Cronkhill and Town Walls Tower are two small properties opened by the Attingham house team a few times per year. They have limited openings because they are tenanted but they are both little gems with a fascinating history and well worth visiting.
Town Walls Tower is the last surviving watch tower on Shrewsbury’s town walls. Parts of the walls date from the reign on Henry III when a special toll was taken on goods coming into Shrewsbury to pay for the building of a defensive wall using sandstone from the Quarry, now a public park. The tower was added later in the reign of Henry IV when Shrewsbury’s fortifications were strengthened due to fears of more attacks from the Welsh forces.
The towers never saw much military action and were later sold to principle townsfolk. In its later years Town Walls Tower became home to a watchmaker, a coachman and was used as a play den for the children of a family who owned it! It was given to the National Trust in 1930 and is currently tenanted by Shrewsbury Girls’ School.
Cronkhill was built by John Nash (c.1802) to provide the 2nd Lord Berwick with an eye-catching Italianate villa to admire from Attingham. The building recalled the Tuscan villas in the Claude Lorrain paintings that Lord Berwick collected and fitted beautifully into the Picturesque landscape of the Attingham estate.
Cornkhill was originally painted with an ochre colour to blend in with the landscape and recall the warm colour of buildings in Claude Lorrain’s paintings. In building’s later history it had been coated in stark white Dulux Weathershield. Nash would have been appalled as Sir Uvedale Price, an influential Picturesque theorist whose ideas were advocated by Nash, wrote in his Essay on the Picturesque (1796) that a whitened building ‘stares you impudently in the face’ and ‘is like the eternal grin of a fool.’ Even worse was that the plastic based paint didn’t allow the building to breathe, resulting in damp problems. Recently the National Trust carried out an important project to return Cronkhill to its original colour which lends a warm feel to the building whatever the weather. The building has now been restored allowing the walls to breathe.
The first occupant of Cronkhill was Francis Walford, the 2nd Lord Berwick’s Steward. Cronkhill then became home to the 5th Lord Berwick who was renowned as a maker of rifles, musical instruments and most especially as a farmer. He won many prizes at agricultural shows and his Hereford cattle were so famous that after his death they were bought by buyers from Australia, Canada and for Prince Albert’s herd.
Another important occupant of Cronkhill was the 8th Lord Berwick who lived there from 1919 with his new wife, Teresa. We have a wonderful collection of photographs in the Attingham archives showing the couple at Cronkhill. They found it hard to get a tenant for Attingham so moved there themselves in 1921. Cronkhill has been let out to private tenants ever since.
This year the National Trust decided to start opening the properties on a timed ticket basis. Last year the visitor figures were huge and resulted in overcrowding, which was damaging in conservation terms and led to poor visitor experience as visitors squashed into the small rooms!
It was decided to limit visitor numbers at Town Walls Tower to 100 per day and visitors to Cronkhill to 250 per day and to run timed entry slots throughout the opening period. Tickets are bookable online or by phone (see links below).
The timed tickets were very successful in ensuring visitor numbers became more manageable. Town Walls Tower worked especially well with both days fully booked!
The Friday opening of Cronkhill was fairly quiet as it was a chilly day but the beautiful weather on Sunday brought visitors flocking. £68.50 was made towards helping the National Trust’s conservation work at the Cronkhill open days, mostly on the Sunday.
It would be lovely to see you at the next openings of Cronkhill and Town Walls Tower. To find out more about Town Walls Tower and book a slot on one of the half hourly tours, please click this link.
To discover more about Cronkhill and book a visit, please click this link. Visits are free-flow so you can arrive at any time throughout the hourly slot you book onto.