Sunday, 28 August 2016

A National Trust Day Out

Attingham Park is a National Trust property not far from Shrewsbury and was once home to the Hill family who became the Lords Berwick.

The family made their money through politics, land, money-lending and mining; unfortunately although they made plenty of money they weren’t very good at hanging on to it.

It was already quite busy when I arrived so I decided I’d forgo coffee in the stable yard and look around the house while it was quiet.  I made a good decision.

As I walked towards the house a re-enactor playing Thomas, the 2nd Lord Berwick welcomed me to his home and proceeded to tell me something about the house and family.
Including how in 1812, at the age of 41, against all the advice of family and friends, he fell in love with and married a 17 year old courtesan called Sophia, a sister of the notorious Regency courtesan, Harriette Wilson.

Extravagantly showering Sophia with jewels, carriages, gowns and goodness know what else, meant that by 1827 Lord Berwick was almost broke.   In order to satisfy his creditors he had to sell most of the contents of the houses creditors and was forced to live on the continent.   He played the part of the 2nd Lord Berwick very well.

Near the rivers Tern and Severn, the manor of Attingham or Atcham which is mentioned in the Domesday Book, (Saxon in origin the name means ‘dwelling of the people of St. Eata’) was bought by Richard Hill in 1700.   The original house, the outline of which can still be seen in the courtyard, was called Tern Hall.

 The Salon

At the time of the building the present house, 1785, Noel who was created Baron Berwick in 1784, removed the medieval village of Berwick Maviston.

The Sultana Room

After taking the European Tour, his son Thomas, the 2nd Lord Berwick built a picture gallery to house paintings bought on his ‘Grand Tour’ and also brought in John Nash who provided architectural details and Humphrey Repton to improve the park. 

I thought the grounds looked like a ‘Capability Brown’ style park, but, according to my re-enactor friend, Repton could make 300 acres look like 3,000 acres whereas Brown actually required you to have 3,000 acres.

This lovely sofa in the picture gallery is in need of restoration, which I’m almost certain that the room guide said  would cost in the region of £60,000.00.

The Dining room was laid out for an ambassadorial dinner, very Jane Austen, I almost expected Mr Darcy to walk in at any moment.

The room was very dark, but the room guide explained that this is how it would’ve been lit at the time and would’ve been classed as an extremely well lit room.

Something I’d never thought about before, although as a small child growing up on a farm we had oil lamps which probably gave a little more light than candles, but I’d obviously forgotten just how dark rooms were before electric lighting. 

The servants hall.

 At each chair a plate gave details the name of the servant, their responsibilities and how much they earned, which in the case of the Butler was £52.10s (£52.50p) a year.  

It’s a lovely house, but of course by this time I was in desperate need of a coffee, so adjourned to the gorgeous Lady Berwick’s Drawing room.   Despite being a beautiful room, there is no lighting and no heating, so no wonder, even in the summer it closes in the early afternoon.  

 Afterwards I strolled down to the Deer Park, luckily for me the fallow deer were close to the entrance

On the way to the walled gardens I had a lovely view of the house, and luckily despite the stormy skies it never did rain.

The produce from the walled gardens is either used in the restaurants/cafes or sold. 

Originally inside the walled gardens, one of only two known Regency bee houses left in existence the country is now just outside the walls.   The designer of the house isn’t known, but it could’ve been John Nash or Humphrey Repton. 

Flowers and vegetables filled the walled gardens. 

The glasshouses, these reminded me of a much smaller version some Uncles of mine had when I was a small child.

Despite all its problems the house remained in the family until 1947 when after the death of the 8th Lord Berwick the house was bequeathed to the National Trust. 

It’s a lovely place, one of the room guides told me it’s beautifully decorated at Christmas, so I might just go back and have a look. 

Have fun, we are!

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