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Calke Abbey

  • Earlier Houses: Calke Priory, a 12th century religious house that was secularized during the reign of Henry VIII, once stood on the site of the current house.

    House & Family History: The Harpur family fortune was made in the law. Sir Henry Harpur, 1st Bt., purchased the Calke Estate in 1621; the 4th Baronet, Sir John Harpur, rebuilt an existing house in the Baroque style in the early 18th century, leaving it largely as seen today. During the Napoleonic Wars Sir Henry Crewe, 7th Bt., commissioned Haydn to compose the "Derbyshire Marches" to provide his volunteer yeomanry with appropriate music. It was also this Sir Henry who, in 1808, renamed the house Calke Abbey. The Harpur-Crewes had a long tradition (lasting until the late 20th century) of serving as high sheriffs of Derbyshire. The males of the family had a streak of strangeness that revealed itself in the form of very reclusive natures with a passion for collecting all sorts of things, with a particular interest in natural history. The Library at Calke contains over 7,000 volumes and is one of the largest libraries in any Trust house. The National Trust took over this famous "sleeping house that time forgot" in 1985 with an unprecedented grant from of £4.5 million from the government.

    Collections: The Harpur-Crewe family collected stuffed birds and animals, shells, insects, eggs, fossils, and carriages, plus many other unusual things that are today displayed in the House. There is also a very fine 18th century state bed, virtually untouched for 200 years, and a rare 1870 globe with red lines that show the farthest reaches of the British Empire at the time.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: By the late 1820s there were over 50 varieties of geranium at Calke Abbey. A small yellow wallflower named after the family, Cheiranthus Harpur Crewe, is widely grown today. Three lodges, including Middle Lodge, were designed by William Wilkins.

    Chapel & Church: The Elizabethan Calke Church was probably built by Richard Wendsley; it was remodeled 1827-29 by Sir George Crewe.

  • Architect: Francis Smith

    Date: 1727-28
    Designed: Built new stairs to main entrance (demolished 1806), to James Gibbs's designs.
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
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    Architect: William Gilks

    Date: 1712-14
    Designed: Brick Stableblock for Sir John Harpur

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    Architect: James Gibbs

    Date: 1727-28
    Designed: Outside balustraded flight of stairs to main entrance for Sir John Harpur, Bt. (demolished 1806). Executed by Francis Smith.

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    Architect: Joseph Pickford

    Date: 1768
    Designed: Riding School for Sir Henry Harpur, Bt.

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    Architect: William Wilkins, Sr.

    Date: 1793-1808
    Designed: Rebuilt House for Sir Henry Harpur, Bt., including Dining Room and Drawing Room (1793-94), Library (1804-05), Portico (1806-08), and 3 lodges.

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    Architect: Samuel Brown

    Date: 1808-10
    Designed: Casino at Swarkeston (circa 1808; demolished), Coade stone Grotto, Cascade, and Gothic Bridge (demolished), all for Sir Henry Crewe between 1809-10.

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    Architect: John Harrison

    Date: 1837
    Designed: Conservatory for Sir George Crewe

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  • John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. I, p. 107, 1852.

  • Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 2008
    Reference: pgs. 170, 421, 428, 803, 944, 1121
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 9780300125085
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Belton House Guidebook - 1992
    Author: Tinniswood, Adrian
    Year Published: 1992
    Reference: pg. 2
    Publisher: London: The National Trust
    ISBN: 0707801133
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Royal Oak Newsletter, The
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: Summer 2002, pg. 3
    Publisher: New York: The Royal Oak Foundation
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Magazine

    Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
    Author: Sayer, Michael
    Year Published: 1993
    Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
    ISBN: 0859551970
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • "National Trust: National Treasures" (2006 - one of a 10-part documentary).
  • Past Seat / Home of: John Prest, 1537-46. William Bradborne, 16th century. John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, 16th century. Richard Wendsley, 1575-85. Sir Henry Harpur, 1st Bt., 1622-38; Sir John Harpur, 2nd Bt., 1638-69; Sir John Harpur, 3rd Bt., 1669-81; Sir John Harpur, 4th Bt., 1681-1741; Sir Henry Harpur, 5th Bt., 1741-48; Sir Henry Harpur, 6th Bt., 1748-89; Sir Henry Crewe, 7th Bt., 1789-1819; Sir George Crewe, 8th Bt., 1819-44; Sir John Harpur-Crewe, 9th Bt., 1844-86; Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe, 10th Bt., 1886-1924; Harpur-Crewe family here from 1622 until 1984.

    Current Ownership Type: The National Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01332-863-822

    Fax: 01332-865-272

    Email: calkeabbey@nationaltrust.org.uk

    Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No