Worthing National Trust Association

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Members’ Holiday to Telford

5th - 9th September 2016

Each year a short break holiday is arranged to an area not accessible on day trips for the purpose of visiting National Trust and other properties.  Travel is by coach hired for the exclusive use of members on the holiday.  

This year the holiday was based at Telford, Shropshire, visiting several properties in the area and en route. Following is the story of the holiday, written by Sue Bolam, interspersed with photographs supplied by Linda Woolway.

Our holiday began on a rainy Monday morning at Worthing Station, where 26 of us were assembled for the beginning of a packed five days.  Our first stop was at Heelis, the new headquarters of the National Trust in Swindon, for a welcome cup of coffee.  Last year the surrounding area was like a building site, however most of it is now finished which was a great relief.

The first property we visited was Attingham near Shrewsbury.  This lovely Palladian mansion was built between 1782 – 1785 for the 1st Baron Berwick; however, his son, the second baron, was a spendthrift who eventually went bankrupt and the contents of the house were sold.  The third baron was a diplomat who lived in Naples and brought back many pieces of Italianate furniture.  The fortunes of Attingham fluctuated over the centuries, but with the house passing to the 8th Lord Berwick it was brought back to life.  Following his death in 1947 the property was passed to the National Trust, and for some years after it was used as an Adult Education College.

I was very taken by the tricks and illusions in the main hall where false doors and fake marble deceive the eye, while clever paintwork suggests the statues stand out from the wall, when in fact they don’t.  I was particularly interested to see the picture gallery again, as when I visited a few years ago it was under wraps while a second roof was being installed.  For the first time in 200 years the gallery is watertight and there is a temperature control between the roofs.  You can see the new roof from the corridor window as you go up to the bedrooms.  The restoration of these bedrooms is the subject of the next project by the National Trust.

Our second day started with a visit to Wales: Powis Castle which is situated near Welshpool and was originally known as Castell Coch (the red castle) as it is made from sandstone.  Built in the 13th century by a Welsh prince, it was bought in the 1580’s by the Herbert family.  In1784 Henrietta Herbert married Edward Clive (son of Clive of India) and it is Edward’s treasures from his time as Governor of Madras which are on display in the ballroom.  The 4th Earl of Powis inherited the castle in 1891 and, with his wife Violet, set about restoring it.  One of their sons died in WW1 and another in WW2, so when the Earl died aged 90 in 1952 he bequeathed it to the National Trust.

Some of the things to look out for are the beautifully decorated Entrance Hall & Grand Staircase, and the State Dining Room which was remodelled by the 4th Earl to include wood panelling.  This room shows a portrait of Lady Henrietta by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Upstairs the State Bedroom is very fine but has to be kept very dark to stop the colours fading.  In the Long Gallery is an immense table said to be made in Italy in 1560.  Legend has it that it came from the Borghese Palace and was a gift of the Pope.  It is so huge that you wonder how they managed to get it upstairs!

Among things to look out for are the fine William Morris wallpapers, the pre-Raphaelite paintings and a wonderful collection of De Morgan tiles.

Day four saw us returning to Wales to visit Chirk Castle, which was built during the mediaeval period.  No less than five of its owners were executed for treason, but since 1595 it was the home of the Myddelton family until it was passed to the Trust in 1978.  Unfortunately, we only had time for a quick visit, but among the things to look out for are the Long Gallery, reputed to be the widest in the UK, the 18th century Grand Staircase, the Servants Hall and an impressive laundry.

This morning we said goodbye to our Telford hotel.  Our coffee stop was at the beautiful Charlecote Park in Warwickshire, home of the Lucy family since the 12th century.  It has associations with Shakespeare who was supposed to have been caught poaching deer.  The present house, which dates from the 1550’s was not open, but those of us who did not want coffee walked through the park to look at it.  However, the kitchens were open and there was a display of cookery by costumed staff.  The deer in the park were very co-operative, standing still for photographs close-up.

Our lunch break was at Basildon Park, near Reading, where we ate surrounded by a lovely mural of Angkor Wat painted by Michael Dillon in 1999.  We then toured the house which was built for Sir Francis Sykes between 1776 – 1783 in the Palladian style.  It quickly went into decline but was saved by Lord & Lady Iliffe who bought it in 1952 and set about restoring it. The property was given to the Trust in 1979.  Tastefully decorated by Lady Iliffe, the interior is magnificent.  Among things to see are the Octagon Drawing Room lined with red felt which Lady Iliffe and her cook put up by hand.

On leaving Basildon Park we got stuck in traffic which made our return to Worthing a bit late, but we had had a wonderful time.  On behalf of my fellow travellers may I thank Pat Best and her daughter Kathryn for all the hard work and effort that went into making this a successful holiday.

We then travelled to Moseley Old Hall but unfortunately our coach was too large to negotiate the overgrown road leading to the house with the result that we could not visit; instead we had a quick trip to look at the Iron Bridge in Coalbrooke Dale.

Next day we visited Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire, where we were taken around by a most informative member of staff.  This lovely half-timbered building is 500 years old and has been enlarged several times.  William Moreton I built the oldest part; his son added the first floor and two bay windows, which are clearly dated 1559.

The family had their lands confiscated by Parliament for being on the wrong side in the Civil War.  The Restoration brought the return of land but as they were not a noble family the King did not recompense them for the money they had had to pay to Parliament and their finances never recovered.

The Hall was rented out for over 200 years and in 1892 Elizabeth Moreton inherited.  She began the restoration which was continued by her cousin, Bishop Abraham.  The Hall passed into the hands of the Trust in 1938.

The addition of a long gallery nearly caused the house to fall down.  It was built on marshy ground with no foundations. This caused the frame to twist badly and is the cause of its familiar look of imminent collapse.  In 1990 the Trust inserted a steel frame to make it safe.  One can have a slight feeling of seasickness when walking around this part of the Hall.  In the Gallery Chamber the chimney looks to be leaning but it is in fact the floor which slopes.  Among things to see are the 16th century wall paintings in the Little Parlour and the newly cleaned stained glass in the Great Parlour.

After lunch we travelled to Wightwick Manor (pronounced wittick) near Wolverhampton, a lovely example of the Arts & Crafts Movement.  This house was begun in 1887 by Theodore Mander who made his money making paint & varnish.  The Mander family only lived in the Manor until 1937 when it was given to the Trust.

In the afternoon we went to Erddig near Wrexham, a house built in 1684 for Joshua Edisbury which ended up making him bankrupt.  The house was bought by John Mellor who bequeathed it to his nephew Simon Yorke.  It was this family which owned the house until it was given to the Trust in 1973.  The Yorke’s were an eccentric family who had a tradition of having portraits of their servants painted (moving on to photographs later), giving a unique portrait of their lives.  Other things to look out for include the organ in the entrance hall, which was being played during our visit, and a 19th century portable shower in the bathroom.

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