Temple Newsam: the unvisited Hampton Court of the North? (Yorkshire)

I feel sorry for this house because it seems so unvisited and unloved.  While it’s on a scale to rival Hampton Court (indeed some call it ‘The Hampton Court of the North’) and it is a short drive from Leeds City Centre and charges less than £5 entrance (plus there’s a café, shop and Capability Brown landscaped grounds that anyone can enter upon paying the £3.60 car park fee or upon paying nothing if they park on the street and walk in), there is an eerie silence.

Reason to visit: to visit the site of where some hot political Tudors lived but also to see a unique feature in the form of a vertical message of welcome to all visitors perched high on the parapets.

We were in the house for over an hour and saw only 3 house guides (in dozens of rooms) and about half a dozen other visitors.  And it was Saturday afternoon!

One reason alone to visit is that the Chippendale Society houses some of its collection here and there are some very interesting Georgian interiors – original rooms have been remodelled rather than new wings from each era added/knocked down – an organic development with keeps the 17th century form in tact.  I wish more owners took this approach to their homes.

The house has good furniture, plenty of pictures and enough to see so that I left feeling like I need to go back another 15 times (entry is in fact free with an Art Fund card so I can keep going back).

I’m not sure why there were so few people there.  If this place were an Historic Royal Palaces property or run by the National Trust I’m sure it would be a riot.  By contrast Temple Newsam is run by Leeds City Council and people seem to snub council-run places as lacking a certain air of ‘middle class “nice day out”‘.

Essentially a U-shaped Tudor-Jacobean monstrosity of mammoth proportions, 2 sides are open to the public.  D went all history buff when we learned that an original owner of this site was Mary Queen of Scotts’ husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (he was born at Temple Newsam), who was later murdered.  He was also the father of James I of England and VI of Scotland.

Before the house came into Lord Darnley’s family, the site and the house that then stood upon it was owned by Lord Darcy.  He was executed, resulting in the property falling into the ownership of Henry VIII, who in turn gave the property to his niece, Margaret Tudor, Countess of Lennox and mother of Lord Darnley.  See more here about the Tudors in West Yorkshire.

A visit to this house reminded me that, no matter how many books I read or programmes I watch about history, a visit to a real place associated with the people who became the history concretises in my mind the timeline, the names of the players and the politics involved.

The Lennoxs’ house was later bought (in 1622) and rebuilt/refashioned by Sir Arthur Ingram, a tax collector, prolific landowner and financier.  He possibly removed the fourth wall of the enclosed courtyard house (to give the three-sided open courtyard we see today – but there is some debate about what the original Tudor house looked like) but definitely added the wording around the internal parapets which reads:

“All Glory and Praise be given to God the Father the Son and Holy Ghost on High, Peace on Earth, Good Will towards Men, Honour and true Allegiance to our gracious King, Loving Affection amongst his Subjects, Health and Plenty be within this House’.

Inside I remember a Victorian great hall (where a wedding was due to take place that afternoon), Georgian library with Chippendale desk, series of state rooms, a warren of Victorian staircases and bedrooms, long gallery with a state bedroom at one end and library at the other and bullion room with a honey pot and coffee pot that I decided have my name on them (if I were an art thief, which I’m not).  This is a house fit for 10 families it’s so vast.

I did have the free audio guide but in each room the story went on and on and on and on.  Perhaps the makers could keep each room to 1-2 minutes?

A former owner of Temple Newsam, Lady Hertford, was a mistress of the then Prince of Wales (later George IV) for a time and he gave her the Chinese wallpaper that she installed in the house.

The house stewards didn’t help – they knew nothing – each question I asked was met with a response of “sorry, I don’t know”.

It started raining as we came out and so we “forgot” to go into the formal knot garden.

Drat, I’ll just have to go back again sometime in the near future.

When visited: July 2012

House * out of 5: ****

Garden * out of 5: **

Website: http://www.fotnp.com/FRIENDS_OF_TEMPLE_NEWSAM_PARK/Temple_Newsam_House.html

Theme tune: The Blackadder Theme tune (because I can imagine Rowan Atkinson and Queen Elizabeth rambling around in here)

Further reading:

15 thoughts on “Temple Newsam: the unvisited Hampton Court of the North? (Yorkshire)

  1. I’m so pleased you visited Temple Newsam, it’s a wonderful house. I know I put this about whenever I can, but I used to work there, and what you noticed about the general ambience etc. has been true for a very very long time, and I’ve love to add more here (probably best left off the record though). I’m trying to get something together about council run properties so could I ask you if it would be ok for me to quote from this post? I’m expecially eager to use the bit where you make the comparisons with HRP or the National Trust. It would be used privately, and not on my blog or anything viewed publicly.

    1. Totally fine. I think everyone is aspiring to be Middle Class in a way and so they do snub council-run properties. Only through the Art Fund I’m I discovering what a treasure trove of council-run historic homes there are.

  2. I have some experience with Temple Newsom and even though it is limited and viewed from outside the day to day running of the place, it is enough to see that it would, in these recessionary times, be advantageous for the Leeds City Council to find another authority to run this great establishment. In my short time of involvement I have seen it reduce from three full time curators to none. This in itself is an indication of the apathy that exists towards this great treasure house of England. As a rate payer in this city, please release the ownership as a matter of urgency and let us see the survival and prosperity of this priceless asset.

  3. It’s interesting that our obsession with class might have something to do with visitor numbers to council run heritage sites. I believe it might be better put that it has more to do with the pursuit of cultural heritage, which a middle class family may have more time to achieve than a working class family – the ‘locals’. Otherwise, what would put a ‘middle-class’ visitor off, other visitors, presentation? However, Temple Newsam is not alone, and whilst I’d like to think that ideally a local authority country house could provide a great deal more for local people other than an open parkland, these houses may struggle to bridge the gap forever and a day. In the case of Temple Newsam, I agree that a drastic change is needed, and soon.

    1. I think TN has the wrong image – D did comment on the other visitors because there were some who were ignoring their children while they played in a dangerous area; the staff in the shop didn’t seem to care (the plants were unwatered and dying – too many Saturday kids) – the guides weren’t interested volunteers like at a NT place (so didn’t know anything (I actually deleted an earlier comment on them being there for the cushy job rather than out of interest)); the entrance is unclear and there’s no obvious signing about where to go into the house. I was very surprised there was an audio guide on offer for free, which was excellent. Harewood House, Nostell Priory and Harlow Carr are always buzzing and to me while they offer much the same they have a very different atmosphere. There’s not enough NT/RHS stuff around West Yorkshire, which is why I end up at places like Cliffe Castle and East Riddlestone Hall. I think even Canon Hall does okay. Someone else I know said the TN farm is not very nice compared to Canon Hall exactly because of the locals who were also visiting. They didn’t want their children around the other children, who were not behaving. I think it’s part bad advertising (HHA properties vs NT properties alone prove how the NT is a marketing genius) and partly the atmosphere a council-run place always gives off – tea at Bettys vs strawberry jam sandwiches in cling film and tea in a polystyrene cup. Good luck with your project.

    2. Once again, as an American I am utterly amazed at the layers of meaning regarding things British, it seems, that I am unaware of. Some country houses are in the care of English Heritage, some privately owned and others are council owned sites and “Council” simply means local government, I take it.

      Off the top of my head I can think of two properties in the USA that suffer from the budget variabilities of the government entity that owns them. Both are great houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, of which many are now open to the public, one owned by the City of Los Angeles, another by the State of Illinois. Both have been closed, off and on, over the past recession decade (almost.) Why it is that “council run” heritage sites in the UK are viewed as less upscale, I can’t say. The class oriented theory is fascinating and something I probably don’t understand, but could there be a more pedestrian explanation? I would expect that there are fewer visitor amenities and the overall presentation is less polished, as you also suggest. We see the same situation here with historic sites. The general expectation is that if an site/attraction is truly important it will be run by the National Park Service or by a private, non-profit foundation (ex. Mount Vernon, Monticello.)

      The Los Angeles City Council recently rejected a proposal to establish a private foundation to run Hollyhock House….probably a bad decision.

      1. We have the National Trust, English Heriage, privately owned houses that are members of the Historic Houses Association, council owned (yes, government owned, but each area has “Councils) ones. Lottery funding has done a lot to support privately owned houses.

  4. Temple Newsam is new to me. A survey of available images of the house and grounds online suggest to me that it is an odd house are uniquely austere…almost disturbingly so. The entire estate seems to be an aesthetic essay on blank, bleak empty space. The house floats on an expansive, featureless lawn. It’s enormous and the exterior is unusually un-articulated with a surplus of blank wall surface.

  5. Fascinating to read your views and particularly interested in how public perception of quality and worth differs when a property is managed by the local authority, the National Trust, English Heritage or in private ownership. I am sure there is an undergrad dissertation in there. I would be interested to hear this group’s perceptions of Wentworth Castle Gardens in Barnsley, which is run by a small local trust, but is often thought by visitors to be either Local Authority run or NT. (Self-interested question as you’ll see from my email address that I am an employee).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s