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Things to do in Saltram house

Portrait of Theresa Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds landscape on an easel
Theresa Robinson portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds being conserved at the Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio at Knole Kent | © James Dobson

Home to the Parker family for several generations, Saltram is a Georgian jewel, rich with original collections and architecture. An elegant façade built around a much earlier house, it was acquired by George Parker in 1712 and today provides a fascinating glimpse into upper class life at the time.

Reynolds 300: The Painter and the Painted

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Sir Joshua Reynolds - painter writer and celebrity. He became one of England’s greatest artists and lifted the reputation of portrait painting. At the heart of his success was the ability to capture the emotion and identity of his sitters.
How did a local boy come to have such an impact on the art world? And why will you find so many of his works here at Saltram?
From 17th April - 31st October Saltram will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Sir Joshua Reynolds, highlighting many of his works on display here at Saltram and sharing stories of the close relationship he had with the Parker family in the 18th Century.

Reynolds 300: The Painter and the Painted display and curated leaflet, highlights Saltram’s collection of thirteen portraits by the artist, as well as related paintings and prints of Reynolds’ works. As part of the National Trust’s wider Reynolds celebration, ‘Reynolds 300’, Saltram’s own portrait ‘Hon. Theresa Robinson, Mrs John Parker (1770-1772)’ has been beautifully conserved and will be displayed for the first time at The Box Plymouth, along with the portrait of the engraver Francesco Bartolozzi also from Saltram’s collection. This is part of the Box’s exhibition ‘Reframing Reynolds: A Celebration’ running from 24th June to 29th October 2023. ‘Reynolds 300’ also involves National Trust Properties Knole in Kent, Petworth in West Sussex and Wimpole in Cambridgeshire.

Start your journey by picking up your free leaflet from the Welcome Centre from 17th April and discover the man behind the portraits.

The National Trust Reynolds 300 programme: Reynolds 300 | Sir Joshua Reynolds collection highlights | National Trust

The Box's Exhibiton: Reframing Reynolds: A Celebration | The Box Plymouth

The Saloon carpet Axminster re-weave

From Friday 16th June come and experience one of Britain’s finest early Georgian interiors as its designer originally intended. The spectacular Axminster carpet in the Saloon has been expertly recreated by the same firm whose founder wove the original carpet back in 1770, allowing us to walk in the exact footsteps of the Parker family in their home some 250 years on.

John and Theresa Parker commissioned the fashionable Scottish designer and architect Robert Adam to design every detail of the Saloon at Saltram. In around 1768, he designed a huge 13.5m x 5.9m one-off carpet to echo the pattern of the beautiful plasterwork ceiling above.

The National Trust has worked with historic local firm Axminster Carpets, whose founder Thomas Whitty, wove the original carpet in the 18th century, to reweave two partial copies that can be laid over the original. These now allow you to enter and appreciate the lavish room just as John and Theresa Parker did over 250 years ago.

The full-length protective reweaves, each covering two-thirds of the carpet’s width, will be regularly rotated so that every 18months-2 years it can be cleaned, repaired and stored by bespoke flooring specialists Linney Cooper, whilst the second copy is then laid. This approach will allow the original carpet to rest and extend the life of the reweaves to up to thirty years.

Axminster Carpets rebuilt its largest loom to accommodate the most complex reweave it has undertaken in its 268-year history. The six-week reweave involved 22 thread colours and 96,130 changes of bobbin (the cylinder on which the yarn is wound), each change taking anywhere from three hours to a whole day to complete!

The carpet reweave is the final stage of a major Saloon conservation project which began in 2017. The conservation project was funded by the National Trust and Wolfson Foundation and is a first of its kind, once again making history.

Learn about a lavish lifestyle

The lifestyle the Parkers enjoyed can be clearly seen through the sumptuous, original furnishings and significant collections still on display, including stunning paintings, ceramics and textiles.

The Robert Adam Saloon

The highlight of any visit to Saltram House is a visit to the ‘Great Room’, the Saloon. Here you can see one of the best and most complete rooms designed by architect Robert Adam and finished in 1772.

Grey-blue Giltwood armchairs attributed to Thomas Chippendale lined up in the Saloon at Saltram, Devon
The saloon at Saltram | © National Trust Images / John Hammond

Saltram's painting collection

Originally the family acquired history paintings by the artist Angelica Kauffman for display in the Saloon. However, these now hang in Saltram’s staircase hall. As well as commissioning new paintings, the Parkers looked to buy historic pieces of art.

The painting collection grows

Above the fireplace you can spot an early 17th-century copy of Titian’s painting The Andrians, which is said to have been bought by Joshua Reynolds for the family.

The gold and duck egg blue colour scheme for the Saloon is striking by day. However, just imagine it by candlelight and filled with the music and laughter of a ball.

Saltram's library

Saltram’s library is a wonderful example of an evolving family collection. In 1780, the library moved from its former location, (where the dining room is now), to its current spot.

The oldest book in the library is a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle. This was published in 1493 and tells the story of the history of the world. Unusually for its time, it contains numerous woodcut print illustrations, around 1,800 of them.

A woman looks at old books in the library at Saltram house, in Devon
Visitors looking at a book on display in cabinet | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Saltram: the lending library?

Alongside historic texts, the library also has a lighter side. Novels were normally borrowed from libraries rather than purchased. The fact that Saltram has its own novel collection is unusual.

We know that members of the family borrowed them to read so it possible that Saltram acted as a lending library to family and friends.

When it was published in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice proved as popular among the Parkers as it did wider society.

Metamorphic furniture

Saltram has a few examples of ‘metamorphic’ furniture in the library, which was both useful and attractive. This includes ‘Campbell’s Newly invented Library Steps’, which neatly packs away into a table.

Metamorphic chair

Likewise, a chair designed after Morgan and Standers of London, is a comfortable seat. Turned upside down, it becomes a set of steps.

Whether you prefer the opulent magnificence of the Boulle desks and clocks or the functional simplicity of the copper pots and pans in the kitchen, Saltram has something to see for everyone.

Conservation in action

It remained one of the Parker family homes until 1957 when it was transferred to the National Trust.

Want to learn more about how we look after the collections? We regularly have conservations in action in different rooms, where you can watch our team care for the objects and chat to them about their work.

The white exterior of the house at Saltram with lawn in front of it

Discover more at Saltram

Find out when Saltram is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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Three vintage photographs in silver frames inside Saltram house, Devon

The history of Saltram house 

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.

Orange grove in the garden Saltram Devon

Things to do in the garden at Saltram 

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.

A woman looks at old books in the library at Saltram house, in Devon

The collection at Saltram 

See what there is to discover among the collection at Saltram, including fine examples of Wedgwood ceramics, intricate Chinese wallpapers and portraits by Joshua Reynolds.

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Eating and shopping at Saltram 

Find out what’s in stock and on the menu this season when you grab a bite to eat in the Chapel Tea-room or browse the shop.

Visitors on a guided group tour with a volunteer guide at Hidcote Manor Garden, Gloucestershire in September

Group and school visits at Saltram 

There’s lots for groups and schools to enjoy at Saltram, from learning about history and nature to tucking into tea and cake, as well as group discounts.

Sun over the Hall, Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire

Houses and buildings 

Historic buildings are a treasure trove of stories, art and collections. Learn more about what makes these places so special and plan your visit.

View through a wintry garden with bare trees and the River Dart peeping between them, to the white façade of Greenway House

Houses and buildings in Devon 

Discover the grand houses and curious family homes across Devon. Step inside and find things to inspire and entertain all the family, whatever the weather.