A Short Visit to Benthall Hall

Various weekends over the last month or so I have wanted to visit Benthall Hall, a sixteenth century country house near Broseley, a few miles from Ironbridge and Telford. Wanting a clear sunny sky which would allow me to take favourable photographs, the poor weather over the summer would not permit my visit. With no plans and a lovely sunny day, I decided to finally make the short drive to Benthall Hall.

Benthall Hall

Benthall Hall

A Little History

Built in 1535 by the Benthall family, who have lived on the site since the medieval period, Benthall Hall is a fine example of an Elizabethan manor house. Few external changes have been made since the building’s construction, though the gardens and interior have undergone some small changes over the years.

During the English Civil War, Benthall Hall was captured by the Cavaliers and was used as a Parliamentary garrison. Royalist forces attacked but were unable to recapture the house, evidence of this attack can be seen in the table located in the Entrance Hall, which has square areas where damaged bits have been replaced.

The house was rented out during part of the nineteenth century, before being sold by the Benthall Family in 1843. Benthall Hall was bought by George Maw of the Maw & Co tile company, who laid tiles in the entrance hall, using the house as a sales mechanism showcasing their products. In 1934 the house was bought back by the Benthall family who still live in the house to this day. In 1958 ownership of the house fell to the National Trust, rented to the Benthall family and as part of the trust’s ownership, the house is open to the public four days a week from February until the end of October.

The House

When you first arrive, you enter the house in order to pay for admission to the house and gardens, photographs are permitted downstairs but not upstairs due to the family’s use of the bedrooms.

The first room you enter after walking through the porch is the Entrance Hall.

The Entrance Hall

Entrance Hall

Entrance Hall

The Entrance Hall is a large room leading to the Dining Room, Drawing Room (via the Staircase Hall) and the tea shop. The size of the table in the middle of the room isn’t really given justice in the photo above, I’m uncertain how it would have been moved into the room. During the Civil War the table was damaged by musket fire whilst being used as a barricade, the damaged areas have been cut out and replaced with chunks of wood, though the repair is very noticeable. At some point in the house’s history the table was sold and later found in a farmhouse in a Shropshire village. In the 1960s the table was bought back and returned to the Entrance Hall.

During George Maw’s ownership a tile floor was in the Entrance Hall, the current wooden flooring was laid over these tiles, a small section of which is on show.

Maw & Co Tiles

Maw & Co Tiles

To restore the tile flooring would cost the National Trust a substantial amount of money, over two thousand pounds to restore just the small section in the photo above.

The first of the main rooms you will see when visiting Benthall Hall is the Dining Room, the first door on the right from the Entrance Hall.

The Dining Room

Dining Room

Dining Room

The Dining Room is smaller than the Entrance Room and features a substantial bay window not visible in the photo above. The wooden panelling was once painted white but was later restored to its original state.

Walking back through the Entrance Hall and through the far door, you will enter the Staircase Hall and then the Drawing Room.

The Drawing Room

Drawing Room

Drawing Room

The Drawing Room is a little larger than the Dining Room, but smaller than the Entrance Hall. The wooden panelling has been painted white, though a picture on the table behind the sofa shows the room with its original dark wood panelling, I think I would prefer the room with dark panelling.

After the Drawing Room, you are able to walk up the staircase and view a few of the first floor rooms.

The Staircase Hall

Staircase Hall

Staircase Hall

The staircase was built in 1618 and is adored with grotesque heads. It leads to the first and second floors of the manor house, but only a few of the rooms on the First Floor are open to the public.

The Great Chamber / Library

The Great Chamber ©National Trust Images/Tim Imrie

The Great Chamber ©National Trust Images/Tim Imrie

The Great Chamber, also known as the Library is located above the Entrance Hall. The room houses two bookcases full of old hardback books, I noticed a copy of William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, but no Jane Austen.

Next to the fireplace there are two paintings by Felix Kelly, the first “Fantasy” painted in 1965, depicts Benthall Hall next to the Ironbridge. The painting below it of Lindridge, a country house in Devon which was demolished and replaced with an apartment block. Lindridge was inherited by Lady Ruth Benthall following the death of her father Lord Cable. Her husband Edward Benthall lived in the house and left it to his son Michael who sold the house, having no use for it and the as a result of the decline of the family’s fortune after Indian independence. A fire broke out in 1962 leaving the house a burnt out shell.

Above the Porch is the Priest’s Room, a room used by the family’s Catholic Priest. In 1935 a hiding place was discovered beneath the floor, where the family’s religious items would have been hidden.

Priest's Room ©National Trust Images/Tim Imrie

Priest’s Room ©National Trust Images/Tim Imrie

Next to the Priest Room, above the Dining Room is one of two bedrooms the public are able to view. Above the tea shop, behind the staircase is the Study housing Benthall family photos and items relating to the family history.

The room above the Drawing Room is the second of the two bedrooms open to the public, still used by the family when they are in residence. Due to their regular use, the bedrooms do not feature many old antique furniture often found in National Trust houses, no four poster bed or elaborately decorative armoires.

After exploring the first floor, you walk back down the staircase and exit the house the same way you enter, to explore the gardens.

The Garden

The gardens were created at different times in the house’s history, particularly by George Maw and Robert Bateman.

To the left of the house is a small plant and shrub garden complete with a decorative sun dial and a dovecote.

Flower Garden

Flower Garden

The garden also features a few small yew trees, which are a feature of many of  the country house gardens I have visited.

At the right hand side of the house, a path leads to the kitchen garden.

Kitchen Garden

Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden is still used to grow fruit and vegetables, lettuce and my new favourite fruit; raspberries.

Walking down the path, I saw a man taking close up photos of something on the trellis arch, interested in what he could have been photographing, I took a look.

Butterfly in the Garden

Butterfly in the Garden

In front of the house is a formal lawn with an ha-ha overlooking a field.

St Bartholomew’s Restoration Church

St. Bartholomew Church

St. Bartholomew Church

Next to the house is St Bartholomew’s Church, a seventeenth century church built after the destruction of an earlier church on the same spot, during the Civil War. The church has been redundant since 2007 and unfortunately was not open to visitors during my visit to Benthall Hall. The church was extended in the nineteenth century when a new door was added. Above what was the old entrance is a sundial with a decorative eye, something I thought was quite unusual. The small churchyard, also overlooking the surrounding fields, is the resting place of a number of the Benthall ancestors.

Tomorrow I will be going to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour which I expect I will write a blog post about later in the week, it will be an experience I am sure though the train journeys there and back, I am not looking forward to.

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A Weekend in Cardiff: St Fagans National History Museum

A little apprehensive about the weather during my weekend in Cardiff, not wanting to go to Castell Coch on the Saturday due to the forecasted heavy rain, we decided to take a short drive to St Fagans National History Museum. St Fagans is an open air museum consisting of mostly authentic historical buildings dismantled brick by brick and rebuilt on the site of the museum, similar to the Blists Hill Museum a few miles away from my house.

St Fagans National History Museum Map

St Fagans National History Museum Map

St Fagans National History Museum opened in 1948 after the donation of the castle and surrounding lands by the Earl of Plymouth in 1946. Located less than five miles from Cardiff City Centre, the museum was voted the UK’s best visitor attraction in Which? Travel Magazine’s survey. 

Admission to the museum is free, which may contribute to the museum’s popularity, the Blists Hill Victorian Town museum in Ironbridge costs fifteen pounds for an adult.

Highlights

There are over forty buildings to see to see at St Fagans, far too many to write about, so I will discuss a few of the of buildings that interested me, and finish up with a selection of photos of other buildings.

Llwyn-yr-eos Farmstead 

Farmstead

Farmstead

The Llwyn-yr-eos Farmstead was a tenanted farm on the estate from the eighteenth century, one of few buildings original to the site of the museum. The farmhouse was built during the nineteenth century, though is displayed as an early twentieth century house.

Farmhouse

Farmhouse

The farmhouse was one of a number of St Fagan’s buildings to feature in the Doctor Who series three double bill: Human Nature and The Family of Blood.

The Farmhouse on Doctor Who

The Farmhouse on Doctor Who

The farmhouse is rather nicely decorated with early twentieth century furnishings. Photographs can be taken in almost all of the buildings at St Fagans, here are a few of the rooms inside the farmhouse:-

Sitting Room

Sitting Room

Dining Room

Dining Room

Bedroom

Bedroom

Celtic Village

Celtic Village House

Celtic Village House

The Celtic Village is an experimental project to learn more about how the Celtic people lived. The houses are based on excavated remains found in Worcestershire, Flintshire and Gwynedd.

Inside the larger house a fire is lit daily filling the house with smoke as wood is burned.

Smoking Hut

Smoking Hut

Tollhouse

Tollhouse

Tollhouse

The Tollhouse was built in 1772 in Penparcau, Aberystwyth and re-built at the museum in 1968. Welsh roads until the late eighteenth century were in a poor condition until the local gentry began to build private roads for which tolls were charged.

The tollhouse would have been in use until the mid nineteenth century when turnpikes and  private toll roads were abolished after the Rebecca Riots, and county councils took responsibility for the road network.

Rhyd-y-car Ironworker’s Houses

Rhyd-y-car Iron Worker's Houses

Rhyd-y-car Iron Worker’s Houses

The Rhyd-y-car Iron worker’s houses were built around 1800 in Merthyr Tydfil by Richard Crawshay for workers in his iron-ore mine. The houses were re-built at St Fagans in 1987, and each has been decorated to illustrate a particular period of their history, from 1805 to 1985.

1805

1805 Iron Worker's House

1805 Iron Worker’s House

Between 1800 and 1860 the houses were very basic, with no piped water or toilets. The furniture in the 1805 house is very plain, quite a contrast to the furnishings of the wealthy of the same time or earlier, or even the farmhouse at Shugborough Hall.

The next two houses in the terrace depict 1855 and 1895, these were rather crowded due to a sudden downpour of rain preventing me from taking photos. The next house I was able to photograph depicted 1925.

1925

1925 Iron Worker's House

1925 Iron Worker’s House

The 1925 house has a little more decoration with wallpapered walls and soft furnishing, but retaining the hard stone flooring. The fireplace has been replaced with a range cooker and the table in front of the window has a singer sewing machine upon it.

1955

1955 Iron Worker's House

1955 Iron Worker’s House

The 1955 house comes with a television, which rose in popularity around the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The stone flooring has been replaced with parquet flooring.

1955 Iron Worker's House

1955 Iron Worker’s Kitchen

The back room of the 1955 house has been turned into a kitchen with cupboards still found in the occasional house that appears at housing auctions.

1985

1985 Iron Workers House

1985 Iron Workers House

The 1985 house again is vastly different to the earlier period houses and much more familiar sight to our generation, many having seen grandparent’s/great-grandparent’s houses in a similar design. The fireplace has been replaced by a stone surround, which nowadays would be ripped out and replaced with a more traditional fireplace. Atop the fireplace are one of my pet-hates; china ornaments. On the coffee table besides the window and television, plates of battered fish and chips are displayed along with cups of tea (what an odd combination that is).

St Fagans Castle & Gardens

St Fagans Castle

St Fagan's Castle framed by a castle wall

St Fagan’s Castle framed by a castle wall

St Fagans Castle is an Elizabethan manor house; a grade 1 listed building famed as being one of the finest Elizabethan manor houses in Wales. The house was owned by the Earl of Plymouth until 1946 when it was donated to the National Museum of Wales along with the surrounding grounds that make up the museum.

Front of St Fagans Castle

Front of St Fagans Castle

The construction of the house began in 1580 and it was later purchased by Edward Lewis of Y Fan, Caerphilly who’s daughter married the third Earl of Plymouth in 1730. During the first half of the eighteenth century, the house was rented out to a number of tenants and used as temporary accommodation by local people. In 1850 the house underwent a large-scale renovation in order to turn it into a family home for Robert Windsor-Clive, heir to the Plymouth estate, who died a short time after moving into St Fagans Castle. During the mid 1880s the house was used as a summer home by Lord Robert-Windsor, later Earl of Plymouth.

Whilst visitors are able to explore the house photographs are not permitted, and so I am unable to show photos of the interior.

Back of St Fagans Castle

Back of St Fagans Castle

Castle Gardens

Castle Fagan has eighteen acres of gardens including formal gardens, kitchen gardens and terraces.

Dutch Garden

Dutch Garden

Next to the house, beside the entrance to the St Fagans Castle teashop, is the Dutch Garden; four small flower gardens surrounding a central fountain.

Flower Garden

Flower Garden

Next to the the Dutch Garden is the Flower Garden dating back to 1901-1902. The Flower Garden is an decorative arrangement of colourful flower beds, surrounding a large tree. At one time the garden was home to the herb Thyme, the scent of which overpowered the flower beds leading to the garden being called the Thyme Garden and later Herb Garden, before the herb plants were replaced with flower beds, returning the garden to its original purpose.

Kitchen Garden

Kitchen Garden

The glasshouses were used to grow food for the estate, one of which is now the vinery, growing an assortment of red and green grapes.

Vinery

Vinery

The vinery produces dessert grapes that are available to purchase during the summer. Other fruit grown in the kitchen garden include mulberries, peaches and figs.

Terraces & Fish Ponds

Terraces & Fish Ponds

The two fish ponds at St Fagans were created in 1766 to produce fish to be eaten by the occupiers of the house, nowadays they hold carp, bream and trench. To reach the fish ponds from the house, a series of terraces were created, similar to those at Powis Castle, though on a much smaller scale.

Fish Pond Trellises

Fish Pond Trellises

At the bottom of the terraces, beside the fish ponds there is a trellis walkway joining to two ends of the garden together. There are a number of other gardens at St Fagans which I did not get chance to see, such as The Rosary and the Italian Garden. I will have to go again, visit these gardens then write a follow up blog post about some of the other buildings I have not mentioned.

Additional Photographs

Due to the number of buildings, it would be impractical to write about each and every one of them. Having discussed a few of the highlights, below are a selection of photographs of some of the other buildings.

Kennixton Farmhouse (Llangynyd, Gower. 1610)

Kennixton Farmhouse (Llangynyd, Gower. 1610)

St Teilo's Church (Llandeilo, Tal-y-Bont. 12th - 16th century)

St Teilo’s Church (Llandeilo, Tal-y-Bont. 12th – 16th century)

Type B2 Aluminium Prefab Bungalow (Gabalfa, Cardiff. 1948)

Type B2 Aluminium Prefab Bungalow (Gabalfa, Cardiff. 1948)

Maestir School (Maestir, Lampeter. 1880-1916)

Maestir School (Maestir, Lampeter. 1880-1916)

Post Office (Blaen-waun, Carmarthenshire. 1936)

Post Office (Blaen-waun, Carmarthenshire. 1936)

Cockpit (Hawk & Buckle Inn, Denbigh. 17th century)

Cockpit (Hawk & Buckle Inn, Denbigh. 17th century)

Gwalia Stores (Ogmore Vale, Bridgend. 1880)

Gwalia Stores (Ogmore Vale, Bridgend. 1880)

The shop on Doctor Who

The shop on Doctor Who

Workmen's Institute (Oakdale, Caerphilly. 1916)

Workmen’s Institute (Oakdale, Caerphilly. 1916)

The WI on Doctor Who

The WI on Doctor Who

Vintage Photograph Shop

Vintage Photograph Shop

Abernodwydd Farmhouse (Llangadfan, Powys. 1678)

Abernodwydd Farmhouse (Llangadfan, Powys. 1678)

Ty Gwyrdd / House of the future (2001)

Ty Gwyrdd / House of the future (2001)

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A Weekend in Cardiff: Castell Coch

A few weeks ago I went to Pembrokeshire (Wales) for the day, visiting St David’s Cathedral and two Pembrokeshire beaches. On the way back, driving down the M4 motorway near Cardiff, I could see a castle hidden away in the hillside. Remembering this last week, I did a Google search for “castles visible from the M4″. After finding the name of the castle (Castell Coch – The Red Castle), I decided it would be a great way to spend my August Bank Holiday weekend visiting friends in Cardiff and taking a look at Castell Coch.

Castell Coch

Castell Coch

Waking up to some glorious sunshine on Sunday, overlooking Cardiff Bay and finishing reading Chocolat, it was soon time to drive to the castle.

A Little History

A castle has existed on the site of Castell Coch since the eleventh century, though the original castle fell out of use due to damage and disrepair during the fourteenth century.

In 1871, John Crichton-Stuart, third marquess of Bute commissioned excavations of the site of Castell Coch. The third marquess of Bute inherited a vast fortune from his father the second marquess of Bute, famed as being the creator of modern Cardiff after building Cardiff Docks. With an interest in antiquarianism, the third marquess purchased and preserved a number of sites of great historical importance in Scotland - the ancestral home of the Stuart family – such as Rothesay Castle. After meeting architect and designer William Burges in 1865, the third marquess hired Burges to rebuild Cardiff Castle, which had already been expanded by the first and later second marquess in a fashion the third marquess despised. During the rebuild of Cardiff Castle, the third marquess instructed Burges to report on the history and original appearance of Castell Coch, and to recommend how the castle might be restored.

In 1875 following Burges’ submission of plans for the rebuild of Castell Coch, construction commenced and lasted until 1891 with the completion of the decoration and furnishing. During the construction, in 1881 Burges died suddenly with only the decoration and furnishing of the banqueting hall complete. Despite the death of William Burges, construction of the castle continued under a team led by J. S Chapple and William Frame.

In 1900, nine years after the castle’s completion the third marquess of Bute died. After the marquess’ death, his widow and daughter resided at Castell Coch for a short period, during which time an inventory of the castle was completed. This inventory has allowed many of the original contents and furnishings to remain in place.

Throughout much of the twentieth century the castle remained predominantly unoccupied. During the Second World War the castle was used for military purposes and five years after the end of the war, in 1950 Castle Coch was put into state care by the fifth marquess of Bute, before his death in 1956.

Nowadays Castell Coch is cared for by Cadw, the historical environment service of the Welsh Assembly and is open to the public daily, with regular special events and weddings held within the castle courtyard.

Exterior

After parking the car and walking towards the castle entrance, you will be greeted by the sight of the front elevation of the fantasy-esque castle, complete with drawbridge.

Castell Coch

Castell Coch

Walking through the gatehouse, you arrive in a courtyard with doors leading to the towers, shop and tea room. During my visit, a children’s sword fighting event was taking place with children dressed as knights/princesses, hence the lack of a decent courtyard photograph.

Overlooking part of the Courtyard and Well Tower

Overlooking part of the Courtyard and Well Tower

Steps to the left just after the entrance lead to the main rooms within the castle, the steps also lead to the gallery – a passageway around the upper level of the courtyard, to the Well Tower housing a number of exhibits and the dungeon on the lower ground floor.

Keep Tower & Hall Block

Keep Tower & Hall Block

Outside the castle walls, you are able to walk around the castle’s exterior.

Exterior Courtyard Wall

Exterior Courtyard Wall

Exterior Walls

Exterior Walls

Beside the outer wall of the Hall Block, is another set of steps to walk back up to the entrance of the castle.

Interior 

Within Castell Coch there are several furnished and very decorative rooms, complete with their original furniture and in some cases in their original location.

The Banqueting Hall

The Banqueting Hall

The Banqueting Hall

The first interior room you will come to is the Banqueting Hall, a vast medieval style dining room. Looking out of the windows, you will see Cardiff in the distance. Much like the dining table at Moseley Old Hall, it is a long table with chairs at each end of the table for the Lord and Lady, and benches for other dining guests. The walls are decorated with colourful murals of St Lucius, an early British King, and his sister St Emerita, along with family portraits.

The Banqueting Hall was the only room to be fully decorated and furnished before William Burges’ death.

Walking to the other end of the Banqueting Hall and through the double door at the end the room, you will arrive in the Drawing Room.

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room is a much smaller room than the Banqueting Hall, circular in shape. In the centre of the room a table holds a vase of flowers. Behind the table is a large fireplace topped with a sculpture of The Three Fates of Greek Mythology: Clotho presides over birth and spins the thread of life, Lachesis measures it and Atropos cuts it at death. Next to the fireplace are two wooden (and rather uncomfortable looking) sofas.

Above the table is a rather impressive chandelier below a very ornate ceiling, decorated with stars, butterflies and birds.

Drawing Room Chandelier & Ceiling

Drawing Room Chandelier & Ceiling

The walls consist of wooden paneling with flowers at the centre of each panel, and a decorative wall covering of flora and fauna.

Lord Bute’s Bedroom

Walking up some very steep spiral staircases you will arrive on the second floor of the castle, housing the bedrooms. The first bedroom you will see is Lord Bute’s bedroom, next to the Drawing Room Gallery.

Lord Bute's Bedroom

Lord Bute’s Bedroom

The room is quite plainly furnished considering some of the other rooms. The bed, a single bed, is quite an unusual design, like a piece of steampunk architecture, made of copper plated cast iron and held together with elaborate knot work.

Lord Bute's Bed

Lord Bute’s Bed

After leaving Lord Bute’s bedroom you walk up a second spiral staircase to Lady Bute’s bedroom.

Lady Bute’s Bedroom

Lady Bute’s bedroom, located above the drawing room is a very regal looking room, bright with colour and extravagant looking furniture.

Lady Bute's Bedroom

Lady Bute’s Bedroom

Like the Drawing Room, Lady Bute’s bedroom features an ornate dome, decorated with flora, fauna and animals. Lord Bute did not approve of the monkeys depicted within the dome panels.

Lady Bute's Bedroom Chandelier & Ceiling

Lady Bute’s Bedroom Chandelier & Ceiling

Lady Bute’s bedroom has a less ornate chandelier than the drawing room’s chandelier, which appears to be secured by the additional poles to reduce the stress it put upon the domed ceiling by its weight.

The fireplace in Lady Bute’s bedroom features a carving of Psyche, the beloved of Eros, holding a heart-shaped shield of Lord and Lady Bute’s coats of arms.

After looking around Lady Bute’s bedroom, walk down the spiral staircase, out the door in the Banqueting Hall and through the next door along the courtyard gallery, you will enter the kitchen.

The Kitchen

Kitchen

Kitchen

The Kitchen is a very plain room considering the bright, colourful and lavishly decorated Banqueting Hall, Drawing Room and bedrooms. The room features a large range cooker, a bench table and an armoire based on an example from Bayeux Cathedral.

After exploring the castle, a path outside leads to a number of walks including a sculpture trail.

Other Photographs

Entrance to the Sculpture Trail

Entrance to the Sculpture Trail

Green Mutant Sculpture

Green Mutant Sculpture

Clock Bench

Clock Bench

Cauldron

Cauldron

Dragon

Dragon

Leaf Seat

Leaf Seat

Tree Carving

Tree Carving

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Shugborough Hall Part Five: Gardens and Parkland

This final part in the Shugborough Hall series focuses on the various gardens and notable features of the nine hundred acre grounds.

Walled Garden

Walled Garden

Walled Garden

The Walled Gardens at Shugborough were built in 1805-1806 by Samuel Wyatt, to replace the original kitchen garden, located next to the Mansion. The original kitchen garden was seen as a blot on the landscape and the gardeners, unsightly.

The new Walled Garden was built half a mile from the Mansion and designed to allow the growth of fruit, vegetables and plants all year round. This was done by housing small furnaces in the walls, which were hollow, to create the effect of a mild-climate.

A house was built for the head gardener to live in, which can be seen in the photo above. As well as this, bothies were built along the north wall to provide living accommodation for young single gardeners. These have since been converted into workshops and shops selling crafts built on site.

Blacksmiths

Blacksmiths

The Walled Garden also features a staffed Blacksmiths and a table with goods for sale.

Honesty Box

Honesty Box

I’ve never seen an honesty box before, I only heard of them several weeks ago when watching ‘Country House Rescue’. There was some lavender on sale earlier in the day, though when I arrived only purple lettuce remained.

Formal Terrace

Formal Gardens

Formal Gardens

Walking down the Lady Walk at the side of the tea shop and National Trust shop, you arrive at the river side and the back of the Mansion. Leading from the Mansion to the river is the Formal Terrace gardens. Lined with yew trees and bordered with lavender the terraces are an elegant garden leading down to a towards a water(less) fountain.

The Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden

Next to the Formal Terrace is the Butterfly Garden, I remember when I was a child you were able to walk in this garden and run through arches.

The Lion Columns

The Lion Columns

At the far end of the Formal Terraces between the Mansion and Servant’s Quarters, there are two lion columns. These columns originate from a South East Indian temple and date from around 800 AD.

Chinese House & Island Garden

Chinese House & Island Garden Bridge

Chinese House & Island Garden Bridge

If you follow the riverside path through the gardens you come to a red bridge and next to it, the Chinese House. The Chinese House was built in 1747, one of the first examples in Britain of an oriental garden structure.

The Red Bridge leads to the Island Garden, which is home to a rather old and abandoned tennis court and home to Asian oak trees. A well hidden path in the corner of the Island Garden leads to Patrick Lichfield’s Arboretum, otherwise accessed by the Blue Bridge at the far end of the riverside walk.

Monuments

The Shugborough Estate is home to a great number of monuments, this next section will discuss a selection of these.

The Tower of the Winds

Tower of the Winds

Tower of the Winds

The Tower of the Winds was built in 1756, based on the Tower of the Winds in Athens. The basement used to house the estate’s dairy and later, a gambling den. The upper floor of the tower was designed by James Stuart as a banqueting room, the room is now used for wedding ceremonies, a smaller alternative to the Saloon in the Mansion.

Upper Tower Room

The upper floor has a very ornate ceiling which was based on a design from Nero’s Golden House in Rome.

Tower Ceiling

Tower Ceiling

Until severe flooding occurred on the estate in the late eighteenth century, the Tower stood beside a lake that was later drained to prevent floods reoccurring. Such a drastic action was done to prevent the the Tower suffering the same disastrous fate that it’s neighbour the Chinese Pagoda befell as a result of the flooding.

Watercolour by Nicholas Dall, at Shugborough showing the Triumphal Arch and Chinese Pagoda. ©National Trust.

Watercolour by Nicholas Dall, at Shugborough showing the Triumphal Arch and Chinese Pagoda. ©National Trust.

Triumphal Arch

Triumphal Arch

Triumphal Arch

The Triumphal Arch is my favourite of the monuments at Shugborough, set in the highest point of the Estate. When entering the exhibitor’s entrance of the Classic Vehicle Show, it was the first thing we saw.

The arch was originally designed to be a neo-classical feature but ended up being a memorial to George and Elizabeth Anson. Shortly after work began, Elizabeth died, followed soon after by George in 1762. After their deaths, sculptures of cenotaphs were added to the arch topped with busts of George and Elizabeth.

As I said in Part One, I couldn’t find the entrance to field leading to the Triumphal Arch until we were leaving (shortly before having cows block the road), I do so want to walk up to it and be photographed stood underneath, reason enough to visit again soon.

Doric Temple

Doric Temple

Doric Temple

The Doric Temple neo-greek monument based on the Temple of Hephaistos at the top of a hill overlooking Athens. The Doric Temple stood at the entrance of the original kitchen garden until the Walled Garden was built half a mile from the house in the early nineteenth century.

In front of the Temple, there is a lawn formally used as a bowling green and is home to the Great Yew: the widest yew tree in the British Isles.

The Shepherd’s Monument

Shepherd's Monument

Shepherd’s Monument

If you follow the riverside path and walk past the Chinese House and the Red Bridge you will come to the Shepherd’s Monument. The sculpture depicts Nicolas Poussin’s 1642 painting ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’, however with a number of changes.

Beneath the sculptured imaged a code is engraved, which nobody has yet been able to decipher.

The code reads:

O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V
D.                        M.

Some people have linked the monument and it’s mysterious code to the Holy Grail due to the family’s association with “free-thinking groups and societies”, when the monument was build. If that were so, it is a pity indeed that Shugborough did not feature in Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ or the 2006 movie of the same name.

Arboretum 

Many owners of Country Estate’s wish to leave a lasting legacy of their tenure as “Lord of the Manor” so to speak, and Patrick Lichfield was no different. His legacy to the future of Shugborough Hall was the creation of the Arboretum on the river island, accessible by the blue and red bridges.

The Blue Bridge

The Blue Bridge

The Arboretum is home to a number of different types of trees from all over the world. The area by the Blue Bridge has a number of North American species, including an oak grown from an acorn taken from the lawn of the White House.

Walking through the Arboretum which is a long, pleasant and very quiet walk – I saw no one else whilst exploring – you come across not only different species of trees, but also several pieces of art.

One of several sculptures in the Arboretum

One of several sculptures in the Arboretum

Intimate seating area in the Arboretum opposite the Mansion

Intimate seating area in the Arboretum opposite the Mansion

The Arboretum boasts an exquisite view of the Mansion and in front of it, the River Sow. It is quite a shame that the weather was so changeable, much of it with heavy cloud cover, it would be such a lovely photo in the sunlight, or at dusk with the Mansion lit up! I recommend searching for evening shots of Shugborough Hall.

The Mansion from the Arboretum

The Mansion from the Arboretum

My visit to Shugborough Hall, despite the weather, really was fantastic, there is so much to do and see. I left feeling inspired to write not one but five blog posts, with an intention to visit again and also with a craving for country walks and horse riding – I can’t even ride a horse! I would highly recommend visiting if you are ever in the area.

Again I am uncertain as to the topic of my next blog post, I would quite like to try out a recipe for lavender shortbread, but I also feel like I should take advantage of the weather and visit somewhere else nearby, before the rain returns. We shall see!

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Shugborough Hall Part Four: The Farm

Part Three of the Shugborough Hall series focuses on the Farm built in 1805 by Samuel Wyatt. Built to be a model farm using the latest agricultural advances, members of the landed gentry would visit Shugborough in order to see these advances in practice and to learn how to properly run their own farm.

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

The Shugborough Estate farm consists of a large farmhouse, a mill, dairy and a farmyard of animals. The farm also houses an additional teashop and a traditional sweet shop.

The Farmhouse

When you visit the Shugborough Farm, the first building you will enter is the Farm House. Pictured above, the farm house is a rather grand building for it’s type and age, built as such to enable people of status and wealth to be shown around.

Entering the Farmhouse, using the side entrance, the first room you come to is the Snug.

The Snug

The Snug

The Snug

The Snug is where the farm bailiff would have done his paperwork, sat at the desk in the corner. Moving on and across the Entrance Hall, the next room you will see is the Parlour.

The Parlour

The Parlour

The Parlour

The Parlour would have been a space for the farmer and his wife to entertain guests. The furniture on display, rather than being original to the house is on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, though is in keeping with the style of furniture that would have been in the room in 1805.

Next, you will exit the same Parlour door and walk back into the Entrance Hall.

The Entrance Hall

The Entrance Hall

The Entrance Hall

Walking through the Entrance Hall you get a sense of the grandeur of the building, given that it is a farmhouse.

The staircase is designed to make the house look larger than it actually is when on the first floor landing, it has a spiral effect to give the illusion that there are more than two floors. There is only one room open to the public; the Servant’s Bedroom.

The Servant’s Bedroom

The Servant's Bedroom

The Servant’s Bedroom

The servant’s bedroom, like the bedroom in the Servant’s Quarters, is a very plain room. It would have housed the farmer’s domestic servant, hired farm help would have lived elsewhere.

After viewing the Servant’s Bedroom, you walk back down the staircase, through the Entrance Hall and into the Kitchen.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen Range

The Kitchen Range

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

The Kitchen would have been used by the Farmer’s wife and their servant to cook meals, farm workers would also use the room to eat their meals. The range cooker features an spit for roasting, oven for baking, a hob area and an open fire. Though not original to the house, the range is an accurate reproduction of Thomas Robinson’s range cooker, built by the museum technicians with a little help from craftsmen at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.

Walking through the kitchen you come to the Back Kitchen, used mostly for baking.

The Back Kitchen

The Back Kitchen

The Back Kitchen

The Back Kitchen houses a brick bread oven still in use today. The oven would bake up to thirty loaves at a time, used to feed the farm labourers. In a morning the oven would be lit, as it heated up the bricks containing lime would turn white, a brick containing no lime called the “tell-tale brick” would not change colour. As the colour difference between the lime bricks and the tell-tale brick became more noticeable, the oven was sufficiently heated to bake the bread. As the oven cooled down after the bread loaves had been removed, other cakes and pastries would have been baked.

Whilst in the Back Kitchen, the female servant cooked some griddle cakes (a little like American pancakes), we were able to try a little with either sugar or lemon curd. After trying griddle cakes, you leave the Farmhouse by a back door, you can then either visit the Mill or the Farmyard.

The Dairy

The Dairy

The Dairy

The Dairy, housed in a building connected to the Farmhouse, was used to produce butter and cheese used on the estate and sold at local markets. Cheese and butter are still made in the dairy today, the butter being used by the farmhouse servant when making griddle cakes. Visitors are able to assist in the making of cheese by cutting the curd and placing it in moulds.

Though the farm produces a number of goods on a daily basis, these cannot be sold to the public for health and safety reasons, which is a little disappointing really. The bakery at Blists Hill Museum in Ironbridge is able to sell their bread. I really ought to go back to Blists Hill as it would make a fine topic for a blog post, it has also been far too long since I last visited.

The Mill

The Mill

The Mill

The mill is powered by a still working water mill that is larger than a double-decker bus. In 1805 the mill would have been used to process animal feed and flour for baking. Wholemeal flour would have been used to make bread for the workers, whereas the Anson family would have eaten white bread, which was fashionable for the wealthy; a stark contrast to the present day. Making white flour required extra milling which had the knock on effect of removing most of the bread’s goodness.

The mill is split over several floors, after viewing each, you exit the building and enter the farm courtyard.

The Farmyard

The farmyard courtyard is home to the granary teashop and sweet shop. Here are a selection of photographs of the courtyard.

Back of the Farmhouse

Back of the Farmhouse

Farm Machinery and The Mill

Farm Machinery and The Mill

Farmyard Entrance

Farmyard Entrance

At the opposite end of the courtyard, there is a gate leading to the animals.

Animals

Visitors are able to feed the animals at the Shugborough Farm, food can be purchased at the farm entrance at the side of the Farmhouse. Here are a few of the animals living on the farm.

Pig

Pig

Goat

Goat

Horse

Horse

Pony

Pony

Donkey

Donkey

Ducks

Ducks

Chickens

Chickens

Turkey

Turkey

Sheep

Sheep

Having now discussed the Mansion, Servant’s Quarters and Farm, part four in the Shugborough Hall series will focus on the grounds and gardens that make up the Shugborough Estate.

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Shugborough Hall Part Three: The Servant’s Quarters

After writing about the mansion at Shugborough Hall in my last blog post, this post will focus on the Servant’s Quarters, located adjacent to the mansion. The Servant’s Quarters have been restored to how they would have looked in 1871, and are staffed with fully costumed volunteers and employees believing it to be that year.

The Servant's Quarters

The Servant’s Quarters

Interestingly, the Servant’s Quarter’s roof is made from Penrhyn slate which was owned by the Pennant family of Penrhyn Castle. The entrance to the Servant’s Quarters is located in the first courtyard, which now houses the National Trust shop and Lady Walk Tea Room. The courtyard would have originally been an area to store household waste.

After entering the Servant’s Quarters and walking through the Coach House, you arrive in the second courtyard.

Exterior

Servant’s Quarters Courtyard

Servant's Quarters Courtyard

Servant’s Quarters Courtyard

From this courtyard you enter the Kitchen and main rooms that make up the servant’s quarter visitor attraction.

Kitchen

Scullery

Scullery

When first entering the Kitchen buildings, the first room you will enter is the Scullery with a table dressed with fresh vegetables. The Scullery would have been a delivery area, where the gardeners and gamekeepers would deliver crops and game. Walking through the Scullery you will come to the Main Kitchen.

Main Kitchen

Main Kitchen

The Kitchen is an enormous room with very high ceilings, created in such a way to disperse heat generated from an open fire and later, the range. The range cooker seen in the photograph above was installed in the mid-nineteenth century and is in working order still today.

The Anson family were fond of French chefs, who were regularly employed by the family from the 1870′s until the 1930′s, though there was no French chef there on my visit.

After exploring the Kitchen the next room you will visit is the Servant’s Hall.

Servant’s Hall

Servant's Hall

Servant’s Hall

The Servant’s Hall was the dining room for the indoor servants. Due to it’s location, the servants were guaranteed to have hot food, whereas the family who ate at the far end of the mansion often had only lukewarm meals.

When seated for dinner at seven-thirty in the evening, the butler and housekeeper sat at either end of the table, with senior servants on chairs and lower ranking servants on benches. Servants were able to begin eating after the butler and housekeeper had begun, and were not able to eat after the butler and housekeeper had finished.

Once a month formal dances were held for the servants in the Servant’s Hall, and similarly at Christmas, a special dinner was provided along with ale and brandy.

After leaving the Servant’s Hall, you walk through another door off the courtyard and into the Laundry.

Laundry

The Laundry is separated into two sections; the wet laundry and the drying/ironing area. Maids would spend the first half of the week washing clothes in the wet laundry and second half, drying and ironing.

Wet Laundry

Wet Laundry

Laundry

Laundry

At the centre of the room is a large contraption used to iron out creases on tablecloths and bedding. Due to its size, the house’s handyman would have to spend one day a week helping out with its use.

After the Laundry, you proceed up a flight of stairs and into the upper rooms housing the Servant’s Bedroom, Schoolroom, and County Museum exhibition.

Servant’s Bedroom

Servant's Bedroom

Servant’s Bedroom

The Servant’s Bedroom is a relatively new addition to the Servant’s Quarters where visitors are able to try out the bed.

The upstairs section also houses an exhibition of Victorian clothing, shoes and other miscellaneous items owned by Staffordshire County Council. After viewing these, the Schoolroom and Shops, you finish in the Brewhouse.

Brewhouse

Brewhouse

Brewhouse

The restored Brewhouse produces gallons of beer and is one of the only commercial brewhouse of its kind in the country, using traditional methods.

Beer (or ale) has been an important drink in Britain since before the Roman Conquest. Water was far too unsanitary to drink and tea and coffee were expensive for lower classes to purchase, meaning they were heavily reliant on cheap beer. Servants were often given a daily allowance of beer which also formed part of their wages, at Shugborough staff were given an allowance of up to one gallon of beer a day. Beer was a good energy drink for domestic servants who led rather physically demanding lives, it’s sugar and yeast content provided them with a much needed energy boost.

Walking through the Brewhouse, visitors are offered the chance to sample Shugborough’s home brewed beer before exiting Servant’s Quarters.

Staffordshire County Museum

Schoolroom

Schoolroom

Schoolroom

The Schoolroom is a reproduction of a nineteenth century village school, where children paid one penny a day to attend.

After the schoolroom, you walk back down a set of stairs and into the first of the shops that make up the Street Area.

Shops

Pharmacy

Pharmacy

Tailors

Tailors

Grocery Shop

Grocery Shop

Puppet Collection

Puppets

Puppets

Puppets of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I

Puppets of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I

Other Photographs

Anson Family Silver

Anson Family Silver

Stable

Stable

Today’s blog post has been slightly shorter than my last two, and perhaps that is a good thing indeed for they were rather long. Part Four will discuss the nineteenth century working farm.

Weblinks

Shugborough Hall Part Two: The Mansion

Shugborough Hall Part One was an introduction into the history of Shugborough and the various visitor attractions on offer. Part Two is a more in depth description of the mansion, discussing both the state rooms and the recently opened private apartment, there are however several rooms that I have omitted, due to the sheer number of rooms available to view.

Exterior

Shugborough Hall Central Section

Shugborough Hall Central Section

Rear Exterior, Saloon Bay Window

Rear Exterior, Saloon Bay Window

Rear Exterior

Rear Exterior

Entrance Hall

Entrance Hall ©National Trust Images

Entrance Hall ©National Trust Images

When you first enter the mansion from the portico, you are greeted by a grand red room adorned with classical sculptures and columns forming an oval shape. The room has several doors leading off to the Verandah Corridor, Saloon, Staircase Hall and Bust Parlour (in clockwise order).

Rather than having free reign to view whichever room you like, in whatever order you like, due to the vast number of visitors daily, you explore the mansion in an anti-clockwise order beginning with the Bust Room, Anteroom then Dining Room.

Dining Room

Dining Room

Dining Room

The Dining Room at Shugborough Hall was originally used as a Drawing Room, with doors leading to a bed chamber which is now the Red Drawing Room. The room has been described as the finest Rococo interior in England, adorned with paintings of Roman ruins bought by Thomas Anson during his Grand Tour in the mid eighteenth century.

The table is set with the state dinner service and a rather impressive, and substantial, candelabra. The chairs in the dining room are known as Ann Margaret chairs. Ann Margaret was the wife of Viscount Anson, and chose chairs with a small seat and low back which would be of a slight discomfort to guests and ensure they did not outstay their welcome. It is quite an ingenious idea really, though I would have to have more comfortable seating for my favoured guests and of course myself.

The Dining Room, like several of the other rooms has a wonderfully ornate plasterwork ceiling. The ceiling is a depiction of Guido Reni’s Aurora.

Dining Room Ceiling

Dining Room Ceiling

Moving on from the Dining Room and you walk back through the Anteroom, through the Blue Drawing Room and into the Red Drawing Room.

Red Drawing Room

Red Drawing Room

Red Drawing Room

The Red Drawing Room was originally a bedroom until converted into a drawing room in 1794. Much of the furniture in the room is French was purchased by the second Earl of Lichfield after it’s earlier contents were sold off during the Great Sale.

Those who have read my earlier blog posts will have noticed that I have a penchant for chandeliers, well I was not disappointed when I walked into the Red Drawing Room. The room boasts an incredible chandelier of over three hundred droplets and is likely original to the room.

Chandelier

Chandelier

After looking around the Red Drawing Room, you walk through a small passage way and into the Saloon.

Saloon

Saloon ©National Trust Images

Saloon ©National Trust Images

Saloon looking out to the formal terrace gardens

Saloon looking out to the formal terrace gardens

The Saloon is a grand, long room overlooking the formal terraced garden and the River Sow. The room was originally the dining room until Samuel Wyatt, when extending and remodelling parts of the mansion, created a reception room for the visit of the Prince Regent, a visit that did not occur. As part of Wyatt’s extension of what is now the Saloon, a second fireplace was added along with the same columns found in the Entrance Hall.

Walking into the room I immediately thought it would make a fine ballroom (though it lacked a chandelier) and was not surprised to discover that it is the room used for wedding ceremonies when they are held in the mansion.

After the saloon you briefly walk back into the Entrance Hall and through the first door on the left, leading to the Staircase Hall and then the first floor where the State Bedroom and the Private Apartment are located.

State Bedroom Suite

The State Bedroom Suite was reserved for royal visits or very important guests. The suite consists of a sitting room, bedroom and dressing room (one of the only dressing rooms in the house not converted into an en suite bathroom).

The suite was set up in readiness for a visit by the Prince Regent however as he failed to turn up, the suite was not used until a visit by Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) and her mother the Duchess of Kent, during their stay at Shugborough in 1832.

Sitting Room

State Suite Sitting Room

State Sitting Room

Interestingly, the couch visible in the photo above is called a chaperone seat. A courting couple would sit at either side of the seat with their chaperone sat between them in the middle. The centre seat has a low back and is made to be uncomfortable for the chaperone, to ensure they did not fall asleep.

Bedroom

State Bedroom

State Bedroom

Whilst on tour, Princess Victoria would take her own bed when staying at Country Estates. Unfortunately, the bed in the State Bedroom at Shugborough is not the bed the princess slept in, the princess’ bed was sold during the Great Sale in 1842.

Located on the wall between the bed and the Sitting Room door, is a sketch of Princess Victoria and her mother, given to the Anson family by Queen Victoria many years later as a thank you gift.

The State Bedroom is reputed to by haunted by the ghost of Harriet Georgina Hamilton, wife of the second Earl of Lichfield. Though the room steward had never seen Harriet’s ghost, she did say that the pet dog of Patrick Anson (fifth Earl of Lichfield), would not enter the State Bedroom, but would happily wander into many of the other rooms in the house.

After the State Bedroom, you next wander around the Private Apartment, which I will discuss later on, after describing the remaining rooms long open to the public.

Anson Room

Anson Room Desk

Anson Room Desk

The Anson Room located on the ground floor, one of the first rooms you see after visiting the Private Apartment, holds various Anson family memorabilia. Walking into the room I was somewhat in awe of the double desk in the middle of the room. If this were my house, the Anson Room would be my study/office, ideal in it’s location as the Library is next door.

Atop of the desk, is a map of George Anson’s voyage on the HMS Centurion, to seek out and capture Spanish galleons.

Anson Family Memorabilia

Anson Family Memorabilia

Located in the Anson Room is the sword presented to George Anson after his capture of the Spanish galleon Covodonga by the Spanish ship’s captain. Above the sword is a painting by John Cleveley of the battle.

After perusing the Anson Room, a door in the corner of the room leads to the Library.

Library

Library

Library

The Library is an impressive room (finally, after a several less than inspiring libraries), half part of the original house, half part of the wing extension. The room, though already spacious, is given an illusion of being larger still, due to the use of mirrors next to the arch columns to project a continuous line of bookcases, the far end of the room is actually slightly narrower.

I could very well imagine myself sat at the desk in the library writing my blog posts, or perhaps even writing novels, with a surrounding such as this how could one not resort to writing novels. I doubt however, that I could resort to writing novels like those of Lorna Warwick, or to chose a real life equivalent, E. L. James.

Exiting via the door disguised as a mirror and you are once again on the Verandah Passage, carrying on down this corridor, adorned with many animal heads and the figurehead from the HMS Centurion, you will come to the Verandah Room.

Verandah Room

Verandah Room & Billiard Table

Verandah Room & Billiard Table

The Verandah Room houses a collection of eighteenth century Chinese porcelain dinner service commemorating George Anson’s circumnavigation of the globe in the HMS Centurion. Also housed in the room, though not shown in the image above, is a model of the Centurion completed in 1747 on loan from the National Maritime Museum.

In the early twentieth century, the Verandah rooms were converted into entertainment spaces required of an Edwardian gentleman. The spacious billiards room we see today was created, along with an area to sit and play cards.

Verandah Room Seating Area

Verandah Room Seating Area

The Verandah Passage leads back to the Entrance Hall, through which you exit the mansion.

Private Apartment

The Private Apartment was the residence of Patrick Anson the fifth Earl of Lichfield until his death in 2005. Since 2011, the Private Apartment has been open to the public and is accessible from the corridor just off State Bedroom.

When first entering the Private Apartment, there is a small exhibition of Patrick Anson’s photography including photos of family, models, celebrities and the Royal Family.

Yellow Bedroom

Yellow Bedroom

Yellow Bedroom

Lilac Bedroom

Lilac Bedroom

Lilac Bedroom

Family Sitting Room

Family Sitting Room

Family Sitting Room

Breakfast Room

Breakfast Room

Breakfast Room

The Breakfast Room is a circular room located at the end the wing nearest the Servant’s Quarters. Set for breakfast including a selection of cereals in jars and a tray of toast, the Breakfast Room is a lovely room. Perhaps my favourite aspect of he room is the item located on one of the window ledges…

Twinings Tea

Twinings Tea

Being a massive fan of tea, bordering on obsessive even if you take into consideration my extensive collection, I was delighted to see such large box of tea, I would like very much to have one of these in my collection, though perhaps with special compartments for loose tea rather than teabags, loose tea is infinitely better than bagged.

Walking through the second door of the Breakfast Room and you will enter the Private Apartment’s kitchen. Exiting the kitchen and walking back down the corridor, the last room you will visit in the apartment is the Four Poster Room.

Four Poster Room

Four Poster Room

Four Poster Room

After viewing all of the private rooms, you head back down the stairs and onto the Verandah Passage to view the rest of the public rooms I have already discussed.

Other Photographs

Bust Parlour

Bust Parlour

Blue Drawing Room

Blue Drawing Room

Pianoforte in the Saloon

Pianoforte in the Saloon

Staircase Hall

Staircase Hall

Part Three of the Shugborough series will describe the Servant’s Quarters, the buildings adjacent to the Mansion, housing the Laundry, Kitchen, Brewhouse, Coach house and County Museum.

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Shugborough Hall Part One: Introduction

Shugborough Hall, a country estate near the village of Milford in Staffordshire is the ancestral home of the Anson family, the Earl’s of Lichfield. The estate belongs to the National Trust, but is leased to Staffordshire County Council and is home to a selection of visitor attractions including the mansion, gardens and parkland, a servants quarter museum and a working farm.

Shugborough Hall Frontage

Shugborough Hall Frontage

I have visited Shugborough Hall many times over the course of my life. My grandfather, who owns several classic motorcycle regularly attends vintage vehicle shows, these are occasionally held annually at county estates such as Weston Park, Himley Hall and of course Shugborough Hall. As a child I would always attend these with my family (occasionally riding on a motorbikes until I fell asleep one ride home), however I have not been for a number of years until yesterday. Whilst the vehicle aspect held little interest for me, the prospect of visiting another National Trust property did, especially when the visit would cost me nothing instead of the National Trust member discounted rate of seven pounds fifty. I later learned it would have been worth the money and will definitely visit again to see things I missed and to share the experience with others.

A Little History

The Shugborough Estate was originally owned by the Bishops of Lichfield and consisted of a manor house surrounded by a moat, set in eighty acres of land. Following the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries, the estate was bought by William Paget in 1546 and then by William Anson in 1624, who was a successful lawyer.

William Anson’s grandson also named William, demolished the earlier house and built the central section of the current mansion. In 1720, Thomas Anson inherited Shugborough from his father William Anson III. It is Thomas Anson who annexed over one thousand acres of land, claimed it as his own and with Thomas Wright, created the vast parkland and erected several of the monuments, based on Chinese, Greek and Roman architecture. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Thomas Anson, using money from his brother George Anson’s successful naval career, extended the mansion adding the two wings.

Thomas Anson died in 1773 without a son and Shugborough was inherited by his nephew George Adams (later Anson). George was succeeded in 1789 by Thomas Anson II, who became the first Viscount Anson. Viscount Anson created the walled garden, a successful modern model farm and the mansion’s portico. After his death in 1818, Shugborough was inherited by his son Thomas Anson III, who became the first Earl of Lichfield.

The first Earl of Lichfield lived an excessively extravagant life and squandered an obscene amount of money gambling, resulting in a severe financial crisis for the family in 1841-1842. Shugborough had been mortgaged and in order to settle his debt, the Earl was forced to sell much of the contents of the house. Several items were saved from the sale including the family silver and family portraits, however books, sculptures and pieces of art included original Rembrandt’s were sold in the Great Sale, which lasted two weeks. After the sale, Shugborough was shut up and left empty for many years until the earl’s son, Thomas Anson IV (the second Earl of Lichfield), inherited the estate on his death in 1854.

The second Earl of Lichfield and his wife Harriet moved to Shugborough and the Earl followed the family tradition becoming the MP for Lichfield. The second Earl and his wife set about restoring Shugborough to its former glory, buying back items sold during the Great Sale when possible, and introducing new pieces to the house. Whilst the second Earl of Lichfield restored much of Shugborough Hall, he was unable to reduce the mortgage on the estate. His son the third Earl of Lichfield paid off the mortgage by taking smaller loans and invested money into the colonies, as well as running the estate himself.

In 1958, Shugborough Hall was inherited by Thomas “Patrick” Anson, the fifth Earl of Lichfield and cousin to Queen Elizabeth II. Patrick, who was a successful photographer, was forced to offer the estate as part payment of death duties in 1966 following the death of his grandfather, the fourth Earl of Lichfield. Whilst the estate was owned by the National Trust, the Earl lived in a private apartment until his death in 2005. The private apartment is now open to the public.

The Shugborough Estate is owned by the National Trust, but has been leased to Staffordshire County Council as part of a ninety-nine year lease who finance and administer the estate, providing a “complete working historic estate” for the use of the nation.

Mansion

The Mansion

The Mansion

The mansion, along with parkland, gardens and farm, opens daily at eleven in the morning. Built between 1694 (the central section), 1748 (the wings) and 1790-1806 (portico & steps in the new front entrance), the mansion is a grand Georgian mansion-house fully open to the public. Until March 2011, the private apartment consisting of much of the first floor was closed to the public, serving as the residence of Patrick Anson, the fifth Earl of Lichfield until his death in 2005.

Before the opening of the private apartment, the State Rooms had been open to the public for many years, these included the Dining Room, Blue Drawing Room, Red Drawing Room, State Drawing Room, Saloon and State Bedroom. I will write about these in Shugborough Hall Part Two: The Mansion.

Formal Garden

Formal Gardens

Formal Gardens

Located to the rear and sides of the Mansion, the formal gardens include a mixture of manicured formal terraces, shrubberies, herbaceous borders, lawns edged with lavender and two island retreats set along the river.

The gardens are also home to several monuments including a ruin with a druid sat upon it, a monument to a cat and a sculpture based on Nicolas Poussin’s ‘Et in Arcadia Ego onto which a mysterious code is engraved.

Servant’s Quarters

Servant's Quarters

Servant’s Quarters

The Servant’s Quarters is adjacent to the mansion and is set in 1871, staffed with a host of maids and male servants in full Victorian costume. The Servant’s Quarter buildings are comprised of two courtyards, a working kitchen and laundry, a coach house, servant’s dining room and bedrooms.

Also housed in the Servant’s Quarters is the Staffordshire County Museum, a collection of objects, clothing and replica shops, as well as a classroom and a working brew house.

Parkland

The Triumphal Arch

The Triumphal Arch

The grounds at Shugborough Hall total nine hundred acres and consist of follies, formal grounds & gardens, an island garden and an island arboretum. Dotted around the grounds, are a great number of small and large monuments including the Triumphal Arch, the Tower of the Winds, the Doric Temple and the Chinese House. The Triumphal Arch is a structure that particularly impressed me, I was unable to find out how to access the field until we were leaving, but it will be first on my list of things to see next time I go, and hopefully that day will be much sunnier. I was able to take a photo from the bottom of the hill in the fenced off car park, I can’t help but picture Elizabeth Bennet encountering Mr Darcy whilst taking a turn about the grounds.

Walking around the grounds, I did frequently imagine myself as a Georgian Gentleman walking about in breeches with a cane and at other times, horse riding around the follies. I think perhaps I read a little too much of Victoria Connelly’s ‘A Weekend With Mr Darcy’ and watched a few too many Jane Austen adaptations over the weekend.

Farm

Farmhouse

Farmhouse

The farm at Shugborough Hall was built in 1805 and it is this time, that the still working farm is set, with numerous Shugborough staff and volunteers in costume and character. The farm features a large and relatively grand farmhouse, a mill, dairy that makes cheese and butter, a tea shop, sweet shop and of course a farmyard of pigs, goats, sheep, turkeys, chickens, ducks, a donkey, pony and horse.

Walled Garden

Walled Garden

Walled Garden

The Walled Garden is set in 1805, the year of it’s creation. There are a great number of crops growing in the garden, beans, onion and apples amongst them. Highlights of the Walled Garden include the Head Gardener’s House, the Dipping Pool and the staffed Blacksmiths.

Outside the Walled Garden, the Bothy’s have been converted from living accommodation for single male gardeners into craft shops including a woodturner, glassmaker and shop selling weaved willow produce.

In short, Shugborough Hall was a very enjoyable place to visit, with attractions that are bound to spark the interest of children and adults alike. As the title suggests, this is aimed at being merely the introduction to a series of blog posts focusing on different aspects of the Shugborough Hall Estate, watch this space for Part Two: The Mansion.

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A Road Trip to Pembrokeshire

Instead of going to Attingham Park on Saturday, Kate invited me to join her on an impromptu trip to Pembrokeshire in Wales, with her sister. Knowing my love for anything worth blogging about, Kate convinced me by suggesting we go visit St David’s Cathedral in St David’s, the smallest city in Great Britain.

St David's Cathedral

St David’s Cathedral

The city of St David’s is named after the Welsh patron saint, Saint David (Dewi), a sixth century bishop. St David’s was granted city status in 1994 as part of the fortieth anniversary of the Queen’s reign. The papers designating it as a city were presented by Her Majesty in 1995 at the Cathedral.

A Little History

In the sixth century, Saint David set up a monastery on the site of the Cathedral, where he died in 589. The monastery was attacked and destroyed many times during the next four centuries until William the Conqueror visited St David’s to pray in 1081 following the Norman Conquest of 1066. Under Norman rule, St David’s as a religious centre grew, leading to King Henry I appointing the first Bishop of St Davids and the need for a cathedral. The first cathedral was completed in 1131 however over the next fifty years, religious following of St David increased and after King Henry II’s visit to the area in 1171, a larger cathedral was needed.

Construction of the current cathedral began in 1181, however during the mid thirteenth century, the Cathedral was damaged as the tower collapsed in 1220 and an earthquake struck the area in 1247/48. Over the course of the fourteenth century, the Cathedral was substantially modified; the construction of the rood screen (an ornate partition between the  chancel and nave), the construction of the Bishop’s Palace (now a ruin next to the Cathedral), the chantry and the cloister.

In 1540 during the reign of King Henry VIII, the remains of Edmund Tudor, the King’s grandfather were entombed at St David’s Cathedral after being removed from the Greyfriars Priory in Carmarthen, following its dissolution during the Reformation. Edmund Tudor’s tomb is still housed in the Cathedral today.

After the dissolution of the Monarchy after the English Civil War, St David’s Cathedral was badly damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s forces and the Cathedral would remain in a state of severe disrepair for the next two hundred years.

Starting with the west front in 1793 by Welsh architect John Nash, the Cathedral began a period of reconstruction and restoration which would last until 1910. Between 1862 and 1867, the whole building was restored by George Gilbert Scott, a Victorian architect who also designed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. John Nash’s earlier work proved to be substandard and G. Scott’s restoration was required after the Cathedral became unstable.

During the twentieth century, with the exception of the Lady chapel and easter chapels, little restoration occurred until the 1990s. St David’s newly granted city status meant the Cathedral needed to invest in its future and comprehensive restoration project began with the restoration of west front. A visitor centre was created along with a refectory and the building of new cloister housing an educational centre was completed in 2007. Whilst the Cathedral has been widely restored, the Bishop’s Palace situated next to the Cathedral lies in ruin open to the public and regularly hosts open air theatre performances.

The Cathedral

St David's Cathedral

St David’s Cathedral

Arriving at the Cathedral it is free to enter, however as the Cathedral costs two thousand pounds per day to maintain, they recommend a donation of three pounds per person. To take photographs or record videos inside the Cathedral, a permit must be purchased from the shop at a cost of one pound fifty for photographs and three pounds for video recording.

The Nave

The Nave

The nave is the oldest surviving part of the cathedral, built in a Norman style. The ceiling is an ornate wooden ceiling rather than a stone vaulted ceiling due to inadequate foundations and damage from an earthquake in the thirteenth century.

The Pulpit

The Pulpit

The pulpit separates the nave from the choir and was built during the fourteenth century by Bishop Gower (who also built much of the Bishop’s Palace). The Bishop Gower’s tomb is located in the pulpit at St David’s Cathedral.

Choir Stalls

Choir Stalls

Behind the pulpit is the choir, constructed in the later fifteenth-early sixteenth century. On some of the stalls embroidered cushions display musical notes and lyrics to hymns such as Jerusalem.

Choir Tower

Choir Tower

Looking up when stood in the choir and you can see the ornate ceiling of the tower.

High Altar

High Altar

Next to the choir is St David’s shrine and the high altar. The high altar area underwent major reconstruction during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, at which time the ornately painted ceiling was added.

High Altar Ceiling

High Altar Ceiling

Located in front of the high altar is the tomb of Edmund Tudor, father of King Henry VII and grandfather of King Henry VIII.

Edmund Tudor's Tomb & St David's Shrine

Edmund Tudor’s Tomb & St David’s Shrine

Next to the tomb is the newly restored shrine of St David with depictions of St Patrick, St David and St Andrew on the front, which were added this year.

Chapel of St Edward

Chapel of St Edward

The Chapel of St Edward the Confessor contains an altar, tomb and various fittings made of alabaster, entombed in the chapel is the Countess of Maidstone who donated a large amount of money to the restoration of the south aisle and chapel. The chapel was badly damaged by Cromwell’s Parliamentary soldiers, who stripped the lead from the roof in 1648.

After walking around the inside and outside of the Cathedral, we crossed the bridge to view the Bishop’s Palace.

The Bishop’s Palace

Bishop's Palace

Bishop’s Palace

The Bishop’s Palace was built in two parts by Bishops Thomas Bek between 1280 and 1293, and by Henry de Gower between 1328 and 1347. The palace was built as a residence for the Bishop, who during the medieval period would have been a major state figure.

The palace boasted a great hall measuring thirty metres, two sets of staterooms for the private use of the Bishop and for ceremonial occasions, as well as private chambers and kitchen rooms and would have been a very imposing and decadent building.

Admission to the Bishop’s Palace costs three pounds per person as it is maintained by Cadw, the Welsh government’s heritage & historic environment service.

Other Photographs

Courtyard

Courtyard

Exterior

Exterior

Stream

Stream

Jerusalem embroidered into seat cushion

Jerusalem embroidered into a Choir seat cushion

After exploring St David’s and eating lunch we drove to Newgale beach then later to Broad Haven. Walking along the sandy beach at Broad Haven, I soon saw something in the further down the beach that reminded me of the Sphinx in Egypt.

Broad Haven Sphinx

Broad Haven Sphinx

Unfortunately due to our trip to Pembrokeshire lasting one day only, we soon began the four-hour journey home. There is something so calming about being in Wales and by the sea, I honestly did not want to come back home.

I am unsure what my next blog post will be about, there are three possibilities; Attingham Park near Shrewsbury, Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire or an attempt at lavender shortbread. The National Trust options depend on the weather, which isn’t looking too good at the moment.

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A Sunny Friday Afternoon Part Two: The Wrekin

After my visit to the National Trust owned Sunnycroft in Wellington, I decided to take a drive further down the road then a long walk up The Wrekin.

The Wrekin

The Wrekin

The Wrekin is a four hundred and seven metre high hill which dominates the Mid Shropshire landscape, located adjacent to Wellington in Telford. At the summit of The Wrekin lies the Wrekin Transmitting Station and atop the transmitter, the Wrekin Beacon. A beacon was originally built at the summit during World War Two, however this fell into disrepair and a new beacon was constructed on the transmitter in 2000 to mark the new millennium.

A Little History

During the Iron Age, The Wrekin was home to a hill fort built by the Celtic Cornovii people of Shropshire, Cheshire, north Staffordshire, north Herefordshire and parts of eastern Powys in Wales. During the Roman conquest of Britain during the first century, the Roman city of Viriconium Cornoviorum was founded a few miles away near Shrewsbury, on the site of the Shropshire village Wroxeter.

The exact actions of the Cornovii, when faced with the threat of the Roman legions, however the huts on the Wrekin were burned down and two Roman javelin heads have been found, indicating fighting did break out between the Romans and the Cornovii. Following the Roman conquest and founding of Viriconium, the Wrekin hill fort was abandoned.

The Wrekin in Folklore

There are a number of legends based around the Wrekin and its formation, one such legend is that the Wrekin was created by a giant.

According to the legend, a Welsh giant who had a grudge against Shrewsbury plotted to flood the town by dumping a spadeful of dirt into the River Severn, causing it to flood and destroy the town, drowning its inhabitants.

En route to Shrewsbury, the giant came across a cobbler whilst having a rest near Wellington. The cobbler, who had walked from Shrewsbury with a sack full of shoes to repair, told the giant who had asked for directions, telling the cobbler of his plans, told the giant that Shrewsbury was a long long long way away. He showed the giant his sack of worn shoes, saying he had himself worn them all out on his journey from Shrewsbury. This immediately put the giant off his plan and he dumped his spade of dirt  by the side of the road, then headed home.

The spade of dirt then became The Wrekin, whilst the smaller mound of dirt created by cleaning his boots, became the Ercall, a smaller hill next to The Wrekin.

Photographs

As I said in my blog post about Sunnycroft, there was a memory card issue with my camera, so all of the photos I took with that have vanished. I did however take a few photos on my phone to send to someone via whatsapp. Thank god for the eight megapixel camera on the iPhone 4S.

View down the path

View down the path

Wrekin Transmitting Station

Wrekin Transmitting Station

The Queen's Silver Jubilee Tribute Toposcope

The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Tribute Toposcope

Wrekin Trig Point with Ironbridge Power Station in the distance

Wrekin Trig Point with Ironbridge Power Station in the distance

After my walk up The Wrekin, I headed home for a good rest before an early start the following day to visit St David’s Cathedral in the city of St David’s in Pembrokeshire, Wales, the smallest city in Great Britain.

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