We could get used to this gentle pace of life, with nothing more taxing than deciding on the day’s itinerary, we mused, waking up on Thursday the 23rd of June. Gingerly lifting a corner of our bedroom curtain confirmed that the sun was already out in full force.
Alas, the outlook on our phone’s weather app wasn’t exactly promising, forecasting rain, perhaps even a thunderstorm, later that day. What’s more, the forecast for the week ahead was a bit of a turn-up for the books, with a considerable drop in temperature and lots of rain to look forward to ...
For now, the temperature was steadily climbing into the high twenties, and it looked set to be a bit of a muggy day. Our usual cooked breakfast was had with the patio doors thrown wide open, followed by a bowl of fresh fruit and mugs of coffee on the terrace.
Our destination for the day was selected with the possibility of rain in mind, opting for another National Trust property with lots of inside options. Again, it was one we had visited previously.
Then we walked to the creeper-clad front of the house, with its glorious view of the Welsh landscape.
Originally built in 1684-1687 for Josiah Edisbury, the High Sheriff of Denbighshire, the wings at each end of the central block were added by John Meller, a rich London lawyer, who bought the property in 1714.
Obviously, I had to do my Lady of the Manor pose on the house’s curving double flight of steps.
I was wearing the blue organic cotton maxi skirt I snaffled in the Mango sales last Summer, with my lobster printed top I found new with tags in a charity shop in May 2019. Apart from my trusty Clarks Cloudsteppers and the aforementioned skirt, everything was either charity shopped or found on flea markets. And yes, that includes the hat, which is from the German Mayser brand.
After lunch, we escaped from the afternoon heat into the relative coolness of the house which, unusually, is entered via the servants’ quarters.
Meller's original interiors have been left intact. On his death in 1733, unmarried and childless, the property went to his nephew, Simon Yorke, and the house was subsequently passed down through generations of the Yorke family.
In the servants’ quarters, the walls are filled with paintings and photographs of the people who worked below stairs. From the kitchen porter and housekeeper to the gardener and gamekeeper, the Yorke family had a close relationship with their servants and celebrated their loyalty, length of service and hard work. The portraits were commissioned by the Yorke family, a tradition started in 1791 by Philip Yorke I.
Philip I also initiated the custom of writing charming, light-hearted verses about each of the servants. Jane Ebrell (above, bottom left), for instance, is referred to as “the Mother of us all” whose enthusiasm for cleaning is recorded by her Master:
"From room to room, She drove the dust, With brush and broom, And by the Virtues of her mop, To all uncleanness put a stop."
The volunteer in the saloon regaled us with the story of the George III cut glass chandelier (above, top right) which still bears the marks of damage sustained in 1903, when it was dropped by the butler while he was cleaning it.
According to the lady of the house, Louise Yorke, he was "non-too sober" and rotated it until the thread ran out. It had to be repaired by Sheratt of Chester in 1904 for £38, and they had to send it to Bohemia to match the glass!
We trudged up another flight of stairs, but the rooms were quite oppressive and airless here, the initial coolness of the servants' quarters evaporated into thin air.
By the time we reached the bathroom, I was quite ready to use the unusual contraption which turned out to be a Victorian shower. Made from iron and wood, the uprights are painted to resemble bamboo poles. The tank above and basin below are similarly decorated, with integral stirrup pump and brass chain.