A Day in the Life: Osterley Park and House, Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, UK

As my family have been members of the National Trust for a number of years it can be quite a challenge to find somewhere new to visit that is reasonably nearby so we aren’t travelling for hours to get there! Although London isn’t actually that far away from my house in Oxfordshire I haven’t had the chance to visit many of the National Trust properties in the surrounding areas. So with an empty Sunday looming we decided to travel slightly further than usual to visit the beautiful Georgian country estate of Osterley, in west London.

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Osterley Park and House

In order to reach Osterley we traveled by car along the A40 and then M40 towards London, heading onto Jersey Road in Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4RB. From my house it took around an hour and a half before we reached the long winding drive up to the estate. Parking is free for National Trust members (£4 for non members), and looks out over the beautiful surrounding parkland which is open for visitors to explore all year round.

Osterley began life as a red brick Tutor house, built in 1576 for the banker Sir Thomas Gresham, who entertained Queen Elizabeth I there at least twice. The nearby stable block was also built during this time, and can still be found on the Osterley estate as a visitor cafe. In 1712, the wealthy goldsmith, banker and property developer Sir Francis Child I (1642-1714) (Owner of the Child & Co bank, who later became Mayor of London and a Member of Parliament) acquired the house but unfortunately never lived in it. Child & Co banking premises were originally based at 1 Fleet Street next to the gateway, known as Temple Bar, and depicted in a fascinating painting hanging in the long hallway. The bank’s premises, now part of Royal Bank of Scotland, are still there today.

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When Sir Francis Child II died (1684-1740) the renovation work at Osterley was taken on by his brother and heir, Robert Child (1674-1721). Alongside his younger brothers Francis Child III (1735-63) and Samual Child (1693-1752), Robert continued the family’s banking firm and acquired many of the lacquar and japanned items of furniture found in the house today through his participation in the East India trade. In 1761, Francis Child III employed one of the most fashionable architects in England, Robert Adam (1728-92), to transform Osterley into what Horace Walpole (1717-97) would later describe as the ‘palace of palaces’. Adam soon began redesigning Osterley into a breathtaking retreat from nearby London in which the Child family could entertain and impress their guests. Once his designs and exterior work were complete Adam set about transforming Osterley’s ground floor rooms into ‘show rooms’ which truly encapsulated the family’s wealth, from intricate metal door knobs to detailed hand painted ceilings. Today the house is as it would have looked in the 1780’s, including an opulent domed state bed which Adam designed himself.

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In 1782 unbeknown to Robert Child and Sarah Jodrell their only beloved daughter, Sarah Anne Child (1764-93) eloped with John Fane (10th Earl of Westmorland) to Gretna Green. Her parents were less than pleased with the match, as they had hoped Sarah Anne would marry a commoner who might take on the Child family name. When Robert Child died two months later (some say of a broken heart), his modified will wrote Sarah Anne and the Westmorlands out of the Child fortune and placed all his belongings, including Osterley, in trust to his future first granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane (1785-1867). In 1804 Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, know also by Regency society as ‘Queen Sarah’, married George-Villiers (5th Earl of Jersey), and so Osterley passed into the Jersey family. Her new husband’s mother was Frances Villiers (Countess of Jersey, also known as Lady Jersey), one of the more notorious mistresses of King George IV, when he was Prince of Wales.

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The Jersey family continued to use Osterley regularly for entertaining, except between 1870 and 1883, when the house was leased to the Dowager Duchess of Cleveland. However in 1923, George Francis Child Villiers (9th Earl of Jersey) (1910-98) inherited the Osterley estate and deciding not to live there, opened it up to the public in 1939. During World War II it was used as a school for the Home Guard and in 1947 served as a convalescence home for injured airmen. In 1949, Osterley was acquired by the National Trust and it’s doors opened to the public in 1953.

Parkland

We decided to have some lunch in the benched picnic area nearby the car park before heading up to the house. From here there are beautiful views across the lake and parkland, as well as the resident waterfowl. Walking up the tree lined driveway, passing the long lake on your left and open grassland on the right, the grand red brick Georgian house suddenly comes into view. The Osterley estate offers a quiet retreat, only a stones-throw from London and it is easy to see how it would have impressed guests visiting the Child family! It also has hundreds of acres of parkland to explore as well as a Park Run every Saturday morning at 9am. The grassed lawn in front of the house was full of families enjoying the beautiful weather and parkland, and we were lucky enough to see a heron catching fish in the lake 🙂

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House

On reaching the house, large stone steps lead you up to the ‘transparent’ portico, boasting large pillars and ionic capitals. It is really amazing to be able to enter the house through the main front entrance, passing under the intricately decorated ceiling and straight into the Entrance Hall (Designed in 1767 and completed in 1773). The Entrance Hall is very muted in colour, decorated in soft grey and white, with a beautiful tiled floor and large Mediterranean style statues and urns.

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From here we were directed into the Long Gallery, which still has it’s original wooden floor and is decorated in light jade green. After a welcome talk from one of the guides (Which I would definitely recommend!) we were able to explore the house on our own. The Long Gallery is filled with many interesting paintings and mirrors, as well as Asian items of furniture brought to Osterley as a result of the Child family’s participation in the East India trade. I particularly enjoyed the tall Chinese porcelain dragon lidded vases (mid 18th century) and the ornate ivory Chinese carved items, including a pleasure barge (mid-eighteenth-century) and multilevel platter would have been placed on the table of the guest of honour.

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Heading left, we passed through four more rooms, including: The Drawing room, The Tapestry room, The Bed Chamber and finally The Etruscan room. Every room is opulently designed but each have their own particular style, which makes them fascinating to explore! The drawing room is a light, airy room decorated with green/gold wallpaper and furniture, below an incredible ceiling design of pink, blue, and gold ostrich feathers set in an oval among octagonal coffers. Notably described by Horace Walpole as ‘worthy of Eve before the fall’. Currently several pictures on loan from the Earldom of Jersey trust are on display in this room, including: The Dobson self-portrait (1611-46), portraits of Robert Child and Sarah Child neé Jodrell, later Countess Ducie (c.1740-93), and The Music Lesson by Sir Peter Lely. The carpet in this room was made by Thomas Moore, to reflect the ceiling design.

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In comparison, the tapestry room is a dark, candle lit (In order to protect the delicate tapestries!) red room decorated with Boucher-Neilson Gobelins tapestries (1775). The bed chamber room again returns to a light yet opulent style, with the main focus taken entirely by the elaborate domed bed, designed by Adam himself. I particularly enjoyed looking up inside the bed frame at it’s interior, which unsurprisingly is as beautifully decorated as the exterior.

Finally, the Etruscan room displays a similar ornate feel but with a contrasting style, delicately painted from floor to ceiling and completed in 1778. This room remains of special interest as the only surviving example of a style which was initiated by Adam and subsequently widely copied. Four other Etruscan rooms designed by him elsewhere have unfortunately disappeared.

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From here we turned left down a long hallway painted in a similar colour scheme to the long gallery, lined with several pictures of Child family members, including a painting attributed to John Collett (1725-80) of the Child & Co bank premises which are immediately to the left of Temple Bar in London. We spend quite a bit of time carefully looking at all the interesting characters in the painting! This led us back to the entrance hall, which we crossed to explore the eating room, decorated in a combination of pink and jade green. I particularly liked the mosaic side tables, intricately decorated with flowers.

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Heading back into the hallway, we passed the breathtaking green and white staircase decorated with large pillars, hanging lanterns and painted ceiling. The library, designed in 1766 and completed in 1773, is decorated lightly, and lined with white painted Ionic bookcases (Including a secret door!). Finally we visited the breakfast room (Originally yellow) which is currently being renovated after being re painted grey when it was used as one of the sets for the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

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Heading upstairs, we explored a few others rooms, decorated in a more modest style (As they weren’t meant for show, but family living), including: The Guest room and The Lady’s Dressing room. Finally we headed down to the basement to explore the servants quarters, including: The Kitchen, Store rooms and House Keeper’s office. I particularly enjoyed seeing a set of comedic drawings, a recreation of a spinning top game and the large traditional oven. We ended up playing the spinning top game for a while, and after a quite a few goes we managed to get the hang of it and knock over several of the wooden pegs!

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Gardens

Once we had finished exploring, we headed around the back of the house to climb the beautiful white sweeping staircase and look out across the parkland. Turning right we followed the gravel park into the main gardens behind the old Tudor stable block, starting with the walled vegetables and flower gardens. The sun was shining and Mrs Child’s flower garden was filled with tons of bright blooming flowers covered in butterflies and bees. The vegetable part of the walled garden was planted up with brightly coloured chard, lettuces and fennel, with lots of wild flowers throughout which worked really well. Surrounding the plots were fruit trees laden with delicious looking plums and apples. Out of the walled garden, we followed the gravel path around the large Temple Lawn covered in deck chairs for visitors to sit in and enjoy the sunshine, as well as admiring Adam’s iconic Temple of Pan summer house. Finally we looked at The Oriental Plane tree, which was brought over from Turkey or Iran and planted in 1755!

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I really enjoyed my visit to Osterley! The journey didn’t take too long, and thankfully there was relatively no traffic. As me and my family are National Trust members we got in to the parkland, gardens and house for free, while for non members admission is £9.25 for adults, £4.65 for children and £22.95 for a family, which makes Osterley one of the more expensive properties I have visited. Despite this, Osterley definitely offers plenty to see and do for the cost (For me the house itself is purely worth it on it’s own!). The house is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but open the rest of the week along with the gardens, parkland (8am to 7.30pm) and shop/tea room from 11am to 5pm. We brought our own picnic to enjoy in the parkland, however if you wanted to buy some lunch the Stables Cafe has a selection of hot/cold lunches, cakes and cream teas! I would love to visit again around, especially around Christmas time, as if Osterley is decorated anywhere near as beautifully as Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire it would be an even more breathtaking visit 🙂

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A Day in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Cogges Manor Farm Beer and Cider Festival, Witney, Oxfordshire, UK

Cogges Manor Farm Beer & Cider Festival

Last week I was lucky enough to be part of the Cogges Manor Farm annual Beer & Cider festival, which helps to fundraise for the Cogges heritage trust. As I haven’t been to one before I was really excited to get the chance to help out alongside other volunteers and full time members of the team. Cogges have been holding their beer and cider festival around this time of year in the wheat barn for the last three years. This year the festival took place over two days, Friday 1st August and Saturday 2nd August, an over 18’s only event from 6.30pm to 11pm both evenings and a family fun day from 1pm to 5pm during the day on Saturday. Me and my mum signed up to volunteer on Friday night and Saturday daytime, so we could experience both the adult’s only evening event and the family day event.

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Friday 1st August

Our Friday evening started off with a pre festival meeting in the cafe before heading over to the wheat barn, which was separated into two main sections: The beer and cider stands on the left, a summer bar in the middle and the live music stage on the right. The barn was decorated modestly with fresh flowers and vegetables from the walled garden, along with vintage style bunting which really left the focus on how beautiful the barn is inside. The cobbled stone floor, large exposed beams and sound of doves cooing created a casual, relaxed atmosphere that I think worked really well for the event.

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A ticket for the festival cost £8 advance/£10 on the night, which included a Cogges glass etched half pint tankard, beer/cider guide programme, free first half pint and admittance for the night. Guests could then purchase a drinks voucher for £6 which was valid for four half pints, and meant we didn’t have to deal with any money throughout the night. One of the volunteers told me that last year the tankards had an image of the manor etched into them, while this year it was the Cogges ducks! As volunteers we were given a free tankard to take home, which was really nice and it meant we could test out a few of the beers and ciders ourselves 🙂

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All together there were 30 speciality beers and 15 ciders (with a range of seasonal and one off editions!) from a range of local breweries, within 30 miles of Cogges to try out. Along with the beers and ciders there was also fruity blackberry and elderflower pimms (Completely delicious) and wine available from the summer bar. We were stationed on one of the four ciders tables and ended up with five fruity ciders to help serve, including: Rabbit Foot Spasm Original and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush from the Cotswold cider company, Apples and Pears, Blackberry Blush and Strawberry Cider from Millwhites.

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The most popular ciders from our table were Apples and Pears (My personal favourite!), Strawberry cider and The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original. The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original is a special adaptation of the No Brainer cider made especially for one of the bands playing – The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band! They are an Oxfordshire based big band, known for their jump, blues and vintage jazz music. The cider proved very popular with fans of the band as well as the lead singer who told me he worked alongside the Cotswold cider company to help produce it. Fortunately our selection of fruit ciders were very popular throughout the night and we were kept busy pouring half pints while listening to the live music. As well as The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band, The April Maze – an Australian/British troubadour duo and Wes Finch – an American folk/indie performer also kept the barn full of toe tapping, head turning music 🙂

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Outside the main barn there were also a selection of games, including Aunt sally, lawn croquet, giant chess and superhero wrestling, as well as a stand selling American style BBQ pulled pork or beef baps served with tangy coleslaw (Which definitely required a taste test… Safe to say they were delicious!!). Throughout the night I got to try out most of the ciders and a few of the beers, which was definitely useful when people asked for a recommendation. My favourite ciders were Millwhites Apples and Pears, Premium Run Cask and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush as well as Thatchers Cheddar Valley. There was also a big selection of beers from several breweries, including: Hook Norton, Ramsbury and Wychwood. A bit later in the evening my dad decided to come along to try some beers and enjoy the live music with us. He is definitely more of a beer fan, so I got to help choose him some beers and try a little bit of them myself. Of the few beers I tried I really enjoyed Ramsbury Brewery’s Sunsplash and Sticky Wicket!

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Saturday 2nd August

Today started at 12.30pm, in preparation for opening at 1pm, again with a quick prep meeting. Afterwards we headed back over to the wheat barn, which was set up in a similar way to Friday, but with a bouncy castle replacing the stage on the right. We decided to go back to the cider stand, however as a few boxes of cider were empty from last night we moved the remaining boxes onto two tables. Unlike Friday night the atmosphere was a lot quieter, however we did manage to sell quite a few half pints of the ciders we had left, as well as some of the Cogges tankards. Along with the bouncy castle there was also story telling, superhero wrestling, giant chess and lawn croquet to enjoy. As well as all the normal weekend activities at Cogges there were also spinning and weaving demonstrations, candle holder making for WWI lights out and an Imperial War Museum print display in the manor house.

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I really enjoyed volunteering at the festival! It was great to try out the beers & ciders, listen to the live music while chatting to the other volunteers and visitors. As the weekend went on I learnt a lot more about the different breweries and ciders we were lucky enough to have, and being able to recommend ciders to visitors and them enjoy my recommendations was good fun! If you haven’t been to a beer & cider festival or Cogges Manor Farm before I would definitely recommend it. Hopefully I will be able to help out again next year 🙂

A Day in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Hidcote Manor and Gardens, Hidcote Bartrim, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, UK

I have visited Hidcote several times before with my family but it’s been a few years since my last visit, so when we were trying to choose somewhere to go at the weekend a trip there seemed like a good idea! From my house in Oxfordshire it takes around an hour to reach Hidcote by car, heading North along the A424 to Hidcote Bartrim, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6LR. Once you arrive at the edge of the estate, follow a long tree lined driveway up to the car park.

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Hidcote Manor and Gardens

Although there is a manor house at Hidcote, built in 1664, the main focus is most definitely Major Lawrence Johnston’s beautiful gardens. Johnston was born to wealthy American parents in Paris on 12 October 1871, where he was educated at home until moving to study classics at Cambridge in 1893. After graduating in 1900 he became a naturalised British citizen and on joining The Imperial Yeomanry (British volunteer cavalry regiment) fought in the Boer War. In 1902 he joined The Northumberland Hussars (British Territorial Army Squadron) and served in First World War attaining the rank of Major.

In 1907, Johnston’s mother (Then Mrs Winthrop) brought the Hidcote Manor and Estate in Gloucester where Johnston, now 35, had the opportunity to pursue his passion for gardening. Over the next 40 years the estate blossomed from an exposed field with a few trees to one of the country’s greatest Arts and Crafts gardens. He began work by planting evergreen oaks and hedges of holly, hornbeam, beech and yew to provide shelter from the wind, and by doing so also created a series of garden ‘rooms’ and corridors. From here he focused mostly on the areas closest to the manor, creating: The Maple Garden, The Fuchsia Garden, The Bathing Pool and The White Garden. In order to fill the growing garden ‘rooms’ with equally interesting plants Johnston travelled the world on many plant collecting expeditions, visiting: The Andes, Burma, South Africa, France, Alps and Yunnan in China. Between 1914-20, each garden ‘room’ was planted following a classical style, influenced by Johnston’s visits to France and Italy. During this time he also created Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, using a theme inspired by the Mediterranean. In 1915 The pavilions and The Stilt Garden were lain out forming the final part of the corridor running west of the house. Around this time Johnston developed a close friendship with socialite garden designer Norah Lindsay, whose lived nearby in Sutton Courtenay Manor, Oxfordshire.

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Between 1920-1930 Johnston continued to expand the garden southward with The Long Walk and The Wilderness, as well as The Pillar garden. The addition of The Long Garden helped to create the garden’s other corridor, running from The Pavilions through hedges of hornbeam. In 1924 Johnston brought what would become his second most famous garden in Serre de la Madone, near Menton, on the Mediterranean coast of France. Unfortunately a few years later in 1926 his mother (Mrs Winthrop) passed away, leaving Hidcote Manor and Gardens solely to Johnston. Although not there anymore, during the 1930’s Hidcote was home to exotic birds like flamingos and rhea, taking residence in The Wilderness with their very own shelter and pool. The 1930’s also brought the Hidcote estate into the public eye, when two articles about the gardens were published in Country Life magazine.

From 1945 as his health began to worsen Johnston started to spend more time at his estate in Serre de la Madone, France and as a result the National Trust acquired Hidcote in 1948, welcoming visitors in 1949. Johnston passed away on 27th April 1958 and was buried next to his mother close by his beloved gardens in the churchyard at Mickleton, near Hidcote. While the National Trust own Hidcote in Gloucester, Johnston left his garden in Serre de la Madone, Menton to Nancy Lindsay, the daughter of Norah Lindsay. Unfortunately she did not continue his work there as he had intended for her to.

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Walled Garden ‘Rooms’

On leaving the car park, you pass through a separate set of buildings which contain the barn cafe, toilets and a large courtyard with plants for sale. Heading right, you then enter The Courtyard in front of Hidcote Manor which leads you up to the main front door. You do get the chance to explore a few rooms downstairs within the manor before heading out a side door into The Maple and The White gardens. As the name suggests each garden is like a small carefully designed ‘room’, many of which are symmetrical in design but vary in planting. I really love the old cobbled stoned paths and towering hedges which divide each ‘room’, giving a real feeling of walking through secret, hidden gardens. Moving through these gardens you pass through The Old Garden, which is divided up by a small strip of lawn overlooked by the beautiful manor house. As you would expect the plant selection is incredible, including trailing, climbing wisterias, orange spotted lilies and purple dahlias.

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We decided to continue on through the grassed Circle Garden, down into The Fuchsia Garden and then into The Bathing Pool Garden. The large topiary birds on top of the separating hedges between The Fuchsia and Bathing Pool Gardens are really amazing! Leading off to the right is a small covered area, beautifully painted and covered in interesting tiled designs. From here we explored The Poppy Garden, Hydrangea Corner and Central Stream Garden before heading back up to the Upper Stream Garden and Mrs Winthrop’s Garden.

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Gardens and Lawns

After passing through The Winter and Red Borders you are greeted by The Long Walk. Walking down the long grassed corridor you are able to enjoy views over the Cotswolds, and pass through The Wilderness. We headed back along the edge of The Long Walk and found several bee hives before reaching The Pillar Garden, The Alpine Terrace and Stilt Gardens. Towards the edge of the estate you can explore The Rock Bank, The Bulb Slope and The Lower Stream Garden, while looking out over the surrounding fields and woodland.

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Kitchen Gardens and Orchard

Once we had finished exploring the main gardens we headed onto The Great Lawn to have some lunch before passing through The Garden Yard to visit The Pine Garden and Lily Pond, next to the beautiful glass and wood plant house. From here we walked past The Tennis Court (Johnston’s favourite sport!) around the Kitchen Garden which was fully of courgettes, onions, potatoes and lettuce that once would have supplied the Manor house kitchens. We didn’t get a chance to visit The Beech Alleé, but instead followed the path past an open bee hive, which was really interesting to see inside! Heading down The Long Borders we finished up our visit in The Orchard which was full of delicious looking apples 🙂

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The weather was really kind to us when we visited, which was brilliant as it meant we could explore all the gardens in our own time and enjoy the sunshine! If you want to visit every single garden properly you could definitely spend quite a few hours here, however I would still recommend Hidcote even if you only have time for a quick visit. It is obvious that Johnston really put his heart into every part of the gardens, with every ‘room’ having a different style and theme. Exploring the gardens definitely feels as though you have stumbled into a series of secret gardens that seem to go on forever and ever! As would be expected with so many beautiful plants and flowers around there is plenty of wildlife to see and hear, including: Butterflies, bees and birds throughout all the gardens, owls, bats and foxes in the evening, grass snakes in The Wilderness and Lily Pond, and great crested newts in The Bathing Pond.

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We decided to bring a picnic and enjoy it on The Great Lawn, however if you fancy a light lunch there is a cafe in the barn or for a hot meal try the Winthorp’s Cafe and Conservatory attached to the main manor house. If you are in the area I would definitely recommend visiting Hidcote Manor and Gardens! The gardens at Hidcote are usually open every day from 10am until 5pm, with the Barn cafe, Winthorp’s Cafe, Shop and Plant Sales also opening every day but staying open an hour later, 10am to 6pm. As National Trust members we got in for free however at £10 for an adult, £5 for a child and £25 for a family I think it is worth the price for all you get to explore and enjoy 🙂

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A Day in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Woolsthorpe Manor, Woolsthorpe by Colsterworth, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, UK

Last week I traveled back home to Oxfordshire to attend job interviews for positions starting this coming September, once my masters has finished. After a successful but nerve wrecking week, I spent Father’s Day driving back to Lincolnshire with my parents. As the journey back takes around 3 hours, we decided to take a break around lunchtime and visit Woolsthorpe Manor near Grantham. My parents have visited nearby Belton House before and really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be good to explore another National Trust property in a similar area.

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Woolsthorpe Manor

Woolsthorpe Manor is the 17th century family farmhouse home of Sir Issac Newton. Newton was born in the house on Christmas Day, 25th December 1642, to Hannah Ayscough 3 months after his father (Also named Issac Newton) died. He was born prematurely and was not expected to live very long, especially in the harsh world of Medieval England. Three years later his mother remarried and decided to leave Woolsthorpe Manor with her new husband, Reverend Barnabus Smith. Newton remained at Woolsthorpe under the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough until his mother returned in 1659 when she was widowed again. Newton attended The King’s School in Grantham from the ages of 12 to 17, leaving briefly to help his mother with farming at the family home before finishing off his education and being accepted at Trinity College in Cambridge. In 1665 Newton returned to Woolsthorpe when the Great Plague struck England and the university was closed as a precaution against further infection. During his time back home at Woolsthorpe he continued to develop his theories and conduct experiments regarding gravity, optics and calculus, until his return to Cambridge in 1667.

Gardens and orchard

As it was lunchtime when we arrived, we decided to head straight to the little cafe which is situated inside one of the many farm barns. We enjoyed our homemade carrot and coriander soup while looking at the Newton family timeline which ran around the top of the barn and the large solar system hanging from the ceiling. Once finished we headed out to explore the surrounding gardens and orchard containing Newton’s famous apple tree! Part of the orchard contained a wildflower garden and a mosaic tile human sundial which was really beautifully made and designed. Unfortunately as it wasn’t very sunny we couldn’t test it out 😦

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Following the path around to the front of the farmhouse we reached the site of the famous 400 year old apple tree, which was named 1 of 50 Great British trees in 2002. Naturally over 400 years the tree has been subjected to quite a lot of damage, falling over during a storm but thankfully re rooting as can be seen today.

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Farmhouse

We began our exploration of the manor house by ducking through the small main front door which would originally only have been used for weddings and funerals. Above the door you can see the Newton family coat of arms. Once inside we headed left into the parlour which was covered with reed matting to simulate the original flooring that would have been there before the current Victorian wooden floor was laid. I really liked an old English map on the wall, which showed the ‘countrie and citie of Lyncolne’ and how the county was once divided. Moving on across the hall we headed into the dining room and kitchen, at the back of the ground floor. Throughout the house there are many drawings and carvings on the walls, made by Newton himself, which have been framed so that they can be viewed easily. It was also great to see traditional food on display in the kitchen, including pork pies (From nearby Melton Mowbry), gingerbread and knot biscuits. Speaking to one of the volunteers we also found out that the original staircase was between these two rooms, concealing a priest’s hole underneath.

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Heading back into the hallway we went upstairs starting off in the left bedroom, in which Newton was born. Here we also found the house’s resident cat, sleeping next to the beautiful four poster bed. Hannah Ayscough’s spinning wheel is situated next to the fire place, which has a plaque above documenting Newton’s birth. Moving along the hall the next room is full of more information about the Newton family, life in medieval times and on the farm. The final room upstairs is another bedroom, containing several pieces of Newton’s equipment and notes from his experiments. My favourite part of this room were the papers displayed on the main desk, written on Sundays by Newton himself when he visited Woolsthorpe, confessing his weekly sins. I particularly liked one which confessed to ‘using another’s towel at university’!

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The site at Woolsthorpe is much smaller than other National Trust properties I have visited, however there is still plenty to see and do, especially in the science discovery centre. From Lincoln it would take around 45 minutes to get here, heading through Newark-on-Trent and then to Water Lane, Woolsthorpe by Colsterworth, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG33 5PD. The manor house, grounds and farm buildings are open everyday 11-5pm, except on Tuesdays when the manor is closed. As my family are members of the National Trust we got in for free, however at £6.04 per adult and £3.04 per child to visit the whole property I think it’s fairly inexpensive. I think it would be especially interesting for children who are just learning about Sir Issac Newton 🙂

A Day in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Gunby Hall and Gardens, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, UK

My parents decided to come up for a visit this bank holiday weekend, so I thought it would be fun to try out another of the National Trust places in Lincolnshire. Last time my parents were here we visited The Workhouse in Nottingham, which was really interesting and definitely worth a visit! The weather wasn’t looking particularly good as we left Lincoln, but by the time we reached Spilsby the sun was shining and it was fairly warm outside 🙂

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Gunby Hall and Grounds

From Lincoln, Gunby Hall and gardens are very easy to get to, just get onto the A158 and follow it for around an hour until you reach Gunby, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, PE23 5SS. If you have been to Skegness before you will probably recognise this stretch of road, before turning off and following a long drive up to the hall. On our drive through the surrounding parkland we were lucky enough to see a woodpecker flying from tree to tree!

Gunby Hall is the family home of the Massingberd’s, originally built in 1700 by Sir William Massingberd (2nd baronet) who demolished the previous residence, Bratoft Manor. In 1750 William Meux Massingberd added the coach houses, through which you enter into the garden and grounds (When we visited they were covered in beautiful climbing roses!). The 8 acres of parkland were shaped in 1817 by Peregrine Langton Massingberd, who also planted many of the old trees seen throughout the grounds today.

The future of Gunby Hall was threatened in 1844 when the ‘black sheep of the family’, Algernon, inherited Gunby at only 16 years old bringing it to the brink of bankruptcy. He gambled away most of Gunby’s land and wealth, and had to flee to South America where he was assumed dead in 1855.

As his body was never found, nobody could inherit Gunby Hall until he was officially declared dead 7 years later. Therefore it wasn’t until 1863 when Gunby was finally inherited by Charles Langton Massingberd. The Victorian period brought about the building of a north extension by Charles in 1873, which can still be seen today when entering the house from the coach house courtyard. This wing was added to in 1898 by Stephen and Margaret Massingberd.

In 1936 Lady Diana and Field Marshal Archibald Montgomery Massingberd took up residency in the house. Archie was made Field Marshal in 1935, and many artifacts from Archie’s military career can be seen on display in the basement of the house. They saved Gunby Hall by donating it to the National Trust in 1944, when the War Ministry threatened to demolish the hall to make way for a runway.

Walled Gardens and St Peter’s Church

On arriving at Gunby we entered through the coach buildings into an open courtyard with the house on the right and garden entry on the left. There were beautiful roses growing up one of the back buildings, and seeing as the sun was shining we decided to explore the gardens first heading through a brick doorway.

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We definitely chose to visit at a brilliant time, as most of the flowers in the walled gardens were blooming and many were covered with bees and butterflies! This first section of walled garden has a small lawn, with pathways leading off that are lined with beautiful irises and gladioli. Some of my other favourite flowers were the tall purple aliums which gently swayed on top of long green stems in the breeze, and brightly coloured foxgloves with speckles inside each flower. I also really loved the doomed blue temple seating where you could sit and enjoy the sun while looking out over this section of the walled garden.

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We briefly left this part of the walled garden to look out across the manicured lawns and chat to one of the garden volunteers before heading back into the second part of the walled gardens, which is home to the vegetable section of the garden. I loved seeing the baby figs growing on top of the wall as we entered this garden, as well as ‘fried egg’ like flowers lining the graveled paths and an artichoke growing on top of spiky leaves! We also saw some more beautiful roses along the back wall before heading out of the walled gardens and following a stream towards St Peter’s church which is nestled at the back of Gunby’s grounds.

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After exploring the quaint church we headed back round the left hand side of Gunby hall, which offers great views of the hall’s beautiful architecture especially it’s red brick exterior, dated lead pipes and large windows. We concluded our tour around the grounds and gardens at the front of the hall where you are able to look out across the surrounding pasture and woodland in the distance.

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We headed back into the coach buildings courtyard through an ornate black iron gate before admiring the Victorian north extension which is dated near the roof. On entering the hall we were met by a volunteer who had the cutest long haired dachshund puppy, named snookie! (I have a tiny obsession with dachshunds…). After exploring the narrow hallway, which included a large grandfather clock and a panorama painting of Rome, we headed into the sitting room. We were greeted by the amazing sound of a gentleman playing the family’s piano and a lovely volunteer who informed us that many of the portraits covering the walls were members of the Messingberd family. I particularly enjoyed seeing portraits of two family members (Husband and wife) at a young age and then again later in life – it was really interesting to see the likenesses between the portraits. Continuing on upstairs, one of my favourite rooms was the grey room, which was decorated with beautiful oriental styled wallpaper covered in birds. A lot of the wallpaper in the house is actually William Morris and, as with most wall paper of the time, was originally made using lead, mercury and arsenic paint (However, we were informed that non toxic copies are now available!).

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We visited several other bedrooms, one which had an old fashioned fire escape harness and another two which had a small sink positioned between the adjoining rooms! Following along the long hallway we ended up at the top of the formal staircase, made from beautiful dark wood. The walls are covered in portraits of the family, which one of the guides kindly went through for us. My favourite painting was of Peregrine Langton Massingberd, who helped create the parkland seen at Gunby today. I also liked the suit of armour which stood proudly on the stairs!

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Back downstairs we explored a small library/reading room which we found out was once part of the room next door. I particularly liked the fireplace in the dining room, which was tiled in delicately painted blue and white tiles. This room would have originally been where the family would have entered the hall, as the double doors open out at the front of the property. From here we walked through to another room which was originally two, but was opened up and sectioned off using wood from an old bed headboard! This area actually became a stage for many of the Massingberd children, with a hook in the ceiling to hang a curtain and quotes from Shakespeare inscribed across the top. Another beautiful feature of this room is the Pre-Raphaelite painting of Margaret Lushington (Mrs Stephen Langton Massingberd) painted by Arthur Hughes in 1903. Margaret’s parents, Judge Vernon and Jane Lushington were generous patrons of Pre-Raphaelite English painters, poets, and critics, in particular Arthur Hughes.

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The final parts of the house we explored were the servant’s rooms in the basement, including the kitchen, sewing, storage and cold rooms. I really enjoyed seeing the old food and medicine bottles on display in the storage/cold room, especially Seville marmalade from Oxford! We also looked around two other rooms which contained information, letters and photographs from the Massingberd family’s history, with one room dedicated to the family’s military history – in particular Field Marshal Archibald Montgomery Massingberd.

I really enjoyed my visit to Gunby Hall! As my parents are members of the National Trust we got to explore the gardens, grounds and hall for free, however to visit both the hall and grounds only costs £5.45 per adult, £2.70 per child and £12.65 for a family. Which I think is really good value for money based on how much there is to explore, as well as how friendly and informative the volunteers are. If you can I would definitely recommend visiting in the next few weeks while the walled garden is still in full bloom. I really hope I get the opportunity to visit Gunby again before I leave Lincoln this year!

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A Day in the Life…