Perhaps the single most off-putting “like”, in the lists provided by Men Seeking Women in Guardian Soulmates is “NT”, or National Trust, seconded only by “log fires” and “country walks”.
Can you imagine a more boring past time than trundling around historic houses looking at topiary and tapestries, leaving the Rangerover to babysit your labrador and rounding off the gawping with a cream tea in some ghastly gift shop by the stables?
But that, friends, is exactly what I did yesterday with Carole G. who had asked me to accompany her, for £20 a head, on a traipse through a country mansion in Gloucestershire. Please note that I don’t have a Rangerover or a labrador and the tea was not in a ghastly gift shop.
Maybe old age has crept in through the back door, maybe that is all one could so on a beautiful Autumn afternoon, which was go around gawping at other people’s furniture and pictures and wonder nastily how they could live in such cavernous rooms in freezing temperatures.
Rodmarton Manor built in a curious quasi-Jacobean style at the turn of the century, is the only lived-in manor house with all its original Arts and Crafts furniture- a great deal of it- still in situ. Taking photos is not allowed, but there are wonderful examples of this solid, austere style to be seen made by well-known craftsmen and cabinet makers who created them for the house. The Biddulph family have lived there since the turn of the last century and the first owner was a visionary with a Socialist conscience who opened the house to the people of the village to engage in craft workshops.
The later Arts and Crafts style is fairly severe and utilitarian, but with touches of rural romanticism and the newly fashionable cubist taste. Cabinets, tables and chairs were not generally veneered, but the material was allowed to express itself honestly through the grain. Articles were crafted so the dovetails and joints blended unobtrusively. Sometimes furniture was painted and textiles had a distinct modernist pattern.
Rodmarton Manor is full of interesting pictures and tapestries (Carrington and William Rothenstein to name a couple of artists), but the gardens have an unloved feel to them. Gardens are like children, with their attention needing traits, and even when they are conscientiously maintained (cf Dartington House in my next post) they will not smile for you if they have been “institutionalized”.
The fruit cake was delicious.