Issued on behalf of Berkshire Record Office
‘A Perfect Specimen’ is an exhibition at Berkshire Record Office. It remembers one of the county’s great lost buildings: Coleshill House near Faringdon
The National Trust announces plans to restore Coleshill House’s parkland
Now owned by the National Trust, the Coleshill estate once boasted one of England’s finest 17th century homes.
Coleshill House was built in the 1650s and stood for 300 years on the edge of the parish that bears its name. Its history is examined in ‘A Perfect Specimen’, which opens at the Berkshire Record Office in Reading on 17 October – and particularly its relationship with the 3rd Earl of Radnor, who lived there for 70 years.
In 1799, Lord Radnor chose to move to Coleshill rather than stay at the family’s ancestral home of Longford Castle in Wiltshire. He was inspired by the beauty and charm of Coleshill and its surrounding grounds. In between his 40 years in Parliament he rebuilt the estate farm (twice), remodelled the gardens and provided cottages for the workers he employed.
His descendants remained at Coleshill until 1946, by which time the house had fallen into disrepair. Then in 1952, during restoration, a painter’s blowtorch set light to one of its window frames. Two days later the house had been reduced to ruins by fire. Four years after that, the estate was bequeathed to the National Trust.
Many of the archives at Coleshill were stored in the stables and so survived. They were subsequently placed in Berkshire Record Office – the archives for the Royal County of which Coleshill was part until 1974. They are now available for study and research.
A recent grant of £20,000 from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust has allowed the Record Office to repair and repackage much of the collection.
This is a chance to see historic items from the estate on display and gain an intriguing insight into the workings of a country house. Objects include individual bills for work on the stables in 1835, wages books for hay-making and drilling turnips, as well as objects rescued from the fire.
And, in 2019, the National Trust will begin restoration work to the parkland at Coleshill – allowing the public to enjoy again what once delighted Radnor.
After the ruins of Coleshill House were demolished, the village and landscape all but fell into a slumber and the parkland was leased out for agricultural use. Now, the parkland will shortly return to direct management by the National Trust, offering unique opportunities for the public to inform the restoration through tours of the formal Long Shrubbery, hands-on archaeology to discover the hidden 17th century gardens, find lost paths, follies and features and helping to plant trees.
Mark Stevens, County Archivist, said:
“Coleshill is a wonderful reminder of how important farming and the landscape are to historic Berkshire. We’re so grateful for the support of both the National Trust and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, who have allowed us to bring this special house to life again.”
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading Council’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said:
“I am delighted people will have the opportunity to see this collection from Coleshill following the meticulous repair work carried out by Berkshire Record Office.
“The exhibition will give visitors a glimpse of the fascinating history of this once great house which formerly stood proudly within the boundaries of Berkshire.”
Christian Walker, National Trust General Manager West Oxfordshire portfolio said:
“It’s fantastic to see this magnificent lost house find its place in memory once again. We’re grateful to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and to the Berkshire Record Office for their cataloguing and conservation work and for creating the exhibition.
We’re also delighted that the research produced by this project will be used to inform the conservation and restoration of the parkland that surrounds the former house at Coleshill. The restoration will enable the public to experience and appreciate the landscape that Radnor so adored.”
Notes for editors
About Berkshire Record Office
The Office is the joint archives service for the six Berkshire councils. It looks after historic collections from public authorities and private bodies from across the county, dating from the 12th century to the present day. Items from the collections can be consulted for free during opening hours, Tuesday-Friday.
The Record Office is always happy to add historic documents and photographs to its collections. Anyone with relevant material is invited to contact: Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Avenue, Reading RG1 6AF.
Tel: 0118 937 5132, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, @BerksArchives
About ‘A Perfect Specimen’
The exhibition will be open to the public from Wednesday 17 October to Friday 18 January 2019 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9-5, Thursdays, 9-9 and Fridays, 9-4.30.
About the National Trust
The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.
Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
More than 26 million people visit every year, and together with 5.2 million members and over 61,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places for ever, for everyone.
For more information and ideas for great seasonal days out go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Whilst there’s nothing left to see of Coleshill house, the village is looked after by the National Trust and parkland is accessible to the public. Search for ‘Coleshill red walk’ on the National Trust website for a circular walk through the parkland.