Packwood House was originally built for John Fetherston between 1556 and 1560 and started out as a simple timber-framed farmhouse. The Fetherston family expanded the property and were responsible for the layout of the estate including the exceptional yew gardens.
Unfortunately, little is known about the original structures as in 1904 it was bought by Alfred Ash an industrialist from Birmingham and was restored and rebuilt by his son in 1925. This new version of Packwood House took nearly two decades to complete and was constructed to resemble a 16th century Tudor country house. Graham Ash spent a considerable amount of time and money ensuring the authenticity of building and so it is easy to visit the property and automatically assume that it is much older than it really is.
Graham Ash bought a significant array of 16th and 17th century furniture – some of which he acquired from Baddesley Clinton, a nearby moated manor. The great barn of the original farm was reborn as a Tudor-style hall complete with a sprung floor for dancing. In 1931 this was finally connected to the main house by the addition of the ‘Long Gallery’.
During WWII Graham Ash, now in his early 50’s, gave Packwood House to the National Trust although he continued to live there until after the war in 1947 when he relocated to Wingfield Castle. Graham Ash passed away in 1980 at the age of 91 but left a remarkable of legacy of restoration and innovation.
The gardens of Packwood House have a very unusual feature. To the south of the main building is the famous Yew gardens with over 100 trees that were laid out in a specific geometric pattern. According to one of the old gardeners the shaped yews are meant to represent “The Sermon on the Mount” as described in Matthew 5-7 of the New Testament. Twelve great trees, known as ‘the Apostles’, surround four central trees known as the ‘The Evangelists’ – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The story goes that these four trees are known by their individual names. From this central point the path climbs a hummock known as the ‘Mount’ to where a single tree stands alone. This is the one known as the ‘Master’. The smaller yew trees lower down the slope and closer to the house were planted in the 19th century to replace an exhausted orchard are now known as the “The Multitude”. Yew trees can live for many hundreds of years so it is remarkable to think the garden could still be in existence in 3014 AD.
The garden terrace wall features 18th century bee boles. These were specially created cavities that were used as beehives.
The Queen Mary bed in the main house has the base of an earlier bed that was used by Queen Margaret of Anjou, leader of the Lancastrian forces, on the night before their terrible defeat at the battle of Tewkesbury on the 4th May 1471.
There is a commanding stone fireplace in the in the Great Hall of the manor that was originally used in a wine merchants shop in Stratford-upon-Avon.
A MOST MYSTERIOUS MANNEQUIN
In 2004 the heritage managers of Packwood house discovered that what they had previously thought was a life-sized straw figurine was actually an extremely rare 19th century mannequin probably used as a body double for the Parisian aristocracy. The model had been used as a clothes display and had been undisturbed for at least 100 years. X-rays of the mannequin revealed that it was one of the most complex ever made and that its internal anatomy was careful engineered to replicate the human skeletal structure. It even had artificial muscle tissue and, in an even more bizarre twist, it was also found to have breasts, nipples, a belly button, pierced ears, real blonde human hair and carefully painted blue eyes. Its design meant that it could only move like a human being. Art historians believe it was made in Paris and would have cost a great deal to manufacture. How and why it came to be at Packwood House remains a mystery that may never be solved.
- Address: Packwood Ln, Lapworth, Warwickshire, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom, B94 6AT
- GPS: 52.34789444,-1.746727778
- Phone: 0044 (0) 1564 782 024
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: B94 6AT
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Good
- Visibility from Road: Good
- Image Credits: Header Image: Paul Vincent