Tudor Halls – Sudbury Hall Sudbury Derbyshire

August 22, 2014
Tudor Halls – Sudbury Hall Sudbury Derbyshire

As we leave Calke Abbey we realise we have not had lunch so we decide that we would go to Sudbury Hall 30 mins away as there was likely to be a pub open in a larger village. Well of course when we get to Sudbury and visit the Vernon Arms there the kitchen closed 30 mins beforehand. No time to lose we thought we would go to the Hall and its café.

This hall is one of the finest restoration mansions as opposed to the stabilised decline we had just seen at Calke Abbey. In the 16th century there was a marriage between the heiress to the Sudbury estate and Sir John Vernon. This house was then built by George Vernon between 1660 and 1680 and is noted for its grand staircase (strangely not located in the centre of the hall but at one end (the west I guess as an east wing was built on the other end by later owners toward the end of the 19th century). It also is noted for its Long Gallery with portraits of various people but particularly Charles II’s mistresses (one cheeky one had a wardrobe mal-function whilst sitting for the portrait – cover up that nipple) and its grand wood carvings and murals. It is worth a visit to http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sudbury.
We were a bit rushed so my photos may not do it justice.
• The grand staircase – note the mural on the ceiling of the staircase
• One of the drawing rooms – note all the scroll work and the murals – the scroll work is hand carved.
• The Long Gallery – typical of Tudor Houses to show off the family (I did not take a picture of the lady with the wardrobe malfunction out of modesty)
• The Vernon Arms – kitchen closed
• The Sudbury Hall kitchen pet
• A view of a part of the garden – who would be so anal to plant every tree in rows

The Unstately Home and Country Estate

August 22, 2014

The Unstately Home and Country Estate

It is a dull old day in Long Eaton. So we pick up the National Trust book for ideas of places to go. Didn’t I tell you when we visited Stowe House that we joined the National Trust? There is just so much but a lot seems to be the same. Calke Abbey stood out because it was close and it appeared different because it had been restored but not renovated. We also have to collect some parcels from home from UPS but Kerry has not been able to find the UPS station to collect her parcels. With these two objectives in mind we set off.

We find the UPS station very quickly – it is disguised as a corner store with a very small sign that it is also the UPS station for Long Eaton. That puzzle solved we set off into the country side and within 30 minutes arrive at Calke Abbey. We are greeted by sheep and cattle and to my surprise dozens of vehicles with locals visiting for the day.

Calke had been founded as an Abbey just before 1100AD and given to England’s first Augustinian order whom formed the Priory. In 1129AD the Abbott of Chester seized the Priory until he was told to hand it back by the Arch Bishop of Canterbury. St Giles Church which still stands on the site today was founded in 1160AD survived the rages of Henry VIII and his Parliamentary commissioners (which the Priory did not and was destroyed) until 1834 when it became a private manorial chapel until acquired by the National Trust with the manor house in 1984 due to the family being unable to pay the 8 million pounds in death duties. The bell tower contains one of the earlier bells from the 14th century made at Leicester by Newcombe Bell-founders (source National Trust).

The church is still consecrated and holds occasional services, weddings and the like. The first family home appears to have been built in Tudor style by Roger and Richard Wendsley (1573 to 1585) until purchased by First Baronet Sir Henry Harpur in 1622 (the family had become wealthy from Richard who in the previous century had been Justice of the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster and later Chief Justice of the County Palatine of Lancaster and through marriage acquired other estates in Derbyshire and Staffordshire). The house was rebuilt by the 4th Baronet Sir John Harpur around the Tudor Home. The house remained in the family for 6 more Barons with Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe (the 10th Baronet) being the last. The last few Barons became very reclusive being educated raised and living exclusively within the grounds of the estate (source Wikipedia and the tour guide/volunteer from the National Trust).

The guide showed us through the house which has been intentionally displayed in the state of decline in which it was handed to the Trust. The Trust has located and interviewed a surviving member of the family who lives in the US and still has rights to reside in a flat within the house and two of the former staff. At the turn of the century there were still 26 household staff and 11 ground keepers, and a pony mower. We were shown both sides the lords side and the staff side and given free rein in the estate. I’ll let the phots tell the rest of the story:

  • The Stables – there is a large stable building which now houses shop café toilets and exhibits including a play area for kids
  • The house – is looking very sad and the front has lost its grand entrance stair case
  • The drawing room – the later barons were naturalists (shot and stuffed anything they could find) and mounted or encased it in this room
  • The letter box – the last baron was so withdrawn he would write letters to the staff rather than talk to them, the butler would clear the box each day and deliver the correspondence/instructions
  • The dining room – a show of wealth
  • The Butler’s Pantry – includes a dumb waiter for the meals from the kitchen and the footman (who we heard via an audio interview) slept in that room
  • The service bells – a bell for each household servant – here is one wall of the bells there were two others (the number of servants declined over the years)
  • The bed – a gift from Elizabeth I on the marriage of Sir John – apparently never slept in and so unique it has been displayed around the world
  • The kitchen and the pastry rooms – note the decay – these rooms were closed up in 1922. Note the colours yellow (lime wash and pigs urine – disinfectant effect) and the blue (apparently repelled flies from the pastry)
  • The servants dining room – just a little dampness problem
  • The walk to the church
  • The church
  • The gardens – this is a minute sample
  • The ice house – the servants cut ice form the river in winter and filled these chambers to provide ice throughout the year
  • The sheep and the deer

For more information on Calke Abbey see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/calke


Wollarton Hall Nottingham

August 20, 2014
Wollarton Hall Nottingham
We are both awake early as the electrician is coming this morning, we are joining the rotary meeting at Woolloongabba via google hangout and going to St Mary the Virgin Church to help clean up. The electrician arrived and fitted the new fittings except for one which was for a lamp not a ceiling and provided a solution to the poor lighting in the bathroom – he put in another light which now floods the bathroom so that it is brighter than outside the flat.
In the midst of the electrician’s work we “hang out” with the Rotarians at home. I think that some of them thought it was fanciful that we even try to attend the meeting from 26,000 miles away. Great fun and good to catch up but it feels like we have not left home.
The electrician is still here and we have to give St Mary’s a miss. Finally finished he stands around chatting until 12.00 noon – it was bloody hard to get him here then equally hard to get rid of him.
We decide we will change the lamp shade so into the car (THISTLE) and off to British Home Stores Derby. Oops cannot find the receipt but manage to exchange it anyway at the cost of 2 pounds parking. As we are out and about we decide to visit Wollarton House one of the sights of Nottingham recommended to us by our mates at Nottingham Rotary.
Wollarton Hall is located in the centre of Nottingham (CBD is only 3 miles away) in a very large park by the same name with Europe’s oldest and first cast iron greenhouse, and with herds of red and fallow deer running around. It is an Elizabethan mansion (late 16th century) completed in the same year the Spanish Armada was sunk 1588. (Interesting because this lead to some innovation around sourcing timber for the Prospect Room as the Navy was using every stick for ships). The Willoughby family had been sheep farmers in the county and changed their family name to reflect the wealth they were accumulating (they adopted the locality name). By the time that Sir Francis Willoughby (a Baronet) built this mansion the family were the wealthiest family in Britain next to the Tudors (Elizabeth I). Funny thing is that Sir Francis had a problem with status and wanted to lord it over everyone. So he invited Liz to visit his family home (the one before he built Wollarton Hall) and when Liz did visit her comment was something like – We don’t like the man, nor do we like the wife nor do we like the house. So he built Wollarton – the first place in Britain to have central heating, a bathroom and double glazing but more about that later. Money was no object.
One hundred years later Francis Jnr became a pioneering naturalist so the Hall is filled with stuffed animals and heads on the wall. The practice was continued down the centuries by the family.
As is the fate of these ambitious families someone loses the family fortune and the property falls into disrepair. In this case it was death duties that got them and the house and park has ended up in the hands of the Nottingham City Council and is now a natural history museum the stables are the industrial museum and shops and the park is open to the public (the day we were there it seemed every member of the public).
There was a tour on offer for 5 pounds each and as entry was free we thought what the heck. So as the kids disappeared to see Batman (yes it was a dress up day for the kids) we started our tour in the main hall. Most home for the gentry up to this date were castles or fortified buildings but this was to be a stately manor and they had no template other than a castle or a church so this looks like a castle but is intended to be a house. It is square (the only square manor house in the UK) and has a central court which was entered through stone arches to greet the Lord on his throne. Behind that was the dining room and the kitchens underneath in the basement. I mentioned the Spanish Armada. Well they did not have enough timber to provide the supports to the Prospect Room which is above the centre court. Also they tried to emulate the manner of support of the ceiling with the grotesques at the bottom but instead of support it actually pulled down on the floor. And when the architect could not get the timber he wanted because of the Navy he design a lattice support beam which never did work which meant the Prospect Room which was designed to allow notable guests to view the extent of the Willoughby lands (to the horizon for 360 degrees) all that was safe was a small viewing platform at the top of the stairs 3 storeys above ground. Of course when the Council took it over they put in the correct supports hence the floor today looks unworn although it is over 500 hundred years old.

From the Prospect Room we walked down to traverse a section of the roof (apparently a favoured past time of the Tudor gentry). Here we see the double glazing installed at a time when the government charged a tax on the number of windows but money was no object. The second lord (they climbed their way up to Dukedom also) had installed side doors to the centre court which created a draught and the centre court could not be kept warm so they installed steel pipes behind all fire paces filled with water channelled underground from a cistern installed 3 miles away to carry heat throughout the home (the first heating system) and then later the doubling glazing to contain heat (the first of its kind). On the corners of the house are the bedrooms for the guests starting with the highest ranking having access to the roof.
After viewing the walk we returned into the house and were shown the household safe (a solid steel door) and to protect the inhabitants of the house and the money from the staff at night there were two iron grilled gates and then a heavy wooden door before you got to the staff quarters (prison). Beyond were the Tudor kitchens discovered by the Council when renovating the hall. They are a bright yellow in colour and the Council discovered this was a paint made up of lime wash and pigs urine (the urine acted as a disinfectant). There were three areas to the kitchens and a slaughter room beside the meat salting room.

From the slaughter room we went into an underground tunnel which operated as both a beer cellar wine cellar brandy cellar and the cistern room for collecting the water from that cistern 3 miles away, channelling it through the tunnels to clear the air in the tunnels and ultimately to fill the man-made lake in the park. The tunnels allowed servants to clear the path for the water and to service that cistern and others but they could also call into the “Admiral Rodney “ a pub in the village going to and returning from the cistern.
After existing from the tunnels we viewed the rest of the house in particular the natural history displays and then the stables but they were closed – we had run out of time. After all was said and done a most interesting visit to see a Tudor household as it might have been.


Although I forgot the big camera we are starting to get prepared and I had the small camera in our travel pack and took some pictures and here they are:
• the Hall, its grounds,

  • some of the “heads of the household”
  • the centre court,
  • the Prospect Room
  • the view to the horizon, and
  • the stables (bigger than some other stately homes)
    • The bathroom (between the floors of the Prospect Room and below was the first indoor bathroom in Britain)
    • The kitchens and slaughter room

Attenborough, the Cromwell connection and St Mary the Virgin church

Monday August 11

Attenborough, the Cromwell connection and St Mary the Virgin church

Last night we reacquainted ourselves with the Rotarians of the Nottingham Rotary Club. We will do more with the Club and have already volunteered to do some fund raising next week.

The following day we took it pretty easy. I said earlier that I had something about Oliver Cromwell and his connection to Long Eaton. Well his son-in-law Henry Ireton was born at Attenborough in 1611 and the place of his birth (much renovated) still stands there today. Attenborough is the next to Long Eaton between Toton and Chillwell.

Ireton ended up a general in the English Parliamentary Army during the English Civil War and died of fever in Ireland in November 1651. He was baptized at St Mary the Virgin Church (more about the church shortly) graduated BA in 1629 from Trinity College Oxford in 1629 and entered the Middle Temple (one of the exclusive inns of barristers in London). Ireton joined the parliamentary army and engaged in his first battle in 1642 and fought in 5 campaigns until being wounded at the Battle of Naseby whilst commanding the left wing of the attacking force before being freed by Cromwell’s right wing of the force in September 1645 and thereafter entered parliament in October as the member for Appleby and after fighting in the siege of Oxford married Cromwell’s daughter (and step daughter of General Fleetwood) Bridget Fleetwood (who after being widowed from Ireton married her step-father the General).

Unlike Cromwell, Ireton supported the idea of a constitutional Monarchy and conducted lengthy negotiations with the Army and the King (Charles I) to try and achieve this outcome for the Civil War but he became convinced of the hopelessness of dealing with Charles after the King’s flight to the Isle of Wight. He was to later sit on the King’s trial and was one of the commissioners to sign the death warrant for Charles.

He accompanied Cromwell to Ireland for his Irish campaign in August 1649 and was elevated to the rank of Major General and placed in charge of the New Model Army in Ireland when Cromwell returned to England to invade Scotland. He died of fever after the successful siege of Limmerick and was buried at Westminster Abbey under the Arms of the Commonwealth of England Scotland Wales and Ireland (the Kingdom having ceased with the beheading of Charles I). However following the restoration of the King in 1660 Charles II exhumed the corpse from Westminster along with Cromwell and John Bradshaw (all of whom signed the death warrant for Charles I) on January 30 1660 (the anniversary of the beheading of Charles I) and mutilated the corpses.

Now as to St Mary the Virgin church it still stands in Attenborough having stood in one form or another for 1000 years (they have found evidence of a wooden Saxon Church and remnants of a Norman Church in the grounds and todays building). We have volunteered to attend a working bee at the church and are interested in doing further activities for the community through the church.

I have attached the photos showing:

  • The Ireton memorial and todays house
  • The St Mary the Virgin Church and graveyard.

Since I first wrote this article Kerry and I have joined the maintenance crew at the church to do a spot of cleaning up.Kerry trimmed bushes whilst I cleaned storm water drains and mowed amongst the tombstones. Here is the photographic evidence.

First Working Bee
First Working Bee