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Saltram Revisited

After several days indoors on various tasks, we decided it was time to down tools and go out.

Saltram (this photo taken in 2011 on a much sunnier day than today)

We decided on Saltram, a National Trust property near Plymouth, South Devon.  We last visited in December to see the house decorated for Christmas (if you have been reading my blog for some time you might remember this.)

We parked our car and decided that instead of lunch (usually my first consideration on such a visit!) we would have a walk first, as the weather was both mild and dry (but not sunny), then have lunch and finally, visit the house which we had seen many times before but which is always a joy to see.

Those of you who enjoy period dramas might remember that Saltram was chosen for the property in the film Sense & Sensibility to play the role of Norland Park, the home that the Dashwood family must leave after their father dies.  But Saltram was well known before the film crew moved in.  It is an amalgamation of Palladian, rococo, neoclassical, and Regency styles, but all the styles marry beautifully.

It was John Parker who, when he took over the house in 1768, engaged the most fashionable architect and interior decorator of the day – Robert Adam – to give the house a makeover.

And what a makeover it was!  Indeed, the results are considered one of the finest examples of Adam interiors.  John Parker and his wife Theresa were wealthy and collected many works of art and had their own portraits painted by their friend, none other than Sir Joshua Reynolds (fashionable portrait painter and first president of the Royal Academy.)

The Lime Avenue

But first, as I say, we had a stroll in the gardens, just as the Parkers might’ve done almost 300 years ago when John Parker inherited Saltram.  There are no less than 500 acres to the estate stretching down to the River Plym, but we confined our walk from the house, through the lime avenue to the Castle Folly.

The Castle Folly

We then retraced our steps back towards the Castle Tea Room via the Orangery …

The Orangery

Saltram from the gardens (I love this wild flower bed)

The Chapel Tea Room (almost obscured by this huge tree)

There are various places where one can eat at Saltram, including a large restaurant, but we thought that we’d have just a light lunch here, at the Chapel Tea Room, and went in to choose sandwiches, cake and out blend of tea.  We then opted to sit outside because although it wasn’t sunny, it wasn’t cold.

Saltram as seen from the Chapel Tea Room

We sat at the vacant table you can see in the photo above, from where there was a lovely view of this beautiful house.  There were a lot of people enjoying themselves, lots of children playing on the lawn, but none was rowdy, indeed, there was little noise, and it was lovely to see little ones enjoying themselves.

While husband went to sit at a table I went into the Chapel Tea Room and ordered for us – sandwiches, one slice of cake to share (it was such a huge slice) and tea (ordinary Breakfast tea, but it was loose-leaf tea which came in a large tea pot with a strainer for the tea leaves.)

It was a veritable feast, the sandwiches were delicious. Nothing out of the ordinary, just cheese & chutney for me and ham with salad for husband, but the quality was what counted, and they’d not stinted on quality or quantity of ingredients.  The cake was cappuccino cake and was equally lovely (such a large slice, we shared it, and the waitress remembered to bring an extra plate, an extra cake fork, and a knife for us to cut it.)  The tea pot was so large we managed three cups of tea each (thankfully, the loo was close by!)

After our lunch we made our way to the house, and we were told that the Saloon, Adam’s masterpiece, is currently being renovated and was heavily scaffolded.  We were too late for a tour (i.e. being taken up the scaffolding) to see the ceiling renovations, but I’m not entirely certain that I would’ve wanted to climb the scaffolding anyway!  After almost 300 years the paint, which was last renovated in the late 1940s, is now flaking, so a lot of work is being carried out.  Also, the huge Axminster carpet (at the time the largest one that the Axminster factory had made) is being conserved by having linen attached to the back to strengthen it.  It is currently on rollers down the centre of the room.

The Saloon, Saltram, currently with scaffolding (the carpet is on a huge roller in the centre of the room

And this (photo below) is how the room usually looks (a photo taken in 2011, please forgive the quality, but the blinds were drawn to prevent light-deterioration, and as flash photography isn’t permitted, the long-exposure without a tripod caused some blurring.)

There are more than 4,000 crystals in the pair of Venetian glass chandeliers (these were installed some years after Adam designed this room.)

Next to the Saloon is the dining room (originally the library) and some of the wonderful furniture made by Thomas Chippendale to Adam’s design and for the Saloon is being stored in here with paintings propped against the walls.

 One item of furniture of the suite designed for the room by Robert Adam, covered in silk damask

The ceiling is beautiful, and worth a look …

Dining Room ceiling, designed by Robert Adam

From here we visited the kitchen which is high to allow smoke from the original fires to vanish upwards and out of the high windows …

And from the kitchen we made our way upstairs to see what I think is the second most interesting part of the house (Robert Adam’s work being the first):  the Chinese wallpaper.

Two bedrooms have this wonderful hand-painted original Chines wallpaper. I took the above photo today, but these two photos below I took in 2011:

Although I love the Chinese wallpaper – it is exquisite – I also love this bedroom (photo below) which I think would be so cosy to go to bed in (if “cosy” is a word one could use to describe such sumptuousness!)

I have even given this photo a pale blue border as I love this room so much, I would love a room  like this, a four poster bed with wonderful drapes, white bed linen, and a beautiful fireplace.  Ah, we can but dream …

Downstairs next, to the Library, there is a room where there is a lovely cabinet filled with gorgeous cermics, mainly animals – I loved the cats!

There is so much to see at Saltram, but some of the rooms have been given over to the conservation project and are currently not set up as they are usually set up.  But nonetheless there is still much to see.  And don’t forget the details:  Adam designed just about everything in his rooms when he performed his architectural magic, right down to the door furniture.  I think you will agree that ScrewFix or Ironmongery Direct would have a job replicating this …

Not my best photo, but I was having to be very quick with so many visitors there.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual tour of Saltram, it’s one of my very favourite National Trust properties in Devon.

Until next time.


About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. How special to go to these old homes and estates! I enjoyed my virtual tour! And I was even intrigued by the sandwiches, which I notice seem similar to the ones you make, and have eaten elsewhere. Such a strange thing to say, I know, but I get so-o-o frustrated going out and having great big fat chunks of bread overstuffed with ingredients. Or panini or similar which are then toasted to hide the fact that they looked a bit ‘worn’ in the cabinet. I also like to have tea in a pot, rather than a giant coffee, which is a bit strange as I know I’m going to be having three cups of tea out of my pot. Something that I have always wandered is: what is a Folly?

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      We had a lovely time, Ratnamurti! We couldn’t spend quite as long as we would’ve wished as we had other commitments later in the day, but we managed about two and a half hours at Saltram. Next time I would like to take a picnic and walk in the grounds more, further than the garden which we saw today, as the grounds are extensive.
      I’m not keen on panini or toasted sandwiches; I prefer lovely fresh, soft bread (white or granary or wholemeal, I don’t mind as long as it’s quality bread and fresh.) I make sandwiches like the ones we had today, and I cut off the crusts. I don’t want a great wodge of crust in my mouth – the bread is there simply to hold the delicious filling! Are sandwiches very different in NZ and Australia?
      I think I will have to do a piece on follies, it’s perhaps a quirky British thing! Watch this space!

      • I am allergic to tomatoes, which seem to be in nearly every nice-looking sandwich. Which leaves the ‘designer’ type sandwich – big, chunky and fancy. But I like real food. I want nice lettuce and fresh vegetables with some protein, nice bread not designer type bread. Sounds extremely moaning I know… but I truly lament the passing of nice, simple, yummy food. I saw on your previous post that you said that your blog is not elegant. I disagree. It has elegance, charm, and is extremely interesting.

        • By designer, I mean pre-made and sitting in a cabinet , with maybe chicken and cranberry and a vegetable. So big that I feel that I need to take half home for another meal. I have seldom seen sandwiches like the ones in the photo, and can see that I need to resurrect the Lost Art of The Elegant Sandwich, at least at home.

          • Margaret Powling
            Margaret Powling

            Yes, I know exactly the kind of huge sandwich you mean, and I don’t like cranberries at all (sorry, readers in America, from where most cranberries originate!) When husband and I have finished our shopping in Waitrose each week (it’s the only supermarket where, if you have a Waitrose card, you can have free coffee (well, it’s not really free, we’re not stupid: customers pay for this in the slightly higher price of the goods, don’t they?) we share, yes share, a sandwich, i.e. what we call one sandwich, i.e. two triangles, one each. We try and get the one that is least-filled, and that is usually egg mayo and cress and that I acceptable, but most others are huge, not what we want at all.
            I love sandwiches which are elegantly cut. For afternoon tea, I remove all the crusts and then slice the sandwich into three, so that there are three ‘fingers’ of sandwich and they look very attractive. Some might think this is pretentious and unnecessary, but we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths, don’t we?

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          What a shame you are allergic to tomatoes, Ratnamurti, and yes, they do seem to be in rather a lot of sandwiches and salads. I don’t like (but thankfully am not allergic to) what I call designer salad leaves, which look like someone has dug up weeds from the garden. Like you, I prefer the humble lettuce! Did I say my blog is not elegant? I don’t actually remember saying that, but I’m glad you like it, I try and make each post a little bit different from the previous one, I don’t want to bore readers. You are really kind in saying it has elegance and charm. Thank you so much.

  2. Really enjoyed this post. I visited Saltram about 5 years ago with my son, it is a lovely place. I remember we went for a long walk in the grounds passing along by the River Plym. We live fairly locally, my son in Plymouth and I am in S.E. Cornwall. The lunch in the Chapel Tea Rooms looked perfect. Perhaps it is time for another visit! X

    • Margaret Powling

      So glad you are already familiar with Saltram, Dot. I love it. Yes, you live sufficiently close enough to visit. We enjoyed the food being offered today in the Chapel Tea Room more than the food we had in the main restaurant last December (which wasn’t all that good, I reluctantly admit, but then it was extremely busy and it was a case of mass catering.) We sometimes hop across the border into Cornwall to visit Cotehele and Lanhydrock, two lovely houses but both so very different from each other. Maybe I will post about those properties in due course.

      • We live in Callington which is quite close to Cotehele and only about half an hour from Lanhydrock so we have visited both those wonderful places at different times., on our own and with grandchildren. They loved learning about the history and exploring the rooms in both properties. As you say, they are very different and I look forward to reading your posts. We have also taken them to Buckland Abbey which was the home of Sir Francis Drake. That was a big hit as one of the children was learning about that period of history at the time. X

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          I love both Lanhydrock and Cotehele, Dot, and we have also visited Buckland Abbey, where there is so much to see and, as you say, once the home of Sir Francis Drake. We were there for the opening, more than a decade ago, of the ‘new’ Elizabethan garden. I expect it has now matured, but it was already very attractive when the bare bones of the design were clearly evident.

  3. Thank you for our tour. As I’ve mentioned previously, here in Australia our oldest buildings are only 200+ years old. Many beautiful grand homes and buildings have been lovingly restored and I think it must truly be a labour of love – and such a responsibility !

    Your lunch looked lovely. Tea with sandwiches and a shared slice of cake sounds simple but the photos showed it off a treat. The cups and saucers, etc certainly added to the fare.

    The details in those rooms are exquisite. I can just see cat and I tucked up in that grand four poster bed with my cup of tea and book handy. I think the staff might object to cat hair on the decor, though, so I’d have to smuggle her in 🙂

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, a cat on the bed wouldn’t go down well with the housekeeper, ha ha! But what a lovely room it is. My photo doesn’t shoe off the wallpaper to best effect, but it’s the prettiest pale blue on a white/cream background, I love it.
      All the china at the tearoom was mis-matched and all so pretty, and inexpensive to buy in charity- and second-hand shops. At the heart of Saltram is a Tudor house, the ‘core’ of the house, and all those grand Robert Adam rooms (a fine Scottish architect, the most sought-after architect of his day) were ‘wrapped around’ a much older building.

  4. I’ve never visited that house but it looks stunning.

    I get excited when I’m out and spot a coffee cake that doesn’t have walnuts (I’m not allergic to nuts, I just don’t like them) but I’m nearly always disappointed because the coffee flavour isn’t strong enough for me. If you like the taste of coffee, which many people don’t, then you want to really taste it surely? I can only remember one occasion a few years ago when I had coffee cake in a little farm shop cafe that really tasted how I thought it should. I appreciate it’s a personal thing.

    Mostly nowadays I try not to have cake at all, but it’s hard.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I do think Saltram is Devon’s hidden gem. Well, it’s not quite hidden as it’s easy to get to, either off the A38, the main road down from Exeter to Cornwall, or what we call the old Plymouth Road, via Totnes. I don’t think the people of Devon always appreciate what a gem of a house they have in their county. I have given up counting the number of occasions when I’ve mentioned it to people (perhaps those who wouldn’t visit an historic house anyway!) and they say something like, “Saltram, where’s that?” But I could bore for England on such places! I love the different styles of architecture, the paintings in these houses, the ceramics, the stories behind the collections (here I might have to consider writing about Kingston Lacy, what a story there is there!) and I find it hard to imagine how one could not be interested in such places.
      I also actually prefer a coffee cake without walnuts, but I don’t actually mind the walnuts. And I like a cake to taste strongly of coffee and yesterday’s, while being a lovely, light cake, didn’t have a strong flavour. But it was still a delicious cake.

  5. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Saltram is stunning, a perfect day out, just my cup of tea, I enjoyed seeing your visit, oh and that chandelier I absolutely love them, when we visit posh places I just love all the gold, marble and crystal, we were chatting the other day after visiting Blenheim about something we saw on the tv years ago about someone who lived in a council flat and they had turned it into a little palace, it was gorgeous, just the sort of thing I would love to do. Anyway I will stop going off subject now.
    Have a lovely weekend.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I remember something like that on TV, with all the gold twirly bits and chandeliers and so forth. Mind you, when I see chandeliers in kitchens (usually in the up-market style mags showing wonderful kitchens that have never been besmirched with a baked bean!) I think that even with the extractor going full blast, a chandelier in a kitchen would soon become rather greasy, surely? Without staff I don’t think it would be a very good idea!
      I would love to see Blenheim, it looks a truly magnificent baroque palace (baroque didn’t last long in his country, it was rather too grand for British tastes, I think!) Yes, you have a lovely weekend, too, Marlene.

  6. How long felt to see Saltram through your eyes Margaret. Thank you for the super tour. I think Saltram may have been the first NT house I visited and my enthusiasm may be responsible for my mother giving me Life Membership of the National Trust for my 21st birthday. I’m sure you can imagine what a far sighted gift this has proved to be, especially as my card admits two.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      What a wonderful present for your 21st birthday, yes, your mother was indeed far sighted. We have visited Saltram on many occasions and there is always something new to see or something that I’ve overlooked on previous visits. But there are so many lovely properties in Devon to see, from Arlington Court in the north to Coleton Fishacre in the south, one is really spoilt for choice, and that’s just within one country in Britain. A favourite of mine is Kingston Lacy, and there’s such a story attached to that (which you might already know if you’ve visited this lovely house in Dorset.) Husband especially likes Snowshill Manor which was home to an eccentric collector and today the place is stuffed to the rafters with his various collections.

  7. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    What a fabulous house. Stunning. I love the little castle folly. I will be interested in your post on follies as I have no idea why they exist. I am not going to google! The whole of Saltram looks very well maintained.
    As for sandwiches I like very soft, thickly cut white or granary. Filling choice is either cheese and pickle or salmon and cucumber. With NO butter!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I am glad you consider it a fabulous house, Eloise! I was reading some Trip Advisor comments yesterday and one person liked the gardens and grounds but found the house “dull”. I think this must be a first: Robert Adam’s masterpiece to be called “dull”. Yes, the scaffolding is in place, but once that is down and the room restored to its former glory, it will look magnificent again, and there are many other rooms to see. How can original hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, over 300 years old be called “dull”?
      No, don’t Google ‘Follies’. I am planning on writing a post about them, I thought I had (in my very large book collection) a book on follies but it was on Georgian Garden Buildings, and I’ve ordered one specifically on follies so I can write with a degree of accuracy on this subject: what they are and why they were often created.
      Yes, we always choose granary bread, too, when ordered sandwiches when we are out.
      Speaking of butter, we bought some Normandy butter in Waitrose as we’d enjoyed some on French bread when dining in Le Bistrot Pierre in Torquay, and it’s much paler than the bright yellow and rather greasy English butter that we don’t like, and do you know, I quite like it (perhaps because it has little to no taste!) I love salmon and cucumber sandwiches, they are what we take if we have a picnic.

  8. Thank you for sharing.

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