Saturday, 21 July 2012

Knock The Village Down - It Spoils The View!

Part of the grounds at Shugbrough Hall.
Today’s Saturday Snapshots come to you from Shugborough Hall, in Staffordshire, where an entire village was once razed to the ground because it spoiled the view! Sadly, on the day I visited, the weather was so cold, wet and windy that I really couldn't appreciate the landscaped parkland and ornamental gardens, but the interior was warm, dry - and truly 
spectacular.
A modern blacksmith hard at work on the estate, just as
predecessors would have been centuries ago.
Originally there was a manor house here which belonged to the Bishops of Lichfield, but by 1624 it had passed into the hands of lawyer William Anson, and it was his grandson (another William) who set about transforming the medieval manor into a stately home. Between 1656 and 1720 he built a brand new house which still forms the heart of Shugborough, with the 'new' wings constructed by his eldest son Thomas stretching out on either side. 
Wouldn't you love a little bookcase like this?
It was Thomas who turned Shugborough into what it is today. He installed 'classical' pillars at the main entrance and, following the fashion of the day, employed a top landscape gardener to create a vast 'natural' parkland, with woods, fields, slopes and dips, all dotted with follies copied from classical Greek, Roman and Chinese buildings. It was like a TV garden make-over show, but on much, much grander scale, because to make his dream come true he took 1,000 acres of land from nearby Cannock Chase, and moved more than 30 families out of the village of Shugborough because their cottages intruded on his idyllic vista. At least he provided people with homes elsewhere, but it must have been terrible for them to be shifted around like that.
The ceiling in the state dining room was beautiful with its
ornate plasterwork and gold leaf, but it was difficult
to photograph.
Thomas also commissioned the most sumptuous decorations, paintings and furnishings. The state dining room is so stunning it takes your breath away - the paintings, goldleaf and plasterwork  ceiling have to be seen to be believed. It's a showpiece, designed to impress, and it certainly succeeds. The ambitious home-improvement project was funded by Thomas' younger brother George, a heroic Admiral who amassed a fortune during his naval career, thanks to the gold he found on board a captured Spanish ship. 
Longhorn cattle in the fields - you see how they got their name.
Development continued with the creation of formal gardens and terraces, a model farm, a walled vegetable garden, and cottages for the workers. But by the middle of the 19th century the 1st Earl of Lichfield, another Thomas (personally I think continuing to use the same Christian name through various generations makes this story very confusing) gambled and frittered his money away, so the house was shut up and most of the contents sold to pay off his debts. However, after his death in 1854 the family moved back, acquired some of their former possessions, and even found replacements to furnish the state rooms. But finances never really recovered, and in 1966 the estate was offered to the National Trust as part payment of death duties. 
In times gone by all the baking was done in an oven like this.
Once the wood had burned, and the oven was hot, the ashes were
 raked out, and food cooked by the heat retained in the stone or brick walls.
Shugborough was the family home of renowned photographer Patrick Lichfield, the fifth earl, and a cousin of the Queen His private apartments are now open to the public, together with an exhibition about his work, which includes some of his most iconic pictures.
These look like cakes covered in marzipan, but they are cheeses, made in the
Shugborough dairy. The right one on the right has feverfew pressed into the top.
Talking of pictures, you can take photographs, but you can't use flash, and the lighting in many of the rooms is not good – subdued lighting helps protect the furniture, decorations and art objects Additionally, some areas are roped off, so you only get a view from doorway, which makes it awkward to get the shot you want.
Lord Lichfield's photographic equipment.
It must be 12 years or more since I last visited, and in that time there have been a lot changes and improvements, and there is a lot to see - so much, in fact, that we didn't get round to everything, which was a shame, especially as it is quite expensive to get in, but we had a really enjoyable day and the weather was so awful that walking around the grounds and farm was not really an option. 
A bath in one of the guest bathrooms in Lord Lichfield's
private apartments still has its original plumbing - and still works
Shugborough is owned by the National Trust, but financed and administered by Staffordshire County Council - and the luxurious stately home and the extravagant lifestyle of  its inhabitants are a far cry from Birmingham Back to Backs, which is also owned by the trust, and which I wrote about a few weeks back.
The dipping pool in the walled garden was where gardeners could dip
their water cans to water fruit and vegetables in the walled garden.
These days it's dry - but there was a lot of water around it!
For more Saturday Snapshots see  Alice's blog at http://athomewithbooks.net/
These snails certainly wouldn't eat your plants - they're woollen creatures
made by stick weaving, and on sale in one of the small bothies where young gardeners
 used to live,  which are now used as craft workshops.

61 comments:

  1. I love places like this, interesting photos and facts.

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    1. Thank you Mazz - it was a wonderful day.

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  2. Fantastic pictures! Love the story you were able to tell with them :-)

    Here's my Snapshot post.

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  3. Loved the photos and your write up! Wonderful!

    Yes, I do want a bookcase like that!!!


    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!

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    1. There were little decorative bookcases all over the place, and a library, with walls of books and a hidden door that looked like part of the wall.

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  4. What a wonderful tour! Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thank you Trish - I could quite happily have spent two days wandering around!

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  5. Thanks for the tour, I love visiting places like this!

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    1. It is absolutely fabulous, and you can see how the servants lived, as well as the posh rooms for the Anson family.

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  6. I visited Shugborough years ago. I wonder what happened to my photos - I'll see if I can find them. I loved the gardens.

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    1. Margaret, if you ever get the chance to go again I am sure you would love it. I want to go back on a nice day to look at the gardens - I think you can get a cheaper ticket if you don't go round the Mansion House, but I guess it might be worth joining the National Trust.

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  7. Yes I would love a little bookcase like that one, not sure I'd want to bake that way,seems like a lot of work. Love the gardens.

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    1. The baking did look like hard work, but apparently they could cook lots of things, one after another, starting with stuff that needs a really high temperature, and working on to other nstuff as the oven cooled, so you could do biscuits, bread and cakes, all from the same firing of the oven, but I forget which order she said.

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  8. haha, that's a reason to tear down a town. Too funny! Looks like you had a great time!

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    1. We had a great day. Sadly, lots of landowners shifted entire villages out of the way when they were creating their country estates, and they ignored the natural landscape, and created their ideal view!

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  9. Again, thanks for another great history tidbit and wonderful photos. I can't imagine a village removed for the view!

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    1. Arti, the who concept of creating these so-called idyllic landscapes makes me mad. It was a particular style of gardening, on a very grand grand scale (it needed lots of land!) very popular in the 18th century, and landowners resculpted their estates, and created artificial lakes, and waterfalls, and ruined buildings, and little hills and goodness knows what else. They planted trees and bushes and stuff like that - all designed to be viewed from a distance, with formal flower gardens close to the house.

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  10. What a fascinating story. It is a lovely view. lol

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    1. The gardens and grounds are lovely, but walking around them is definitely a nice day activity... but the forecast is brighter, and we've had no rain yesterday or today..!!!

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  11. I just loved this. I so enjoy visiting homes like this, even when some rooms are roped off. I bet the olden days blacksmith didn't wear a sleeveless shirt. :<) Great bookcase. I clicked (of course) to see titles but couldn't. Such an interesting story. The National Trust is one of the great organizations in the world. I hope they have lots of money and can keep maintaining these treasures. Thanks so much for the tour.

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    1. Thank you Nan. I love roaming around places like this, and I like the way the National Trust has guides and demonstrations, and 'dresses' the places to show what they were like - there's a great tea-room at Shugborough as well, with the most wonderful lemon meringue tart!

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  12. Love these pictures! Gorgeous, really.

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    1. Thank you Sheila - they came out better than I expected, considering how dull it was outside, and how dim in some of the rooms.

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  13. Oh, wow! It's sad that a town got removed, though. I mean, I'm all about a great view, but it would make me feel odd to know townspeople were removed so I could get it!

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    1. Natalie, I feel the same way, but I don't think the English landed gentry really cared or understood. I guess the Anson family thought they did they best they could by providing other homes for people, but it was wrong.

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  14. Replies
    1. It is a great place to visit Diane. We are lucky to have so many interesting places within easy reach.

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  15. Amazing that he moved the whole village. It was fun learning about the estate from your post.

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    1. some rich folk did some awful things in the past!

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  16. wow, I love this post today, thank you for including the history, I want to go visit now too! Even though the lighting wasn't ideal, I still got the feel from your pictures. Thank you for sharing these today- Book Savvy Babe

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. We had a fantastic day out.

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  17. Those are great photos and I really appreciate the history! There are a few places I'd like to move in the BVI because they spoil the view. Love the cheeses!

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    1. The cheeses looked so beautiful I felt it would be a shame to eat them!

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  18. Great photos and stories! Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. It was hard to decide whether to opt for a general piece, or just concentrate on one bit! But I thought a mix was better.

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  19. What lovely pictures. And, yes, I would love to have that bookcase!

    Here's my Snapshot.

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    1. You might not get many books in it, but it is so pretty.

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  20. lovely photos and the history:D**New Follower**

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    1. Shanila, thank you so much. It makes me so happy when people enjoy what I write.

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  21. One person moving a whole village to another location!
    Thank you for the very nice photos and history.

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    1. The English class system was always a peculiar thing... what about the the various Enclosure Acts which brought the old open field system to an end, which meant the loss of land worked by labourers and other poor people, and the loss of common land where animals were grazed?

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  22. Razing a whole village...crazy! I want one of those wheels of cheese!! Great photo story!

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    1. I think the flowers on the top were just used to make the cheese look pretty, although they did use herbs for flavourings inside the cheese but feverfew would be too bitter for that.

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  23. Seems like a beautiful estate. Pitty for the wet weather, I bet the gardens are equally lovely.

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    1. Sarah, it is a beautiful estate, especially on a sunny day - butu sunny days have been in short supply this year.

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  24. I love old places like this, but I hear you on the "hard to take photos in low light" complaint. I have dark photos of old houses in Louisiana and England, and cathedrals in Prague and Poland. Wouldn't trade the photos for anything, though.

    Looks like you had fun. Send that rain my way -- we need it here!

    Here's my Saturday Snapshots for today. Have a great weekend!

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    1. I guess the demands of conservation for old places must be the same everywhere - I'd love to see your photos of Louisiana. By the way, you are very welcome to some of our rain!

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  25. If it were not for bloggers and post like this one I would never get to see the world. Thank you for taking me along on your visit and being such an informed tour guide.

    I also thank you for visiting my old wagon this week.

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    1. I'm like you - I know about my little part of the globe, but I've learned more about the rest of the world (especially America and Canada) from other bloggers than ever I did at school.

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  26. Views are important, and if you're rich enough, I guess you could move anything, even mountains that got in your way. Interesting post. Here's Mine

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    1. Paulita, they wanted 'perfect' parklands around their mock-classical mansions, and there were certain features that were must-haves and others things that were complete no-nos, and I guess villages came into that category.

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  27. Looks like an amazing visit! Lots of interesting things to see.

    My Snapshot

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    1. There is so much to see you could easily spend a couple of days of there - there is an amazing laundry as well, which we didn't go to this time, but it has coppers, washboards, dollies, flat irons, starch,laundry blue, mangles etc.

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  28. What an interesting place to visit. I like the photo of the oven and, of course, the bookcase!

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    1. I think the bookcase was my favourite. We were able to taste biscuits cooked in the oven, and they were delicious.

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    2. I would like a bookcase like that too! Interesting photos! Thanks for stopping by!

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  29. Wow... what a fun tour you took us on!! I love your pictures. What a fun place to visit!! The dry dipping pool is hilarious with all that water surrounding it!!

    Thx for visiting my Saturday!!

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  30. Great photos. It is a beautiful view now!

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  31. Looks like an interesting place to visit. LOVE the bookcase!

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  32. Thanks for the bit of history. It's nice that's open to the public for viewing.

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