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Friday, June 13, 2014

Chastleton House

If you had to choose between Chastleton House and Chavenage House, I would recommend Chastleton House. Both are old houses (though from a different time period) but this house, being part of the National Trust is better curated. There are volunteer guides in every room with interesting stories to tell.

It is also not a dusty house.

There are tapestries hundreds of years old but they are clean. There is no smell of damp nor dust. The house is deliberately  frozen in time in the state that it was found in 1991, when the National Trust bought it from Barbara Clutton-Brock, its last chatelaine.

The family lost its vast wealth barely 2 generations after the house was built. Nonetheless, through sheer love and willpower, they lived in the house, in genteel poverty through a few hundred years. The result of their poverty was that they never had money to improve nor add furnishings to the house. They lived with what they inherited from the 17th century.

Thanks to the family's straitened financial circumstances, the house has not changed since the time it was built. It was never renovated. New wings in a different architectural style were never built. This is an intact Jacobean house in its original state. This was what made it historically significant enough to be acquired by the National Trust.

The National Trust decided to maintain the house in the very state that it was found in 1991. The gentle decay of this house is everywhere, and it is deliberate. Treated wooden furniture riddled with woodworm holes sit in dignified silence in front of heavy tables similarly eaten by woodworm. Faded but clean tapestries hang on the walls. It took 6 years to prepare this house for public viewing. It cannot be easy to clean it thoroughly, address structural weaknesses, treat all the furniture for termites, catalogue everything within.

Our packed lunch in a field of daisies next to the house.

We walked through a pasture full of grazing sheep to get to the house.

In keeping with the decision to maintain the house in the state that it was found, nature is allowed by the curators to creep into the house under the door.

The Oak Parlour, originally used as a study. Papers strewn on the table and an almost empty 17th century wine bottle makes it seem that an old gentleman in 17th century attire would step into the room and begin to write.

The Great Hall. See how well used the chimney has been. If they had restored the house, we would not see the smoke stain and the house would not have this old world decayed charm.

The White Parlour where the Master of the house would go with selected business acquaintances to talk business.

17th century glassware set out in the Great Chamber upstairs. In a while, you might see ladies and gentlemen come in to seat themselves at the table.

See the fresh flowers on the dressing table? The room looks ready to welcome her Mistress home after a ride in the woods.

One of the gentlemen living in the house was pursued by Cromwell's troops. He hid in this small closet whilst his wife drugged the troops with wine laced with laudanum. When the troops were asleep, he escaped.

Remember the old Grandfather clock chiming time in the hall?

Books, books and more books... in leather coverings lining two entire walls in the library. So beautifully old.

Here and there there are touches of old modernities like the electric water bottle on the bed and an old telephone. This room was as it was found in 1991.

In the garden, the same strategy meant to preserve a sense of genteel decay is apparent. Fallen trees are left where they are to grow and flower.

The path cut into the grass is done deliberately. Originally, that path was paved with stones. Today, to show the house, that path is cut into the grass to show a vestige of the garden's former glory, without completely restoring that glory.

The Kitchen Garden has strawberry plants. The harvest is sold and the money is used to further curate the house.

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