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Things to do in the house at Calke Abbey

Image shows the Dining Room at Calke Abbey. The dining table is in the centre of the room and the table is laid for a meal.
The Dining Room at Calke Abbey | © National Trust/Rod Kirkpatrick

Calke Abbey is the house where time stood still, vividly portraying a period in the twentieth century when many country houses did not survive. Discover why Calke Abbey is affectionately known as the ‘un-stately’ home and uncover fascinating collection items.

Planning your visit

The un-stately home is open from 1 March 2024 – 3 November 2024, 11am – 4pm.

To explore inside, you'll need to purchase a separate admission ticket from the Ticket Office. National Trust members can visit free of charge but will need to show their membership cards at the entrance.

Please bear in mind that there may be a potential wait at the front of the house on busy days.

You can help us care for the house and its historic collection by:

  • Borrowing a baby carrier and leaving pushchairs and buggies outside.
  • Grabbing a snack beforehand – food and drink cannot be taken around the House.
  • Turning the flash off before taking any photographs on your visit.
  • Using one of our scrapers for muddy boots.
  • Leaving heels and pointed walking sticks behind, as they could damage the historic floors.

Visiting with a bag?

To protect Calke Abbey's historic interiors, please leave bags behind or place them inside our free storage area through the west door of the house. Small shoulder bags are available to borrow from the Entrance Hall if you need to carry any essential belongings with you. The storage area is open until 4.15pm, so don't forget to collect your bag after your house visit.

Calke Abbey: the 'un-stately' home

Built on the site of a former priory, Calke Abbey was sold to the Harpur family in the early 17th century, who extended and developed the house over several generations. Sir Henry Harpur, 7th Baronet, also expanded the lime works, a decision that brought him great wealth. The house stayed with the Harpur-Crewes until the National Trust began caring for it in 1985.

By 1985, many of its rooms had been abandoned for decades and were in a state of decay. We've decided to preserve these rooms as they were found, vividly demonstrating how country houses like Calke Abbey fell into decline.

Visiting the house is journey from grandeur to abandonment. Experience state rooms, peeling wallpaper and vast collections of strange and unique objects – presented and preserved exactly as we found them.

Family admiring the natural history collection in the Saloon
Visitors exploring Calke's collection | © National Trust/Rod Kirkpatrick

Explore the rooms at Calke Abbey

You'll begin your journey the Entrance Hall and explore the 'stately' rooms at the front of the house, including the Dining Room, the Library and the Saloon, where you'll find plenty of taxidermy, an impressive book collection and grand paintings.

As you make your way towards the servants' quarters, experience a sense of abandonment in the School Room and Sir Vauncey's childhood bedroom, where a great number of belongings were stored, and simply left.

Wandering through the house, you'll discover deep and complex stories of the family who amassed a huge collection of treasures, and who shaped the Calke you see today. Why not speak to a Room Guide to learn more of Calke's secrets?

The Museum Room

The Museum Room features a new display each year, highlighting a theme or items of the collection relevant to Calke.

This year, we’re celebrating the life of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe, 10th Baronet, known for his natural history collecting. Sir Vauncey was a premier collector of butterflies and moths, contributing to Calke’s collection of 10,000 pinned insect specimens, housed across 90 store boxes and two cabinets.

Whilst these specimens are too fragile to be displayed, they’ve been replicated in large-scale photographs to resemble the inside of an insect case. Step inside to admire the details of these specimens and discover the delicate process of pinning insects.

Likely collected around the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the collection serves as a snapshot of the biodiversity of time, showcasing some now rare and extinct species.

The tunnels

This year, the tunnels are included in park and garden admission, which is free for members. Enter via the west door to begin your experience in Calke’s twisting tunnels.

Created as an invisible passage between the brewhouse and the cellar, the tunnels were the perfect way for servants to transport beer barrels without being seen. Venture underground and walk in their footsteps – you can almost hear the clinking bottles and wooden barrels rolling over the bricks.

Emerge into the brewhouse, and admire large mash tuns, which produced copious galloons of beer and ale.

Revisit throughout the year to see the tunnels decorated for seasonal highlights and key celebrations.

Collection items to look out for

From the grand and lavish to the abandoned and broken, there's a vast and unique collection housed at Calke Abbey, and you're bound to notice hidden details on every visit. Here are some highlights from the collection to look out for as you explore the 'un-stately' home.

Image shows a curlew from Calke's collection positioned on the table with birds in the background
The Bird Lobby at Calke Abbey | © National Trust/Rod Kirkpatrick

Natural history collection

Calke Abbey is home to one of the largest natural history collections in the National Trust, and you’ll find stuffed animals in most rooms of the house – from birds and mammals to fish and reptiles. What you see is actually half of the original natural history collection, much of which was sold off to meet death duties.

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A view of the west side of the house and  a glimpse of the Pleasure Grounds through trees on a sunny day at Calke Abbey

Discover more at Calke Abbey

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

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