The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that Shute Barton wasn’t even on my list until now (I’ve sneakily added it on after visiting!). The reason for this is that it is actually a National Trust holiday home that is only open four weekends in the year. As one of those weekends coincided with my stay in the area, though, I thought I might as well squeeze it in.
The open weekends are by guided tour only so we joined a group of seven other people to be taken around the house. I will say that it wasn’t the best NT tour I’ve ever been on but to be fair to the guide, she didn’t have a huge amount to work with as only a small part of the original property remains (the rest seems to have been dismantled and taken up the road to create a new Shute House), while there have been many modern additions to turn it into suitable accommodation for holidaymakers.
Unfortunately, it was slightly difficult to get a handle on the who’s who of the place as I thought it would be rude to get my pad out and start taking copious notes during the tour. Instead, I just jotted down a few words here and there to remind me and have filled in the holes with the help of good old Wikipedia. I think it would be helpful for the NT to perhaps run off a few hand-outs for visitors to take away with them so the timeline and facts can become a little clearer.
There were actually some interesting folks attached to Shute Barton over the years. These included Cicely Bonville, whose ancestors had built the house in 1380 and who inherited it along with other great estates and significant wealth after the War of the Roses. She was later married off to Thomas Grey, the son of Edward IV’s wife Elizabeth Woodville. These names were all quite familiar from Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen, which I’d both read and seen on TV! Cicely and Thomas were also the great-grandparents of Lady Jane Grey of the nine-day reign. It has been suggested that both Henry VII and Lady Jane Grey may have visited Shute Barton but I can’t find confirmation of either of these so I won’t add them to my list of regal visits.
After the Lady Jane Grey scandal, the Grey lands were confiscated and Shute Barton was given to Sir William Petre by Queen Mary. He was her Secretary of State, just as he had been for her father and brother and was later to become for her sister Elizabeth. This ties in with Montacute, which was also given to Petre (albeit before the current house was built). Someone who kept receiving grand estates in this way would probably have been a very hard chap to buy for at Christmas!
In 1560, Shute Barton then passed on to the Pole family where it has pretty much remained ever since, being given to the National Trust in 1959 with the stipulation that members of the family could continue to live there. The last Pole-Carew gave up tenancy in 2008 and it was opened as a holiday let in 2011. There is a family tree on one of the walls of the house so you can follow the Pole line down (perhaps take a magnifying glass, though, it’s quite detailed!) The Pole-Carew family is also connected to Antony House in Cornwall, where much of the Pole family art is now on display, having been removed from Shute Barton.
One thing that we learnt from our guide was that not many of its owners have ever actually called Shute their home. It’s another one of those rather opulent West Country holiday houses… only this time it is actually a holiday home that is available for the general public to rent. This leads to perhaps one of my big gripes about Shute, which is that, at times, the tour felt a little like an advert for the holiday house. It was certainly nice to have a nose around but we really didn’t need to see the brand new kitchen with its shiny surfaces.
So, all in all, it was nice to see the place and to be able to add it to my list, but I wouldn’t recommend that you come on holiday to the West Country just to see it, unless of course you would like to stay in it!
Highlights: The Bonville-Grey connections
Refreshments: None (although tea and cake was available at St Michael’s Church next door)
NT Connections: Montacute House (both estates were owned at one time by Sir William Petre); Antony (many of the Pole paintings once housed at Shute Barton are now at Antony house in Cornwall)