Exploring Compton Verney: Treasure Trove of Folk Art

Compton Verney is one of the smiliest places I have visited.  Everyone from the car park, to the ticket sellers, cafe staff and fellow visitors smiled.  Join me exploring Compton Verney to find out what we smiled at?

Compton Verney Georgian country house reflected in lake
Compton Verney reflected

Exploring Compton Verney

When we first visited Compton Verney the teens were tots.  It is the perfect place to visit with children, steam can be let off in the gardens and inside there is lots to be seen at child height and activities abound.

Compton Verney Collections

Folk Art and early Northern European art are some of my favourite things.  Compton Verney excels at both.

British Folk Art

Needlework Ship

Folk Art was what drew me to Compton Verney.  Light airy galleries at the top of the building are given over to a collection of shop signs, weather vanes, agricultural implements and domestic furniture.  It might not sound very exciting but the shapes deployed in things meant to be used just seem to sing.  In addition to the things are a collection of paintings done by untrained artists.  Here are enormous prize pigs, boats embroidered in coarse wool by sailors and busy urban streets all depicted by people with talent and time but no classical training.


Heavenly Horse Chinese sculpture at Compton Verney
Heavenly Horse

Pots and lots of them form the core of the Chinese collection.  Well not all pots, some are bronze vessels that would have held food for the afterlife.  This is no rarefied, keep-your-children-quiet kind of a place.  Displays are at child eye level as well as grown up height.  At the centre of everything is a magnificent prancing Heavenly Horse, more than a metre a high.  He was a funerary offering and would have pulled a high-status Chinese man in his chariot to the afterlife.  Almost as much space is devoted to rooms full of comfy chairs, books and art materials for children and grown-ups to depict what they have seen.

British Portraits

A selection of Portraits of people who have helped shaped Britain as we know it.   Some expected like Henry VIII and his children others like Persian ambassador Mirza Abu’l Hassan Khan not so much.  I especially like the teeny tiny miniature of Oliver Cromwell.

Northern European 1450 – 1650

If asked to choose a favourite artist it would be Lucas Cranach the Elder.  He and his contemporaries feature heavily in the Northern European collection at Compton Verney.

Marx-Lambert Collection

Pair of ceramic Staffordshire Dogs
Staffordshire Dogs

Sort of more folk art but different.  Artist Enid Marx and historian Margaret Lambert gathered together a collection of English popular art.  The stuff that surrounds us all the time.  The kind of things that make you say Grandma had one of those. Ceramics, corn dollies, glassware, canalware, and paper mache figures all feature.

Naples 1600 – 1800

Lots of elaborate carved, intricately decorated things from Naples.  Can you tell that I cantered through these galleries in eager expectation of Folk art, corn dollies and Cranach?

Compton Verney Gardens

Lake with giant corn dolly in foreground. Kern Baby, Compton Verney
Lake and a Giant Corn Dolly at Compton Verney

Capability Brown created the gardens at Compton Verney in the late 18th century.  He created the large lake and planted over two thousand saplings.  Today the oaks, cedars and ash that he planted just cry out to be picnicked under.  

Special exhibitions at Compton Verney

It was Folk Art and Cranach that first drew me Compton Verney but it is the special exhibitions that feature in my Exhibitions Worth Travelling For time after time.  On at the moment

Morag Myerscroft until 31 March 2023

Morag Myerscoft creates brightly colour structures with striking graphic design.  I have yet to see one of her works that doesn’t make me smile. Summer of Colour is two installations one in grounds and one on the old house.

Making Mischief: Folk Costume in Britain until 11 June 2023

Tucked away in a box somewhere I have my old Morris Dancing outfit. So do lots of other people. Morris costumes and dress from other folk traditions are on show in Making Mischief. Tracing their origins and the way they change to embrace change within society over time. Am very tempted to dig out my leg bells for when I visit.

Compton Verney History

Compton Verney has the standard English country house estate story of creation, remodelling and decline.  By the mid 1980’s it was crumbling ruin when Sir Peter Moore (of Littlewoods Pools fame) funded its purchase, restoration and a quite eclectic art collection. 

Eating at Compton Verney

Inside in the Restaurant you have all the usual lunch things, tea, coffee and cakes with 70% of food sourced within a 20 miles radius, Compton Verney recommend booking if you want to eat in the restaurant.   Outside you will find the Pod in the Park selling hot and cold drinks and takeaway food.

Compton Verney: Need to Know

  • Compton Verney, Warwickshire CV35 9HZ
  • Open:  Tue – Sun 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult £17, under 18s free
  • Members: Free
  • How to Get there: Car is the easiest way, Compton Verney is nine miles east of Stratford upon Avon.  By train you the nearest stations are Leamington Spa, Banbury or Stratford upon Avon followed by a 25 minute cab ride

We stayed in the YHA Stratford upon Avon during our visit and visited all things Shakespearian in Stratford.



  1. September 7, 2015 / 8:29 am

    Have always wanted to visit. I need to do a Grand Tour around the Uk and see all the museums I have promised myself that I would see. Thanks for sharing.

    • September 7, 2015 / 8:31 am

      In my former life I travelled around the UK for work and snuck in a few visits. Can recommend the Bowes at Barnard Castle!

  2. June 26, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    I adore Compton Verney! Looking forward to the Fifties Exhibition starting July 2016 ….

    • June 26, 2016 / 9:51 pm

      Too far away for us for regular visits but a stunning venue with a fabulous collection of folk art

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