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!

IMAG0928

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.

IMAG0939

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.

IMAG0869

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.

IMAG0868

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.

IMAG0875

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.

IMAG0891

IMAG0902

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.

IMAG0882

IMAG0886

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 *

IMAG0865

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.

IMAG0879

IMAG0878

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

IMAG0911

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.

IMAG0913

IMAG0915

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.

IMAG0917

IMAG0918

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.

IMAG0930

IMAG0931

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

IMAG0925

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.

IMAG0942

IMAG0943

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.

IMAG0944

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.

IMAG0948

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.

IMAG0935

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.

Advertisements

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.

IMAG0759

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.

IMAG0796

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.

IMAG0766

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.

IMAG0761

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.

IMAG0762

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).

IMAG0779

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).

IMAG0772

IMAG0770

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!

IMAG0790

IMAG0788

IMAG0791

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!

IMAG0792

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.

IMAG0798

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.

IMAG0795

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.

IMAG0801

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

IMAG0802

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.

IMAG0781

IMAG0787

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.

IMAG0785

IMAG0820

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.

IMAG0813

IMAG0812

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.

IMAG0822

IMAG0826

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.

IMAG0828

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.

IMAG0824

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.

IMAG0836

IMAG0835

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.

IMAG0838

IMAG0840