A History of Calke Abbey and

The Riding School

our heritage

Calke Abbey has a long and rich history, it stands on the site of a medieval religious house 

People first came to live at Calke in the 12th century as part of a small religious community, attracted by the secluded forest and good water supply. Calke Priory only lasted a few years as the canons moved to nearby Repton. The priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538, but the canons had anticipated this and granted leases of Calke.

After passing through several hands, Richard Wendsley acquired Calke, eventually selling the estate in 1585 to Robert Bainbridge. His son sold the estate to Henry Harpur in 1622 for £5,350. The estate stayed in the Harpur Crewe family until the National Trust began caring for it in 1985.

The beautiful man-made hills, valleys and lakes of Calke Park and even the two-mile-long avenue of lime trees that lead the way up to the house makes for the perfect entrance for your guests. 

The Riding School itself was built for Sir Henry Harpur 6th between 1767 and 1769 with Game Keepers cottage, where the bride enters the riding school, was built between 1878 and 1882. 

The iron rings that are around the building, which are great for hanging fairy lights in, were to hold mattresses to prevent the riders from hurting their legs if they hit the wall.

In November 1870 the Riding School hosted its first event, a birthday party for John Harpur Crewe. The Riding School continued to host events for many years before it was used as a storeroom, storing grain, potatoes and farm equipment.

The gorgeous rowing boat in the rafters has been there for many years, to this day no one knows how it got there but it is a little bit of quirky Calke history! 

When you get married at The Riding School, you are becoming a part of the Calke history and with one year’s free membership as a gift to you, we can revisit your wedding day again and again.

Where to next?

.01 introduction to the riding school

.02 Discover your food & drink options

.03 View the riding school gallery

.04 get answers to frequently asked questions

.05 accomodation and travel information

.06 get in touch with us to arrange a consultation