Monday, 3 September 2012

A trip to Erddigg . . .

Today I'm going to take you on a little tour of the fabulous stately home we went to visit on Saturday called Erddigg. That is a Welsh name, because it's in Wales. I believe it is pronounced "Air-Thig," but I'll probably have some Welshman coming in to correct me on this . . . nevertheless, it is a most beautiful place no matter how you pronounce it!

Widely acclaimed as one of Britain's finest historic houses, Erddig is a fascinating yet unpretentious early 18th-century country house reflecting the upstairs downstairs life of a gentry family over 250 years. Featuring a 12oo acre country park, and a formal walled garden it is one of our favourite places to visit up here in the wild and woolly North West. We've been there several times now, and I never tire of visiting it. This was our first time that it wasn't raining though!

Tis a very beautiful spot of countryside. To get to it you take a long drive down a winding country lane, past rolling fields. The atmosphere is already being set and you wind around twist and bend . . . and even when you get closer to it, you are never quite prepared for what awaits. It's not until you get through the gates that the magnificence of it assaults you!

We really enjoyed the swallows which take up residence every year in one of the outbuildings. I tried to get a good picture of them, but this is the best that I could do. They were swooping in and out of that barn so quickly . . . you almost felt like they were going to hit you, but of course they didn't. I did get pooped on though . . . most annoying! But I heard a long time ago that being pooped on by a bird is good luck. Mayhap I should buy us a lottery ticket! lol I think swallows are fascinating birds. They return to the same nesting place each year so these one's in the outbuildings at Errdigg must be long time residents!

Erddig is one of the country's finest stately homes . . . in September 2007 it was voted the UK's "favourite Historic House" and the "8th most popular historic site" in the UK by Britain's Best. In 2003, it was voted by readers of the Radio Times and viewers of the Channel 5 television series "Britain's Finest Stately Homes" as "Britain's second finest."

The building was sold to the master of the Chancery, John Meller in 1714. John Meller refurbished and enlarged the house (including adding two wings in the 1720s), and, on his death in 1733 unmarried and childless, passed it to his nephew, Simon Yorke (d. 1767) (first cousin of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke). The house was passed down through the Yorke family until March 1973, when it was given to the National Trust. We were told on Saturday that at first the National Trust did not want it, as there was very extensive restoration work to be done, but they did take it and in 1977 it was officially opened by Prince Charles.

A tour of the house, which starts "below stairs", tells of the Yorke family's unusually high regard for their servants and, through a collection of portraits, photographs and verses (a family tradition started by Simon's son Philip Yorke (1743–1804), who published The Royal Tribes of Wales in 1799), provides a record of the people who lived and worked on the estate. This I have always found completely fascinating as there are (from the days before photography) painted portraits of each of the servants, complete with verse about them and what they did and (from the days after photography) detailed photographs plus verses of those servants. Clear records as well of each servant and their histories both before they began work on the estate and after they left. Having worked in a "Estate" home myself, I find this the most interested part of this home. I cannot ever fathom my ex employers taking such care of their employees . . . we were merely a means to an end, bought and paid for, and only important in-so-much as being useful. Once we were no longer useful . . . we no longer mattered. Clearly things were very different than that at Erddigg.

In the staterooms "above stairs" there is a fine collection of 18th century furniture and other treasures (many of which originally belonged to John Meller, including a portrait in the Music Room of Judge Jeffreys, the "Hanging Judge"). The Yorke family seemingly never threw anything away and the house now has a unique collection ranging from the rare and magnificent (including some exquisite Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom) to the ordinary and everyday: indeed, one of the conditions that the last Squire, Philip S. Yorke (1905–1978) imposed on handing over the house and estate to the National Trust in 1973 was that nothing was to be removed from the house.

He is quoted as saying: "My only interest for many years has been that this unique establishment for which my family have foregone many luxuries and comforts over seven generations should now be dedicated to the enjoyment of all those who may come here and see a part of our national heritage preserved for all foreseeable time."

I didn't really get any photographs of the other rooms, they don't really like cameras in there, but they were stunning. Some of the wall papers having been hand painted centuries ago and it is very clear throughout the whole house that this was a family that cherished it's servants. They would have been very well looked after . . . even their sleeping quarters was fine . . . and a family that took seriously it's duty to preserve what it had for future generations.

Erddig's walled garden is one of the most important surviving 18th century formal gardens in Britain. The gardens contain rare fruit trees, a canal, a pond, a Victorian era parterre, and are home to an NCCPG National Plant Collection of Hedera (ivy). There is also a fine example of gates and railings made by ironsmiths the Davies brothers, of nearby Bersham, for Stansty Park; the gates were moved to Erddig in 1908. The arrangement of alcoves in the yew hedges in the formal gardens may be a form of bee bole.

The gardens were stunning, and this at the end of the summer . . . hopefully one day we'll be able to see them when they are at their finest!

These are fruit trees here. They don't have any fruit on them either . . . so it's not just "we Rayners" who haven't gotten any fruit from our trees this year.

A Bumble Bee, hard at work.

A few of the "present day" residents come to greet us.

Red sunflowers against a beautiful blue sky.

Another view . . . I like sunflowers and these were stunning.

My attempt to take an "artsy" photograph. lol

A few more odds and sodds . . . flowers, some of their extensive "modes of transport" collections, etc.

All in all, it is a most amazing place to visit and I would highly recommend a day spent there if you are ever up in the North West. Very near to Wrexham it is and well worth the money and time spent!

Not a lot on today. Work continues on the bath. Tune in tomorrow to see any progress which happens today. I am planning on cooking a courgette loaf or two as I was given several yesterday at church! Plus the Toddster and I are sitting down and re-vamping our budget. Things have gone up so much in price this past year, we need to sort it out and redo it all . . . not a fun job to say the least.

Have a fab Monday people . . . especially you in North America who are enjoying this last long weekend of the summer!

"Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love, and to work, and to play, and to look up at the stars."
Henry van Dyke

Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . a delicious storecupboard supper, Tortilla Pie!

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