Why Saltram is special
Ever since the Parkers came to Saltram in the 1740s and remodelled their home, it has been a place for visiting and for entertainment. Developed as a summer residence, the beautiful house, garden and parkland are still at the heart of what makes Saltram so special today.
John and Theresa Parker
Cannon fired and French horns played as Theresa Robinson arrived at Saltram in 1769, the new wife of John Parker II. You can perhaps imagine how she felt, coming to a new house but keen to make her own mark on it. Influenced by her cosmopolitan upbringing, she wanted to bring her fashion sense to Saltram and viewed it as project: a house to refresh and to redecorate, a house to spend money on.
Transforming the house….
Together John and Theresa completed the transformation of Saltram from manor house to Palladian mansion. They worked with Robert Adam, one of the most sought-after architects of the day. Sparing no expense, they bought Wedgwood ceramics and Chippendale furniture. They commissioned portraits from the president of the Royal Academy Sir Joshua Reynolds, and they built up one of the finest art collections in Devon. Theresa wrote excitedly to her brothers about these developments – up to three letters a day.
….and the garden too.
The focus wasn’t just on the indoors. The garden also developed at pace, so much so that Theresa was described as having a ‘planting fit[t]’. New carriage drives were put in, garden buildings sprang up and thousands of trees were planted to complete their fashionable landscape. Garden seats looked out along the estuary to Plymouth and up towards their ancestral home of Boringdon. You can still take in these key views today, though the cityscape of Plymouth has long since expanded.
Saltram remained in the Parker family for four more generations. Each naturally left their mark on the house and its contents, following emerging fashions as any family would today. The architect John Foulston who was tasked with updating large parts of Plymouth in the early 19th century, worked on Saltram’s library. Victorian plant-collecting and the family’s connection to the Westonbirt Arboretum influenced the growing and changing garden. Yet the changes were always sensitive to the important early history of the house, which explains why so many layers are still so easy to discover in the present day.
Saltram and Plymouth today
Today Saltram is a much-loved feature of Plymouth and many thousands visit to enjoy the house, garden and parkland. It came to the National Trust in 1957, accepted in lieu of tax as part of the National Land Fund after the Second World War. This makes it a war memorial and a ‘thank offering’ to those who fought and died – thus a fitting part of the wider history of Plymouth and its people.