Saltram House

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Coordinates: 50°22′54″N 4°04′57″W / 50.38167°N 4.08250°W / 50.38167; -4.08250

For the 1783 Epsom Derby winning racehorse, see Saltram (horse).
Saltram House ca. 1832 by William Henry Bartlett

Saltram House is a George II era mansion located in Plympton, Plymouth, England. The house that can be seen today is the work of Robert Adam, who altered the original Tudor house on two occasions. The saloon (main drawing room) is sometimes cited as one of Adam's finest interiors. Complete with all of the original decor, plasterwork and furnishings, Saltram is one of Britain's best preserved examples of an early Georgian house.

Originally home to the Parker family and Earls of Morley, Saltram House changed hands when, in 1957, it became a property of the National Trust, who operate it under the name "Saltram".

Saltram House was used as one of several local settings for the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility.[1] It is reportedly haunted by the ghost of a maid who was murdered there and a child.[2]

Origins and early period[edit]

The name Saltram derives itself from the salt that was harvested on the nearby estuary and the fact that a "ham", or homestead, was on the site before the Tudor period. The first family to be associated with the house are the Mayes, or Mayhowes, who were yeoman farmers here in the 16th century. The family owned Saltram for about 50 years, their prosperity declining at the end of the century when they began to sell and lease parts of the estate. their holdings were considerable, with a 1588 lease stated the right to farm in Saltram Wood 'and all houses, quays and buildings adjoining or upon the same', and to have fishing rights at Laira Bridge Rock and Culverhole; to hold portions of a quay called Coldharbour ; and to have the use of the Mayhowes' fishing nets. The next family to own Saltram were the Baggs, who were likely responsible for turning the farmhouse into a mansion. Sir James Bagg purchased Saltram in about 1614 and among other roles was both the MP for Plymouth and the city Mayor. On his death the house passed to his son, James Baggs the second. He was a vice-admiral closely aligned to King James the first's favourite, the Duke of Buckingham. Part of the reason why commentators thought so low of him might have been his embezzlement of funds from the Crown, not once, but twice, the first time being a major reason for the failure of Buckingham's attack on Spanish held Cadiz in 1625. For reasons unknown King Charles twice defended him despite his seemingly obvious culpability. James Bagg the second was succeed by his son George in 1638 at which time Saltram was described as comprising 'One great mansion house, one stable, three gardens, two acres of orchard, eight acres of meadows' and over eight acres more. Despite inheriting his father's role as Deputy Governor of Plymouth, George did not share his father's luck. In 1642 the English Civil War broke out and took its toll on Saltram house and the estate, and to make matters worse George was a confirmed Royalist who at the end of the war had to pay the Commonwealth government £582 just to secure his holding on the land.[3]

Despite having held on to Saltram through the war the Baggs lost Saltram in 1660 when it was transferred to Captain Henry Hatsell by the government in lieu of a large debt owed to him. Again, Saltram seemd to be a poisoned chalice as the Parliamentarian Hatsell was stripped of the house upon the Restoration later the same year and the house passed on to Sir George Carteret in lieu of a loan he had given to the King during the Civil War.

In 1712 George Parker of Boringdon Hall, about 2 miles north of Saltram, purchased the manor and in doing so created the dynasty which would reign over Saltram until its days as a private estate were over.[4]

Development, embellishment and decline[edit]

John Parker inherited the house in 1743 and along with his wealthy wife, Lady Catherine Parker, (who largely funded the remodelling), clothed the building with symmetrical Palladian facades which cover the Tudor origins of the house. The interiors of the house were given delicate touches including Rococo ceiling plasterwork in the Entrance Hall, Morning Room and Velvet Drawing Room.[5]

John Parker the second, who was later created Lord Boringdon, succeeded his father in 1768 and a year later married Theresa Robinson. The Robinson family was of an artistic mind and advised on the embellishment of the house in the six years until Theresa's tragic early death. These six years are considered Saltram's golden age, epitomised by Joshua Reynolds' association with the house due to his close friendship with the family. The house owns ten portraits by Devon's greatest artist. Alongside Reynold's stands Robert Adam, who was approached by Lord Boringdon in 1768 to create a suite of neo-classical rooms along the east front which reaches its climax in the Saloon, perhaps the most iconic of all of Saltram House's rooms. Adam, who was the most fashionable architect and interior designer of the day, created everything from the door handles to the huge plasterwork ceiling. Not to be confined to the inside of the property, Boringdon also commissioned Nathaniel Richmond to lay out the present parkland which surrounds the house.[6]

The third John Parker, later known as Earl of Morley inherited the house just 20 years after his father and took longer again to make any major changes to the house, however in 1819 he employed the Regency architect John Foulston to add the Entrance Porch and create the present Library out of two smaller rooms. His second wife, Frances, continued to develop the artistic legacy of the family by producing her own watercolours and Old Master copies which are on show in the house still. The Earl of Morley was ambitious and attempted to develop several industrial and engineering projects on the estate, but alas many of these were unsuccessful and the family fell heavily into debt.[7]

Money was so short that the third Earl of Morley was forced to leave the house between 1861 and 1884, and was only able to return after selling several of the estates most valuable paintings. The family's fortunes picked up in 1926 when the 4th Earl of Morley inherited several other estates although the good times were short lived as the war brought damage from enemy bombing and eventually in 1951 the house and its contents were accepted in lieu of death duties by H.M. Treasury who transferred them to the National Trust, who remain in charge to this day.[8]

Landscape[edit]

Saltram House today: the exterior is virtually unaltered

The silting up of the Laira means that once the view to the west was of a muddy estuary for all but the top of the tide, however recent tree growth has created a visually pleasing landscape. The in-filling of the Plymouth refuse dump at Chelson Meadow is now complete, creating green space. Views of Plymouth Sound are possible from the first storey of the house and the castle folly in the gardens.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Parrill, Sue (2002). Jane Austen on film and television: a critical study of the adaptations. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 6. ISBN 0-7864-1349-2. 
  2. ^ "Saltram House". Haunted Britiain. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Ceri Johnson/National Trust, "Saltram", National Trust Press, 1998
  4. ^ Ceri Johnson/National Trust, "Saltram", National Trust Press, 1998
  5. ^ Ceri Johnson/National Trust, "Saltram", National Trust Press, 1998
  6. ^ Ceri Johnson/National Trust, "Saltram", National Trust Press, 1998
  7. ^ Ceri Johnson/National Trust, "Saltram", National Trust Press, 1998
  8. ^ Ceri Johnson/National Trust, "Saltram", National Trust Press, 1998

External links[edit]