After our enjoyable day at Powis Castle last month, Kate and I arranged a National Trust day, where we would visit both Wightwick Manor and Moseley Old Hall in Wolverhampton.
We decided to start our day at Wightwick Manor, a victorian manor house built during the 1880s and 90s on the outskirts of Wolverhampton and owned by the Mander family until 1937 when it was offered to the National Trust.
Coincidentally, the Antiques Roadshow is being filmed at Wightwick Manor on Thursday (26th July 2012), it is a pity we didn’t go that day, just to look out for ourselves on the television.
A Little History
Wightwick Manor was built in two stages, the first stage completed in 1887 and the second stage in 1893. The first stage of the build was a modest sized house that became the family wing. This section of the house consisted of the Drawing Room, Dining Room (in what is now the Library), the lady’s boudoir and several other upstairs rooms. The guest wing, significantly increasing the size of the house, comprised of the Great Parlour, a new Billiard Room, Dining Room, Kitchens and guest bedrooms.
The manor was designed by Edward Ould in the “old English style” with much of the outer shell made to look like an Elizabethan building and inside, many of the rooms designed in a Jacobean style similar to some of the rooms in Powis Castle. The Mander family, who owned the Mander Brother’s company that manufactured varnishes, paints and printing inks from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, were very enthusiastic about the Arts and Crafts Movement of the nineteenth century and were particularly fond of William Morris. There are many examples of William Morris’ work throughout Wightwick Manor including wall coverings, curtains and upholstery. As well as William Morris, the house’s collection also includes tiles and pottery by William de Morgan and stained glass windows by Charles Eamer Kempe.
As a show of wealth, Wightwick Manor was built with all the “mod-cons” of the period including electricity, a form a air-conditioning and central heating. The house also came with a communication system that allowed the master of the house to call for the car, by blowing into a pipe linked to the one of the out-buildings. The Great Parlour features an original lightbulb by the entranceway and two electric chandeliers.
In 1937, Wightwick Manor was offered to the National Trust by Sir Geoffery Mander. Initially, the National Trust rejected Geoffrey’s offer as the house was only fifty years old, they were however, later persuaded by Mander when he offered an endowment of twenty thousand shares in the Mander company.
Arriving at Wightwick Manor, after parking the car, we explored the gardens before our guided tour began at midday. Following the non-stop rain we’ve had in Britain for the last month or so, it was lovely to spend a day in the sun exploring gardens and country houses.
The gardens at Wightwick Manor were designed and laid by Thomas Hayton Mawson, a garden designer, landscape architect and town planner from Lancashire. The first of the Wightwick Manor gardens we explored was the Rose Garden.
The kitchen garden at Wightwick Manor was smaller than those of Tatton Park and Powis Castle, but then the house is considerably smaller than those two examples. Walking past the scarecrow, reindeer and mouse and will come to the Peach House.
In August 2012, the Wightwick Manor gardens will be the setting for a performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. With a picnic and a bottle of wine, I’m sure it would make a marvellous Friday night. Tickets cost twelve pounds and can be purchased here.
After wandering around gardens, it was time for us to have our guided tour of the house. Unfortunately, like Powys and Penrhyn Castles, taking photos inside the house is prohibited and so interior photos below are taken from the National Trust Images website.
The entrance to the house shows off the building’s victorian origin, with much more red brick on show than the guest extension. Walking through the entrance door, you come to the hallway.
Due to the modest size of the family size of the house, an alcove seating area was built into the hallway. With a desk chairs and fireplace, this space was utilised as an additional sitting space but also a space for visitors to wait before being greeted by the family, similar to the Card Rooms in some of the grander Country Houses, where visitors would leave their calling cards for master of the house they were visiting.
The Drawing Room was actually the first room we went into during the guided tour. I’ve never had a guided tour of a National Trust property before, I was surprised by tour guide allowing people to sit down, so long as they didn’t sit on any of the fragile or upholstered chairs.
As you walk in the room, to your left will be a grand piano, I remember saying to Kate later, that I long to have a grand piano in my house. One wall in the Drawing Room is decorated with wood panelling, this wall includes a secret door to a hidden staircase to the boudoir, allowing the lady of the house to quickly get from one room to the other. The boudoir, used as a study, is now part of an apartment for the use of the Mander family. All other walls are decorated with William Morris wallpaper.
When first entering the Drawing Room, it can seem quite dark, the room has two large bay windows, however the William Morris wallpaper has been sun damaged resulting in colour fading, meaning the room has to be kept quite dark.
Moving on from the Drawing Room, we walked through the hallway, past the library and into the Great Parlour.
Much of the library was sectioned off, I assume this is due to its small size and lack of space for large numbers of people. Like the library of Powis Castle, I thought it a little too small for my taste, having been spoiled by the libraries of Penrhyn Castle and Tatton Hall.
The Great Parlour
I absolutely adore the Great Parlour at Wightwick Manor, it is such an impressive room, full of dark wood panelling and several William Morris wall panels and an inglenook fireplace and seating area. The Great Parlour is the heart of the guest wing extension and compared to the size of the other rooms, is a massive space.
I said to Kate, I would want a room where a ball could be held and later, that the Great Parlour would have room enough for a ball, with the band/orchestra playing from the gallery. Her reply was, that I have been watching too much of The Muppet Christmas Carol.
The two doors in the photo above lead off to the Billiard Room on the right and the Dining Room on the left.
The Billiard Room
After being given the option to sit down, I was even more surprised with the offer to play on the billiard table. No one did try it out, however, possibly out of the fear of damaging it. The offer did remind me of “The Manor Reborn” a BBC series in which a group of people restored Avesbury Manor, a National Trust property in Wiltshire. The renovation was done very differently from the majority of National Trust restorations, many contents of Avesbury Manor are reproductions, giving the visitors the chance to touch, feel and enjoy all aspects of the house, from playing billiards, laying on the bed in Queen Anne’s room, to reading books in the library.
In July 1900, the then Duke and Duchess of York George (later King George V and Queen Mary) visited the Mander family at Wightwick Manor. In the Billiard Room near the entrance to the Dining Room, there is a photograph of the Mander family with the Duke and Duchess along with a framed letter dated August 1950 from the Queen Mary’s private secretary, thanking Geoffrey Mander for sending her tree cuttings and original copies of photographs from her visit.
The Dining Room
The Dining Room at Wightwick Manor, reminded of the Dining Room at Powis Castle, with the same Jacobean wood panelling on the walls and ornate plaster ceiling. One thing that did cross my mind in this room was the round table, I haven’t seen a round table in a National Trust dining room before, but then again I have only so far been to five or six.
The Day Nursery
Walking upstairs, through a bedroom or two and down a corridor and you come to the Day Nursery. The day nursery was redecorated into its current incarnation in the 1930s, allowing children to play with some of the vintage toys and featuring a peasant costume owned by one of the Mander children. I was particularly taken by a praxinoscope depicting a man doing somersaults in the mirrors as the cylinder spun.
Around the house there are a number of bookcases. I tried, in passing, to locate a Jane Austen novel, though my attempt was in vain. I did however locate a book about the Egyptians in the Drawing Room and a copy of Cranford outside the Nursery. I am sure the Austen novels are just kept in the library with the rest of the precious books. Speaking of precious books, Kate visited Highclere Castle last week (Downton Abbey) and wished she could steal some very old pretty looking Jane Austen novels from the library there.
Concluding our visit to Wightwick Manor, before heading off to Moseley Old Hall Kate and I replenished our energy levels by eating several of the biscuits she had baked especially for our National Trust Day.
The first two biscuits we ate were her first attempt at Jane Austen biscuits (because every blog post must have a small mention of Austen). Kate has promised to guest write a blog post about Jane Austen biscuits when she has perfected them.
After our biscuits, we drove off to Moseley Old Hall for the second half of our National Trust day in the sun.
- http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wightwick-manor/ – Official National Trust Webpage
- http://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk – National Trust Images
- http://www.owlpen.com/wightwick.shtml – A History of Wightwick Manor