The house from "Morris's County Seats," circa 1875.
An 1829 engraving of the house, seen from across the lake, from "Neale's Views of Seats."
The entrance facade in 2019
Old wing attached to entrance facade
Library coving and ceiling
Earlier Houses: There was a medieval Cistercian monastery on the site of the current house, elements of which were incorporated into the present house.
House & Family History: Combermere takes its name from the vast lake that fills the valley to the west of the current, jolly Gothick house, and which animates the house’s setting, reflecting light into the house. Although the parkland and house appear to be an Arcadian Georgian dream, the place has a much earlier origin; indeed, the house itself is much older than its facades suggest. Combermere was originally a monastic site, a Cistercian abbey that had been founded in 1133 and which, in its heyday, commanded an estate of 22,000 acres. After Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, Combermere passed to Sir George Cotton, comptroller of the household to Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond (the king's illegitimate son). The abbey’s church was demolished and Sir George converted the abbot’s lodgings into his seat. The present house’s library occupies the site of the abbot’s great hall and is a brilliant late 16th century reinvention of the vast room of the abbot, with a decorated plaster ceiling and handsome oak screen. The Cottons encased what had been a timber-framed house in stucco and gave it the current, pretty Gothick facades in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; the ground floor passage is ornamented with Gothic tracery that is, in fact, made of cast iron. The family’s baronetcy was eclipsed in 1827, when the Cotton of the day, a general in the Peninsular Wars, was raised to the peerage as the 1st Viscount Combermere. By the end of the century, though, the family had been badly affected by the agricultural depression (in 1881 they rented the house to the Empress Elisabeth of Austria for £600 a month); in 1919 Combermere was sold. Its purchaser was Sir Kenneth Crossley, who acquired what was then still an estate of 5,000 acres. His great granddaughter, Sarah Callander Beckett, is the present owner, who, with her husband Peter, and son Peregrine, has turned around the fortunes of the estate. When Sarah inherited in 1992, parts of the house were in severe structural decay and the north wing had not been inhabited for many years. Initially tackling the stables, which were converted to holiday rentals, the family restored a glass house in the walled garden as a wedding venue. Combermere is an astonishing story of restoration against all odds and Sarah, herself, is an inspiration. The design of Quinlan Terry's 1989-91 Gothick Villa in London's Regent's Park was based on Palladio’s mid-16th century Villa Saraceno and Shropshire's Combermere Abbey and Longner Hall. (We are most grateful to Gareth Williams for this history of Combermere).
Garden & Outbuildings: The park includes the large lake of Comber Mere, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
Year Published: 1990
Reference: pg. P 745
Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 2008
Reference: pg. 132
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Current Seat / Home of: Sarah Callander Beckett
Past Seat / Home of: Sir George Cotton, 16th century; Robert Wellington Stapleton-Cotton, 3rd Viscount Combermere, 19th century; Cotton family here from the 16th century until 1919. Sir Kenneth Crossley, early 20th century. William Tucker Lindesay-Bethune, 14th Earl of Lindsay, 20th century.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home
Ownership Details: The house is open to visitors in groups or on specific days by appointment. Historc buildings on the estate have been transformed into holiday cottages. The estate is also available as a wedding venue.