Gorgeous Gothic Tyntesfield

Day two of my Trusty holiday started with a visit to the amazing Tyntesfield, a stunning property acquired by the National Trust in 2002.

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The house is huge, with its very own church attached too so on wet days (like when we visited) you don’t even have to step outside.

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The house was redesigned and expanded in 1863 by William Gibbs and his architect John Norton. Done in High Victorian Gothic style the exterior lets you know you are in for a treat. Even the roof tiles have pretty patterns in them, a theme that runs right through the house.

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There are lost of lovely buildings on the site, some now visitor buildings, but several are now Holiday Cottages, another location added to my dream destination list.

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The house is open by timed tickets, each of which features a member of the family for you to learn about before visiting their house. I though this was a lovely touch. Upon entering the house (after a bit of gawking at the gorgeous exterior) you are given a floor plan. I do like a good floor plan and you get a sense of the size and complexity from the leaflet.

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On the ground floor there is a real sense that you can explore the property. The highly decorated floors are protected with Eyemats (a brilliant invention for the heritage industry of which I am rather jealous, we’d love some at Hardwick).

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The ground floor rooms are large and you can get some way in, making them feel more accessible and not like you are confined to one little strip. The library has a nice cosy feel to it, even though it was a large room you could picture a family spending time there together (William Gibbs and his wife Matilda had seven children).

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The Drawing Room had a piece of modern art at the far end. meaning there is now a route all the way to the back of the room. Although I didn’t ‘get’ the art I did enjoy going right through the room and getting closer than I would have to some of the really interesting looking objects there, and fab wallpaper!

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There is a wonderful example of Victorian Gothic furniture in the Organ Room in the form of the most over-the-top desk I have ever seen, I loved it!

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The Billiard Room was interesting as here they talked about the family connection with the slave trade, and I really admired that they did not shy away from this difficult part of the house’s history. The Gibbs family made their money trading in Guano (bird poop) from South Africa and while they did not have any slaves the trade itself relied heavily on indentured Chinese workers and conditions were poor.

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One room I had to say I disliked however was the Boudoir on the ground floor. all the furniture in the room was covered in dust sheets and there was a photo of the rooms as it had been. The interpretation in the room tells us that none of the furniture in the photo is still in the collection today and this is why the furniture is covered. The beautiful wooden paneling still remains and this appears to be the intended focus.

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What I don’t understand is why cover the furniture? Either remove it from the space if it doesn’t fit the story you are trying to tell, or just tell me the furniture wasn’t here, but let me look at it anyway. Walking into a room of completely covered furniture all shoved to one side is really un-interesting, in my opinion.

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Before heading upstairs we went into the Butler’s Pantry where Mum has a go at polishing some silver.

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The Hall is an amazing space, you can imagine it being the center of the house, busy with people to-ing and fro-ing. There were albums of reproduced family photos out on one of the tables for visitors to flick through.

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The staircase is very grand, and has beautiful paintings hug around all the way up. The Trust replaced the Victorian chenille carpet that was in tatters when they were readying the house, having an identical one commissioned to replace it.

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The Carlton Room upstairs had this fantastic Jewelry Closet, such a beautiful piece of furniture and very opulent, not only having such an ornate piece for your jewelry but having enough jewelry to warrant it! The same room also boasted this little turret in the corner, perfect for snuggling up with a book in.

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There was more beautiful furniture in the further rooms, like this lovely chair in the Failand Room and this child’s bed in one of the corridors.

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As we passed the bedrooms we came to store rooms! I love how they were included as part of the visitor route, giving us a glimpse into the rest of the collection on display. I love going into other properties store rooms so it was a real treat for me. As we were there the House Team were bringing more items in from another room.

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It says on the map that some rooms may be closed at various times for ongoing conservation, and there was a different between what we saw and the guidebook. It must be such an undertaking to take care of such a large property with so many rooms! And the smaller the room the more difficult it is to deep clean while it is open so I completely understand why they have to close some. It means that next time I go back I might see something different.

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The final stop of our tour was the Chapel full of fantastic stained glass and beautiful crosses commemorating 14 members of the Gibbs family. Behind the altar at the far end is an amazing series of mosaics with really stunning colour drawing your eye in.

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I love the architecture of the exterior of the church too, ornate and dramatic in the grounds. I would definitely go back to Tyntesfield, it is such an amazing property and I would love to explore the gardens and estate some more.

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A sneaky peak at Barrington Court

So after a little interruption I’m back to blogging about my trusty holiday, and I’ve still got five properties to tell you about!

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After Montacute House we popped across to Barrington Court, another lovely property very close by. In contrast to a lot of Trust properties Barrington does not have a collection of objects inside, but this gives visitors room to focus on the stunning collection they do have. The Trust actually took Barrington on in 1907 when they were still a very young charity, and were ultimately rescued from a property with an upkeep cost they could not meet by renting the property out.

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The Lyle family were tenants between 1920 and 1991 and, with the help of his architect James Edwin Forbes, renovated Barrington. Colonel Arthur Lyle was an avid collector of salvaged carved wood. After he leased the house he seems to have found the perfect place to display his fab collection, and it remains there today.

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We were given a floor plan and allowed to roam on each floor. The floor plan has more information about the rooms that guide book, which focuses more on the gardens of the property.

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The main staircase is absolutely stunning, with a huge chandelier hanging over the beautiful, wide stairs. It was rebuilt by Lyle but includes 17th century banisters and modern oak aged to fit the atmosphere of the house.

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I loved the painted detail in the Great Hall. The room was re-designed for entertaining with a sprung floor installed in 1920 too. I would love to have been invited to some of the parties the Lyle’s held in this house!

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The only things left in the house were the fitted bathrooms, featuring a lovely selection of Delft tiles. All of the toilets have little notices on them letting people know that they are not working toilets and therefore, not to be used. The friends I was visiting with asked if all these signs were really necessary, and I assured her that they are, and that you do not want to know how I know that! It was quite odd walking from one empty room into a fully fitted bathroom and back into another empty room.

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The Long Gallery was beautiful in its simplicity and scale. It runs across the entire top floor of the E shaped property, and is empty except for facts on little A frames. I thought this was a really nice touch, allowing you to enjoy the space. There was a little fact about children riding bicycles in the room on rainy days, which must have been so much fun for them! A little (large) part of me did want to slide along the floor, or roller skate around.

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Currently Barrington has a display of costume used in ‘Wolf Hall’, which was filmed at both Montacute and Barrington. You can find out more about the Trust’s involvement in the TV series by following this link. However when we visited the costumed were not yet on display, and we were really disappointed not to be able to see them. It seems though, it was our lucky day!

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One of the members of staff that welcomed us to the house actually took us up to see the costumes in store when we told them we wouldn’t be able to come back and see them. And I didn’t even mention that I worked for the Trust too, just a brilliant example of someone fulfilling their Service Promise.

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All the costumes have such amazing attention to detail. They are really beautiful and it was amazing to get up close to these garments we had seen on TV. All of them are hand finished and I just love that the BBC put so much into creating these costumes. It shows a real respect for the story and the period, and having really good quality clothing in such amazing locations makes for amazing looking TV.

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We were so grateful to have been allowed a sneak preview at the display. Anyone who enjoyed Wolf Hall or has an interest in the Tudor period should definitely try to visit and have a look! The costumes will be on display until the end of October.

The gardens had the charm of a little country cottage garden even though the scale was much larger. They had been designed as several outdoor rooms, which gave them a cosy intimate feel.

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The ‘Bustalls’ (used to rear Veal Calves) has now taken on a very quaint quality with roses and vines growing around the arches.

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The more modern stable block, Strode House, was built in 1674 by William Strode to show off his wealth were adapted for human habitation in 1920 and now house the restaurant. There were lots of nice little touches here down to the cut glass beaker which really reflected the style of the room.

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Barrington also has a huge second-hand book shop which we spent a long time browsing in. There are also several artisan shops by the book shop, one of which being the most amazing quilting shop I have ever been in, called simply ‘Barrington Patchwork‘. I have never seem such a range of pretty fabrics, and I have been in a lot of fabric shops! I’m very sad it’s not closer to home but my bank account will be breathing a sigh of relief.

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I could imagine myself living in a house like Barrington, maybe it doesn’t have to be quite as big. The woodwork is beautiful and maybe the house being empty of furniture helped my imagination. And I could fill it full of furniture from Andy Thornton’s! Well, a girl can dream.

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A hidden treasure trove near home

This weekend I was re-enacting again (Tatton Park, near Manchester, this time) and the Monday after me and mum went to an amazing architectural salvage place close to where I grew up. I took some photos of the pieces that I really liked, which I will share below.

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The place, in Elland, is a stones throw from where I grew up but I had never heard of it. Mum had wanted to visit for a while and so we decided to make a day of it.

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The shop, called Andy Thornton’s, is in a converted Mill. Big old mills like these are a familiar sight growing up in Yorkshire, but even though the building is huge, it is packed full of interesting and amazing pieces. Check out the website here: www.andythornton.com but beware it may damage your bank account!

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As well as architectural salvage and antiques the shop has a further floor of items you can order from their catalogue. They seem to specialise in kiting out trendy ‘urban vintage’ bars and restaurants with the most beautiful furniture and decor!

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The showroom is a treasure trove of items and must be perfect for film crews looking to set dress historical sets. I would love a job that meant I spent most of my time exploring places like Andy Thorntons, and the rest creating atmospheres and rooms from distant or fictional places. I was just looking for an excuse to but something.

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One day, when I’m rich and live in something bigger than a Wendy House I would love to fill my house with items found in shops like this, spending time restoring and personalising them for my home.

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The floors were set out in little ‘rooms’ and seemed to stretch for miles back. Furniture was sort of organised to have like with like, and around every corner and behind every pile was something else fabulous and interesting. It was a real Aladdin’s cave!

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It was a shame there was no information about where these pieces had come from (that could just be the historian in me). There were some elements with stories just begging to be discovered, like a basket full of Bibles, many with dedications in the front.

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Items on the floor ranged from HUGE fireplaces to vintage style replicas to retro glass coke bottles. There was even a collection of chairs that used to be in Westminster Abbey.

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In fact there was enough ecclesiastical items for mum to be able to kit out an entire church, with lots of fab stained glass and beautifully carved woodwork.

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I will bear this place in mind for future projects with work too as it seems like the place many National Trust properties could make good use off.

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There are so many beautiful and unique items in that old mill in Elland, if you are ever in the area, or in need of furniture or even inspiration, pop in and have a browse. Even if you come out empty-handed it will have been really be worth your while.

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Textile Heaven

In recent weeks me and the Chaps at Hardwick have had the pleasure of doing an audit of our textile store. I love this store-room, I think it is one of the most interesting rooms on the property and having the opportunity to go through all the boxes and see the treasures inside has been fantastic!

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All our show rooms get audited on an annual basis, usually when we are deep cleaning them. With the store rooms we do this less frequently because they are not often open to the public so likely to be subject to less change.

Auditing the textile store involved going through every box in the room systematically and making sure what should be in there was, and that it was still in good condition,

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Luckily at Hardwick, thanks to many years of hard work before I arrived, the stores in the attics are very organised, including the textile store. Every box had a list of what should be inside, with useful little picture tags attached to it. These come in very handy when we want to find anything, because we can look at the tags first.

As so much work has been done in this room most of the boxes were as they should be, so it was really a case of recording and condition checking. This meant we got to have a good look at ll the beautiful and interesting textile pieces up there.

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Once we have finished the audit we took the list we had written and will be checking it off against our online database. If you want to see some of the collection at Hardwick, or at any Trust property, then look on the National Trust Collections page. This is a great resource for further research, and just having a nosey at what properties have hidden in their collections.

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I’m going to share with you some photos of the pieces I really liked. Some of them I don’t know anything about, I just thought they were really pretty! Others, like the one below, match items we have on display. This piece matched the embroidery we have on the Blue Bed. We know the embroidery taken off the original bed (dated 1629) and places on new, less damaged fabric by the 6th Duke in 1852.

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These columns are all that is left of a 5th great hanging. They once belonged to a piece featuring Cleopatra, part of the set with Penelope, Lucretia, Artemisia and Zenobia that we have begun conserving. They are all that remains because the rest of the piece was used to patch up the first four embroideries!

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Some things we have a large amount of, like these pieces of velvet and metal embroidered borders. We have 21 pieces of this in the textile store. It is believed that this border was purchased in Bess’ time, for a great amount of money, but it does not seem to have been used until the 19th century when it was cut into the lengths we see today.WP_004070

We also have nine of these panels, all featuring a variety of birds on white and blue velvet on a heavy linen base. We were trying to work out what they once had been, as they were only mounted in this way in the 1970’s. Looking at them at first we though they could have all been one piece, however the circles in the corner do contain complete images and don’t line up with one another, so we decided that probably wasn’t the case.

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Here we have sections from what would have been cushion covers. We have two of these, but neither is complete. The embroidery on them is fantastic, the time and patience that must have gone into these.IMAG0539

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The piece below matches the hanging we have on the Entrance Hall Gallery. It contains fabric very similar to the flossy silks (in the Cut Velvet Dressing Room) as well as patterned velvet. I think these fabrics were placed together long after they were originally made and purchased. It is just the sort of thing that has happened constantly throughout Hardwick’s history.

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This is possibly a small bed spread. In the same box is another very similar one but in blues. I love this design, the swirly elements and delicate little flowers are just my style.IMAG0550

We also have pieces that I’m not sure we’ll ever know for sure where they came from, including lots of little pieces of metal embroidery. Originally this little bird would have been very gold, but the thread has tarnished over time. It’s possible that these elements were purchased for projects that never got finished. Any one with a bit of a craft stash knows how easily that can happen!WP_004072

The amount of textile items we have in that store is almost unbelievable, and so much of it is contemporary with Bess. We know she purchased textiles and parts of textiles for projects she was working on. She also had a team of embroiderers she worked with and she and Mary Queen of Scotts used to sit and sew together but the amount of items we have that she could have possibly worked on is phenomenal! Another thing to admire Bess for!

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When visitors come into the attics they often ask why these objects are not on display but the truth is a lot of what is in our attics couldn’t be displayed, it’s too sensitive. A lot of the furniture doesn’t date from the period of time we are telling stories about, so wouldn’t fit in Hardwick today. And even if these things weren’t the case where would we put all of the stuff!? The Cavendish family had many properties to furnish, and a huge amount of that collection now resides at Hardwick. We have more tapestries that walls, more bits of textiles than we could ever have room to display, and more things like fire screens, mirrors and jugs than any human could ever possibly need!

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That is why we like to open our attics up from time to time, so these objects can be seen and admired, as they should be. But also so people understand about why we make the decisions about the collection that we do. If you would like a chance to visit the attics we are currently opening them on Wednesdays up until the beginning of the school holidays. Check the Hardwick Hall website for more information.

A trusty holiday

Last week I was away on a much anticipated holiday, and how else would this National Trust employee spend her annual leave than visiting other Trust properties! The holiday started with a re-enactment event way down south, which was why me … Continue reading

The tragic Arbella Stuart at Hardwick Hall

Treasure Hunt

Lady Arbella Stuart as a child, 1577, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation Lady Arbella Stuart as a child, 1577, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

2015 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Lady Arbella Stuart, granddaughter of the redoubtable Bess of Hardwick and at one time a candidate to succeed Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, by Rowland Lockey, 1590s, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Bethell Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, by Rowland Lockey, 1590s, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Bethell

To mark the anniversary, the colleagues at Hardwick Hall have put on an exhibition about Arbella’s privileged but tragic life.

The south front of Hardwick Hall seen from the Orchard. ©National Trust Images/John Millar The south front of Hardwick Hall seen from the Orchard. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Orphaned at the age of seven, she was brought up by her grandmother, Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury – known as Bess of Hardwick – at Hardwick Hall. She received a princely education, studying several languages and learning to play the lute, the viol and the virginals.

Lady Arbella Stuart aged 13, by Rowland Lockey after an unknown artist, 1589, at Hardwick Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond Lady Arbella Stuart aged…

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