George William, The 9th Earl of Coventry, 1838 - 1930.
Conservation Preservation Education
A brief history of Croome
The 6th Earl of Coventry was responsible for the transformation of Croome Court and it was in 1751 that he employed ‘Capability Brown’ and Robert Adam to make the changes to both the surrounding parkland and house as it can be seen today. The parkland had been an unpromising marshland prior to Brown’s intervention. The draining of the parkland was such a success that the 6th Earl commented on Brown's miraculous achievements and said of him,”Who by the powers of his indomitable and creative genius formed this garden out of a morass’.
The original church was demolished and the Gothick Church of St Mary Magdalene with its Robert Adam interiors was built on the eastern ridge to create a magnificent vista. Over the years the many follies The Temple Greenhouse, Pirton Castle, Dunstall Castle, the Paramount Tower, the Rotunda, the Park Seat, The London Arch amongst others, as well as complete landscaping of the parkland, the complicated drainage system which also included a man-made river and lakes and a total transformation of Croome Court inside and out was undertaken.
The formation of the Croome Estate trust
Under the stewardship of the 9th Earl(1838-1930) a trust was formed initially in 1887, and it was reformed in 1921 into the Croome Estate Trust, that is still in existence today.
During the 1939 – 45 war the house was requisitioned by the Ministry of Works. The tenth Earl Coventry was a Lieutenant in Worcestershire Regiment, which was part of the original expeditionary force sent to France in September 1939. His regiment was subsequently evacuated during the retreat from Dunkirk; George William was killed in action on 27 May 1940 at La Bassée, during the battle of Dunkirk which preceded it and is buried in the communal cemetery at Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée.
Post war to present
In 1948 the Coventry family relinquished Croome court. It was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham who then sold it to Hare Krishna in 1979 and they sold it on in 1984. It subsequently became a Country Club in around 1984, before being sold to a succession of developers finishing off with Laurence Bilton who sold it to Croome Heritage Trust in 2007.
A majority of the park, some 670 acres, was purchased by NT from Sun Alliance in 1996. Sun Alliance had purchased the central block of Croome Estate from the 11th Earl in 1981. The 3 follies Panorama, Pirton Tower & Dunstall Castle remained as part of the Croome Estate, formerly owned by Sun Alliance and then purchased by St Monica Trust, until they were transferred to the National Trust in 2009. The Rotunda is in Croome Heritage Trust’s ownership and is inclusive of the 999 year National Trust lease of Croome Court, as are the London Gates.
The stable block at Croome Court was developed by Laurence Bilton and was sold off privately between the years of 1998 and 2007. The church is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Two thirds of the walled garden was sold to the Cronin family along with the gardener's cottage. This has been lovingly restored by the custodians and continues to reveal more of its past.
The Croome Heritage Trust will continue the work of the Croome Estate Trust in the years to come. When the Croome Estate Trust expires in 2024, the Croome Heritage Trust will continue to look after the the interests of the future Earls and their heritage. It will continue to be a conduit of Coventry family history, and will continue its stewardship of Croome Court and the Coventry family heirlooms. It will endeavour to educate all on this most spectacular example of eighteenth century ingenuity whilst following in the footsteps of the 9th Earl's vision.