New Year, New Job, New Blog!

Hello All.

Firstly thank you all for your lovely comments on my last post, I am seriously busy in my new role but loving every minute of it!

Secondly, big decision made.

After a lot of faffing around with ways to get past WordPress limits it seems there is only one thing for it, I have to start a new blog!

It appears I have added too many pretty pictures over the years and have totally run out of storage space on my WordPress, so to save paying lots of money every year or having to delete my old posts I have started up another blog, to continue where this one has left off.

My new blog address is: http://viewfrommyattic.blogspot.co.uk/

It is quite good timing really because I can record all my new adventures on my new blog and keep my memories here on my old blog intact.

I have also now learnt to reduce my photo sizes (yes I know Mother, you told me to do this months ago, well I got there eventually) so this one should last me eons, or maybe at least until retirement.

The first two post are already up on the new blog, all about my holiday to Norway over Christmas.

I can still put text posts on this blog so I shall put up links to new blog posts on the other side, but I hope you will all pop over to the new blog and that you continue to enjoy my adventures in the world of heritage!

Thanks for bearing with me, thank you for reading and I hope to see you soon!

 

 

 

Changes

Hello All, long time no see! I know there has been distinct hole in my blog posts recently, but with good reason, I promise.

Big changes have happened in my little world over the last few months and so I have been focusing all my energy on that.

And the big news is: I have started a new job!

I am now Chapel & Collections Officer at Clumber Park, another fabulous National Trust property in the Midlands.

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This is a big step up from my post as Conservation Assistant at Hardwick Hall, and a huge role looking after several collections and becoming head of my own little department!

I loved being at Hardwick so much but even so I have been looking for jobs for a few months now, wanting to progress my career. This job is an amazing opportunity to learn new skills and really use all that I have already learnt from my years with the Trust so far.

Clumber Park is a beautiful, huge estate near Worksop, that was once the seat of The Duke’s of Newcastle. Though the mansion no longer stands on the site all the surrounding buildings still stand, including the focus of my role; the stunning Chapel of Saint Mary the Virgin.

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This role is already proving to be full of excitement, interest and new challenges, and I am enjoying every minute of it. I started in December, in a the deep end with Christmas events and lots of carol singing!

Now the Chapel is closed for the deep clean and I have lots of events and projects on the horizon, Clumber is going to be keeping me very busy.

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So now I will be back to regular blogging from my new home, (and on my new blog: viewfrommyattic.blogspot.co.uk) but in the meantime have a look at this article I wrote for the Clumber Park webpage about what I’m going to be up to for the next few weeks. See you all soon!

 

 

 

A Halloween full of Heritage

I love Halloween, any excuse to dress up and eat sweets is a very good idea in my opinion! This year at Hardwick we the House Team wanted to work closely with the Community Engagement Team and make a really great offer across the whole estate for families over half term.

So a lot of trawling Pinterest later we had decorated two rooms in the Hall, and if you ask me they looked spook-tacular (he he)! We dressed to Duke’s Room and the Still Room, but unfortunately we had a bit of a disaster in the Duke’s Room when it flooded (more on that in another post). However before that point we had a lot of fun putting the rooms together and getting creative.

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There were carved pumpkins in the Stableyard and spiders leading visitors through the gardens and house, potions brewing in the garden and Halloween crafts happening all week, which were a huge hit with the families. We were so busy, we had crowds of children making Halloween ghost puppets and spooky mobiles.

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One of my colleagues did a fantastic job creating this picture of Mary Queen of Scotts, photo-shopped from the painting that hangs in our Long Gallery, the perfect spot for a spooky selfie!

I helped out with the crafts for a couple of days, which I really enjoyed and it took me back to my days of being a Cub Scout leader. When I was a Brownie evening where we were doing crafts like these were my favorite so it was really nice to help out with the kids activities and seeing them enjoying themselves, and my colleagues’ creativity and hard work paying off. It was also a good excuse to dust off my Halloween head-wear and wear horns and cat ears to work.

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I spent the week before Halloween making decorations, haunted books and putting heads in jars. A few simple ideas from Pinterest but they all looked really effective! The slime was brilliant but I think the head in the jar was my favorite, and people’s reactions to it were perfect.

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I spent Halloween night at Leeds Armouries, at their event ‘Night of the Living Dead’ which was so creative, and quite scary too! I decided to dress up as zombie butt-kicker Wichita, from ‘Zombieland’, basically an excuse to wear my new black boots and leather jacket, and was accompanied for the evening by a mad scientist, an escaped convict and a Kerry.

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The event started in the evening, which meant we got to be in Leeds Royal Armouries after hours! The armouries is in a really nice area on the waterfront and it looked so pretty at night-time.

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First off we were briefed in the War Cinema and suddenly a very fierce army lady came charging in shouting orders at us, I was scared already. Then we were taken on a walk through the War Gallery, which was unfortunately infested with the un-dead!

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It stared off with one zombie here and one zombie there but soon enough they were popping out from behind every corner and jumping out behind us. I may have screamed, once or twice, but after getting out alive I kind of just wanted to go around again, it was so much fun!

After our ordeal we were treated to cocktails and special effects make up! I was really looking forward to this part and the make up artists were fab. All the zombies we had seen earlier had been very convincing and now it was my turn.

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We all tried out a slightly different type of make up and then met up with my friend Sadie, who had been infected earlier and had been one of the zombies jumping out at us. I think she looks amazingly scary, I’ve never been happier to see someone covered in blood.

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Once we were all zombie up we sat in for a screening of the original zombie movie ‘Night of the Living Dead’. I had never seen this one before and even though I don’t usually love black and white movies and it wasn’t what I expected, especially the ending, but I enjoyed it.

It was the first year Leeds Armouries had run such an event and I hope it’s not the last. I loved getting to be there in the dark and having such a different experience in a museum I have visited many times. It must have been a huge undertaking for them but I think the staff might have enjoyed it just as much as we did.

So all in all Halloween this year meant indulging in my favorite things, craft, creativity, heritage, zombie movies and spending time with my friends! Hope you all had a frightfully good Halloween, whatever you were doing!

An interesting trip down memory lane

Last weekend me and my friends visited Sudbury Hall. This is a bit of a two for one visit, because there is also the Museum of Childhood there, and the two sides of the visit are very different.

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I really enjoyed the Museum of Childhood, it was full of so many interesting things. I was a bit surprised to find items from my own childhood in there!

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There is so much to see, including little hidden things like these cute mice having a lesson in their little classroom.

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There were doll’s houses and so many fantastic dolls with amazing dresses, like this one dating from 1880, and a huge doll of Queen Victoria before her coronation. I used to collect china dolls when I was a child so I loved seeing all the pretty dolls in the museum.

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I also saw a little reminder of my time at Powis in this Peacock Automaton, also dating from 1880 (must have been a good year for making beautiful toys). The tail has real feather and it is such a pretty item, it must have been a joy to watch walk.

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There were quite a few things I loved in my childhood in the museum now, Furbies, Polly Pockets, Barbie Dolls and Elmer the Elephant. We also spotted the Harry Potter books, and the Millenium Falcon, which really deserve a place in a museum just because of the huge impact they have had the universe. Ok maybe not the entire universe but definitely my universe anyway.

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The one thing from my childhood I really did not like seeing in a glass case however was Little Bear. I used to have the book and a video of the Little Bear stories and they are so lovely. The one that really sticks in my mind is when Old Bear was going to be put in the attic and Little Bear and his friends decided to rescue him because they all needed to be together, and there was Little Bear and Old Bear in that case with none of their other friends. It made me sad.

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If anyone has no idea what I’m rambling about I found a video of the story on Youtube and I recommend the books for any small child (or child at heart).

There were also a lot of toys around for children to play with, which I think is a good idea. It is a shame that all of these beloved toys are now behind glass but I like to imagine some kind of Toy Story/ Night at the Museum style adventures going on when no one is around. It’s wonderful however that all these childhood memories are being preserved for people to look back on, and for new generations to discover.

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The Museum of Childhood also talks about the not so fun side of childhood, child labor. However they do make learning about it quite fun. They even have a replica chimney that children can climb up to get some kind of experience of what it might have been like to be a Chimney Sweep. To be honest I really wanted to have a go too, but would have probably got stuck.

In the end I think the main thing I took away from the Museum of Childhood was that I really haven’t left my childhood behind, even if parts of it are now in a museum, and I don’t think I ever want to. I am very lucky to have been a child when I was, and have seen so much change already. Makes you wonder what the future holds!

The museum was really interesting and enjoyable, the house however was not very interesting.

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I think I have probably been spoilt now, having seen so many beautiful and interesting National Trust houses, with not only really strong stories but such engaging ways of telling their stories that other properties have a lot to live up to.

The building its self is beautiful, elaborate brickwork and lots of different colours of stone used.

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There were a few beautiful elements throughout the house too but for the most part it is just another stately home with nothing to really make it stand out. I feel quite bad saying this but I was almost bored walking around, especially after how interesting our visit to the Museum of Childhood had been.

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The main staircase was very impressive, lots of pretty plaster work.

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Upstairs there is a very interesting bed spread which seems to have flowers cut from another piece of fabric sewn on.

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The other bed on the tour is currently having conservation work done on it so it is in pieces. They are replacing some of the silk because it has been so badly damaged by light.

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My favorite room was the little library upstairs. It was small, but it was tall, a double story library! With an awesome swirly staircase just perfect for perching on with a book.

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The Long Gallery was also very impressive, it had a beautiful plaster work ceiling and felt very light and airy, a bit like Montacute’s. However they had gone and spoilt it by putting a load of modern art down the center. I’m not a fan of modern art and this stuff didn’t impress me. I’m not sure what it was supposed to be, one piece looks kind of like a dinosaur egg.

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At the end of the Long Gallery was a beautiful, finely decorated cabinet depicting scenes from the old testament painted in painstaking detail. The NT Collections webpage has some really beautiful images of the paintings on all the different drawers, well worth checking out.

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I didn’t get a sense of any of the personalities of the residents of the house and the interpretation in the hall wasn’t brilliant either. Each room had just one side of paper A4 laminated and after not finding information about the items I was interested in on the first few I admit I gave up looking.

After leaving the Hall we had an explore and found a sweet church, with some fantastic patterned tiles and of course, pretty stained glass!

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There is a lot to do at Sudbury and I would recommend the Museum of Childhood to anyone who wants a really interesting and nostalgic trip down memory lane. I think I would like to go back in better weather and explore the gardens and grounds a little bit more, it was a little bit soggy when we went. I like the idea of taking my god-children, and one day my children to the museum and showing them my childhood.

House Team on the loose!

A few week ago me and my fellow Conservation Assistants escaped Hardwick for a day out at another National Trust property, Upton House.

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We had decided to visit Upton because they have some large-scale interpretation going on at the moment, called ‘Banking for Victory’. During the Second World War the owners of Upton House, the Bearsted family, moved all the employees for their bank, M. Samuel & Co., in London to the safety of Upton. The family themselves actually stayed at their London residence as they were heavily involved in war work that required them to be in the capital.

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As we walked towards the house from the car park the first thing visitors come across is a tent playing a Pathe news style video explaining why the bank came to move to Upton House. You can watch this video on the Upton House page of the National Trust website. I really liked this touch, it is a fun way of making sure visitors understand why Upton has been transformed.

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It was very generous of the family to open their home to the bank staff for their safety, and so they could continue doing their important work. The people working in the bank were all in a reserved occupation, meaning they were exempt from conscription as the work they were doing was essential to keeping Britain running and keeping the war effort moving.

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The house is opened by timed tickets, so we had some time to wander around the gardens first. The gardens at Upton hold much more than meets the eye. Firstly, tucked around a corner is a beautiful outdoor swimming pool. It’s probably freezing cold but I think the setting would make up for that.

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The next hidden surprise lies at the end of the lawn. A sudden drop down reveals a huge garden, which is currently filled with veg. It must have been a huge undertaking to replant the garden for the new theme but it is actually one of the gardens I have most enjoyed walking round. The whole thing had an added benefit of smelling very tasty too, and had lots of interesting insect life flitting around.

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At the end of the giant veg garden is a lake, with fish in! Huge trees line the edges of the gardens making the whole site pretty spectacular, and most of it can’t even be seen from the house.

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When we entered the house we were taking into the kitchen, into an introductory space which I personally thought was very boring, especially since we were told to wait in there until we could move on to the next room. Luckily that was the only part of the tour that was a little bit dull, and I found the rest of the house really interesting.

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Next we were taken into the Dining Room, where they played a short video setting the scene. The video started with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war that was broadcast over the wireless on the 3rd September 1939. I have heard the broadcast many times before but it still gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes. The speech played over black and white images of war and was a really moving reminder of just how much the war impacted everyone, and changed the world forever.

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After the Dining Room we were allowed to tour the rest of the house free flow, starting with the typing pool. This was also where the bank workers ate so at the first end was a table with some fake food on. The food was made of paper mache and it looked really good, especially the Blackbird pie.

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The typing pool was really good fun. We were encouraged to explore by opening drawers and each draw held something that filled out the picture of life during WWII. As well as opening drawers we were allowed to play type on the typewriters, which was very cool!

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After all our hard work in the typing pool we had a but of a sit down and relax in what would have been the staff room. There was a basket full of knitting needles and wool so we all had a go. We decided the room could have done with a bit of music to add to the atmosphere, but in the true spirit of the era we made do and provided our own. I’m not entirely sure the other visitors were on board but we were enjoying ourselves.

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The stairs to the second floor had beautifully carved banisters wither side, and each window around the stairs and up had a piece of stained glass displayed in it.

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Upstairs we came to the dormitories, men on one side and women on the other. The bedrooms give visitors an opportunity to learn more about the people who lived and worked at Upton House during the war.

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After the staff dormitories there are the family rooms, which give more information about the family, their war work and the sons who were fighting. In several of the bedrooms they had fab trunks with their clothes in. The trunks, drawers and cupboards full of items tell visitors a lot about the people in a really visually interesting way.

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Now we come to the weirdest bathroom I have even been in. It looks like it’s trying to be a spaceship. Most of the walls are covered in silver leaf and the bits that aren’t have been painted bright red. Everyone’s reaction was the same, people just stared in confused awe at such a departure from the rest of the house’s decor.

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There are three stories being told at Upton about the Second World War, the family’s story, the bank staff and finally the story of the family’s art collection. Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, collected a lot of very fine art work, which lived at Upton until the war. Lord Bearsted was a trustee of the National Gallery so when they moved many of the galleries paintings to a quarry in Wales he managed to have much of his own priceless collection stored alongside them.

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The paintings were lovely but I am not really one to stare at art for art’s sake. I like to see historical depictions of costumes for different eras however and the collection at Upton does have some lovely images of medieval dress.

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The interpretation was very well done, immersive and to a continuous standard throughout our entire visit. I really enjoyed all the hands on elements and Upton are very keen to emphasize that they want visitors to explore the house. All the little details in the rooms give a much fuller picture than just having information boards around could do.

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Things like this and the hospital at Dunham Massey really bring history to life and I love being able to walk through history and engage with it like you can at these properties at the moment. I hope this is something more and more Trust properties will work towards. When you have an engaging story to tell doing it like this really does it justice, and makes for a really interesting experience for visitors.

Wonderful Wightwick

Recently me and mum visited Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton. Wightwick (pronounced Whittick) is so beautiful, I was stopped in my tracks, and that was just the exterior of the building! A mixture of black and white walls with red tiles, colourful windows and beautiful carved detail around every corner. Every where you looked there was something else to notice, some other decorated element adding to the stunning vision of the building.

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Luckily for me the inside more than lives up to the bar set by the amazing exterior. Wightwick boasts two amazing collections that set the tone of the house; Pre-Raphaelite paintings and William Morris, well, everything.

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The tour of the interior starts in the Drawing Room, which felt very cosy. In fact most of the house felt very homely. The Drawing Room boasts a lovely plaster ceiling and there is a nice window seat area where you can sit. Seats for the public to use are denoted by having cat cushions on them, as the owners used to allows the cats to sit on all the furniture, more even than the guests were allowed to. I think the cat cushions are a really nice idea.

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In the Entrance Hall there are a series of gorgeous stained glass windows, showing the seasons as women. There is also a very sweet little nook around the fire place that looks so inviting. The perfect place to snuggle up and read a book.

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In the Upper Hall there are some very interesting objects, including a copy of Emperor Napoleon’s death mask which once belonged to Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Further along the hall is a small painting that belongs to a very large scandal. The painting shows Effie Ruskin and was painted by John Millais, another member of the Brotherhood.

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At the time of the painting Effie was married to John Ruskin who was a strong supporter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Millais and Effie fell in love and Effie went through a very public split which left the couple shunned from high society. The story of the Brotherhood is a very interesting one, one I admit I only know from the BBC drama Desperate Romantics a few years ago (worth a watch if you have not seen it, and not just because Aidan Turner plays Rossetti!).

The final thing in the Upper Hall that excited me probably doesn’t mean a huge amount to anyone not familiar with the National Trust collection database. I finally found the painting that has been sitting on the home page for years. It’s a lovely painting of a lady called Jane Hughes tending to her flowers. Now when I log on to CMS I shall be able to picture it hanging instead of wondering where it might live.

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The Morning Room had some very unusual cupboards in, that had once been Flemish Window Shutters, then later installed in the Library at Wightwick and finally moved into the Morning Room.

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The Great Parlour really lives up to its name, a room built to wow and as a space to entertain. There is William Morris furniture and wallpaper, beautiful Medieval inspired stained glass windows and a collection of ceramic tiles displayed around the room. The frieze that runs around the top of the Parlour is a forest scene which animals hiding among the trees. Is is said the frieze was inspired by the one here at Hardwick Hall.

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I could really picture life in the Great Parlour, not only is there another lovely fireplace but a little fire pit too, for portable fire needs. Another essential is the mobile book case. I can imagine relaxing on the William Morris settee, fire keeping me toasty, books on standby. Although there is a good chance I would get distracted by all the pretty things in the room around me.

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Through the Parlour is the Billiard Room, with another cost fire place, snuggly window seats and a William Morris sofa showcasing a selection of Morris print pillows.

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In the Gentlemen’s Cloakroom and the corridor outside were a fascinating selection of hats and accessories used by the family during their history, including elements of genuine uniform from the World Wars. All of these different ensembles were displayed hung around the room and it made for a fantastic visual insight to the houses history and the families service.

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Also in the Gentlemen’s Cloakroom was this rather unusual stool, decorated like a cobra. It is quite odd, and doesn’t look like the most comfortable thing in the world but I like it because it is so different.

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Upstairs in the Honeysuckle Room I found a William Morris print I really like, called ‘Honeysuckle’. The bedrooms on the top floor are all visitor’s bedroom as the family rooms are still used by the family and therefore not open to the public.

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In the Indian Bird Room there hang some lovely hand embroidered curtains. The design ‘Mary Isobel’ was sold as a kit by Morris & Co and is named after the woman who originally stitched the pattern Mary Isobel Barr Smith who lived in Australia. What a lovely legacy to leave to the world!

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The Acanthus Room boasts a fine bed, and I love how this room and the Indian Bird Room, that are back to back, fit with one another. The wall between the two rooms is not straight and the creates a recess for both beds, one either side of the wall. A very clever use of space to make the rooms even cosier.

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From the Gallery visitors get another angle of the gorgeous Great Parlour and a better look at the frieze, which is certainly very reminiscent of Hardwick’s, except Wightwick’s has more kangaroos! There is a lovely settle on the Gallery overlooking the Parlour. Highly decorated with four oil paintings depicting the four seasons.

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The Oak Room was very pretty and I particularly like the bed, which folds itself away into a cupboard and even has a built in bedside table. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos in the Oak Room but I found the bed on the NT Collections webpage. I love how highly decorated the inside is, even though it was designed to be folded away.

The day nursery is a lovely space crammed full of fun looking toys. There are also modern toys out for visitors to play with. This really added to the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere of the room.

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The night nurseries however didn’t feel quite so cheerful to me. Maybe it’s just the overdone horror trope of children’s toys of a particular era being creepy but the room just didn’t make me feel anywhere near as comfortable as the rest of the house. Even the cute puppies on the walls and Snow White bedding couldn’t tempt me into spending a night in there.

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Back downstairs and we found another huge selling point of the house, a built in Turkish Bath! After seeing that me and mum decided we could very much live there, and when should we deliver our things? The Mander family certainly had good taste!

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All around the house are these little saying, painted on walls and fireplaces. What an interesting way to show guests your character and beliefs about the world, and to decorate spaces too.

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After my visit, while I was writing this blog post I read through the National Trust guidebook for the property, and there is one part that hints at a hidden part of Wightwick’s history I would have never guessed existed.

The Introduction to the Guidebook is written by Anthea Mander Lahr Coles, a member of the family to whom the house belonged. Her introduction talks of painful memories and a difficult family life, which present day Wightwick shows no sign of. It feels very strange to read Anthea’s introduction after imagining such a happy life in that beautiful home full of amazing things. Anthea talks of her pleasure in the fact that the house ‘is now the focus of affection and enjoyment’ and it just goes to show that no matter the treasures in a place, it’s not a guarantee for happiness. I am glad too that Wightwick is now a happy place that so many people can, and will, enjoy. It is such a beautiful place it deserves to be enjoyed and remembered fondly.

Re-enactment round-up!

Alas, re-enactment season has come to an end for another year, but oh it was so much fun! I thought I would share a few of my favorite photos from this year with you all.

I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

If you want to see more of our group, The Swords of Mercia, check out our Facebook page by clicking here.

Cannon Hall’s got it all!

Cannon Hall is a lovely little farm near where I grew up that I have visited many, many times as a child. Me and my lovely little brother had a little ‘staycation’ at mum’s house recently and decided to revisit the farm on a day out, and there was much more to see than we remembered.

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As an added treat the house at Cannon Hall (which I didn’t know existed) had an exciting exhibition; the costumes of Downton Abbey!! Bless my little brother for indulging me :D He’s a very good egg.

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The house itself is largely empty today, leaving room for temporary exhibitions and the museum full of glass and pottery. The stately rooms provide a very fine backdrop for the Downton costumes.

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There was Sybil’s First World War nursing uniform and Mrs Patmore and Daisy’s kitchen-wear, which I took lots of photos of for our own Below Stairs project. Daisy’s apron had a pattern printed on the fabric which I had never noticed in the show.

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Lady Violet’s dress has the most amazing bead-work across the top. So much effort has gone into the detail of the costumes that you couldn’t notice unless you get close to them in real life, but it all adds to the fabulous glamour of the tv show.

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The Crawley ladies dresses were obviously amazing, although I was surprised by how tiny they were. No chance of me being able to squeeze into any of them! There were day dresses in the Drawing Room and the Dining Room was set out ready for a sumptuous looking dinner, completer with gorgeous evening-wear.

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Even Mrs Huges, the Housekeeper, has a lovely costume. I particularly like the accessory on her belt to keep her keys and scissors always handy. Pretty and practical.IMAG1789IMAG1792

Anna’s ‘posh’ maids outfit has some lovely lace on the apron and we even got to see Lord Grantham’s pajamas! If, by the way, for some strange reason you have never seen Downton Abbey I really recommend it, it is one of my favorite tv shows ever!

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On the day we decided to visit Cannon Hall was hosting a huge food fair! I love food so was very excited about this. We had a lovely lunch in the sunshine and a wander around looking at all the delicious things for sale before heading for the farm.

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The farm has changed quite a lot since my last visit. The biggest change, a very disappointing one for me, was that you can no longer let the animals eat from your open palm. I used to love feeding the animals so much and was looking forward to going back and doing this again. You can still buy bags of animals feed but you now have to pour the food down a metal chute into the animal’s pens. Damn health and safety spoiling our fun!

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The animals however are just as cute as they always have been. There were goats, sheep, chickens, pigs galore and even reindeer!

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The tiny piglets were adorable and there were even bunnies you could stroke! Cuteness overload!

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Can’t beat a day out that contains sunshine, pretty things, lovely dresses, history, adorable animals and good food! Brilliant.