Motorists hammering along the A64 to the coast have little chance of noticing that they fly through the Capability Brown park of Scampston Hall. An understated road-sign indicates ‘Scampston only’. It’s worth following.
Apart from its historic interest, Scampston Hall has a superb restaurant, offering better lunches than you’ll find within sight of the A64.
Its historic interest is considerable. Five St Quintin baronets, all of them called William, developed this estate. The 3rd baronet built the original house, parts of which are still visible at the back, in the 1690s. The 4th baronet brought in Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to landscape the park. The 5th baronet accumulated a significant art collection. His heir, William Thomas Darby St Quintin, employed the architect and interior designer Thomas Leverton to transform the house in 1800-3, so that it looks – inside and out – Regency in style.
The man who takes your ticket when you start a house tour is, in fact, the current owner, Sir Charles Legard, 15th Bt. He and his wife Caroline took on the place in 1994 when it was, as Sir Charles puts it, “tired”, reroofed, rewired and replumbed it, and welcome the public on a limited number of days each year. Their son Christopher’s family now lives there.
Lady Legard had, through her voluntary involvement in the National Trust, gained an invaluable apprenticeship from the interior designers John Fowler and David Mlinaric, planning the restoration of Beningborough Hall, Nostell Priory (after a fire) and Nunnington Hall. She was more than qualified to take on the challenge of managing the restoration of her family home to the highest standards. Scampston Hall was the Country Life House of the Year in 2000: John Cornforth’s account of the house and family appeared in the January 27th and February 3rd 2000 issues.
Lady Legard then set about finding a purpose for the former kitchen garden. She commissioned the internationally renowned Dutch designer Piet Oudolf [see http://www.oudolf.com/piet-oudolf/references] to create a flower garden to attract public visitors, and engaged the local architects Mark Bramhall and Ric Blenkharn to design the restaurant. The Walled Garden opened in 2004.
The result is an utterly delightful visiting experience. Sir Charles shows groups round his house in relaxed style: visitors are encouraged to ask questions and to sit on the furniture. Outside, a half-hour walk around the inner park, the Cascade Circuit, passes the Pump House with its plunge bath, the Palladian Bridge and the ruined ice-house. The Walled Garden is a fascinating essay in contemporary garden design. And the restaurant offers the sort of menu you need to return to.
You can always go to Scarborough another day…
Details of all that Scampston Hall has to offer are at http://www.scampston.co.uk/metadot/index.pl?id=0. Card-carrying members and Friends of the Historic Houses Association are admitted free.