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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http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/652719.2

http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/652719.1

http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/652719.3

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.

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Glitz and glamour on the road home.

The final property of mine and Mum’s Trusty holiday was Kedleston Hall, juts south of home for me. I had never been to Kedleston before this visit and am so pleased I have finally been, it is stunning!

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The house that stands today was built by Sir Nathaniel Curzon on his ancestors lands in the mid 1700’s and he employed Robert Adam to design the interiors, giving him a very generous budget to work with. I love Robert Adam’s design work, the symmetry and swirly designs are full of grand classical influences, it’s really striking and beautiful.

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The Curzon family still live in part of Kedleston today (lucky things) and link me back to Montacute House, where I had been days earlier. The famous Lord Curzon had rented Montacute with his mistress before he inherited Kedleston in 1916.

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We went about our visit slightly alternative to the visitor route because I got drawn into the Eastern Museum, usually visited last, by something sparkly. The beautiful object by which I had been led astray by was Lady Curzon’s peacock dress that she wore to a ball during Lord Curzon’s time as Viceroy of India.

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The dress is stunning, hand embroidered by a team of Indian craftsmen, it is covered in beads laid out like golden peacock’s feathers with flowers created around the bottom edge of the dress.

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In the house there is also a portrait of Lady Curzon in the dress, as well as a photograph. It is really interesting to see these three items in one house, to compare the three. The portrait is lovely but it doesn’t do the dress justice. You just can’t capture the sparkle of the item in real life.

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As well as the dress there are hundreds of other fascinating and beautiful items in the Eastern Museum. I really enjoyed peering in all the cases to see the collection, and it reminded me of the Clive of India collection at Powis Castle, which I loved working with.

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In the Entrance Hall there is a portrait  standing to one side, as if greeting you when you walk in. The portrait is of Mrs Garnett who was Housekeeper at Kedleston after it was built. She took visitors on tours of the house, Kedleston was enjoyed as a destination right from its beginnings.

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From the Entrance Hall we headed up the main stairs into the Marble Hall, which is a truly amazing room. I think I stood with my mouth open, just gawking at the sheer scale and design of the room, which is exactly what it was designed to do. The room is so grand, so over the top, you must have to have a large personality to commission something like this in your home.

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The Music Room and Drawing Room have to most amazing set of spangly gold and blue chairs and arm chairs, which have been restored to their former glory. In the Drawing Room the walls are decorated to match the upholstery on the chairs, and a similar blue theme appears later in the house.

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However the lighting in the Drawing Room lets them down somewhat, making it particularly difficult to take a photo of the room that reflects how lovely the furniture and wallpaper actually looks.

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On display in the Library is this rather unusual looking chair. It’s a Reading Chair that you can either sit in conventionally or sit on ‘backwards’ resting you book on the table to be able to read hands free. As someone who tries to read a lot, but is also quite fidgety I think it’s a fab piece of furniture, which I could pick one up from Ikea!

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The Saloon is another awe-inspiring room whose style is inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. While I was in there I thought, this would be prefect for holding dances, and the guidebook tells me this was the case. It must have been wonderful to attend a ball at Kedleston, dancing in grand rooms like this. I really liked the chairs in the room too.

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The State Apartment is decorated beautifully, in another lovely blue fabric. As with the Music and Drawing Room the fabric here has also been restored since its original conception, with the National Trust beginning another round of restoration in 2008. As a result the colours are really vibrant, making the rooms feel bright and exciting. A little touch I really liked and hadn’t seen in other properties is the gilt edging where the wall covering ends.

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Currently the State Bed is away for restoration so there is a mock bed in its place (made by the brilliant SetWorks). The bed invites you into it and has a secret video showing different aspects of the bed up close. For some reason even though the room was full of people I was the only one to try the bed out. It was a shame not to see the actual bed, but what they had in place went a long way to making up for it, so well done to them. I look forward to going back again when the bed returns.

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I really like the shiny look of the restored areas at Kedleston. Most Trust properties have a policy to conserve rather than restore, but at Kedleston there is a history of restoring their pieces so in doing so the Trust is staying true to their traditions. The last time the fabric of the State Bed was replaced was in the 1970’s, before the Trust took the property on.

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While the bed is not currently at Kedleston some of the hanging still are, awaiting their turn at the conservators. There is also a huge mirror, and really interesting set of lacquered shelves. I love how coordinated this suite of rooms is, and all the gilded furniture really appeals to my inner magpie!

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There is some more beautiful plaster work in an alcove in the Dining Room, which still looks today very much like the plans drawn up by Adams, but in a more muted colour palette.

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Just outside the gift shop is a table selling an assortment of hand-made textile goods. These items are all made from the fabric removed from the State Bed and have been made by Kedleston volunteers to raise money for the project. What a genius idea, and a lovely gift for someone passionate about Kedleston.

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I really really enjoyed my Trusty holiday and a visit to lovely, shiny Kedleston Hall was the perfect last stop. I’m so glad I’ve finally visited and will be sure to try and go back when the State Bed returns. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my holidays, and don’t worry I’ve been doing some more visiting since then so have plenty more properties to share!

Chaotic collections at Calke

On the finally day of our Trusty holiday we were getting closer to home, for me at least, visiting some local properties that I had not been to visit before. So the next property on our trip was Calke Abbey.IMAG0880

I had been to Calke before for a meeting but not got the chance to have a look around the house, and it is a very unusual Trust property. Calke’s tagline is ‘The un-stately home’ and for a very good reason, the House is a collectors dream, and an obsessive organiser’s nightmare!

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In my line of work it usually helps to be very organised, liking things in their proper place, set out straight, clean and tidy, and I do tend to be rather fond of clean and tidy. However I feel like if I went to work at Calke it might just drive me mad.

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To start with we were allowed in to the ground floor before free-flow opening. I’m still not sure whether this was a tour or sneak peek. We were allowed to wander about the Entrance Hall, then we were chaperoned from there to the second room, lectured at and the moved on into the last room downstairs where we were again allowed to look at our leisure.

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This final room was brilliant, full of items that had been moved down from the collections store so visitors can see them. There was the front skirt of an amazing ball gown, decorated with iridescent beetle wings, which you could get a closer look at with a magnifying glass. There was also this beautifully detailed jacket, really fine embroidery.

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There was also a lot of information about conservation in this room, which I thoroughly approve of. They have a brilliant example of pest damage, a jar a fluff that used to be a duck! Poor thing.

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After our taster we had a walk around the gardens. These are much more orderly than inside the house, with lovely colourful flowers and a secret tunnel leading back toward the house and out near this amazing grotto in the gardens.

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There is also a church in the grounds. Some days they have Gravediggers in the church yard, unfortunately there weren’t any there when we went, but it was lovely weather so the stained glass looked fab.

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After our walk around the ground we headed back to the house, and it is huge, there just seemed to be room after room and there was just so much stuff! The first room of the Entrance Hall was full of taxidermy, which I did not like. I cannot understand why anyone would want to fill their home full of angry-looking dead things. * shudder *

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The room we were dragged into by the eager volunteer earlier is called the ‘Caricature Room’ because the walls are covered in caricatures from newspapers. The walls are bright blue, not a colour you expect to find in your typical Trust property. Honestly, I think the room is quite hideous, but it did have a rather lovely clock tucked at the back.

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All the rooms in the house seem to have their own style, the Dining Room is almost Robert Adams-esque, which I love.

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The Saloon is very impressive, stuffed full of interesting items in museum cases. I liked the geological artifacts, the gems and shells, but again there were more stuffed dead things which I do not like.

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The gorgeous golden wall paper of the Drawing Room manages to shine out even amongst more chairs than any one family could ever possibly need. The chairs had very fine embroidery on the seats though so i can understand the reason for collection them.

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I really enjoyed walking through the attics, this is where I felt Calke’s character the most. The rooms were really dilapidated and pile high with random pieces of furniture. In some ways they were quite creepy, but definitely atmospheric.

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There is a lovely large doll’s house in the school room.

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The house just seems to go on and on, it is huge! Near the end of the tour there is a lovely surprise, a beautiful bed. I remember reading about the bed but forgot it was at Calke. It was found in a trunk never having been a gift never put on display.

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The bed is stunning, Chinese silk and gold work and silk embroidery decorating. It is so pretty, birds fly through trees and flowers. The colours are still so vivid because it had never been exposed to light or dirt. When the Trust erected the bed they put it in a darkened room, behind glass to preserve it as is. It is so nice to see such a fantastic piece of furniture in such great condition.

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At the end of tour, once we were through the abandoned looking kitchens, we got the chance to go through a tunnel where beer would have been delivered to the house. The tunnel was very cool, and they even have their own skeleton, found in the Courtyard and laid back to rest there.

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Calke is a very unique property, they didn’t even get electricity until 1962! The Harper Crewe family were a family of collectors, so that is how the house came to be so full of such an amazing and varied collection. When Calke came to the Trust in 1985 they decided to treat it in a way the respects its individual nature.

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It was decided that the house would be preserved in the state it was left in. While most of the collection didn’t really appeal to me I do love the fact the Calke is so different to other Trust properties. I can’t say that I liked everything about the house, or even most things, but I did really enjoy my day out there. I liked the atmosphere of the attics and how interesting the house and its collection are, I would go back and take friends to visit with me, I bet you would see more and more every time you visit.

Embroidery excitement at East Riddlesden Hall

Last weekend it was my granny’s birthday so as a birthday treat me and mum took her for a day out. We decided to go to East Riddlesden Hall because mum had visited before and really liked it but neither me nor granny had ever been.

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The house is 17th century and was a family home for many years, built and owned by the Murgatroyd family . When it came to the Trust it did not have a collection so most of the items in the hall have come from elsewhere, but there are many really interesting objects there, and loads of beautiful Jacobean embroidery!

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Although located in a very suburban area in Bradford the hall is surrounded by green fields and we were lucky that the weather was really sunny for our visit so every thing looks very picturesque. As you walk up the drive there are lights hanging off iron stands with hearts on, very cute!

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Only part of the hall still stands, with only one wall remaining of the further wing.

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There was a beautiful ornately carved bed in the first bedroom we came too. The volunteer told us that she thinks the decoration on the bed was inspired by a rhyme often told to children. The rhyme goes:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

Bless the bed that I lie on.

Four corners to my bed,

Four angels round my head;

One to watch and one to pray

And two to bear my soul away.

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There are found angles on the wooden canopy of the bed, looking down on whoever was sleeping there, and four figures stand on the headboard, looking down towards the foot of the bed. Could these figures have been carved to fit the rhyme and keep the occupant sleeping soundly. I really like this idea, it’s a sweet notion.

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Just off the bed was a wash room with a surprising feature, a huge window that wouldn’t be out of place in a church.

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This bed was also very beautiful, if you ignore the rather obvious airbed under the bed cover. The black-work bed spread was made for the Trust in the 1960’s  and the crewel work bed hangings were embroidered in 1986 . These modern textiles follow the theme of embroidery through the ages that inhabits the hall.

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In this same room was this very ornate brass clock. It is in my ‘Treasures from the National Trust’ book ans that tells me it was made in 1685 by clockmaker Thomas Dyde.

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The landing room was used as a place the family would sit together after dinner and drink and talk. I love the idea of a family sitting around together in this space, talking until late in the night and then heading off to their rooms as they get tired. I imagine it to be like us at re-enactment, sitting round the fire and then heading to our tents surrounding the circle.

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There was a lot of the embroidery that I liked but these were some of my favorite pieces. I love the dress on this lady.

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This stunning little box, featured in ‘Treasures from the National Trust’ dates from the late 1600’s. The craftsmanship is outstanding! I also liked it’s personal display case, keeping the delicate raised work dust free whilst still allowing visitors to appreciate it’s beauty.

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In the green bedroom was spotted this rather nifty little embroidery device. It is a 19th century bobbin stand and I found myself thinking that I would quite like one of these myself!

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There were also some very ornate plaster ceilings, and I do love a pretty ceiling. Running throughout the hall was a trail to discover the origins of common phrases. In the Dining Room, where there was a very nice plaster ceiling I learnt one that really tickled me.

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The plaster for ceilings was originally mixed with beer, so on a hot day when the workers were thirsty there would have been a large supply of beer available to them. It is said you can see the bits of ceiling done in the morning and those done at the end of the day, as the designs had a tendency to get wobblier as they day went on, due to the beer. This is where the term ‘getting plastered’ comes from!

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In the other room with a very nice plaster ceiling was also a replica trundled bed made by NT furniture conservators Tankerdale that visitors are allowed to try. Of course I had to have a go, and found it quite comfy really, better that the hiking air beds we used to use camping anyway!

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Even though not all the collection is not hereditary to the hall the rooms felt really cosy, and you could imagine them having been lived in. The hall still feels like a family’s home, a very beautiful home for a very lucky family!

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After looking round the hall we had a walk in the gardens. I just could not get over how lovely the weather was, the sun was really shining and the sky so blue!

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The room cards while basic looking had some very interesting information on them, particularly the objects focused ones. Shame the story didn’t touch on the rather scandalous elements of the families history as I think that might have made for very interesting reading. However I understand it’s not suitable for all pallets especially as it was salacious enough to make the River Aire change course to avoid the family!

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It was an absolutely lovely day out, the staff were really friendly and on our was out we even met the mouse of the manor! I would very much recommend a visit to this charming family home, and hopefully you will get the same amazing weather we did!

Textile excitement at Eyam Hall

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This week I was drafted in to help cleaning some of the more delicate textiles at Eyam Hall. Eyam is a beautiful house and gardens in the Peaks that the Trust have taken guardianship of nearly two years ago. As they are still quite a small team and in our property portfolio staff from Hardwick offer support in a variety of ways, including looking after some of the more fragile items in the collection.

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I last visited Eyam on a beautifully sunny day so being there on a very misty day while there was snow on the ground gave the Hall a different feel. Very mysterious and atmospheric. It was so cold even the pond was still frozen!

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While we where there we cleaned the amazing Crewel Work bedspread that Eyam have in the Oak Bedroom. The bedspread was apparently made for Elizabeth Wright around the time that Eyam Hall was being built in the 1680’s. It features amazing colours and wonderful images of exotic birds, beautiful flowers and highly decorated leaves that I just loved!

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I was in my element, getting to see this wonderful embroidered work up close. Thinking about skill and hours that must have gone into making this bedspread, and the hangings to match, make me so please we can care for this amazing piece so people can continue to admire it for years to come. And the carved wood of the bed frame complements the elaborate embroidery nicely.

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We also took a look at the Tapestry Room, taking a sample of the dust on the tapestry nearest the door to see how the increase in visitor numbers has been affecting it. Since it is a small room even if they have less visitors than Hardwick to dust will build up faster as there is less room for it to disperse. Since there will be many more visitors now the Trust are running Eyam it is something we need to monitor closely. The tapestry room is lovely, it makes me feel very at home!

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With Eyam Hall being a family home for many, many generations the collection rather eclectic with some really interesting objects. Some of my favorites included this stuffed moose, and these steps in the library, which double as a chair!

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The House has real character, we got to sneak up to the top floor and see some of the rooms not open to the public, and there were these curious windows. There are several different types of windows throughout the building, which I thought was rather unusual.

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I also love the detailing around the house, like the carved finials up the stair case, with little hearts in the center.

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As another perk of being a staff member we got a sneak peek into the a little building in the garden, which will be opening to the public at weekends. The use of this building, situated in the garden, has been debated.

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Until recently it was known as the Gardener’s cottage but it has been discovered that is was originally used as a Banqueting House, where dessert would have been eaten after a meal. Although it is only a little room, it is full of character and atmosphere, and curious items.

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I really enjoyed my day at Eyam, and we have planned to go back and do some more work there soon. I love my work, and it is really nice to have a little day out and get a chance to do what I love in another beautiful location!