"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

"A Story of Love and Neglect" - Attingham Park - Part 1: The Mansion

I'd been invited to a book launch in Shrewsbury last weekend so we decided to go early and call in at Attingham Park (a National Trust property we've never visited) on the way. To quote the guide "The buildings and surrounding land are part of an amazing tale of astutely accumulated fortunes, flamboyant overspending and bankruptcy, decay and desertion, devotion and melancholy. A story of love and neglect, of changing fortunes, revival and re-discovery".

The 4000 acre estate is situated in the fertile valley of the River Severn and was given to the National Trust by Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick, in 1947.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to walk through the parkland which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the importance of the veteran trees and invertebrates. There would have been several walks to choose from - a Deer Park Walk, Woodland Walk, Mile Walk, Bluebell Walk and a World War II Walk. Definitely enough here to warrant another visit!!

A Potted History of the Berwick Family - 5 generations have influenced the House and Estate

Noel Hill, a successful politician, was the 1st Lord of Berwick (1784-9). He inherited Tern Hall in 1768 and in 1782 he commissioned George Steuart to build a new mansion which he called Attingham Hall. Against his family's wishes he married Anne and their new hall was arranged in 2 symmetrical parts - a feminine and a masculine side following the French fashion at the time.

Thomas, 2nd Earl of Berwick (1789-1832) spent loads of money on the estate and mansion building the picture gallery and appointing Humprey Repton (landscape designer) to re-design the park. A scandalous marriage followed to a former courtesan - Sophia Dubochet - who was even fonder of spending money than her husband. All this extravagance resulted in bankruptcy and 2 large auctions to clear their debts.

William, 3rd Lord of Berwick (1832-42) was Thomas's younger brother and a diplomat in Italy. He returned from Italy to try and buy as much from the bankruptcy sales as possible. He leased the estate from Thomas and returned after 25 years abroad with furniture, paintings and silver for the Hall. He never married and his illegitimate children from his Italian mistress were not able to inherit the estate.

Following William's death, the estate passed to Richard, his brother.

Richard, 4th Lord Berwick (1842-8)was a clergyman and, being a younger son, had never expected to inherit but on attaining the title he enjoyed the life of a country gentleman to the full. Again,he lavished money particularly on stocking up the wine cellar.

His son Richard became 5th Lord Berwick (1848-61) and was far more careful with expenditure, saving enough money for repairs and modernising agriculture on the Estate.

On his death in 1861 his brother William became 6th Lord Berwick (1861-82). A bachelor he continued to live at his own house near Shrewsbury and only used Attingham for entertaining.

Richard, 7th Lord Berwick (1882-97) was William's nephew and a professional soldier. After his marriage to Ellen the couple spent their married life indulging their passion for sailing in the Mediterranean.

Thomas and Teresa - 8th Lord and Lady Berwick (1897-1947) moved into a very neglected Attingham and they spent their lives restoring the mansion before giving it to the National Trust.

As we walked to the Mansion it was lovely to see Horse Chestnuts in full bloom.

The Entrance Hall - Attingham was constructed to impress but not everything is as it seems. Tiles resemble bricks, painted bricks look like stone and fake marble, clever paintwork and false doors create an illusion.

As mentioned earlier the main floor of the house was designed as 2 halves. The feminine East side had delicate, ladylike rooms, such as the Sultana Room and the Boudoir with silk damask furnishings, gilding and delicately painted flowers and birds whereas the masculine west side had stronger colours with more masculine rooms. The State Rooms were at the centre of the house.

The Drawing Room with is beautiful ceiling

The Sultana Room is slowly being restored to its former glory

The Boudoir was a beautiful room - I wishe I could have taken more photos but it was heaving with people who showed no sign of leaving!

The light on the East side was quite good for photos but once we moved over to the West side the curtains were drawn and, as you can't use flash, the photos aren't good. I've included a few though so you can get an idea of the masculine side.



The Dining Room which was really dark but the ceiling again was superb.

Then onto the Picture Gallery which is undergoing a £1.4million pound conservation project to restore the 1805 John Nash glazed roofed room and the Nash staircase.

Stunning roof above the Staircase

The third floor with illustrations of the contrasting lifestyles of Sophia and Teresa

Sophia's bedroom

View across the roof top and

a beautiful window on the staircase.

Finally, if you are still with me!! (sorry far too many pictures again!) down three flights of stairs to the Servants' Quarters. The servants' accommodation was also divided into a female and male side and the servants were further divided into upper and lower servants.

Servants' Hall

Family Silver

The large,light and airy kitchen

The Still Room

There were lots of rooms to visit in the house and you could quite easily spend several hours there.

I'll save the walk through woodland to the Walled Garden for another post.

Source: National Trust Guide Book to Attingham


Pete Duxon said...

pleased you enjoyed :)

Last time I went photos were banned :(

Margaret Adamson said...

What an amazing beautiful mansion both upstairs and downstairs and it was brilliant seeing all your photos and reading about the owner's history.

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Thanks Pete and thanks again for recommending it. Hope you get chance to re-visit soon and take some photos :)

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret - glad you enjoyed. Its one of the best houses I've visited :)

Chris Rohrer said...

Very nice place. Money is the cause of all drama. Too little or too much:) Either way, it always makes a fascinating story. I was thinking about the Horse Chestnuts:) I remembered growing up with one in my yard as a child. They were always so cool but they had a sappy sticky bit that would always get stuck to my feet or shoes. As a kid, it was one of my favorite trees. As an adult, what a mess!:) But I always loved throwing the chestnuts at my siblings....and the reverse was true as well:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris - loved your memories about Horse Chestnuts :) Over here we play conkers (or used to until Health and Safety got in the way!!).

SeagullSuzie said...

I'm not sure the horse chestnuts are out here yet! Lovely photos of a beautiful place. I hope you get to tour the gardens next time.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thanks Suzie - Horse Chestnuts only recently come into flower round here. We did manage to visit the Walled Garden but hope we can go again and explore the parkland and woods :)

Countryside Tales said...

I always find the kitchens in these grand houses fascinating and usually my favourite of all the rooms!

David Turner said...

Thank you again for another tour of a beautiful property with loads of interesting features to admire and enjoy. I quite like the masculine/feminine idea though I am not quite sure which I prefer to be honest, though my favourite room has to be that library. If I ever win the lottery I would love a house with a library-cum-study like that :-)

The family sound like an interesting and contrasting bunch of characters!

Hope you and yours are well and kindest regards to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thank you - you would have loved looking round the kitchen at Attingham :)

David Turner - Thanks David. Must admit I added more detail than usual about the family because as you say they were interesting and so different to each other :)

Agree with you about the study/library :) Would give anything for a room like that then I wouldn't need to declutter my stuff!! My husband (who is not a fan of my book collection!) happened to say at the time that "your books wouldn't even fit in those bookcases"!

Best wishes to you and yours David.