It has long been evident to me that the world of the English aristocracy is a very small and tight-knit community in which the intermarrying of large families with other large families was very much the way things were done. However, nowhere has this been more evident than at Antony where my detailed look at the Carew, Pole-Carew and Carew Pole family tree(!) finds mention of multiple other National Trust properties on my list. I won’t be including all of these as NT Connections as some are slightly tenuous links, but I will mention them all, simply because I was a bit blown away by how many familiar property names came up!
There are five proper NT Connections that make my list. First up is Cotehele as in 1554 Thomas Carew of Antony married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Edgcumbe II, owner of Mount Edgcumbe and Cotehele. Secondly, we come to Trerice, with Juliana, daughter of John Arundell of Trerice (John V, the builder of Trerice) marrying Richard Carew in 1577. Third up is Croome Park in Worcestershire (one I have yet to tick off), with Anne Coventry, daughter of the 4th Earl of Coventry of Croome, marrying Sir William Carew in 1713. This is perhaps the most important connection as it was the Coventry money that was used by Sir William during the 1720s to build the current house that stands at Antony. Next, a minor Pole-Carew daughter, Juliana, married into the Agar-Robartes family at Lanhydrock in 1839. The last of the firm connections I have listed at the bottom of this entry is Shute Barton in east Devon. This connection came after a member of the Carew family married a member of the Pole family of Shute in the 18th century, a marriage that eventually led to the family’s name changing to Pole-Carew. This was changed again in 1926 when Sir John Carew Pole inherited the Shute Barton estate and the baronetcy of Pole of Shute.
Other more tenuous connections are with Godolphin and Wimpole Hall. A daughter of Sir Francis Godolphin of Godolphin married a Carew in the late 16th century, but this was a younger brother so not the owner of Antony, while a niece of the 2nd Earl of Hardwicke (of Wimpole) married into the Carew family in 1784. Another interesting snippet about the more minor family members is that Daphne du Maurier is believed to have used Rachel Carew (d. 1705) as the basis for the titular character in My Cousin Rachel. (Must read that again!)
Anyway, the Sir John Carew Pole mentioned above was particularly important as he gave both Shute Barton (1959) and Antony (1961) to the Trust. Many of the contents of Shute were transferred to Antony, including a large part of the book collection and many portraits. Shute Barton is now a holiday home, which the Trust opens to the public for just a few days a year (I managed to visit last September). Although the Trust now runs Antony as a visitor attraction, the Carew Pole family still lives in the house and still owns all of its contents so I would recommend that visitors use the laminated information sheets in each room rather than relying on the guidebook as I think items may move fairly frequently! This situation also means that the house holds a mix of old and new, with the family’s antiquities being displayed alongside more modern works of art that they continue to add to the collection. For example, there is an impressive array of modern glassware in the Library, while a wander through the gardens will take you past a modern water feature and some non-traditional sculptures.
As I mentioned above, the current house was only built in the 1720s so although there have been Carews at Antony for more than 500 years, what you will see there now is just under 300 years old. There have obviously been changes since, with notable alterations to the gardens, including input from Sir Humphry Repton in the 1790s, which encouraged the creation of the more informal grassy vistas that lead down to the river. This time, it was the River Lynher that got in the way on our route to Antony, resulting in a 30-minute drive even though the house is again about five or six miles away from our holiday home as the crow flies!
My highlights at Antony were the Hall and the Library, both rooms that are divided by arched partitions, but both of which are impressive yet fairly homely at the same time. In the Library, you will also find a portrait of Sir Alexander Carew, who was executed during the Civil War, as was his brother John. Both brothers were Parliamentarians so the royalist members of the family were reported to have cut Alexander’s portrait from its frame and consigned it to the cellars in disgust. However, Alexander later wavered in his convictions and offered to surrender the strategic island of St Nicholas to the king. Betrayed before this happened, he was later beheaded on Tower Hill, at which time his portrait was retrieved from the cellar and stitched back into its frame! John, however, stuck to his Parliamentarian guns and signed the King’s death warrant but he too was executed for defying Cromwell, who he considered too much of a new ‘king’ for his liking.
Some of this story is told in a mini museum in the tearoom. It gives an interesting introduction to the family that can be read prior to entering the house, but I imagine when the tearoom is busy, it would be quite awkward to read the signs over the heads of seated tea drinkers, or in fact to ask them to move so you can reach some of the further display cases. Also on show alongside the tearoom – this time in a separate corridor – is a series of Gandharan statues, which were brought back from the Afghan wars by Sir Reginald Pole-Carew, who served as a soldier between 1869 and 1906. In the gardens, there is also a Burmese bell, which also came back with him from another war zone.
On a practical note, I would add here that entrance to Antony is by timed ticket, but it was a slightly odd system using 5-minute intervals, with each party of 10 or so being welcomed by a volunteer before being allowed through to the house. The welcome was great and gave a little background information, but I think the 5-minute segments are a little short. Our tickets were for 1.10, but we were 5 minutes late getting in – not a lot you might think, but the house only opened at 1 so there had been just two groups in before us! Perhaps it would be more useful to welcome visitors at 5-minute intervals but provide the occasional talk on the front lawn for those who want some background before entry.
I don’t like to end on a practical note, so I will also add a little for the movie buffs among you. Tim Burton used locations at Antony when filming his Alice in Wonderland movie and there are some fantastic hedge sculptures at the house, including a dodo on the way in from visitor reception and a group on the front lawn that includes Alice in a chair and, my favourite, the Cheshire cat. I must watch the movie again, perhaps after I’ve re-read My Cousin Rachel! Which means I could be a bit busy in the coming weeks as I also bought a book about Sir William Carew, the builder of Antony, for further reading!
Highlights: Hall; Library
Refreshments: Ham and salad sandwich with mustard crème fraîche and crisps; decaffeinated tea and half of a Rocky Road slice
Purchase(s): Guidebook; ‘Sir William Carew: Builder of Antony’ by Neville Cusworth; ‘Mistress of My Fate’ by Hallie Rubenhold (secondhand book)
NT Connections: Cotehele (intermarriage of Carew and Edgcumbe families); Trerice (intermarriage of Carew and Arundell families); Croome Park (intermarriage of Carew and Coventry families); Lanhydrock (intermarriage of Pole-Carew and Agar-Robartes families); Shute Barton (Sir John Carew Pole owned both properties and gave them both to the National Trust)