Taking a chance
The 6th Earl was introduced to Lancelot Brown in 1750, just as Brown had set off from his head gardener job at Stowe to set up his own landscape design business. The Earl spotted an emerging talent in Brown.
Whether lower fees than usual were a temptation, we may never know, but Brown soon earned the 6th Earl's favour and friendship. Croome was his first commission, and arguably his greatest masterpiece.
Redesigning the house and landscape
Now known as 'Capability' Brown from his habit of seeing the 'capabilities' in unpromising sites, Brown set to work on the house as well as the marshy park and formal gardens which he swept away to achieve the natural looking landscape that's seen today.
He refaced the house in stone and created a Palladian mansion house, fit for changing architectural fashions.
An eye for talent
The 6th Earl didn't stop there, however. He also found the young Robert Adam and commissioned him to create three rooms inside the house including the Tapestry Room, Library and the Long Gallery which was his first entire room design.
Thanks to the 6th Earl's eye for spotting new talent, the house became the cutting edge of taste.
Up for sale
By 1948, however, the Earls of Coventry had run out of time and money. After many ups and downs of the estate in his later years, the 9th Earl died in 1930.
Croome had changed dramatically and not for the better. With the onslaught of the Second World War and the tragic loss of the 10th Earl in battle, it was resolved that Croome Court, the park and the estate had to be sold.
The story of Croome nearly ended there, on a devastating note with the thought that the demolition of the house was the only option. Fortunately, the house was sold to be turned into a school run by nuns for disadvantaged school boys.
Subsequently it had many owners including Hare Krishna devotees for four years from 1979 and then into the hands of various property developers who hoped to turn a profit by converting the place into a hotel, country retreat, and even a golf course.
Nothing was sustainable and successful however and by the 1990s, Croome Court with its wonderful interiors and beautiful park were needing some serious attention. The park was lost beneath undergrowth and the house was falling apart.
Our work begins
We managed to acquire the park and start its restoration thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding, but the house was still at risk. It wasn't until 2007 that we secured the care of the main house, and much later in 2012 the red brick service wing which was in complete ruin.
The exterior of the Red Wing has now been completed thanks to funding from English Heritage. There's still along way to go with the interior but it's now stable although still derelict.
The house is the focus in the next two years. After successfully raising millions of pounds in donations and grants, and a £1.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the team are painstakingly repairing and reservicing Croome Court whilst it's still open.
The work will provide proper heating, environmental control, bathroom facilities, offices and lighting as well as creating some very interesting ways to tell the fascinating stories in more depth which has already started with the 'hidden house' and 'Soul to Sole'.
By 2016 all four floors will be open with some of the original furniture on show, displayed in exceptionally creative ways to inspire and provoke interest in a historic collection.
A visit to the house will transform your experience at Croome and we promise it will be like no other you've seen.