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The best National Trust properties for classical music lovers to visit

Need inspiration for your next day out? Here are our recommendations for the best National Trust places to visit with a connection to the wonderful world of classical music

The Firs, Worcestershire. Birthplace of Sir Edward Elgar

With the sun shining and restrictions lifting over the next few months, it seems we can once more get excited to plan our spring and summer excursions. The National Trust celebrated their 125th anniversary in 2020 and now care for over 500 historic houses, castles, parks, and gardens. While many of these have hosted classical music performances, such as Castle Coole, which hosted 2017’s BBC Proms in the Park in Northern Ireland, the following properties have exciting connections to historic instruments and classical composers.

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All being well following the national lockdown, the National Trust hopes to reopen many of its houses from 17 May 2021 subject to government guidance, though many National Trust gardens are already accepting visitors. We recommend taking a look at the National Trust website before travelling to check the most up-to-date arrangements in place at each property. Pre-booking is necessary at all properties to ensure social distancing can be practiced safely.

Fenton House, London

Fenton House and Garden, London. Fenton House was built in 1686 and is filled with world-class decorative and fine art collections. The gardens include an orchard, kitchen garden, rose garden and formal terraces and lawns.
Fenton House and Garden, London. National Trust image by Arnhel de Serra.

This 17th-century property in Hampstead not only boasts a beautiful house and walled garden, but is also home to the Benton Fletcher collection of early keyboard instruments. For all visitors to Fenton, there are 19 instruments to discover and admire. All with finely painted cases, they range from a 1540 virginals to a 1925 clavichord.

While keyboard enthusiasts have the time of their lives, the property also offers visitors a rare panoramic view of London which includes St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as a historic orchard and various art and ceramic collections.

For ticket prices and more information, click here

The Firs, Worcestershire

Piano sold by Edward Elgar's father from his music shop in Worcester at The Firs, Worcestershire. Elgar Bros. Pianoforte & Music Warehouse.
Piano sold by Edward Elgar’s father from his music shop in Worcester at The Firs, Worcestershire. National Trust image by Trevor Ray Hart.

Every Elgar fan should have The Firs on their bucket list. This family cottage is the birthplace of the English composer, whose famous works include the Enigma Variations, his Cello Concerto and his Serenade for Strings. He also composed ‘Land of Hope and Glory‘.

Visitors to The Firs experience first-hand the surroundings that inspired Elgar’s creative genius, with views of the Malvern Hills. The birthplace cottage itself holds the secrets to Elgar’s early years and displays a piano used by the composer. Accompanying the cottage is The Elgar Experience Exhibition and the opportunity to buy as much Elgar memorabilia as you can carry.

Those willing to extend their day trip can drive only 20 minutes to reach St Wulstan’s Roman Catholic Church, where the composer is buried.

For ticket prices and more information, click here

Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Piano from the Cobbe collection in the Music Room at Hatchlands Park, Surrey. The Music Room was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1902.
Piano from the Cobbe collection in the Music Room at Hatchlands Park, Surrey. National Trust image by Chris Lacey.

Hatchlands Park, a peaceful property and parkland on the edge of the Surrey Hills, is just 45 minutes from busy London. The mansion’s current tenant, Alec Cobbe, displays impressive fine furniture and paintings as well as Europe’s largest collection of keyboard instruments. One of the largest collections of its kind in the world, each instrument was crafted by highly regarded keyboard makers, some of whom were patronised by famous composers. 18 of these instruments were played or owned by classical music’s greatest names, including Mozart, Beethoven, JC Bach, Elgar and Chopin.

The Cobbe Collection includes harpsichords, virginals and pianofortes, some dating back to the 1600s and some surviving against all odds. The history of each instrument is fascinating and the collection as a whole is beyond impressive.

For ticket prices and more information, click here

Leith Hill Place, Surrey

Leith Hill Place, Dorking, Surrey The country house was built c1600, and was the childhood home of the composer Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams in the twentieth century. He donated the house and its grounds to The National Trust in 1944.
Leith Hill Place, Dorking, Surrey, childhood home of Ralph Vaughan Williams. National Trust image by Andrew Butler.

Ralph Vaughan Williams lived at Leith Hill Place from the age of two until he left for Cambridge University, aged 20. He donated his childhood home to the National Trust in 1945 after inheriting it from his brother. Vaughan Williams helped start the Leith Hill Musical Festival, an amateur choral competition which still runs today.

Part of the Leith Hill experience includes the display of Vaughan Williams’s piano, which he used to compose his famous works such as The Lark Ascending, his Piano Concerto and all nine of his symphonies.

Leith Hill Place provides visitors with stunning views across the Surrey Hills, as well as information about the great English composer. Part of a star-studded family, Vaughan Williams’s great-uncle was Charles Darwin, who regularly visited the property, meaning Leith Hill offers entertainment for both the music enthusiasts and the scientists amongst us.

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Snowshill Manor, Cotswolds

Part of the musical instrument collection of Charles Paget Wade, including ophicleide, slide trumpet, coach horn and bugle, and a trompe de chasse in the Music Room at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire.
Part of the musical instrument collection of Charles Paget Wade, including ophicleide, slide trumpet, coach horn and bugle, and a trompe de chasse in the Music Room at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire. National Trust image by Stuart Cox

‘Let nothing perish’ was the motto of Snowshill’s eccentric former owner, Charles Wade, and when visiting this manor, it is easy to see why. Snowshill is home to Wade’s extensive collection of unusual objects, which includes a large variety of musical instruments and musical memorabilia. An architect and an artist, Wade was fascinated by anything handmade and crafted with skill, so the historic instruments on display are both eclectic and fascinating. The impressive collection ranges from familiar instruments such as violins and flutes to intricate eastern treasures, such as the Japanese koto and Indian chikara, giving visitors plenty to discover.

Wade’s collection also contains artefacts from outside the musical world, from Samurai armour to toys and snuff-boxes. The reputation of Wade and his collection at Snowshill Manor attracted royal attention from Queen Mary, wife of George V, in the early 20th century as well as prestigious visitors, such as Virginia Woolf and Graham Greene.

For ticket prices and more information, click here

Membership to the National Trust costs £72 a year (£6 a month) for an adult over 26 years old, while for those aged 18-25 its £36 a year. 

Find out more at Nationaltrust.org.uk

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Top image of The Firs, Worcestershire by Trevor Ray Hart for the National Trust