Obviously the only way to get value out of a National Trust Membership is to visit National Trust (NT) properties. Unfortunately where we live there are not that many so we either have to travel to an area where there are quite a few or to stop off at one on our way to somewhere else. Last year we spent a few days touring NT properties in Kent, this year we are going to do so again but in the West Country. The plan is to:
- start in Salisbury - Mompesson House (and Salisbury Cathedral which is not NT)
- on the way to Launceston in Cornwall, stop off at Lytes Cary
- vist Lanhydrock House near Launceston (and fit in a visit to a friend who lives nearby)
- back up to Yeovil visiting Cotehele on the way, to visit Montacute House and Barrington Court
- head north west to the coast and Dunster Caster
- and lastly on the way home, call in at Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Cottage in Nether Stowey
past a fudge shop
selling a fudge version of the nearby StoneHenge
and through this Gate which is dated 1327 and is in superb order. Beyond it is the Close and
a house called the Collegium Matronarum. The sign over its door reads, "Collegium Hoc Matronarum Do Oo Mo Humillime Dedicavit Sethus Episcopus Sarum Anno Domini MDCLXXXII.” Applying all the skills learnt during my Latin classes (and judicious use of Google), I can tell you that this translates into something like, "This Matrons' College is humbly dedicated to each of them by Bishop Seth, AD 1682."
Bishop Seth Ward was a generous person who paid for the freehold and construction of the college, which was used to provide sheltered accommodation for up to ten widows of clergy from the Diocese of Salisbury and Exeter.
Mompesson House was built between 1679 and 1701 (details are here, here, here and also here) and in summary can be described as a (Grade 1 Listed) Queen Anne Style house which was lived in by a succession of (not famous) families for 250 years before becoming a National Trust property. As with most National Trust properties, it has been lovingly restored and is hosted by enthusiastic volunteers who are very happy to answer your questions and then tell you the answer to questions you did not think of asking.
A lot of the house is laid out as you would have expected to find it had the occupants just popped out for a moment.
The Dining Room has a traditional table (and also a case full of very old glasses on display - this one is Jacobean showing Bonnie Prince Charlie)
with bowls of dried fruit on the table laid out as it would have been in the 1800s.
The Sitting Room is plush with a valuable Persian Feraghan Carpet on the floor.
We felt very uneasy walking on it in our outdoor shoes but were told it was a “sacrificial carpet” and we should walk on it.
There also are a nice pair of side tables which have the added history of being owned by Henry Fauntleroy who on the 20th November 1824, in front of 100,000 people, was the last person to be hung for forgery in England.
Upstairs is a Camera Obscura pointing at the Cathedral (you can probably guess who is under the cloth)
and this is the image you get to see. There is lots more to see around the house and one of its greatest assets are the volunteers who when we were there, were very welcoming.
I found one other aspect of the house very impressive - the ceilings and the walls and the wood carving.
One of the owners of the house decided that it was not impressive enough
and so embellished the ceiling and walls with ornate patterns
The staircase is particularly impressive
with a superb landing
leading to ornate doorways. It is a most impressive house and well worth visiting.
Across the Cathedral Green is the Cathedral
which inside has a beautiful vaulted ceiling and is not as over embellished as many other cathederals.
It also houses the world’s oldest working mechanical clock. Built in 1386, it has ticked over (an estimated) 4.4 billion times.
“[We], JOHN, by the grade of God, King of England… To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” Magna Carta 1215.
Within Salisbury Cathedral is one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta. Its importance in the development of the rights of people throughout the world is explained here and here. To be within inches of one of the most famous documents in the world was quite something.
You are not allowed to take photographs of it because of its fragility but there is a copy on the wall outside of the display case. Our visit was significantly enhanced by the fact that whilst we were reading an explanation of it, one of the Cathedral Staff started to explain to us, the historical context of its statements, their importance and how they were circumvented at the time or are still the basis of modern day law.
We liked Salisbury so much that we are determined to visit it again next year but for a longer time.
Lytes Cary Manor
45 miles further west is Lytes Cary Manor which was built as the home of the Lyte Family from the 13th Century onwards
and the family lived there for the next 500 years adding bits to it now and then. In 1755 it was sold when they could no longer afford to live there and was then used as
a workshop and an agricultural equipment store. There is a good description of the house and garden here.
In 1907 Sir Walter Jenner bought it and started its restoration and it became National Trust in 1948. He had his eccentricities, he required a cup tea at 6 am every day and usually communicated with his servants using written notes.
This is an 1893 painting of his wife Lady Flora Jenner.
We thought the Grade II Listed garden was superb - these are 12 neatly clipped Yews known as "The 12 Apostles”.
Had we had time, we could have had a game of Croquet on the perfectly maintained lawn
but we were able to admire the flower beds
with lots of flowers perfectly in bloom - how the National Trust gardeners manage this all year round, I do not know.
And the whole place is a haven for wild life.
Round the back of the house, coming through an arch was someone I had met earlier in the day
and she insisted in taking a picture of me looking "dignified”.
The Great Hall was built in 1452 and this roof dates from 1458 and is a superb
example of a arch braced collar beam roof.
Herbs were grown in the original gardens because of their medicinal properties as well as for cooking. This book is a first edition of Niewe Herbal (1578).
This is the English version translated from the French by Henry Lyte who dedicated it to Queen Elizabeth I and added his own observations to the book with reference to his own garden.
The house is displayed as it was lived in by Sir Walter Jenner
and in front of a fire place are a pair of Good Companions which it is thought were used to ensure that there were not 13 people sitting at the dining table (I think there is one male and one female).
This is a Tester Bed in one of the bedrooms dating from the 17th century
and this is a Campaign Bed from around the 1800s which comes apart very easily and was often used by officers sent on military campaigns.
It is a very interesting house with the Gardens and the Great Hall being the best bits for me. We now head further south west to stay the night at Liskeard.