With the freezing January sky threatening snow, and rumours of a few flakes starting to fall in Birmingham, we set off to visit the first National Trust property of our brand new membership.
Baddesley Clinton lies to the south-east of Solihull, and dates from the 15th century. As you approach the house, its most striking feature is its moat, which would have had a defensive purpose when the house was first built.
The bridge now offering access to the house may originally have been a drawbridge.
Upon crossing the bridge the visitor reaches this quaint little courtyard, which originally would have been surrounded on all four sides by the house.
There’s a lot to see inside this atmospheric house, but it’s a cosy place, with low ceilings, lots of nooks and crannies and a roaring fire in the surprisingly intimate ‘Great Hall’.
We found the most interesting feature to be the priest holes, which once provided refuge for a number desperate Jesuit priests. In the present age of religious tolerance, it seems astonishing to think that such hiding places were once needed. One was down a latrine – I guess the temporary disgust of having to hide in such a place was still better than the alternative though.
Alongside tales of persecuted Catholics, the other focus of the house was on one of its Victorian residents, an artist named Rebecca Dering. One of the helpful guides told us a most amusing story involving Rebecca. The story goes that a chap was in love with Rebecca’s niece, and he went to Rebecca to ask for permission to marry her niece. Unfortunately, Rebecca – 21 years his senior – was a little hard of hearing, and thought he was asking HER to marry him! She said yes, and the poor chap was such a gentleman that he felt obliged to honour his proposal, so he went and married the aunt. One can scarcely imagine how the poor niece felt, but apparently she married another bloke, the oddly named Marmion, and they all moved into Baddesley together. Not long after Rebecca died, aged 93, her widower and niece were married – 25 years after he’d originally planned to marry her!
It was so cold and damp outside that we didn’t venture to explore the grounds; we’ll save those for a sunnier day.
Entry to the house and grounds: free for members; £9.60 for adults, £4.80 for children, £24.00 for a family.
Opening hours: detailed here