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Rode Hall and Gardens
Welcome to Rode Hall
Join us on a brief yet fascinating journey in to the history of Rode Hall, one of Cheshire’s most exquisite country houses. Discover more about its rich heritage and how the Baker Wilbraham family who have owned it for approaching three hundred and fifty years have contended with the challenges of social change and architectural trends through to its ongoing conservation and restoration today.
Enjoy a whistle-stop tour of the highs and lows of the house and how one family have ensured its safe upkeep and place in the community over the years. Today, it is enjoyed by families from far and wide who come to enjoy the house and splendid gardens, fantastic events including the monthly farmers market and a welcome treat in the delightful tearooms.
Visiting Rode Hall
Rode Hall is now closed for the Summer Season.
Rode will be open for the ever popular Snowdrop Walks from 2 February - 10 March 2014
Farmers' Markets 2014
First Saturday of month (except Jan) 9.30-1.30pm.
Visit our sister website for recipe ideas and news of what's on next month at our hugely successful and popular farmers' market on www.rodehallfarmersmarket.co.uk
Please see What's On at Rode Hall for more information
History of Rode Hall
Rode Estate has been in the ownership of the Wilbraham family since 1669. It was originally bought from Randle Rode by his cousin Roger Wilbraham. The Wilbrahams were prominent landowners in Cheshire at that time and Rode was purchased for Randle, the younger son of Roger Wilbraham of Townsend, now part of Nantwich, for £2,400.
Roger was decended from Sir Richard de Wilburgham, Sherrif of Cheshire in 1259. Rode passed through the male line until 1900 when Katherine, an only child, succeeded her father General Sir Richard. She had married George Baker in 1872 and, by Royal Licence, they assumed Wilbraham as their principal surname. In 1910 George Baker succeeded to the Baker baronetcy on the death of his elder brother
The current custodians of the family home are Sir Richard and Lady Baker Wilbraham.
Rode Hall is home to an important collection of English porcelain and pottery amassed by successive generations of the Wilbraham family since the mid-eighteenth century. This collection began when Mary Bootle married into the Wilbraham family. An heiress to two fortunes, her love of fine china was a legacy which has continued through to the present day. Since 1980, the collection has been significantly enhanced by the current custodian of Rode, Sir Richard Baker Wilbraham, 8th Bart. His acquisitions especially reflect Mrs. Bootle’s early patronage of porcelain, both Chinese and English, and the family’s subsequent interest in Victorian Arts and Crafts pottery, particularly the designs of Walter Crane who, as a young man, often visited Rode.
Much of Rode’s collection has a horticultural theme which mirrors not only the ceramicist’s continuing interest in the natural world but also the Wilbraham’s long-standing love of gardens.
Other Rode collections include portraits, watercolours and the highly acclaimed Gillow furniture.
'On closer approach, it becomes apparent that this handsome home is, in effect, two houses in one.'
When Roger Wilbraham (1623 -1707) purchased the Rode estate for £2,400 in 1669, its manor-house was probably half-timbered, like nearby Little Moreton Hall. Today, nothing remains of that original building. Instead stands a fine, redbrick, Georgian country house: Rode Hall. On approaching, it becomes apparent that this handsome home is, in effect, two houses in one, and that the substantial, porticoed building is a later second house attached to a smaller, now wisteria-clad, first house.
Today, Rode Hall remains quintessentially Georgian. For this, the current custodians must thank Randle Wilbraham IV, as it was his unfortunate lack of funds which prevented the house’s Victorianisation. ‘Young Randle’ inherited Rode in 1861 and had already overspent on the building of the nearby All Saints’ Church when the devastating cattle plague of 1866 forced him to cut all estate rents. The few decorative improvements he made to the house included little French-style balconies added to the first-floor windows at the entrance front and, beneath, a fashionable porte-cochere, nick-named ‘St Pancras’ by the family, which was cleverly converted from an earlier conservatory.
There were no major alterations to the house until Sir Philip Baker Wilbraham (1875 – 1956), the grandfather of the present owner, inherited Rode in 1912. Redecoration commenced in a piecemeal fashion following the First World War, when the house had been used as a hospital, but a surprise legacy of £5,000 enabled more significant renovation to begin in 1927. Then the London architect Darcy Braddell removed Hope’s stucco, exposing the warm red Cheshire brickwork, and replaced the shabby porte-cochere with a smart Ionic portico. ‘His gifts are artistic rather more than practical,’ wrote Sir Philip in a tribute to Braddell, ‘but he entered into all our ideas with ready sympathy, and with a strong appreciation of the house and its possibilities.’
Conservation of Rode continues in the same spirit today, in a manner which respects the house’s primary purpose as a family home but also makes the visitor experience as warm, welcoming and enjoyable as possible.
Park and Gardens
The gardens are constantly evolving and the 10-acre site set amongst sheep-grazed parkland provides plenty of opportunity for innovation.
Rode’s Grade II listed park and gardens are amongst the finest in Cheshire. A seventeenth-century survey described ‘orchards, gardens and courts within the Greene before ye hall’ but there are no further records of the grounds until 1790 when Richard Wilbraham Bootle commissioned a ‘Red Book’ from the landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752 – 1818).
It was Randle Wilbraham III, Richard’s son, who implemented some of Repton’s proposals, employing in 1803 John Webb (1754 1828), a partner of William Eames. Webb constructed a new entrance drive way, laid out the five-acre Wild Garden in the dell to the west of the house, and created two artificial lakes: the ‘less water’ or ‘Stew Pond’ and the one-mile long ‘large water’ known as ‘Rode Pool’. There is a tradition that when the family were at home a canvas of a waterfall was placed to create the illusion from the house that there was a cascade between the two lakes.
Today, with the help of two gardeners, Anne, wife of the current baronet, has extended the seasonal interest in Rode’s pleasure gardens from early Spring to late Autumn. The highlight of the year is undoubtedly February when Rode becomes one of the few gardens in the North West that opens for ‘Snowdrop Walks’.
Spring daffodils follow snowdrops, hellebores and other winter blooms and soon afterwards the woodland is carpeted with bluebells and fragrant lily-of-the-valley. By April the Wild Garden is ablaze with many varieties of rhododendrons and come May clumps of hostas and primulas brighten the damp and shady banks of the adjacent Stew Pond. Professor Pratt’s scented azaleas are planted here, alongside Boathouse Walk, a path leading directly to Rode Pool. A distant view of the water and the Cheshire countryside is presented from Nesfield’s terrace; the formal rose gardens are at their best at the beginning of June, with the coloured herbaceous border lasting well into high summer.
With new plantings, the gardens are constantly evolving and the 10-acre site set amongst sheep-grazed parkland provides plenty of opportunity for innovation. The small Italian Garden, created in 2007 in the ruined Old Tenants’ Hall, has a fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees. It wittily evokes the famous ruined gardens at Ninfa, south of Rome, whose first English roses were planted in the late nineteenth century by the gardens’ creator, Ada Bootle Wilbraham, the wife of Duke Onorato Caetani and a descendant of Richard Wilbraham Bootle.
We are a member of Cheshire's Gardens of Distinction.
Visiting Rode Hall
Opening times for the Hall are: Wednesdays & Bank Holidays only (not Good Friday) 2.00pm - 5.00pm until the end of September.
Admission to House & Garden: £6 adults, £5 seniors
They are open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Bank Holidays (not Good Friday) from 12 noon - 5pm. Tearooms wil be open during the same opening times. Admission to Garden: £4 adults, £3 seniors, Under 16s free
(Garden and tearoom also open during Farmers' Markets)
Rode Hall Farmers Market:
First Saturday of each month (except January)
Wheelchair users are most welcome but will find that not all areas of the grounds are possible to negotiate. We can recommend a route on your arrival, bearing in mind that some of the paths are gravel or woodchip. Our conveniences and tearooms can be accessed easily.
Well behaved dogs on leads are most welcome.
We have had reports from visitors being directed to Mow Cop by Google maps. We have applied to rectify this but it takes time. In the meantime please search Poolside ST7 3QP if using Google, which will bring you towards Rode Hall and there will be posters directing you to Rode Hall Snowdrop Walks as you near the property. Thank you.
Follow A34 towards Stoke on Trent and either: turn right at Chance Hall Lane which is just before Little Moreton Hall, and follow the snowdrop posters; or follow A34 into Scholar Green where you turn right onto Church Lane, signposted to Rode Hall.
Go to Rode Heath on A533, then turn left onto A50 and after 100 yards turn right down Poolside. Rode Hall is signposted from here.
Take the A34 north towards Congleton, turn left in Scholar Green into Church Lane which is signposted for Rode Hall.
For general enquiries regarding your visit or to Rode Hall:
Cheshire ST7 3QP
Tel: 01270 873237