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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.

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.

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.

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 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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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

Team Trip to Ickworth

The other week us Hardwick Chaps went on a research trip all the way down to Ickworth in Suffolk. It was very exciting to get to go on a team outing, and to tick another Trust property off my list. Warning: there are a lot of pictures bellow, it’s not my fault, there were just too many pretty things!

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In visitor reception

Walking up the drive towards Ickworth I felt very exited. The building itself is amazing, a huge dome sitting in beautiful green gardens. The scale of the house is almost unbelievable, a real project of ambition and wealth!

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Begun in the late 1790s by the 4th Earl of Bristol, a Bishop more concerned with his earthly possessions than his duties in Ireland. He built the house to display his collection of beautiful artifacts from all over the world, in an ‘instructional’ manner. The family maintained this passion for collecting meaning the house today feels more like a gallery than a home, and has some truly fantastic pieces.

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Visitors enter the house through the side by the Orangery, and leave through the front doors. This felt quite unusual but it allowed for an introductory area before heading into the house through the servants quarters. I quite liked the introductory interpretation even though it felt a little bit like I was in a museum.

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The introduction

One of the reasons we were visiting Ickworth was to see there Below Stairs area, where visitors can handle all the objects there. All the drawers can be opened and there are kitchen items and utensils to be discovers inside them. I would love to do something similar at Hardwick, furnish the whole room with non collection items and make it a really hands on area. You can tell a lot of money has been spent on the project and the servants rooms look really good.IMAG0365

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Inside a draw

I particularly liked the Servant’s Hall, where you can try on hats, play games and even play the piano (as demonstrated below by the ever talented Lucie).

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Once you go up the stairs and into the main house you are not allowed to touch anything and the rooms feel more like art galleries, rather than a home. They were all big, light rooms, beautifully decorated and furnished with fantastic items.

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The servants stairs

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The Entrance Hall

There are three magnificent chandeliers on the ground floor, all of which have been cleaned in recent years. The sparkle so beautifully and so Ickworth have set up the library to best be able to view one of these magnificent chandeliers.

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The Dining Room

There are bean bags on the floor which visitors can sit on to look up the chandelier in the center of the room. While the bean bags, and rather funky chairs with them, do not suite the room I really like the idea of being able to sit, relax and enjoy the view. Previously there were green settee and armchairs in the center of the room, matching the curtains. The set up does look a bit odd now but it allows visitors to engage with the space more, rather than just being guided through a roped off area.

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View from the bean bag

The Drawing Room is beautiful, I love the colours, and it contains another stunning chandelier. There is also a lovely chess set with a board featuring images of Roman ruins, appropriate for a house inspired by classical architecture.

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Either side of the main domed area are two long wings. At the end of one of these is the ‘Pompeian Room’ named after its interesting decoration. While I am not a huge fan of the room itself there is a beautiful inlaid marble table. It has all different types of marble and in the middle an image of doves made up of tiny pieces of mosaic. It must have been made by an incredibly skilled craftsman with a lot of patience.

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On the other side of the dome was a room with the second reason we had traveled to Ickworth, lighting! Lighting is an issue in most National Trust properties and Ickworth has just done a project experimenting with ways to light their collection. We are looking to do a similar project at Hardwick. Side note: the room also features some really lovely wallpaper!

Ickworth had lit several of their paintings, all recently moved into the same room, including a portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster. The name may sound familiar to some as she was the mistress of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who was married to Georgiana Cavendish, another Hardwick connection. In the portrait Elizabeth is wearing a miniature around her neck, though to be a picture of Georgiana.

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While it is an incredibly difficult task, to light paintings well, the lights at Ickworth got in the way of viewing the paintings. As is often the way with spotlights, from certain angles the light shone on the painting, obscuring the image. it also meant it was very difficult to take photos of the paintings without getting the glare of the lights on them. However saying that I haven’t got a better solution to offer, and it’s very possible we will never find a brilliant way of lighting everything in our collection.

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The main staircase at Ickworth is stunning, and as you go up the stairs you pass shelves and shelves of books, all beautifully bound and lined up. It looks fab!IMAG0431

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Upstairs there are displays of some of the fine things the family had collected on their travels. There was a collection of beautiful, delicate fans and an odd collection of fish I particularly liked. The fish all had different uses, scent bottles etc and both these and the fans were collected by Geraldine, 3rd Marchioness of Bristol, clearly a woman with great tastes.

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After we had walked around the house we went and found a sunny spot and had a picnic in the gardens, which was lovely.

IMAG0445Back in the car park most of the lamp-posts are decorated in a rather unusual fashion. Visitors have stuck their entry stickers all over the lamp-posts. I know these stickers can be a bit of a pain for House Teams, at Hardwick they tend to fall off and stick to the matting. I’m not sure what the staff at Ickworth think of this but I think it looks lovely and colourful, making an otherwise dull and mundane metal pole quite bright and cheerful!

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Oh, and Ickworth also have a brill second-hand book shop! I didn’t spend too much money, and besides it all goes to charity so that makes it ok. All in all it was a lovely day out with my fellow Chaps, and really good fun to go around a Trust property with my team, and discuss it with other ‘insiders’.