Dating from the late 16th century, the house originated as a farmhouse for the Featherston family, gentlemen farmers with aspirations.
The house was developed and extended over the years, becoming a manor house with a large estate. In the late 19th century the Featherston family sold the house and estate. The house and estate was bought by Alfred Ash in 1904 with money acquired from the successful galvanised steel business of Ash & Lacy, based in Birmingham.
Graham Baron Ash inherited the business and Packwood House when his father died in 1925. He sold the business and took to investing in stocks and shares whilst devoting the next 15 years to restoring and remodelling the house to create what he considered to be the perfect English country house. A major undertaking was the creation of a Great Hall, from a former cattle byre and barn, which was linked to the house by the construction of a long gallery.
Graham Baron Ash can be considered to have been something of a conservationist as he purchased items from houses facing demolition and used them to create his vision of an ideal country house.
The work that Graham Baron Ash began to put into the house was recognised by a visit to Packwood by Queen Mary in 1927. A much earlier noted visitor was Colonel Henry Ireton, a Parliamentary commander in the English Civil War. It is thought that he stayed at the house before the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.
The estate is particularly noted for its avenue of yew trees, laid out in the mid-17th century by John Featherston and supposed to represent "The Sermon on the Mount". Additional trees were added in the mid-19th century. Graham Baron Ash passed the house and estate to the National Trust in 1941 and later moved out to live at Wingfield Castle in Suffolk, having taken out a lease on the property.
The College is an Independent School, established on the site, and occupying some of the buildings, of the former, Benedictine, St. Mary's Priory. The Priory was founded in 1832 by a community of Nuns that had arrived in England at the end of the 18th century to escape persecution in France. A small school for girls was operated by the Nuns. The Priory closed in 1966 due to falling numbers but at one time had been the largest convent in England with more than 200 Nuns.
The estate was purchased in 1927 by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, as a rural retreat from his London home. Lord Bearsted was Chairman of both the family bank of M. Samuel & Co. and Shell Oil, which his father had founded. At the start of World War II, some of the bank staff were moved from London to Upton House to continue their work away from the threat of air raids. They both lived and worked at the house making use of the facilities, including a cinema and swimming pool.
Lord Bearsted had acquired a large art collection with works attributed to Canaletto, Gainsborough, El Greco, Hogarth and Breughel. He arranged for many of the most significant works to be stored in Welsh slate mines during the war, alongside much of the nation’s art treasures. After the war they were put on display at the house. Lord Bearsted left the house, gardens and art collection to the National Trust upon his death in 1948. The family continued to live at the house until 1988.
Old packhorse bridge over the Smite Brook near Combe Fields.
This sign on a shop front in Long Street, Atherstone, confirms the town's once important location on the old Roman Road, Watling Street. It was part of the coaching road between London and Holyhead, but is now bypassed by the modern A5.
Restored pound or pinfold once used for the secure restraint of stray animals.
The moated manor house at Baddesley Clinton, as seen today, is the result of alterations and extensions carried out in the late 1500's by Henry Ferrers. It was once the home of Nicholas Brome, a hot-headed man, a philanderer and a double murderer. He killed John Herthill, a steward to the Earl of Warwick, in revenge for the murder of his father, John Brome. He also killed the Parish Priest of Baddesley Clinton when he entered the house and found the priest "chucking his wife under the chin".
Cromwell Barn & Sign, Old Milverton
The barn is considered to be of some antiquity and local legend has it that some of Oliver Cromwell's troops were billeted here for a short while. However, it is the old sign that provides the real interest, with its warning of old deterrents against intruders "Man Traps and Spring Guns on Theise Premises"
The priory was established by Benedictine Monks in 1159. It was only a small establishment, being a sub-priory of one at Great Malvern and it appears to have been a struggle to maintain it in good order. It ceased to operate as a Priory in 1543, following the suppression of the monasteries.
Polesworth Nethersole School
Constructed in 1818 by the Sir Francis Nethersole Foundation the building replaced an earlier school on the site. Sir Francis Nethersole was a former Lord of the Manor of Polesworth, having married Lucy Goodere, who inherited Polesworth Hall from her father, Sir Henry Goodere of Monks Kirby. The first Nethersole School was built by Sir Francis in 1638, at the request of his wife, and provided free education for the children of the parish.
Polesworth Nethersole School
Plaque above main entrance showing Nethersole Arms.
This ruined castle was in the ownership of the De Astley and Grey families for many years. Sir John Grey, heir to the houses of Astley, Grey and Ferrers of Groby, married Elizabeth Woodville around 1455. Sir John was killed, fighting for the Lancastrian cause, at St. Albans in 1461, during the Wars of the Roses. Elizabeth subsequently married King Edward IV, the Yorkist claimant to the throne, whose victory in the Wars of the Roses resulted in Yorkist supremacy for 25 years in England.
Elizabeth, through her marriage to Edward IV, was mother of the Princes in the Tower, reputedly murdered at the instigation of her brother-in -law, Richard of York who became Richard III. She was also the mother of Elizabeth, who married Henry VII. In addition, Elizabeth was the great, great grandmother of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for 9 days in 1553. During the English Civil War the castle was garrisoned for a time by the Parliamentarians and Royalist troops were imprisoned there.
Wolfhampcote & The River Leam
The River Leam, one of the principal rivers of Warwickshire, rises near Hellidon in Northamptonshire. For a few miles it forms the boundary between Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. It reaches Wolfhampcote and is bridged by the old LNWR line between Rugby and Leamington. Shortly after, the river turns westward on its journey to Leamington and the county boundary continues northwards, skirting Braunston in Northamptonshire.
Wolfhampcote & The River Leam
These 2 bridges were constructed to carry the railway through the small, isolated settlement of Wolfhampcote. A short distance away, the old trackbed of the Great Central Railway also passes through the parish, crossing the LNWR at right angles. The GCR bridges have been demolished.
The pillory and whipping post provide a reminder of an old form of punishment when offenders were on display to the local populace and justice could really be seen to be done.