We had 13 packages to send off this morning, including two very expensive bank notes and two very cheap football cards (my labours of last week bearing fruit!).
Then I took Julia to lunch and decided to get some use out of our National Trust membership. Last year, we didn’t get a lot of use out of them. We went to Clumber Park, which isn’t far from the spot where I took the bluebell pictures yesterday.
It’s home to a number of things including a lake, which I photographed a few times last year, and a chapel which featured in a few photos.
This time we decided to visit the kitchen garden. It’s an excellent place, and very well designed. There’s a massive lean-to greenhouse up against a south-facing wall and a gentle slope to let the cold air flow away downhill. I didn’t walk all the way down, but I’m pretty sure there will be holes in the wall to let the cold air flow away. They designed things better in those days.
We decided to use our new National Trust membership yesterday with a late visit to Clumber Park.
There is no house now. After a number of problems, including fires, declining fortune and death duties the house was demolished in 1938. A house that once had 105 rooms (and a dining room that seated 150) was brought to nothing, though statues and fountains were removed for reuse. The contents were sold – the Library sale raised £70,000 and the rest of the contents for £60,000 – a total of £130,000 (around £6,000,000 at 2017 values). There are rumours that the house as rebuilt in Arizona, but nobody can say where.
It wasn’t just a house that disappeared, a whole way of life disappeared along with the houses. It wasn’t just this house that went either. Since 1900 0ver a thousand country houses have been lost. Causes include social change (lack of servants), declining income, taxation (with death duties up to 80%) and damage from the military during the war.
Despite this, there is still plenty to see, including the Chapel (which looks more like a Church to me) and a four acre walled kitchen garden which contains a 450 foot greenhouse and 135 varieties of rhubarb.
How the other half lived
Lake at Clumber Park
Lake at Clumber Park
There is also a Lake, which is what we went to see. It’s 87 acres, so it’s a lot bigger than the duck pond at Arnot Hill.
To be honest, despite the Greek temple and bridge, the lake isn’t that interesting. The bird life was also rather dull – no Mandarin, no cross-breeds and no Pochards. The trees on the lake’s edge did, however, provide food and shelter for a flock of Bramblings, which was worth the trip as I haven’t seen any for years. They have a profile very much like a Chaffinch, and come to visit from Scandinavia each winter.
They kept flying round, making it difficult to count them, but there were about 40 of them. Despite that it was still tricky getting a good photo.
There was also a small flock of Greenfinches masquerading as something interesting.
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 Info Board
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.
Coat of arms of the Earls of Shrewsbury with Talbot supporters, and owl of the Savile family
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.
Restored version of one of the old corbels
Worn stone face
Through the window
No roof these days
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.