The stories of our holiday cottages

The exterior of Cwmmau Farmhouse, Whitney-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Many of the National Trust’s holiday cottages are more than a comfortable base for exploring, they also have stories to tell. Jane Eastoe, author of A Cottage in the Country, introduces us to some of these fascinating tales.

Whether they are grand or simple, built out of necessity, or holiday homes, there is one thing cottages all have in common: they remain our legacy, a reminder of who has gone before, sometimes the first owner and sometimes the last. They mark lifestyles long past, hopes abandoned and dreams fulfilled, a reminder that our homes are so much more than bricks and mortar.

These cottages are just five examples of some of the places people have laid their heads and left their stories.

The Bothy at Powis Castle

The Bothy, Powis Castle and Gardens, Powys 

At the turn of the 20th century, George Herbert, the 4th Earl of Powis and his wife, Violet, began remodelling Powis Castle and redesigning the gardens – commissioning a house in the grounds for unmarried gardeners.

The gardeners’ lifestyle was disrupted in 1939 when the Welsh Girls’ School, from Ashford in Middlesex, was evacuated to Powis Castle. The downstairs of the Bothy served as a staff common room and music room, the upstairs was a dorm for the senior girls. It continued to be used as a rest room by gardeners until 2006, long after Powis Castle was bequeathed to the National Trust.

The old kitchen at Cwmmau Farmhouse, Whitney-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Cwammau Farmhouse, Herefordshire 

Lying in the Welsh Marches, the once fought-over border country between England and Wales, is Cwammau. Philip Holman, who was looking for a base for his boar hunting expeditions, had it constructed as a hunting lodge in the early 1620s (the area at the time was thickly forested). It was clearly intended to impress: originally the entire ground floor served as a giant wood-panelled dining hall, complete with vast fireplace.

The inside of Portland House, Dorset

Portland House, Dorset 

Portland House is reputedly the UK’s finest surviving example of ‘Hollywood Spanish’ or ‘Mediterranean Villa’ architecture so popular in the inter-war years. It was commissioned by Geoffrey Henry Bushby, a young bachelor with a private income, an estate in Hertfordshire, and no need to work. He was at Eton when the First World War broke out, and spent the last year of the war in the Irish Guards. He went on to travel and mix with High Society. Bushby commissioned Portland House as his seaside retreat but he never really got to enjoy it. He died in 1935 aged just 36; the house had not been long completed.

The garden at Wainman House, nr Peckover House, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

Wainman House, Peckover Estate, Cambridgeshire 

In 1777, the Quaker Jonathan Peckover moved to Wisbech, where there was a strong Quaker community, to establish a grocery business. Later, in 1783, he established the ‘Wisbech & Lincolnshire Bank’ which merged with other Quaker Banks in 1896 to form Barclays.

With business prospering, Peckover’s sons developed the North Brink, an area next to the family home, Bank House. Wainham House is next door to Bank House and in the late 18th century it was home to a Quaker surgeon and his wife. The house continued as a doctor’s home even after the surgeon's death. In 1850 a series of rooms were built and served as consulting rooms for the next hundred years.

Exterior of The Tower holiday cottage, Norfolk

The Tower, Blickling Estate, Norfolk 

John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire (1732–93), inherited Blickling Hall in 1756 at the tender age of 33. He altered the hall and commissioned a building that was to combine the extravagant dual function of racing stand and banqueting house: the Gothic Tower, with a winding staircase that gives access to a large room on each floor. The Earl does not appear to have had any professional interest in horse racing, however. It wasn't until 1805 that the Earl’s son-in-law, William Assheton Harbord, organised the first officially recorded race. Nevertheless the interest was short-lived; in 1857 William Schomberg Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian, converted the grandstand into a house and it functioned as an estate cottage.