Our places on screen with George Clarke's National Trust Unlocked
Ever wanted to delve deeper into the stories of your favourite National Trust places? This six-part series from Channel 4 took you behind the scenes with George Clarke, as he visited some of the grand stately homes, quirky cottages and beautiful gardens in our care.
Filmed while these properties were closed to the public due to Covid19, the unique conditions offered George the opportunity to get under the architectural skin of these extraordinary places, meet the people who care for them and find out what happens when the doors are closed.
In the series George also explored some of the stunning gardens and parklands in our care and, together with his husky Loki, hits the trail to experience some spectacular walks from Studland Bay to the Bath Skyline.
You can watch the whole series on demand on the Channel 4 website. Take a look below to discover what featured in each episode.
Kingston Lacy, Dorset
George’s journey begins in Dorset at the exquisite 17th-century mansion of Kingston Lacy, where he discovers the tragic story of William John Bankes. Forced into exile in Italy, Bankes remotely remodelled the house in the style of a Venetian Palace, and filled it with treasures such as paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Titian.
George’s next stop is in the heart of the Cotswolds at the Arts and Crafts garden Hidcote. Here he discovers the intricate series of outdoor garden ‘rooms’ created by the talented American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston, designed to be full of colour and with surprises round every corner.
Kinver Edge Rock Houses, Staffordshire
In Staffordshire George mines the history of the country’s last cave dwellers at one of Britain’s best-kept secrets, the Rock Houses at Kinver Edge. Cut straight into the sandstone cliffs, these unusual structures were restored in the 1990s to show what life was like for people who made these houses their homes.
Studland Bay, Dorset
To round off the trip, George takes Loki for a walk along the spectacular Jurassic Coast near Studland Bay. Once the location where the Allied Forces prepared for the D-Day landings, it's now a tranquil landscape of cliffs, beaches and heathland.
Dunster Castle, Somerset
From its dramatic location on a high wooded hill to the medieval gatehouse and ruined tower, Dunster Castle feels like something out of a novel. Here George discovers 1000 years of the castle’s history, and how the Luttrell family spent six centuries renovating it from a fortress to a comfortable family home.
Westbury Court Gardens, Gloucestershire
George also visits the small but perfectly formed gardens at Westbury Court. Dating from the late 1600s, this is the only restored Dutch style water garden in the country, and features canals, clipped hedges, working 17th-century vegetable plots and many old varieties of fruit trees.
Washington Old Hall, Northumberland
Next George goes back to his roots in Tyne and Wear with a visit to Washington Old Hall, ancestral home to the first president of the USA. The picturesque stone manor house and its gardens provide a tranquil oasis, reflecting the life of the gentry after the turbulence of the English Civil War.
Finally George and Loki set off to explore the parkland at Croome, the 32-year labour-of-love of renowned 18th-century landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. There’s plenty more history to discover here too, not least the once-secret WWII airbase.
" The history of our architecture tells the stories of our past, both good and bad, and the grounds and walks have made me realise, now more than ever, just how important green spaces are to our happiness, well-being and mental health."
Back in George’s old stomping ground of Northumberland, he takes in one of the most modern Victorian houses in existence: the water-powered, cliff-top mansion of Cragside. The creation of inventor and philanthropist Lord Armstrong, the house remains crammed full of ingenious gadgets – most of them still working.
In Buckinghamshire George adds his name to the list of dukes, earls and viscounts who have visited Cliveden over the past 300 years. He also explores the astonishing Grade I listed gardens and majestic woodlands, which capture the grandeur of a bygone age.
Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire
At Snowshill George investigates the unique home of a fellow architect – Charles Paget Wade. A great collector, Wade filled Snowshill Manor with a treasure trove of over 22,000 curiosities collected from all around the world. In fact the collection was so vast that it took up the entire mansion, requiring Charles to set up home in one of the former outbuildings.
Bath Skyline, Somerset
To wrap things up George and Loki embark on a six-mile circular walk with unrivalled views over one of Britain’s most celebrated cityscapes; beautiful Bath in Somerset. Together they explore meadows, ancient woodlands and secluded valleys – all only a short stroll from the bustling city centre.
Standen, West Sussex
In West Sussex, George visits the magnificent and meticulously crafted country retreat Standen, one of the best examples of Arts and Crafts design to be found anywhere in the world. Built using local materials and traditional construction methods Standen nevertheless always had a pioneering spirit: from the early use of electric lighting to its role in the Suffragette movement.
In Somerset George discovers a masterpiece of Gothic revival architecture at Tyntesfield – the vision of merchant William Gibb who created this comfortable family home with the vast fortune he’d made by trading Peruvian ‘guano’ – otherwise known as seabird dung.
Corfe Castle, Dorset
George also travels back in time at Corfe Castle in Dorset, a striking ruin whose first stone was laid almost a millennium ago. Here he uncovers the turbulent history of this iconic site, and gets to grips with the castle’s medieval catapult.
Golden Cap, Dorset
Next it's off to the seaside with Loki for a walk up to the highest point on England’s south coast: Golden Cap. As you’d expect there are fantastic views from the top – but even at lower altitude there’s plenty to discover, from peaceful woodlands to old smugglers’ haunts.
" We're delighted that Channel 4 viewers will be able to enjoy some of these special places from their homes as George Clarke explores diverse sites from grand stately homes to quirky cottages and gardens and meets the staff who have been caring for them during lockdown."
Killerton Estate, Devon
In Devon George explores one of the National Trust’s quirkiest buildings, a bear hut on the 6,400-acre Killerton estate in Devon. He also discovers the extraordinary story of Richard Acland, whose strong political ideals led him to give away his ancestral estate and inheritance for the benefit of the nation.
Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire
On a trip to Warwickshire George unearths secrets and scandal at Baddesley Clinton, a fortified Tudor manor house where, in the past, architecture has meant the difference between life and death.
Gibside, Tyne and Wear
Lastly it’s back to the north-east with Loki for a walk through the Gibside Estate, a landscape park with royal connections and crowned by its jaw-dropping architecture.
Ham House, Surrey
In the last episode, George heads to the decadent 17th-century Ham House on the banks of the River Thames. Here he learns about the remarkable women who put the house on the map, before exploring the beautiful formal gardens that surround it.
2 Willow Road, London
For your eyes only, George has a private tour at the modernist Hampstead home of one of his heroes, architect Ernö Goldfinger, the man who is thought to have inspired James Bond’s greatest nemesis.
Penshaw Monument, Sunderland
George completes his journey back in the North East, fulfilling a boyhood dream by scaling the famous Penshaw Monument. Built to commemorate John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, this 70 foot high monument considered to be one of Wearside's most beloved landmarks - even appearing on the badge of Sunderland Football Club.