'A splendid example of the English manor house at its most evocative' Country Life
'The gatehouse is an Elizabethan gem' Simon Jenkins, England's Thousand Best Houses
‘A remarkable Tudor house of brick’ Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England
'One of Britain's finest stately homes' Daily Telegraph
'One of the most interesting group of buildings I have ever seen' Duke of Grafton, SPAB
'A remote and beautiful place' Sir John Betjeman, former Poet Laureate
Upton Cressett Hall is a Grade 1 moated Elizabethan brick manor with a spectacular 15th original Great Hall set in an unspoilt and romantic landscape near the Shropshire market town of Bridgnorth. Shropshire Magazine have described the Hall as 'one of the finest Tudor houses in Britain'.
The manor was the historic home of the Cressett family for centuries, before Sir Bill Cash MP and his family began living there from 1970 until their author and publisher son William took over responsibility in 2007.
Today, Upton Cressett Hall is the family home of William and his wife, Lady Laura, along with their labrador Cressetta and pug Thimble. Laura is a milliner with a workshop in the grounds where she is creating England's first 'Millinery Garden'.
The new gardens at Upton Cressett have been designed and planted by Lindsay Bousefield and the celebrated Shropshire gardener and writer Dr Katherine Swift (author of The Morville Hours). The gardens include Lady Laura's Rose Garden (with David Austin Shropshire roses); The Elizabethan Garden; The Topiary Garden; the Moat Walk (with rare fowl) and the Church Walk.
Over its remarkable history, dating back to the 12th century, Upton Cressett has hosted such historic figures as young King Edward V (the eldest 'Prince in the Tower') on his way from Ludlow castle to the Tower; Prince Rupert of the Rhine during the Civil War, and Baroness Thatcher, after which her bedroom in The Gatehouse is now named.
Dating back to the Domesday Book, the ancient manorial complex of Upton Cressett includes a fine Norman church, a medieval ornamental water garden with fish ponds and moat, a Deserted Medieval Village and a Roman Site, regarded as one of the most important in the Midlands outside Wroxeter.
The ancient hamlet of Upton Cressett includes three Grade 1 listed buildings and three Scheduled Ancient Monuments making it one of the most heavily protected heritage sites in the Midlands. The Elizabethan manor house and Gatehouse has long been admired by architectural critics including Nikolaus Pevsner, John Betjeman, the Duke of Grafton, Jeremy Musson, John Goodall and Sir Simon Jenkins, who included Upton Cressett in his acclaimed 'England's Thousand Best Houses', describing the Gatehouse as an ‘Elizabethan gem’.
The Hall and gardens have been open for guides tours with tea served in the gardens since the 1970s. In 2014, a new Medieval Pavilion, decorated with Cressett sea dragons by Adam Dant, was erected on the Moat Lawn for visitors to enjoy tea in a tent that is an exact replica of the sort used by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
The Hall contains a notable collection of art, tapestries and furniture, including 17th century portraits of the Cressett family, (Sir Francis Cressett, above by Wissing), Prince Rupert, Charles I, Charles II and Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales and 19th century and contemporary works by such artists as Henri-Edmond Cross, Derain, David Roberts, Alex Katz and Howard Hodgkin.
The acclaimed series of revivalist Elizabethan murals and ceiling paintings by Adam Dant (winner of the Jerwood Prize) are now included by English Heritage as part of the Grade 1 listing of the Hall. Country Life described Dant's work at Upton Cressett as 'bold and daring'.
The property is also available for filming. Productions filmed at Upton Cressett include the BBC's Old Curiosity Shop. Elizabethan plays and concerts are performed on the Moat Lawn with the Bosworth Pavilion used for drinks and refreshments.
Upton Cressett Hall has been a winner of 'Best Hidden Gem' at the Hudson's Heritage Awards, the Oscars of the heritage world (see Press and blog) recognising 'The Nation's Finest Heritage'. The two year restoration of Upton Cressett was featured over four pages in Country Life. Shropshire Magazine describes Upton Cressett as 'a true Shropshire gem'.
Prince Rupert took refuge in the Gatehouse in the Civil War whilst escaping the Parliamentary army. Others who have stayed or visited Upton Cressett throughout its colourful and romantic history include King Edward V, Charles I, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Boris Johnson, Sir John Betjeman, John Piper, diarist James Lees-Milne, novelist Sebastian Faulks, historian Andrew Roberts and Elizabeth Hurley.
The Gatehouse is also used by the Upton Cressett Foundation, a non-profit privately run guest retreat for novelists, academics, playwrights, biographers and historians to shut themselves away for up to a month - by invitation - to make creative progress with a project in a quiet and uniquely remote historic setting. Often compared to the Tower at Sissinghurst, where Vita Sackville-West built her library and wrote her many books, the Gatehouse has an inspirational environment. Recent guest fellows have included Dr Lara Feigel, author of the award-winning The Love Charm of Bombs and the English playwright Ella Hickson.
Although open for guided tours, the Hall and Gatehouse remains very much a lived in family home. Lady Laura and William (below, right) much look forward to your visit and welcoming you. The Medieval Tent on the Moat Lawn above (photo by Andrew Fox) is available for private functions and tea/lunch for groups in the summer.
Laura's working millinery studio is also open for clients and visitors by appointment. See: www.lauracathcart.com.
Any visitor to Upton Cressett must also stop by the beautiful Grade 1 Norman Church of St Michael, which has stood beside the Hall since the 11th century. It is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open every day of the year with free entry. The church was recently selected as one of only four Anglo-Saxon or Norman churches in the country to be included in a book by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) celebrating the most Beautiful English Churches, with a foreword by HRH Prince of Wales.
St Michael's was also voted one of the top 20 churches in the country by the members of the Churches Conservation Trust. The church contains an exquisite early Norman font that was mysteriously removed to Gordonstoun in the 1960s's when the young Prince of Wales was a boy at the school. Accordng to the late Ivor Bulmer Thomas, founder of the Redundant Churches Fund, who authorised the move of the font to Gordonstoun in the 1960s (when the church was closed and the font removed for safe storage), the reason was because senior ecclesiastical and royal figures wished for the future king to be surrounded by some objects of 'ancient English beauty' during his schooldays. It was returned to Upton Cressett in the early 1970s. St Michael's famous 16th century 'Cressett Brass' is also being returned to the church in 2014 after more than 40 years hanging at Monkhopton church.