The collection at Saltram
Ever since the Parker family came to Saltram in the 1740s, it's been known for its fine interiors. Visitors to Saltram can explore many of the gems of this collection, including paintings by well-known artist Joshua Reynolds, Wedgwood ceramics, rare Chinese wallpapers and over 3,000 books.
Sir Joshua Reynolds at Saltram
Many country houses have paintings by the famous portrait artist Joshua Reynolds, but few can claim to have as important a connection to him as Saltram. Not simply patrons, the Parker family were friends with the painter, who was born less than a mile away, in Plympton.
The Parkers' friendship with Reynolds
Reynolds also came to stay at Saltram for at least a month in 1770, and was commissioned to paint the family on many occasions. He acted as an advisor and art dealer, and several paintings in the house were acquired thanks to him.
Account books in the house also record the family dining out with Reynolds, as well as the settling of gambling debts between them.
Reynolds' portraits at Saltram
While there are many portraits by Reynolds at Saltram, there are three must-see items in the collection.
John Parker, 1st Baron Boringdon (1734/5-1788)
Reynolds painted John Parker II on the Saltram estate. John is pictured enjoying the outdoors and casually leaning against a gate. He loved outdoor pursuits and had a stable full of horses. His relaxed pose and the reduced canvas size create an intimate portrait, demonstrating the familiarity between sitter and painter. This painting is on display in the Morning Room.
Josiah Wedgwood at Saltram
Pioneering potter Josiah Wedgwood opened his own factory in 1759. An innovative designer, his work became so popular that visiting his London shop was often difficult because the queues were so long.
Wedgwood ceramics at Saltram
The collection at Saltram features several ceramic styles created by Wedgwood. These include black basalt items that emulate ancient Greek and Roman pots – a perfect fit for Saltram’s classically inspired interiors.
A Wedgwood lamp
The lamp with three cast figures inspired by ancient Greek hanging lamps was bought by Theresa Parker. She wrote excitedly to her brother: 'We have just bought a beautiful lamp of the Black Staffordshire ware.’
Creamware at Saltram
Creamware was another Wedgwood invention that became incredibly popular. Looking to the field of engineering, the potter became interested in the lathes used to decorate metalwork and turn ivory.
The results can be seen on a set of vases in the collection at Saltram. With such an innovative application of technology, Wedgwood was ahead of his time.
Another example of Wedgwood’s ceramic style is the pebble garniture set found in the Dining Room. Wedgwood often experimented with materials, and his aim in this case was to produce a ceramic resembling stone. The dark granite ‘pebble’ look of these vases was created with a unique type of glaze, mixed from cobalt, iron and manganese.
Saltram house contains four different types of Chinese wallpaper, all beautiful and extremely rare. Made in China in the 18th century, these wallpapers were exported specifically to Europe and probably put up in Saltram in the 1750s or '60s.
The wallpaper would've been made by printing figures or scenes onto paper in black and white. These would then have been painted by hand. If you look closely, you can see how the wallpaper was cut to fit the room.
Handmade wallpaper designs
Some of the scenes are repeated and different borders have been added. You may also be able to make out that some of the figures and birds have been cut out by hand and pasted on top.
In the Dressing Room, you can spot the tall, swaying figures, often described as ‘long Elizas’, among porcelain vases, birds and flowers.
In the Study – which would then have been a sitting room – some of these figures are pasted together with landscape scenes.
Chinese bedroom wallpaper
The wallpaper in the Chinese Chippendale Bedroom depicts the manufacture of tea. It shows men collecting leaves and packing up crates, while others stamp the tea down with their feet.
Tea drinking in Georgian England
Drinking tea had become very popular in England by the 18th century, though it was very expensive. Only the rich could afford tea, and so tea ‘parties’ were a chance to show off wealth and good taste.
Tea was kept under lock and key in a tea caddy, and only served in the finest china. Chinese wallpaper depicting the manufacturing process would've provided a fitting backdrop.
The Axminster carpet
When visiting Saltram, be sure to explore the Saloon – one of the best and most complete rooms designed by architect Robert Adam.
Finished in 1772, it's a space designed to impress, featuring one of the largest Axminster carpets ever made, along with furniture by Chippendale and paintings by Joshua Reynolds.
Saltram's Tudor Nuremberg Chronicle
The oldest book in the Library is a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Published in 1493, it's a history of the world and, unusually for its time, contains around 1,800 woodcut print illustrations.
This copy originally belonged to a monastery in Bavaria. It came to Saltram in the 19th century, when such texts were purchased to show the wealth and education of the collector.
As libraries became more popular, so the demand for furniture that was both beautiful and useful grew. Saltram has examples of this so-called ‘metamorphic’ furniture, including ‘Campbell’s newly invented Library Steps’, which neatly pack away into a table.
Also look out for the chair that when turned upside down suddenly becomes a set of steps, useful for reaching the highest books.
The art and heritage collections we care for rival the world’s greatest museums. Learn more about the collection of paintings, decorative art, costume, books, household and other objects at historic places.
See the breadth of our collection of works of art, furniture and more: we care for around a million objects at over 200 historic places, there’s a surprise discovery around every corner.
Discover the stories behind some of the greatest artworks and artefacts looked after by the National Trust, as told in a dedicated book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust.
Built as an 18th century summer residence, Saltram’s historic interiors are just as beautiful today as they were; browse the shelves in the Library and see architect Robert Adam’s designs in the Saloon.
Originally designed for entertaining guests amid the backdrop of the amphitheatre and Orange Grove, the garden at Saltram has plenty of history just waiting to be discovered.
Feast your eyes on Robert Adam’s neo-classical saloon, lose yourself in stories in the Chinese wallpaper and wonder at the sheer volume of books in the library.
Discover what there is to see and do in this garden full of seasonal scents and bursting with colour, with views across the River Plym and beyond.
Woodland, estuary and open green spaces provide the backdrop to a city escape as you explore the beautiful countryside nestled near Plymouth’s urban environment.