Over the Easter weekend we went to stay with my aunt in Wiltshire. Sadly the weather was typically British - cold and rainy - but we had a lovely time. Despite the awful weather we managed to go and see Avebury Manor. The manor, owned by The National Trust, has been rather in the spotlight recently.
For the last decade or so, the house had been occupied by a series of tenants (the Trust lets out some of it houses). However, about two years ago the last tenant left, since then it has lain empty and in rather a sorry state. This was until the Trust was approached by the BBC. The television station wanted a historic house that they could completely renovate and make a tv programme about the process. The Trust offered them Avebury Manor. The BBC accepted and made 'The Manor Reborn'. I am not sure if any of you have seen it, but just in-case you haven't, it followed the the process of bringing the house back to life. The BBC brought in a hotel interior designer, Dan Cruickshank - the art historian, and a few other people. The Trust also produced a team of historical advisers, and last but not least there were two presenters. For a programme entitled 'The Manor Reborn', of course the BBC had to have Penelope Keith (Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton - TTMB) as one of the presenters and the other was Paul Martin (who presents antiques programmes and I think he is an antiques expert).
Anyway, to cut a long story short, many arguments ensued between the NT and BBC advisers - mainly the interior designer vs. Dan Cruickshank and the NT team (the interior designer wasn't so worried about historical accuracy. One memorable episode, which I found really rather painful to watch, showed the interior designer ripping apart a 16th century bed headboard!!!).
Despite all the arguments and set backs that happened along the way, the BBC completed their mission and the National Trust were pleased with the end result. The fact that most of the furniture throughout the house are new reproductions, means that Avebury is the first NT house were you can sit down in an armchair and read a book off the shelves, get into a bed and have a nap, play a game of billiards etc. The programme really marked a big change in the way that the NT is presenting their houses.
So to get back to my original narrative, we went to the Manor on the Saturday. However, when we arrived we found that it was so insanely popular that they had timed entry and the next entry was for 1.45 which meant waiting for nearly 2 hours. I was willing to wait that long but the rest of my family were not - none of them were willing to miss the Boat Race (which turned out to be very eventful) which was that afternoon . I on the other hand didn't mind missing it, so after we went round the gardens and a couple of exhibitions that were displayed in out buildings, they went home and I went to the Tea Room to have a bite to eat and to wait. :)
View of the Manor from the gardens
More gardens - all the gardens were beautiful if a little bare, because they ran out of time during the tv programme to plant any flowers that would bloom in time for the opening of the house.
The Study - 1930s. Henry Kieller (marmalade millionaire and archeologist).
Original 30's radio
Quite a few of the artefacts throughout the house were original and you were allowed to pick them up!!!! :)
When you picked up the phone by the armchair you heard recordings of Henry Keiller talking about his archaeological expeditions.
This is where my photos get rather blurry. It's really lucky that I don't have a dream of being a professional photographer!!
An original Order of Service for the coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra!! I found it in one of the kitchen draws. I am 99% sure that it is not a replica as it had the feel of an original- thin paper - and unlike all the other replica items in the kitchen, it didn't say 'replica' on it anywhere. But I am not expert so it could be a fake!
The BBC wanted to present the kitchen how it would have looked on an average day in the 19th century, so dirty dishes were piled up by the sink and the kitchen table was covered in flour.
The beautiful wallpaper was hand-painted in China!
This is one of the cooliest chairs ever made! :) It is meant to be an exercise chair, which the info in the room claimed was the 18th century version of a cycling machine!! You sit on it, hold onto the two poles and then bounce up and down. It is sort of like a sitting trampoline.
A close-up of some of the Chinese wallpaper.
And another - Here Avebury is depicted as it would have looked in the Georgian era.
I have never seen a dumb waiter disguised as a door.
Lovely embroidered napkins
I loved the design on the china.
A painting of the Governor's house in Jamaica.
This was my favourite room.
People playing billiards
Books from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. A few were by Victorian and Edwardian authors but were 2nd or third editions that had been published in the 20s/30s/40s.
An Edwardian telephone.
There was a wonderful windup gramophone in this room which I took a video of whilst it was playing a record. Sadly this stupid blog won't let me upload it. Every time I try to it comes up with an error message. :(
All the furniture and tapestries in this room were reproductions
...but the furniture was beautifully crafted.
Lovely plaster-work on the ceiling
The ginormous bed. It looks so fluffy and comfortable but in reality it is the complete opposite.
The original moldings on the ceiling are beautiful though, and the only thing about the room that I liked.
I have no idea what the next room was meant to be. It was completely empty apart form a single chair, but the walls were adorned with some amazing wallpaper.
There wasn't much in the room
...but there was this wacky painting.
Well an 18th century version of a loo - a chamber pot in an silk covered seat.
From this room there was a secret door that led back into the room with one chair.
As much as I think that the BBC should have tried to be as historically accurate as possible, I think that the ceiling in this room does look quite good.
This bed is more comfortable than the giant one in the Queen Anne room!
These panels were the ones ripped off another 16th century bed!!
View of the house from the drive.
We weren't allowed through this door but it is the main entrance to the house.
Henry Keiller's fabulous car. :) It was in the barn.
Overall I thought the house was wonderful. It has got a slight disneyfied feeling about it, but not too much. All I can say is that I chose the wrong day to go. As it was over the Easter weekend, and because the NT had joined forces with Cadburys for an Easter egg trail, there were hundreds of people with young children. And they let their children run all over the house as they didn't have to worry about them being told off for jumping on the beds etc. Frankly I would have loved to have the house to myself so that I could have sat in one of the chairs and read a book whilst listening to music on the gramophone (gosh I sound like a grumpy old woman!!!). I also think it would be a fabulous place to have a 30's tea party of a Georgian dinner party. :)