18 June 2011

Erddig: The real Upstairs Downstairs

We spent an enjoyable day at Erddig earlier this month - a unique stately home located just a couple of miles outside the town of Wrexham.

Designed by Thomas Webb for Joshua Edisbury, High Sheriff of Denbighshire, the original house was completed in 1687 and subsequently purchased by John Mellor, Master of the Chancery, in 1718. Mellor extended and furnished Erddig (you can still see his acquisitions in the State Bedroom, Saloon and Tapestry Room), before bequeathing the property to his nephew, Simon Yorke, in 1733. The house then remained in the hands of the (delightfully unconventional) Yorke family until 1973, when it was handed over to the National Trust so that it could be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

The weather was somewhat unpredictable during our visit but the rain stayed away long enough for us to amble around the estate buildings where the joiner and blacksmith worked. We walked through the midden yard with the saw mill and cart sheds to the stable yard with its tackroom, carriages, cars and cycles.

We then stopped off at the restaurant for sandwiches and cakes (I would highly recommend the hot chocolate) before making our way to the house via the bakery, complete with authentic baker kneading dough (you can buy his fresh loaves in the restaurant). From this point on, visitors were no longer allowed to use flash photography - understandable given the age and fragility of the photographs and portraits adorning the walls - but the use of cameras was still permitted.

There were human guides posted on every staircase and in each room, all eager to answer questions and impart their knowledge about the historic kitchens, agent’s office, butler’s pantry and fascinating collection of photographs and verses detailing the lives of those who worked for the estate. We made our way upstairs to a set of elegant rooms, used for formal entertainment, and from there we visited a nursery, the bedrooms, chapel, female servants’ quarters in the attic and spent several happy hours poring over the accumulated treasures of a family that ‘never threw anything away’.

The rain was falling quite heavily by the time we had finished our tour of the main house. We sat in a shelter for a time but the downpour showed no sign of abating, so we dashed to the gift shop for postcards and presents. The famous 18th century walled garden with rare fruit trees, a canal, pond and National Ivy Collection would have to wait for another time. Perhaps on our next visit we will hire bicycles and explore the country park with its motte-and-bailey castle and cylindrical cascade, known as the ‘cup-and-saucer waterfall’.

Erddig is open all year round (with the exception of 25th December) but times vary according to the season. You can pick up a copy of the official leaflet (The jewel in the crown) from most LDS Tourism Services’ information points in the region.

Image: The Bakery at Erddig, © LDS Tourism Services Ltd, 2011

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