ATTINGHAM PARK, SHROPSHIRE

Grid Ref: SJ 547 099
Date: 23 May 2012

 

Attingham Park
Attingham Park
Attingham Park
A side view
Colonnade
Colonnade connecting to a service wing

Attingham Park lies just of the A5, east of Shrewsbury and just north of the village of Atcham, whose name is a shortened version. It centres on the confluence of the Rivers Tern and Severn. The name Attingham means the home of St. Eata's children and the church in Atcham is the only one dedicated to this saint. He was one of 12 boys received by St. Aiden and subsequently became the first Abbot of Melrose, the teacher of St. Cuthbert and the Bishop of Hexham. Arthur Mee has nothing to say about Attingham Park, which must have been inaccessible to him. It did not become part of the National Trust until 1947 and between 1948 and 1971 it was an Adult Education College run by Sir George Trevelyan. Attingham Park is now the regional headquarters of the National Trust.

Attingham Hall was built between 1783 and 1785 for Noel Hill (1745–1789), who was created Baron Berwick in 1784. He was the grandson of a Shrewsbury draper. His father, Thomas Harwood changed his name to Hill on succeeding, through his mother, to the Hill Estates. The mother was the sister of Sir Richard Hill (1655-1727) of Hawkstone Hall in Shropshire who was an ordained deacon but became a diplomat, public servant and statesman. In the manner of the times, he made a vast fortune from being the paymaster of the forces and later Lord of the Treasury from 1699 to 1702. He purchased estates in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire. This including Tern Hall, subsquently incorporated into Attingham Hall. The land had originally been part of the estate of Haughmond Abbey.

The Barons Berwick had very few direct male heirs and the barony constantly went to younger brothers, nephews or cousins until the 9th Baron died without issue in 1953.

When completed, Attingham Hall was the finest mansion in the county and incorporated parts of the original early 18th century Tern Hall. The house is 11 bays wide and has four magnificent columns supporting the portico. From the two rear corners are colonnades connecting to service wings. This was a popular 18th century feature to keep kitchens, with their smells and danger of fire away from the main residence. Pevsner desribes the house as having an uncommonly fine interior, to which I cannot do justice here.

I was fortunate to visit on a Wednesday, when the room guides dress in Regency costume. To volunteer for this you have to be an extrovert and I found them all very enthusiastic and ready to talk about their costume and their room - an absolute joy. For those of a certain age, it is a pleasure to recall that Percy Thrower used to present his television gardening programme from Attingham in the 1950s.

 

Sources

The King's England, Shropshire, by Arthur Mee, first published in 1939, new edition, revised and reset 1968.
The Buildings of England, Shropshire, Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin Books, 1958.
Wikipedia on Baron Berwick, Richard Hill of Hawkstone, Attingham Park

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