The Red Wing at Croome
The service wing, dubbed the 'Red Wing’, because it was made of red brick, is on the east side of Croome Court. It was designed and built by ‘Capability’ Brown as part of the development of Croome Court for the 6th Earl of Coventry in the 1750s and housed some of the servants quarters, the kitchen and offices.
Up until the late 1940s we believe the Red Wing was still being used as it was originally intended.
By the 1950s, Croome Court had been sold and was being used as a Roman Catholic school for boys. The Red Wing was used as, dormitories, TV room, hospital room, a refectory and tuck shop and was still in good repair.
In the early 1980s, under ownership of the Hare Krishna movement, the space was used as offices, recording studios, and apartments for younger families.
By the 1990s the Red Wing was starting to suffer from intermittent use. It had been used as offices and storage by the various property developers who were hoping to turn Croome into a business opportunity. Unfortunately by the end of the 1990s, the Red Wing was no longer used and its deterioration accelerated.
Saving the Red Wing
The Red Wing’s decline was so severe that it was included in the highest priority category on English Heritage’s At Risk Register and in the worst condition of any Grade 1 listed building in Worcestershire and across the West Midlands.
Malvern Hills District Council, assisted by English Heritage, had resolved to serve a compulsory purchase order to acquire the Red Wing but before this could be served, in 2011, the owner accepted an offer from the Croome Heritage Trust to buy it. The National Trust now has a 999 year lease on the building.
Work immediately began to protect the structure from any further damage caused by the elements.
A free-standing scaffold sealed with plastic sheeting, was erected to cover the entire building. An internal scaffold was also erected enabling builders to enter the Red Wing and begin repair works.
Repair works ended in 2016 making the entire structure wind and water tight and structurally sound.
The future for the Red Wing
As it stands it is an unusual and atmospheric space which tells a chilling story of how rapidly a building can fall into disrepair when not cared for. Interested parties who have donned a hard hat to look inside find the building and the spaces within, fascinating in their own right.
While the building still has many missing floors and internal areas which are not safe to walk on, we would like to be able to show more of these intriguing spaces off with a series of walkways, perhaps moving through rooms with no floors, getting up close to crumbling plaster, looking down on perspectives which would not normally be experienced.
Eventually the building will probably be returned to being used for practical purposes which serve the main part of the mansion, as it was initially intended in the 18th century when it was used as the service wing to Croome Court.
Ask one of our house guides about the 'Red Wing' tour which operates every day throughout February and march 2017.