132. Nunnington Hall – 10/5/2018

It’s been a long drive home from North Yorkshire today, but (after a welcome cup of tea!) I have unpacked the laptop so I can finish off the week’s blogging while it is all fresh in the mind. Nunnington Hall was the second visit yesterday and is only around 9 miles from Rievaulx Terrace so the two properties are a good combination, not least because they are so very different from each other.

There has been a major residence at Nunnington since 1249 but the current house is based largely on a Tudor property built in the mid-1500s and then updated considerably in the late-1600s by Ranald and then Richard Graham. Further changes were made over the years and then the Hall was neglected for a while, serving only as a sporting lodge while in the ownership of the Rutson family in the mid-1800s. It was the most recent owners – Margaret (née Rutson) and Ronald Fife – who turned Nunnington into a comfortable family home in the 1920s, while also employing the Arts & Crafts architect Walter Brierley to return many parts of the property to their 17th century appearance. So, it is their story that is told in the rooms today. The house was left to the Trust in 1952 but Margaret’s daughter and her family continued to live in the house until 1978 when they moved down the road into the village.

While several families made their mark on Nunnington over the years, it is interesting that these same people also made their mark in the wider world and there are a few colourful stories attached to the Hall. In Tudor times, the house was owned by the parents of the future queen, Catherine Parr. It is thought to be her brother William who built the first rendering of the existing hall but it was forfeited to the Crown when he became embroiled in the plot to bring Lady Jane Grey to the throne. Moving on to 1644, during the Civil War, the then owner Thomas Norcliffe gave the property up as a billet for Parliamentary troops, so this was perhaps unsurprisingly a destructive period for the house. The Graham family came along next and were about as lucky as William Parr when it came to choosing sides in regal feuding. They were staunch Jacobites so Richard Graham, who became 1st Viscount Preston due to his support of James II, later found himself in hot water when he conspired against William and Mary to restore the Stuarts to the crown, spending a couple of spells in the Tower of London. Both William Parr and Richard Graham escaped their various schemes with their heads still on their shoulders though, so perhaps they were lucky after all!

The Apple Orchard in bloom

A walk around Nunnington includes features that reflect back to several of the former owners. While the Fife family furnishings and photos are prevalent, the significant tapestries on show were thought to have been acquired by Richard, Lord Preston, while he was ambassador at the Court of Versailles, and are important examples made in Brussels in the 17th century. There is currently a major conservation project underway to clean and repair the tapestries, which is set to cost tens of thousands of pounds over several years. We spoke at some length to one of the volunteers who told us what the process involved, including a trip to Belgium, the only place where there are frames large enough to support the tapestries during steam cleaning. Meanwhile, there is also clear – if unsavoury – evidence of Nunnington’s sporting past within the house: although it was the Rutsons who used the house specifically as a sporting lodge, Ronald Fife clearly continued the practice and the walls of the Stone Hall, through which you enter the house, are decorated with the results of his various hunting kills… or as the volunteer told us: ‘Colonel Fife was responsible for this carnage’!

While the personal stories always fascinate me (and did so again in this case), I didn’t find Nunnington all that appealing as a house as it felt a bit plain and dark (although the darkness was exacerbated by the typical light management measures needed to protect the textiles… grumble, grumble!). Having said that, there were a couple of bright and airy surprises along the way, including Mrs Fife’s Bedroom, while the Oak Hall and Great Staircase were both fairly dramatic and imposing.

Moving outside the house, the garden is not vast but still offers a tranquil walk or a casual game of croquet. The orchards on both sides of the main lawn were in full blossom for my visit so that was beautiful, but I was a week or two early for the iris garden. There is also a terrace of herbaceous borders and a rose garden, while visitors can also sit alongside the river in the quiet tea garden, at least it would have been quiet but for the squawking crows overhead… I found that a cream tea helped to overcome that annoyance! And speaking of squawking, the garden is also home to several peacocks, which always add a touch of class to any garden.

An Adam Music Room in miniature

Nunnington was only the second of the week’s properties to have a second-hand bookshop but it was another excellent one that required some serious browsing. Saving the best for last though, the highlight of the entire visit for me was the Carlisle Collection of miniature rooms in the attic exhibition space. Gifted to the Trust by Mrs Carlisle in 1970, and housed at Nunnington since 1981, the rooms are made to a scale of around one-eighth of actual size and pay amazing attention to detail. There are rooms that might be found in a stately home, e.g. a music room, a picture gallery, a Palladian hall, etc., but also more unusual workshops and even an antique shop. For me, these were well worth the visit by themselves and I have returned home with an urge to start crafting… mind you, it seems that much of the Carlisle furniture was created by trained furniture craftsmen who had to make their own tools to handle the size requirements. So, it could be that mini furniture-making is a tad beyond my skillset.

Mini antique shop

Highlights: The Carlisle Collection of miniatures; tapestry conservation insights

Refreshments: Spinach, cheese and sweet potato flan with new potatoes, salad and coleslaw; bubbly elderflower; cream tea (we tried both the waitress-service tearoom in the house for lunch and then the tea garden for an outside experience in the afternoon)

Purchase(s): Guidebook; ‘Cat’s Eye’ by Margaret Atwood from the second-hand bookshop

Companion(s): Mum

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131. Rievaulx Terrace – 10/5/2018

Ionic Temple

I have often commented on the sheer variety that my National Trust challenge provides and Rievaulx Terrace is another example of this. Built specifically to dazzle visitors, it is a landscape garden in miniature, a serpentine terrace of land overlooking the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, flanked at either end by classical temples, one of which also served as a rather luxurious dining room for guests. For the modern visitor, it provides a peaceful mile-long walk, first through the woodland and then along the grassy terrace where gaps in the trees open up at regular intervals to give impressive views of the ruins, the valley and the hills on the other side.

My visit was timed very well in that the cowslips were just coming out on the slopes leading down from the terrace, which was very much an added bonus. Another visual treat was delivered by the white carpets of wild garlic flowering in the woodland, although this was somewhat less of a treat for the nose!

Rievaulx Terrace is actually the second such landscape created by the Duncombe family of nearby Duncombe Park. Thomas Duncombe (the First) built Duncombe Park and between 1713 and 1718 he created the first terrace alongside his home, with views of Helmsley Castle. It is likely that he was inspired by the Surprise View of Fountains Abbey from Studley Royal Water Gardens as his wife was related by marriage to the daughter of Studley Royal’s John Aislabie. It was his son Thomas Duncombe (the Second) who later created the Rievaulx Terrace between 1749 and 1757. This followed a similar pattern to his father’s, with temples at both ends, but had to be reached by coach from Duncombe. As a result of this longer distance, the Ionic Temple was created with a kitchen in the basement so guests to the classical dining room above could be served with food prepared on the premises.

Both Thomases were inspired by Palladian architecture and by the paintings of Claude and Poussin with their idealised classical landscapes. Thomas the Second’s Ionic Temple at Rievaulx is also decorated with dramatic frescoes, which were painted by Giuseppe Borgnis, the Italian painter who also contributed so much decoration to West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire (see separate entry!). The various panels and medallions in the ceiling show scenes from mythology and are taken from Italian Baroque masterpieces found in Rome’s palaces.

The Ionic Temple can only be accessed at certain times of day in half-hourly slots, so visitors should be aware of this and time their visits if they want to see the Ionic dining room. The basement of the Temple – accessible separately from the main room and open  all day – houses an exhibition about the Duncombes, the landscape and the local flora and fauna so that is well worth a visit. I also learned that the Ionic Temple had once been occupied by a caretaker and his family and that they only left in the 1960s. There are more comfortable dwellings for sure, but very few with quite such amazing views from the ‘front garden’.

The views are what Rievaulx was created for and remain the chief reason to visit to this day. I took what felt like hundreds of pictures as each opening in the trees offered a slightly different vista, making it difficult to pick which ones to include here. I wonder how long it took this horse to find his preferred aspect!

Highlights: The views (they’re what it’s all about)

Refreshments: None

Purchase(s): Guidebook

Companion(s): Mum

NT Connections: Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal (Thomas Duncombe’s wife was related by marriage to the daughter of John Aislabie who created the Studley Royal Water Gardens and the Surprise View of the abbey from these gardens is thought to have been inspiration for Thomas Duncombe’s terrace at Duncombe Park and the later Rievaulx Terrace); West Wycombe Park (the ceiling of the Ionic Temple was painted by Giuseppe Borgnis who also worked on West Wycombe for Sir Francis Dashwood)

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130. Ormesby Hall – 9/5/2018

For some reason, Ormesby Hall made me think of the children’s book The Little Engine That Could. It very much feels as if the Hall is trying its hardest to make an impression and is saying ‘I can, I can’, but at the same time there is the sense that relatively few people are listening, even its National Trust owners: there is no longer a printed guidebook for the house (always a black mark from this blogger) and I have seen little promotion of the property at the other NT locations I have visited this week. I hasten to add that this seeming lack of enthusiasm certainly does not stretch as far as the staff and volunteers at Ormesby itself who were extremely helpful and informative and who shared their own passion for the house. Without them, I’m not sure I could have written this summary as they filled in some of the historical gaps for me and also highlighted novel points of interest along the way.

Granted, Ormesby is a little detached from the Yorkshire properties I have been visiting, located just on the outskirts of Middlesbrough, but it is still in relatively easy striking distance of North Yorkshire’s main tourism hubs so should perhaps feature on the tourist map a little more prominently. It could be that I will find more information about the place on my next visits to Rievaulx Terrace and Nunnington Hall, as these are the closest places to Ormesby that are also managed by the Trust (Mount Grace Priory is run by English Heritage). We’ll see.

It is also the case that Ormesby Hall is a relatively small property compared with some of the National Trust’s real gems, but it still has a lot to offer. Besides the main body of the house with its pretty Adam style interiors, there is also a large Laundry and a Victorian Kitchen to visit, plus two model railways. I am not a train enthusiast but the volunteers clearly are and we stayed for a while, learning about the construction of the models and about the fate of an old Yorkshire branch line (perhaps this is why The Little Engine That Could sprang to mind?!) The garden is small but there are deckchairs on the lawn and tables just outside the tearoom so it makes for a tranquil spot to sit, eat, sleep or simply ponder.

Getting back to the house, it is presumably built with local stone (a guidebook would be able to tell me!), which gives it an unusual and striking appearance, with an equally impressive stable block to one side. It also has many stories to tell following 400 years of ownership by the Pennyman family. The information presented in the house refers to the most recent owners, Jim and Ruth Pennyman, who mixed with various famous and influential people thanks to their interest in the theatre and in socialist politics, but the volunteers also shared a little information about ‘Wicked’ Sir James Pennyman, the 6th Baronet, who spent money like it was going out of fashion, gambled with abandon and found himself in the courts on a regular basis.

‘A tranquil oasis’

The current house was first built in 1740 after one James Pennyman (there were a lot of Jameses!) married a Dorothy with a lot of money. The ‘Wicked’ baronet later remodelled – including extending the stables to house his racehorses – while further big changes were made in the 1870s by James Stovin Pennyman, Jim’s grandfather. The property came to the Trust in 1961 when Jim Pennyman died but his wife Ruth stayed on until her own death in 1983 and it seems that she was an interesting fixture: on occasion, the NT staff had to make sure she had finished her breakfast in the dining room before letting the visitors in! She was apparently a welcoming rather than obstructive presence though and would occasionally meet and greet the visitors herself.

Ruth had a passion for the theatre so as well as hosting various actor friends at the house she also staged her own plays at Ormesby. One room displays some of the posters created to promote these events so I thought it was fitting that a poster near the car park is currently advertising the summer play of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which is showing at Ormesby in August.

Visitors to Ormesby can also follow the mile-long Pennyman Potter walking route around the park but we settled instead for a less energetic potter around the second-hand bookshop! It is a very good example, complete with sofas for committed browsers, and we came away with a bagful of books. Whatever else Ormesby has to offer, it is the first of this week’s properties to offer me second-hand books so it earns a gold star for that as well!

Highlights: Adam-style rooms; ‘a tranquil oasis’ (this is how the hall is described on the welcome leaflet and it really did ring true… it is a beautiful and peaceful spot located right on the edge of urban Middlesbrough)

Refreshments: Leek and potato soup with rustic bread, half a cheese and ham panini

Purchase(s): 3 second hand books (‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’ by David Mitchell; ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ by Diane Setterfield; ‘The Swan Thieves’ by Elizabeth Kostova)

Companion(s): Mum

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129. Mount Grace Priory, House & Gardens – 9/5/2018

Mount Grace Priory is one of those odd properties that is owned by the National Trust but managed by English Heritage. This results in a slightly different feel, including a less familiar menu in the café and an alternative look to the guidebook. I was a little sad that my visit didn’t coincide with lunchtime as the tearoom was offering Yoasties (filled Yorkshire pudding toasties) that I was intrigued to sample, but I had a busy day lined up with two properties to visit and an early arrival at Mount Grace meant I had to make do with morning tea and cake. As far as the variation on the guidebook is concerned, I found it a little dry compared with some of the NT guides, which made my post-visit reading a little more challenging.

I have already admitted elsewhere in this blog that I am not a huge fan of ancient ruins so I was prepared to be a little underwhelmed by Mount Grace, especially as it was also bound to suffer a little in comparison to the grander ruins that I visited at Fountains Abbey yesterday. But it did have its own charms and nuggets of interest, most notably the recreated monk’s cell. Mount Grace was a community of Carthusian monks who tended to live isolated lives, spending large amounts of time in their own ‘cells’ either praying or working. There were even hatches in the walls of the ‘cells’ so the laybrothers could serve them their food and communal eating was relatively rare.

You will probably have noticed that I have put the word ‘cell’ in inverted commas and this is because I feel it is slightly deceptive. I entered the restored ‘cell’ expecting a tiny barren space; instead, there was a suite of rooms (albeit small), including a living room with fireplace, a bedroom, an oratory for praying and writing and an upstairs workroom, while there was even a small garden (with outside latrine). It made me wonder… a lack of contact with other people, meals delivered daily, and a compact and bijou apartment: the life of a Carthusian monk could have been highly appealing, but only if there were a TV, well-stocked bookcase and flushing toilet added!

There are a couple of exhibition rooms in the main house that outline the history, layout and gradual expansion of the priory since it was first founded in 1398, while the guidebook gives a detailed tour of the ruins so you can identify the individual areas spread across the grounds. As far as the broad history is concerned, the priory was originally founded by Thomas de Holand, a nephew of Richard II, but he lost his head (literally not figuratively) a couple of years later and the priory was later re-founded in 1415 by Thomas Beaufort, uncle of Henry V. As with most monastic communities, Henry VIII put paid to priory life and Mount Grace was closed down in 1539. As with Fountains Abbey, the site was not entirely destroyed by later owners, although a large amount of the stone was removed to be used in construction elsewhere.

There was then a long period of neglect before a new house was built in one of the priory’s former guesthouses in the early 17th century. Again, many owners came and went and it was a tenanted farmhouse for some time before William Brown, a historian with a real interest in Yorkshire monasteries, commissioned excavation of the site in 1896. In 1898, he sold the estate to Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, a successful industrialist, who is responsible for the refurbishment of the house in the Arts & Crafts style. He had previously worked with Arts & Crafts architects and designers Philip Webb and William Morris and this time employed Ambrose Poynter, a student of Webb, and the Morris & Co design company to renovate, extend and decorate Mount Grace house.

From Lowthian Bell, the house was passed down to the next two generations of Bells before being transferred to the treasury in lieu of death duties in 1944. The National Trust took it on in the 1950s and they passed it into the Guardianship of the State for more detailed excavation of the priory site, which was ongoing over many years. Restoration of the house then began in 1987 and it was opened to the public in 2010, but there is still work ongoing, including development of the garden, while the modern tearoom nestled in the trees was a new addition this year.

Although there is a genuine William Morris carpet on show inside the house as well as reproduction wallpapers, I think that this property will almost certainly appeal more to ancient buildings enthusiasts than followers of the Arts & Crafts movement. As a result, it does seem to sit more naturally in the English Heritage stable than in that of the National Trust.

Highlights: Monk’s cell

Refreshments: Pot of tea and half a slice of lime and zucchini cake

Purchase(s): Guidebook

Companion(s): Mum

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128. Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal – 8/5/2018

Phew! A day out at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is something of a stamina test so be prepared for a lot of walking and a lot of different sights. Unfortunately, my holiday companion isn’t walking very well at the moment so we had to take it slow and use the free courtesy bus that is available to transport visitors from one end of the estate to the other (an extremely useful service provided by a set of very cheerful and accommodating volunteer drivers). I did manage to take a few solo detours in order to admire the views from higher ground (and even managed to spot some of the park’s red deer along the way), but I was pretty worn out myself after that so there were still a couple of things that I didn’t have the energy to see. I came away envying the locals who can keep coming back to take it all in piecemeal.

The name of this property already demonstrates that there are at least two separate visitor experiences available: the ruined Fountains Abbey, with its Cistercian history, and Studley Royal with its water gardens, landscaping and parkland. But this is by no means all there is on offer as the property also boasts the following: an old Mill, which operated for a total of almost 800 years between the 1140s and 1927; the Porters House, with a detailed exhibition about the abbey and its occupants; Swanley Grange with information about the wool trade, the source of the abbey’s wealth; St Mary’s Church and Chorister’s House, which were Victorian additions to the estate; and Fountains Hall, an Elizabethan house built using some of the stone from the ruined abbey and in which a few rooms are open to visitors.

I must admit that I didn’t get to all of these offshoots from the main attractions. I very much enjoyed the abbey exhibition in the Porters House (particularly the model of the abbey as it would once have looked) but avoided the Mill as I am a bit ‘milled out’ at the moment and that part of the grounds was also busy with the paraphernalia of a film crew who were shooting in the ruins of the abbey guesthouses today. I also managed to walk right past Fountains Hall, admiring the exterior, without being aware that a few rooms were open to visitors.

With a view to helping out future visitors, I would also like to point out that, while the main car park is at the Visitor’s Centre to which the brown signs direct you, there is also some parking available at the West Gate from which you can approach the abbey ruins on the flat and also at the Studley Royal lake. Entry is available from all three locations so if you only have time for one part of the estate – or want to transfer yourself from one to the other by car – you can pick your car park… although perhaps not on a sunny Bank Holiday: our bus driver told us that there were 4,000 visitors(!) at Fountains yesterday and the parking had to overflow into the estate near St Mary’s Church.

So, where to begin with the history of this sprawling World Heritage site?  The monks came first, having established a Cistercian abbey at Fountains in 1135, so I should probably start with them. Wealthy benefactors and help from the French Cistercians led to the initial establishment of the community but the abbey soon became the richest in England thanks to its earnings from the wool trade (I am sure current sheep farmers will be astounded to know that their trade once helped to build a vast network of buildings on this kind of scale… those days are long gone).

The abbey went through a bad time in the 1300s, and diseased flocks, failed harvests, raids from the Scots and the Black Death all contributed to a century ‘horribilis’. A series of powerful abbots helped to revive things in the 15th and 16th centuries but then Henry VIII came along and Fountains Abbey was finally surrendered to the crown and broken up in 1539, ending 400 years of worship there. Further detail about this history and monastic life is on display in the Porters Lodge where you can even dress in a monk’s habit if you so desire – white for a devout choir monk or brown for a hard-working laybrother.

The estate passed through various hands after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, with one owner Stephen Proctor building Fountains Hall before everything passed to the Messenger family, which acquired the Hall and ruins in 1627 and maintained ownership across five generations. It was in 1767 that the family finally agreed to sell the Fountains estate to their neighbour at Studley Royal, William Aislabie, and the two properties have been twinned ever since.

The Aislabies are the most important personages in the Studley Royal story. George Aislabie, who came into possession of the estate through marriage to Mary Mallorie, was particularly interesting to me as I had read about him in York on Sunday: he lived at the Treasurer’s House with his family and it was he who was killed in a duel and was responsible for the ghostly bloodstain that kept appearing on the staircase. It was George’s son John, though, who is perhaps the most important personage in the Studley Royal story. Once mayor of Ripon and Chancellor of the Exchequer, he well and truly blotted his copybook with his involvement in the South Sea Bubble and after this – and a brief spell in the Tower of London – he retired to his estate to create the water gardens we see today.

The Octagon Tower and water gardens below

Oddly, the water gardens were not that close to the Studley Royal house, occupying a position at the far side of the park, but I imagine this was due mainly to the location of existing water courses and the topography of the land, which are clearly essential to the success of the landscaping. Unfortunately, the house no longer exists, having burnt down in 1946.

John’s son William inherited in 1742 and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming MP for Ripon. It was he who finally managed to unite Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal under the same ownership. This was something that the Aislabies had long desired as their Surprise View includes the abbey ruins and it was probably galling that this aspect of their beautiful landscape was ‘in next door’s garden’, as it were.

The Surprise View

The water gardens are very unusual, with the crescent and moon ponds, and long canals acting as mirrors to the surrounding trees and follies. There are many such follies on either side of the valley and I managed to visit the Banqueting House, the Temple of Piety, the Serpentine Tunnel, the Octagon Tower, the Temple of Fame and the Anne Boleyn statue located at the Surprise View. If you do nothing else at Studley Royal, I would encourage you to walk up to the Surprise View as it really is beautiful, looking along the river back to the abbey ruins.

Unfortunately, Studley Royal currently has a ‘Folly!’ project underway through which four so-called ‘whimsical’ or ‘eccentric’ modern artworks have been created to re-imagine some of the old follies that have been lost to the estate over the years. One of these – Polly – is a jarring tower of fluorescent yellow, pink and green located on the hillside to one side of the Surprise View. Needless to say, I adjusted my camera angle to make sure Polly didn’t find her way into my shot. I am not totally averse to modern artworks or sculptures in these kinds of parklands but I prefer them not to be quite so intrusive to the important views (or in fact quite so colourful!)

Highlights: The Surprise View; the Abbey ruins; the watery landscapes

Refreshments: Pot of tea with half a scone and butter; lunch of Wensleydale and caramelised onion quiche with salad and new potatoes, plus slice of Victoria sponge

Purchase(s): Guidebook, keyring (gift), cloth badge, ‘A Death at Fountains Abbey’ by Antonia Hodgson

Companion(s): Mum

NT Connections: Treasurer’s House, where George Aislabie lived (and died after a duel)

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127. Treasurer’s House – 6/5/2018

The Treasurer’s House in York is in an enviable location, positioned directly alongside York Minster, which looms up over the garden wall. Once home to the Treasurers of the Minster, it has a chequered architectural past, with various buildings occupying the site over the years, while the present house was itself added to and altered many times before a wealthy businessman, Frank Green, acquired the property in 1897 and made his own changes so as to return it to its 17th century heyday. It was Green who then donated the house and contents to the National Trust in 1930, making this the first historic house complete with contents to be acquired by the charity.

Although tracing the precise architectural heritage of the Treasurer’s House is perhaps nigh on impossible today, there are still signs of different eras here and there, even down to the Roman foundations. Visitors can take a tour of the cellars (complete with hard hat) so as to see what remains of Roman York below the ground… and in the hope of seeing the ghostly troop of Roman soldiers who once appeared out of a wall to shock a local workman! It is reported that the Treasurer’s House is the most haunted building in York and visitors can also read about the mysterious bloodstain that kept appearing on the William & Mary Staircase after a former owner was injured in a duel and carried home to die.

One wonders what Frank Green would have made of the ghost stories but he sounds like he had strong ideas about everything, so he was probably either a staunch believer or a firm sceptic. Frank was a very wealthy man thanks to his grandfather’s invention of the Economiser fuel saving system and he made full use of his wealth, with no expense spared in his project to restore the house. What he did with the Treasurer’s House, though, continues to split opinion, with some delighted at the results, while others are less impressed. For example, his decision to create a double-height Great Hall in the Medieval style caused some debate: he was convinced that there would once have been a hall of this kind in the house, but there is no evidence of this so it could also be seen as a whim. At the same time, he had the habit of altering his own designs over and over: in the West Sitting Room, there are four photographs of different versions of the room during Green’s years there.

Frank’s interest in presenting various aspects of the house through the ages could also be jarring as the visitors leave the Medieval Great Hall only to find themselves in the Blue Drawing Room complete with Boulle furnishings and a lot of gilding. There is a voting box in one room where you can choose between ‘home’ or ‘museum’ as a description of Frank’s project; I definitely come down on the latter side as the house feels far more educational than homely. The fact that Green even wrote his own guidebooks for the property also tells its own tale.

Another aspect of Green’s life that impacted on the Treasurer’s House was his friendship with the Royal family, forged at Sandringham where his family had a home. This led to the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales and their daughter Princess Victoria to the Treasurer’s House in 1900. Following this visit, Green acquired three grandiose ‘state’ beds and presented them in the Kings Room, the Queens Room and Princess Victoria’s room. I was ready to add King Edward VII to my list of visiting monarchs, but the visit came just prior to his becoming king so he doesn’t count. Poor old Frank would probably be horrified at my decision as he seems to have been very proud of the visit (the names of the rooms were allocated by Green himself).

Frank Green was certainly a character and various quotes attributed to him are shown around the house. I liked the sign that was put up to ensure that all workmen wore slippers while inside the house! His threat to James Lees-Milne was also a corker: Lees-Milne visited Green on behalf of the National Trust and it seems that the two men had slightly conflicting ideas, so much so that Green threatened ‘I warn you that if you ever so much as move one chair leg again, I will haunt you till your dying day’. If you ask the volunteers in the West Sitting Room, they will be able to show you the studs in the floor that were added so the servants would know exactly where each piece of furniture should go! Considering the number of times Green himself changed his mind about the rooms and their decoration, it is a little unreasonable for him to be so firm about this but it seems he was an extremely fastidious man.

Whether Frank’s project appeals to the casual visitor or horrifies the purist, his decision to take on the challenge of Treasurer’s House has to be applauded considering the fate of so many other historic houses. A display in the house lists the many stately homes in Yorkshire that do not survive today and the length of the list is galling. Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire is also mentioned and I remember my visit there and how sad it was to see pictures of the grand house that once stood in the park, now just marked by an outline of paving stones.

I have to admit, though, that the Treasurer’s House did leave me a little cold: some of the rooms were impressive (particularly the Blue Drawing Room) but there was something lacking, perhaps the personal stories of a family who once lived in and loved their home. The contrast with Goddards, which I visited earlier in the day, couldn’t be more pronounced and it shows how grandeur and contents aren’t always everything… it is what these old houses make you feel that can sometimes be just as important.

NB: Although Frank Green’s ‘royal’ visit doesn’t qualify for my list, there is another proper regal connection for the Treasurer’s House as I discovered in my guidebook that King James I had visited back in 1617 when the house was owned by Sir George Young, the son of one of York’s Archbishops.

Highlights: Blue Drawing Room

Refreshments: Egg mayonnaise sandwich with crisps and salad garnish; apple juice (the waitress-service restaurant is in the basement so ideal on a hot day!)

Purchase(s): Guidebook

Companion(s): Mum

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126. Goddards House & Garden – 6/5/2018

Goddards is the filling in a very strange sandwich: to the front of the house is the York suburb of Dringhouses, complete with the busy Tadcaster Road and an area that is thick with housing, but to the rear the property backs onto the Knavesmire and York Racecourse, a vast open green space overlooked by the modern grandstands.

Built by Noel Terry using wealth earned through the family chocolate-making business, it is called Goddards as Goddard was Noel’s middle name (and his grandmother’s maiden name). It is an Arts and Crafts house with the typical patterned wallpapers inside and pretty brickwork and gables outside, and it is presented very much as a family home, with information and displays relevant to Noel and his family (wife Kathleen and children Peter, Kenneth, Betty and Richard) who moved in in 1927. With the Women & Power theme impacting on all Trust properties this year, each room currently features some of Betty’s reminiscences about life at Goddards. She is the last member of the family still living and her memories really add to the visitor experience.

As with Beningbrough yesterday, Goddards was largely stripped of furniture before the Trust took it on and you will have to visit Fairfax House in York city centre to see many of its former contents. In fact, the house has only been open to the public for a relatively short while – formerly serving only as a regional office – so it remains something of a work in progress. There is no guide book available yet and some of the rooms still appear a little bare. However, things are certainly developing, and I really felt like I got to know the family while walking through the rooms, so much so that I was a little shocked to reach Kenneth’s bedroom and discover that he had been killed flying for the RAF in WWII.

The rear wall flanking the vegetable garden separates Goddards from York Racecourse

There really is a personal feel to Goddards; for example, the waitress-service tearoom is located in one of the downstairs rooms overlooking the garden or you are welcome to sit outside on the terrace (too hot for us today). What’s more, in the beautiful Drawing Room, there is even a decanter of sherry and an honesty box so you can help yourself to a little tipple (recommended donation £2).

The pretty gardens are presented in a series of ‘rooms’ and include herbaceous borders, an orchard, a formal garden with pond, a tennis court garden and a tranquil rock and water garden. There is also a vegetable garden at the back where gardeners can pull carrots while also taking a peek at the 2.15 from York over the wall.

Lastly, I would warn that chocolate lovers may leave Goddards with a serious craving. Several of the displays concentrate on the Terry’s chocolate business, which was founded by Noel’s great-grandfather, and old-fashioned packaging once used for the likes of All Gold or Spartan is presented in various display cabinets. And then of course there is the famous Chocolate Orange, apparently once featured in one out of every ten Christmas stockings. In honour of this, the tearoom offers a chocolate orange fudge cake so we shared a slice on arrival… I felt it would be rude not to.

Highlights: Drawing room; the chocolate stories

Refreshments: Elderflower bubbly and half a slice of chocolate orange fudge cake

Purchase(s): None (not even a Terry’s Chocolate Orange – are the Trust missing a trick here?)

Companion(s): Mum

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