What’s on : Activities

Visit to Sledmere

21 Sep 2023
Start time
10:00 AM
Visit to Sledmere

Event Information

Thursday 21st September 2023

Meet at 10 am in the car park at Sledmere

Cost £47.50 per person (includes entrance fees and lunch)

Sledmere is the home of the Sykes family, situated approximately 25 miles to the east of York on the Wolds. The House is set in ‘Capability Brown’ landscaped gardens, is grade 1 listed and has many features of interest both within the house and in the grounds, including a Rare Breed conservation Farm Park, farm shop featuring locally sourced products, garden centre and heavy horses.

After gathering in the car park, we will start our day at 10.15 with a tour of the house including the ‘Turkish Room’ designed by Sir Mark Sykes and featuring intricate and colourful tiles brought back by him from Armenia, followed by a tour of the Walled Garden. We will then have lunch in a private dining room. Details of the menu will follow.

After lunch we will be joined by the curator of the Wagoners’ Museum, Martin Watts, who will show the group two short films; one of the last three Wagoners discussing their lives in the 1914-18 war; the other, made with the help of the children of Sledmere School, demonstrates the use of the horse ambulance – ie an ambulance for horses – in World War One. There will then be an opportunity to see the very small museum set up to tell the story of the wagoners recruited by Sir Mark Sykes to serve in WW1 as part of the infrastructure, the wagons the museum has recently acquired and the heavy horses needed to pull them. Finally there will be a short walk to the Wagoners’ Memorial designed by Sir Mark Sykes where the iconography telling the story of the wagoners will be explained.

It is anticipated that the afternoon events will end at 4pm.

Transport will be by private car and we would urge those wishing to attend without their own transport to contact Dorothy Nott or Margaret Leonard to help arrange lifts. Cost to include lunch is £47.50.

Member’s report

It was a sunny day for our car drive to Sledmere House on the Wolds. We assembled in the courtyard before a guided tour of the house built by Richard Sykes in 1751 but badly damaged by fire in 1911. Much of the house interior was saved; paintings, furniture and the large interior doors were removed as the fire spread. Walter Brierly was engaged to rebuild the house based simply on the original.

It is still very much a family home and the rooms clearly are used by family members even though they contain Chippendale chairs and many works of art including family portraits. Our guide told us about some eccentric family members such as the Victorian Squire Sykes who started a racing stable in 1801. He rode everywhere, including in horse races wearing the Sledmere racing colours and preferred his horses to his children! Upstairs is a grand library with a marvellous plaster ceiling, decorated with gold leaf which took 2 years to re-apply. From the window we could see grazing deer. These are destined for venison in Waitrose and Marks and Spencer. Sir Mark Sykes was in charge of the house rebuilding after the fire and was keen on Arabic culture after his travels in the Ottoman Empire. He commissioned a highly decorated tiled room with plunge pool, olive wood doors and a lantern from Jerusalem. The house tour ended with a visit to the small private chapel with gorgeous 1978 stained glass windows.

The head gardener Jan then took us on a tour to see the octagonal walled garden, built in 1780 but now designed in “rooms” with layered planting to extend interest throughout the year. Some rooms are inspired by pieces of music favoured by the current owner. Vegetables and cut flowers are grown for the house and the cafe. Jan was full of new ideas to try out in the garden and glasshouses.

After a delicious lunch, Martin Watts, curator of the Wagoners Museum gave us a most interesting talk about the Wagoners of World War I. After the Boer war it became apparent that any future war would need speedier transport of supplies to the front line,  provided by horse drawn pole wagons. A reserve force was established at Sledmere as skilled horsemen were still working on farms with pole wagons in East Yorkshire. Two films showed us archive interviews with original WWI Wagoner veterans describing their hard life during the war, and an animated film describing the use of ambulances used for injured horses.

We were able to visit stabled shire horses and three restored wagons, a painted Wolds pole-wagon, a military General Service Wagon and a horse ambulance. After seeing the Wagoners Museum, we visited the nearby Eleanor Cross and Wagoners memorial covered in a frieze designed by Sir Mark Sykes who sadly died of Spanish flu in 1919 so never saw the finished memorial.

Many thanks to Dorothy Nott for organising such a varied and interesting day out.

Rosemary Anderton









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