Worthing National Trust Association

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On a drizzly morning in September, 36 of us set off for our annual holiday.  Our first stop was at the Savill Garden centre for a welcome coffee break.  This lovely garden is part of Windsor Great Park.

Then it was on again to our first National Trust property which is Canons Ashby in Nottinghamshire.  The sun had come out and we were able to see this attractive house, which was originally a farmhouse much extended over the years by the Dryden family (the famous poet John Dryden was a relative but never owned the house).  It came into their possession in 1551 and was well looked after until the 20th Century when it went into a decline.  In 1981 the house, garden and church were given to the Trust, who then embarked on a three-year restoration programme.

Among the things to look out for is a lovely 17th Century staircase.  Upstairs I spotted a much-used rocking horse.  The Drawing Room which was originally created in the 16th Century has a very fine ceiling.  Spenser’s Room (named after the poet Edward Spenser, another relative and author of the Faerie Queen) has some superb murals which had been covered by 18th Century panelling and are in very good condition.  In the Servants Hall, once known as the Winter Parlour, lovely walnut panelling has been found.

I noticed that part of the garden has been planted with Heliotrope (marine) and Durango (orange) Marigolds which made for a very striking display in the sunshine.  Lastly, I visited St Mary’s Church, which is the only part of the original priory (from which the house is named) to survive. The Augustinians (called the Black Canons) because of their black habits) founded the priory in the 12th Century and remained until the Reformation.  After our visit, we journeyed on to our hotel near Grantham.

Our second day started with a visit to Calke Abbey, the former home of the eccentric Harpur Crewe family.  The house, built in 1704, is deliberately maintained to show the state of decline of great country houses during the 20th Century.

Arriving early, we were able to see the family apartment, which was the residence of the last member of the Harpur Crewe’s until the 1990’s.  These rooms are not often open to the public.  Going into the main house I was struck by the heads of cattle and deer staring soulfully down at me from high on the walls of the Entrance Hall.  In most of the rooms there is a vast collection of stuffed animals and birds which I was told was only one third of the original collection; much of the finest specimens were sold in the 20th Century, many ending up in the Booth Museum in Brighton.  The family also collected all kinds of minerals and shells which can be found crammed into display cases, while upstairs the rooms with unwanted items were simply locked away after World War II and remain as they were found by the Trust.

However, Bess was married to the Earl of Shrewsbury at the time he had custody of Mary while she was imprisoned in England.  When Bess died the house passed to her favourite son Sir William Cavendish; he later became Duke of Devonshire, making his home at Chatsworth, so the house remained unchanged for centuries.  Duchess Evelyn was the last of the family to live at Hardwick Hall.  She was a keen conservator in the early part of the 20th Century, but the Hall was acquired by the Trust in 1959 via the Treasury in lieu of death duties.

Beside the Hall is Hardwick Old Hall, which is only three years older and is now a ruin.  It belongs to the Trust but is managed by English Heritage, so we could use our NT cards to go in.  Things to look out for are the plaster frieze of the Forest great Chamber and the enormous stone figures over the fireplace of the Hill Great Chamber.

This afternoon we went from the wealth of Hardwick to the poverty of Southwell Workhouse.  Built in 1824, Southwell became the model for workhouses following the new Poor Law of 1834; it divided the inmates into seven categories – old and infirm men, able-bodied men, boys from age 7 upwards, old and inform women, able-bodied women, girls from age 7 upwards and children under 7.  These were all overseen by a master and a matron, who had rooms in the middle of the complex and could see all the different exercise courts. The able-bodied had to carry out menial work whereas the old and infirm were classed as blameless poor.  There are only a few rooms which are furnished, one as a 19th Century dormitory, and another left as it was decorated for homeless mothers and children in the 1970’s.  The Trust acquired the site in 1997.

ur last visit of the day was to Belton House.  The Brownlow’s, who built the house, made their wealth in the legal profession in the 16th Century.  The present house, which is much altered, was started in 1608.  The first thing that grabbed my attention was the lovely wood carving in the Marble Hall, possibly done by Grinling Gibbons.  Other things to look out for are the Mortlake Tapestry, the unusual painted floor featuring a dog, and the room with Chinese wallpaper.  We were very lucky as the Chapel organ was being played as we walked around.  Outside there was an Orangery, the sundial that inspired Helen Cresswell to write Monodical, and the church where the Brownlows are buried.  The house was given to the Trust in 1984 and featured as Rosings in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Upstairs are Mrs Greville’s apartments which until recently were Trust offices and now tell the story of her life.  Downstairs in the main part of the house is the Dining Room set for a family gathering, and in the Tea Room is a replica of one of Mrs Greville’s lovely tea gowns.  The Saloon has a huge chandelier and beautiful gilded Italian panelling.

After our visit was over we returned to Worthing.

May I take this opportunity to thank Pat Best for arranging this wonderful holiday; as this was her 17th and final trip I am sure all of us who travelled on this holiday and previous ones will join with me in sending our grateful appreciation for all her hard work and wish her well in the future.

Text by Sue Bolam                                                                                 Photos by Linda Woolway


House showing formal gardens

Drawing Room ceiling

Church of St Mary’s

Rocking Horse

Servants Hall Panelling

On Wednesday, we made our way to the magnificent Hardwick Hall, which sits on the top of the Derbyshire hills.  This house (so large it is big enough to be a palace), built by Bess of Hardwick as a statement of wealth and power in the 1590’s, and has her initials ES (standing for Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury) on the top of each turret.

Born at the original Old Hall in about 1537, she married four times, returning to Hardwick Hall in her sixties as a wealthy widow, to build one of the greatest houses of the Elizabethan period.

Bess used architect Robert Smythson to build her new home, which is noted for the extensive use of window glass.

As one enters there are three separate exhibitions: the first shows the Penelope Embroidery, a masterpiece of needlework; the second shows the Tobit Carpet which was originally a table cover; and the third tells the story of the doomed Arbella Stuart, Bess’s granddaughter who died in the Tower of London.

Calke Abbey

Stuffed Birds

Going downstairs again, we found the beautiful 18th Century State Bed which was found by the Trust in its original packing cases and is now displayed in a controlled display case.  Its silk hangings are in pristine condition.

The State Bed and
Silk Hangings

In complete contrast, in the afternoon we went to Stoneywell, an arts and crafts cottage.  This was built for industrialist Sydney Gimpson as a summer residence in 1898 by his architect brother Ernest.  The cottage was originally thatched but after a fire in 1939 the thatch was replaced by slates.  Three generations of the Gimson family lived there until it was handed to the Trust. Set in a rocky outcrop of the Charnwood Forest, it appears to grow out of the landscape.


Going into the Dining Room, I particularly noticed the hand-crafted table and chairs.

To reach the upper floors one had to climb some very steep stairs.  At the top of the house is the Olympus Room, so called because Mount Olympus was the highest mountain in Greece.  

On coming down to the ground floor I noticed the Orkney chair which has a basketwork hood and a drawer under the seat.

Dining Room

Orkney Chair

Mount Olympus Bedroom

Our fourth day saw us stopping at the Boundary Mills store for coffee and a bit of retail therapy before our first property of the day, Woolsthorpe Manor, birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton 1643 – 1727.  The Manor is very small so our party split into three groups.  

I first visited the Science Centre, where there are experiments involving the Laws of Motion and splitting light which all the children enjoyed, and the helpers were very informative.

Then there was the wonderful old apple tree whose falling apples gave Newton the idea for the Laws of Gravity.  Lastly, there is the Manor itself where one can visit the room he was born in and the one where he carried out his experiments with light.

Penelope Wall Hanging

The Tobit Carpet

Going up the grand staircase to the top of the building, we found the great High Chamber, which has a frieze around the room depicting Diana the Huntress and a table on which are inlaid board games and musical instruments.  In a further room was a very elaborate table whose supports were chimeras or sea dogs sitting on tortoises.  Another room is dedicated to Mary Queen of Scots, but she never stayed there as she had been executed before the house was built.

The Eglantine Table in the High Chamber

The Cellar of the Workhouse

Southwell Workhouse

Birthplace of Isaac Newton

Woolsthorpe Manor

The Old Apple Tree

The Sundial

The Orangery

On our final day, we left our hotel and travelled to our coffee stop at Brampton, after which we journeyed to Polesden Lacey, our very last stop.  The house, which has passed through many owners, was bought by socialite Mrs Greville and her husband in 1906.

Born Margaret Anderson, the illegitimate daughter of a millionaire Scottish brewer, she married the heir to the Greville baronetcy in 1891 and became a leading society hostess for fifty years.  

The Dining Room

In The Gold Room

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Members’ Holiday to Lincolnshire

September 2017

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 the members on the holiday.

Read on for Sue Bolam’s interesting story
and the photographs donated by Linda Woolway