Standen in the springtime

Now that the sun is (sporadically) here, the days are getting longer and flowers are starting to appear, we’ve decided it’s officially springtime and time for us to start exploring again! And where else to start but Standen House, a National Trust property near East Grinstead in Surrey.

An Arts and Crafts property, the house was designed by Philip Webb, a friend of William Morris. It was designed in keeping with the Arts and Crafts aesthetic, where the everyday domestic object was exalted through thoughtful and pleasing design, and thus William Morris’s Golden Rule: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. This stunning coffee table showed this perfectly [I love the geometric patterns].

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Hanbury Hall – beautifully disorganised

We decided [somewhat foolishly] to drive from Leeds to Wales to Lincoln over the course of two days, to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Cardiff and then visit other relatives on New Year’s Day – we covered a fair few miles, but of course found time to stop off at a National Trust house in Worcestershire on the way. Excited for this one, we got out of the car and showed our cards, only to be told that the house was closed. Slightly disappointed, we decided to go to the café anyway (obviously) and maybe to walk around the gardens. So, we wandered up the drive of Hanbury Hall, and as we approached a lovely tour guide called out of the front door to ask us if we wanted to join a tour. Naturally, we did – when he said that we couldn’t, as it was full. Somehow, though, we ended up in the hallway of this beautiful house, and on a tour. We weren’t complaining, if slightly confused…

Hanbury Hall

Built in 1701, the house has a colourful history with many family stories and much scandal. We were taken through a number of the rooms on the ground floor and talked through the family history. The Christmas decorations were also pretty wonderful, with garlanding on the stunning stairs, which were painted by Sir John Thornhill, of St Paul’s Cathedral dome, the Painted Hall at Greenwich and Chatsworth fame. The legend has it that he and his painting team made a fair bit of mess, which resulted in him painting in the housekeeper’s face to one of the cherubs…

Painted staircase inside Hanbury Hall

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A restorative visit to Polesden Lacey

After leaving Clandon Park, we headed to Polesden Lacey nearby for a restoring burst of National Trust normality. An Edwardian country retreat, it was home to famous society hostess Mrs Margaret Greville, and is presented as it would have been in her time, with her collection of furniture, paintings, porcelain and silver.

Polesden Lacey

The house was completely rebuilt by Thomas Cubitt in 1824, and remodelled for the Grevilles by the architects responsible for the Ritz – hence the luxurious bathrooms!

Taps at Polesden Lacey

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The ashes of Clandon Park

Today we’re coming to you with a bit of a different post. You know how we love our days out to National Trust houses; beautiful furniture, textiles, cups of tea in the café and walking amongst gorgeous gardens. But this time we made a pilgrimage to a place that, very recently, had all the above. Now, however, it has none.

On 29th April, 2015, Clandon Park was struck down by a devastating fire, which moved through the house more quickly than anyone thought possible. The fire destroyed the entire interior of the house; walls, floors, staircases, leaving a shell.

Clandon Park

The fire spread from the basement, and is thought to be an electrical fire, although no-one is entirely certain. One room in the house survived relatively intact; there are no photos online, and we were unable to get that close, but miraculously it looks to be nearly as it was (save extensive water damage from the hoses).

Clandon Park

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A sunny stroll in Hampstead

We’re north Londoners, it turns out [for the moment at least]. I’m not quite sure why, but what it does mean is that we have the joy of Hampstead Heath on our doorstep. Every time we go we ask ourselves why we don’t go every week – I guess those National Trust properties won’t visit themselves…

After a short walk from Gospel Oak Overground station, you end up here at the top of Parliament Hill, looking out over London. Spottable are the Shard, St Pancras station, St Paul’s and other highlights of the London skyline.

View from Parliament Hill

Facing the other direction, though, was another popular activity – kite flying. Ostensibly for children, there were a fair few parents not too keen to give up the reins…

Kites over Hampstead Heath

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Return to Cornwall, part 2 – coastal paths and cosying up

[Haven’t read part 1 yet? You can find it here!]

You know we love the National Trust. They don’t sponsor our blog (maybe they should!), but they just always seem to appear in the right place at the right time, even when you haven’t planned it…

What we did plan was a day of walking, exploring the beautiful coastline around the Fowey area. One trip to the tourist information centre later, and we found ourselves with an invaluable National Trust map of walks. It took us to secluded coves…

View over bay near Fowey

We made friends with some frankly hilarious-looking pigs…

Pig

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A day at Osterley

Fancying a day out of central London but nearby, we used our hardworking National Trust membership and headed to Osterley Park, in Isleworth. When built, Osterley was surrounded by rural countryside, but is now dissected by the M4 and the Heathrow flight path [which you’re unfortunately reminded of fairly frequently] – probably not something Robert Adam had to bear in mind…

Front entrance to Osterley Park

We’re big fans of Robert Adam (as you can tell from here and here) and he remodelled this Elizabethan house in 1761 for the Child family.

The garden is typically pretty, with a very lovely Adam “garden house” in keeping with the house itself.

Orangery at Osterley Park

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A trip to the Avebury stones

To road-test my fancy new pay-monthly National Trust membership [previously you had to pay for the full year in one go, but now you can pay by monthly direct debit: currently £5/month], we paid a long-overdue visit to Avebury in Wiltshire. You may know Avebury for the prehistoric stones, in the manner of Stonehenge – some would say Avebury is far superior! Although less impressive as a photo-op because they are more widely spread, the stones at Avebury cover a [much] bigger area and are many more in number. It’s also a wonderfully cute village [partly encircled by the stones] and contains a manor house which is also worth a visit.

Dinner at Avebury Manor

Avebury Manor was chosen in 2009 by the BBC for a restoration project (The Manor Reborn) with the NT. They restored each room from a different era of its life and ownership, making it the first ‘hands on’ house – everything is touchable, which makes it a great place for children (and adults! [it’s amazing, you can even try out the beds…]) to visit. The dining room (above) is a Georgian recreation, where it’s entirely possible to sit at the table as though you were taking part in that excellent cheese course… Featuring real port too, judging by the smell! [Real, yes, but I wouldn’t advise drinking it…]

Below is a detail from Alexander Keiller‘s sitting room, in rather garish 40’s style – he was the archaeologist who excavated and restored the stones, and made Avebury the site it is today. We may have played with this camera for a fair while…

Vintage Kodak camera

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Weekend in Leeds, part 2 – Hardwick Hall

After Nostell yesterday, we then headed to Hardwick Hall. Although pretty cloudy (see below), it was stunning. This year, the house is celebrating its association with Arbella Stuart, niece of Mary, Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick’s protegee. Bess, Arbella’s grandmother, built the house and attempted throughout Arbella’s youth to realise her not insubstantial claim to the English throne. Arbella had other ideas, however, and ended up imprisoned in the Tower after a secret marriage.

Hardwick Hall

Gripping as it is, the experience of the house runs alongside and yet beyond these two fiesty Elizabethan women. Built in 1590, the house is one of the earliest examples of English Renaissance architecture, and seems to herald the arrival of the ‘country house’. Its very structure has been built to accommodate the more traditional hierarchy of master and servant, with very separate living quarters and ceiling height and scale to reflect the seniority of that room’s inhabitants. It also sees a move toward the more decorative architectural style, and a departure from the fortifications of castles of old.

Bedroom at Hardwick Hall

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Weekend in Leeds, part 1 – swans and statues at Nostell Priory

Today on the blog we have two very special properties to help you make the most of that National Trust membership! (Even without it, entry fees were reasonable.)

We have a family in Leeds, so headed up there for the weekend. First stop was Nostell Priory, featuring a beautifully symmetrical exterior… [although, if you look closely, you’ll notice some damage on the left-hand side from a fire in 1980]

Nostell Priory

And an interesting lighting project, From Gloom to Glow, where they cast light on previously hidden objects. It certainly made for some dramatic photographs!

Gloom to Glow statue at Nostell Priory

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