carved musical instruments in lime wood. These carvings were originally in the oak room, but moved to the blue room in 1913. The portrait by Thomas Gainsborough (1761) depicts Elizabeth Cowper, known as Lady Croft. She married Sir Archer Croft.
Croft Castle is considered an important early example of medieval revival architecture.
The dining room is set to accommodate guests of the Hunt Ball in 1930. Rather than everyone being seated around a long table, three smaller tables were used.
This room was for relaxation, entertainment and musical performances. Early 18th century paneling and family portraits line the walls. Pritchard designed the fancy door frames in the 1760s, which were placed in a dressing room and moved to the saloon in 1913. Pritchard also designed the plasterwork ceiling. The Dutch oyster veneer cabinet dates to the early 18th century.
THE LIBRARY AND ANTE-ROOM
The library houses bookcases from the 1760s and a collection of books written by, and about, the Crofts. Rare books include an 1801 book on midwifery, and there are books on architecture and landscape gardening, reflecting the interests of Thomas Johnes II of Hafod.
THE DINING ROOM
The dining room was originally the west hall. In 1913, it became a mid-18th century style dining room, where the inhabitants entertained and served food to guests at parties and formal functions. Some of Pritchard’s decorative carved pieces depicting vases of flowers trailing down the walls were taken from the library and installed over the fireplace and the sideboard in this room.
THE GOTHIC STAIRS
This staircase is the best surviving example of Thomas Pritchard’s gothic architecture at Croft. He created the arches, freeze, ceiling artwork and staircase. The decorative effects were covered in the 19th century and unveiled in the 1970s, when the plasterwork, walls and ceiling were restored to their original color scheme and grandeur.
THE AMBASSADOR’S ROOM
This drawing room was used for music and dance, and is named after the Austrian ambassador who stayed at Croft sometime around 1900, but never turned up. Edward Croft-murray chose the wallpaper, which was a copy of an early 18th century pattern. He also decided on the paintwork of the bookcases.
THE EAST STAIRCASE
The paintings and etchings on the east staircase depict local landscapes, people and places. There are watercolor paintings of Cwm Elan beside the stairs, showing the valley that later created the reservoir and now provides water to the West Midlands.
In 1913, his tenant, Major Atherley, modernized the castle.
The autumn exterior of Croft Castle, Herefordshire, is a testimony to the grandeur of large English estates.
Left. This painting over the fireplace by George Barret shows a Welsh landscape in the 18th century. The porcelain figures on the mantelpiece are 18th century Derby pieces. The roundels on the ceiling depict musical instruments and trophies. top. A bust
Above. The oak paneling in the hall was probably taken from other rooms in the castle. The portrait shows Charles I as the Prince of Wales.
opposite. Walter Sarel, who implemented the changes to this room in 1913, inserted Venetian windows and columns, creating a separate space from where the food would be served. The Cumberland dining table is 19th century and the chairs are Chippendale style.
Above. The mirror over the fireplace is a Chippendale gilt mirror, which came from Sherborne house in Gloucestershire. The Chippendale chairs have embroidered fabric on the seats and are filled with straw. They came from the estate belonging to Dolaucothi
Left, bottom. The fifteen views of Hafod paintings, under the stairs, depict the Hafod estate in Wales, where Thomas Johnes II created his dream landscape before running out of money and being forced to sell Croft Castle.
Left, top. The marble bust depicts Lord Denman, Sir Richard Croft VI Baronet’s brother-in-law.
In this photograph, the dining room is set to accommodate guests of the Hunt Ball in 1930. Rather than seating everyone around a long table, three smaller tables were used. The Hunt Ball provided an all-night buffet for guests, so people came and went, ma
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/JAMES DOBSON
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/JAMES DOBSON