It was a lovely day yesterday, crisp and sunny, and Julia decided we should visit Rufford Abbey. It was also the first day of her crusade to make me a fitter, healthier man, which, to be honest, did take a bit of the shine off the day for me. I know she’s doing it for my own good but a day geared towards exercise will always have a small cloud hanging over it.
When we arrived I cheered up a bit because it’s now on winter opening hours and that means weekday parking is free. I do like a bargain. They do a season ticket at £30 for 12 months – sounds good value too.
Rufford Abbey is fairly standard as country houses go – started as a Cistercian Abbey in 1147 and pottered on until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. It then became a private house owned by the Talbot family (Earls of Shrewsbury) – you can see the Talbots (hunting dogs) acting as supporters on the carved coat of arms above the doors. The owl under the large coat of arms refers to the Saville family, who eventually ended up owning it.
Both families have interesting histories, but I’ll leave you to look that up for yourself if you’re interested.
Finally, the estate was broken up in 1931, and Nottinghamshire County Council bought the house and park in 1951. In 1956 they demolished two wings of the 17th century house to leave what we see today. I can’t see any council giving people planning permission to that these days. It still did better than other local houses. Clumber Park was demolished 1938, and Sutton Scarsdale Hall was allowed to decay after having the roof stripped off in 1919.
There are ice houses, animal graves, a bluebell wood (though not right now), tea rooms, shop, lakes, woodland walks, birds (which will be covered in my next post), a mill race and other things to see, but I can’t report on most of that as we didn’t see it on this visit.