Saturday, 4 June 2016

Nostell Priory - a grand day out

What did I get? A day out at Nostell Priory

How did I get it? Part of a competition prize package from Caboodle

What I actually won was free entry to a National Trust property, but having visited the other main properties near me (Dunham Massey, Tatton and Lyme Park) I wanted to find somewhere different for this special day out. Heading in the other direction this is the nearest (1 hour away) and a new one to us all.

Parking near the entrance from road one walks down the drive to the property, making it an exciting moment when the house appears in view.

Nostell Priory, like several other  stately homes, was a monastic house until Henry VIII's reformation when he disbanded the traditional (catholic) churches and founded his own church - the Church of England. Properties were given over to Henry's favourites and often rebuilt or expanded to the house we see today. In this case James Paine and Robert Adam were architects at different phases, and the building is famed for it's collection of bespoke Chippendale furniture. Whilst not the original owners, Nostell has been the home of the Winn family for over 300 years.

Free tickets happily exchanged, I'll take a moment to tell you why this day started very well - no hard membership sell. Oh, what bliss! The National trust do an excellent job and without them we'd lose a lot of our heritage, I know that, but I do get so frustrated by having to explain so often that family membership would not be worthwhile for us (we've tried it) and we prefer to pay as we go gets tiresome. Not on this visit though, everyone was just happy for us top enjoy our day out and learn about this beautiful property.

We enjoyed the gardens first. The kitchen gardens and rose garden
are not as large and spectacular as other houses, but they are neatly maintained and have an array of interesting fruit and vegetables (including banana plants. Outside. In Yorkshire!) Being in the middle of a Wodehouse novel (Leave it to Psmith since you ask) I wanted to bother the gardener to see if his name was McAllister and quiz him on his flowers.

From these gardens we wandered through the adventure playground and along the lake, stopping at the perfect spot for my all-time favourite activity, a picnic.

Sandwiches and chicken legs consumed, we headed to the other side of the lake and the quieter, tranquil menagerie garden (where one expects they used to keep menagers).
This was my favourite spot with wonderful smelling shrubbery and interesting buildings.

Gardens fully explored we ventured into the house. A friendly welcome and offer of an activity sheet for the kids was just inside the door and off we go to explore. The entrance hall is dark and huge, quite imposing and not at all like other large houses. This is likely because the grand entrance was planned on the first floor at the top of the grand external steps. The first floor is, as usual, set out with magnificent rooms. I particularly enjoyed the bathrooms
- they are still set out with soap and toiletries from a bygone era. I could feel like a guest at Blandings stood here.

In the rooms there are priceless artworks by Brueghel the Elder, Hogarth and Gainsborough. The wallpaper is fine Chinese and the Chippendale furniture is dotted around everywhere. The interiors really are stunning, fine plasterwork and carvings abound. A clock made by the renowned John Harrison (who invented a method for calculating longitude at sea) sits state like in the billiards room.

The volunteers around the house are, as ever, knowledgeable and eager to tell you all they know.

Downstairs we see how the servants looked after the house. An array of bells is still present, waiting for the people of the house to summon them and cater for every whim. The butler's pantry has all the paraphernalia of buttling - Beach would be at home here. Kids can dress up in the scullery and play with cooking implements or make a rag rug.

House tour over we repaired back to the vast stable block
, topped up on the inevitable souvenirs, enjoyed a cup of lovely coffee and made our way back to the car past the huge parkland, all there for exploring (if you pay just the car park fee you can still use the cafe, shop and parkland, only the gardens and house cost extra). The tired kids, wife and mother-in-law all agreed, this was a fine day out.

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