Newest Review: ... out before you get there. From the avenue, you are given your first glimpse of the house. There is a impressive gate house with its ow... more
Watch Yer Step, Your Being Watched
Member Name: Farting Weasel
Advantages: A good place to visit on a sunny day
Disadvantages: A bit pricey, especially the cafe and the volunteers can be a little too enthusiastic, if you them!
Follow the signs from the junction of the A30 and A38 near Bodmin, Cornwall.
Open: March 19 Ė October 30, 11.00 Ė 17.30 except Mondays.
Entrance £7.90, which gets you into the house and gardens.
This is a property owned by the National Trust and includes a cafť, gift shop and small museum. For a quid each, you can get a ride to the house, along the entrance drive in an old 1930ís car. Iím sorry but I cannot remember the make. It was in tiptop condition though. A smashing piece of kit to see running. Very evocative.
I wonít go into the history of the place, as itís really not the purpose of this article. However, the original house dates from the 16th Century, but after a major fire in 1881, which destroyed all but one wing, the house was completely renovated in a Neo Jacobean style, but with all the mod cons of the Victorian period. Much of which is still in working order today. So what you see as you tour the house dates from this period and reflects the life of the landed gentry and their households in Queen Victoriaís time.
Built of local granite, Lanhydrock House sits in its own wood and parkland grounds at the foot of a hill, facing eastwards with views down the valley towards the River Fowey. Although it still has itís own gardens, they are nowhere near as formal as they used to be and are now mostly lawned. However, you can still view documents that show the gardens when they were at their most splendid.
The U shaped house itself is a sprawling rabbit warren of corridors and rooms with an inner courtyard leading to the main porch. It is from there that you proceed to tour the place. There are plenty of volunteers around to ask for any guidance. However, there is a guide book (£4.00) that details your walk through from room to room which I found preferable to the hardly knowledgable stewards and volunteers.
Much of the furniture originally belonged to the house when it was donated to The National Trust and has been lovingly maintained. The furniture that is not originally Lanhydrocks is still of the period and in keeping with the overall character to the house.
I found it a fascinating and strange place to walk around.
Fascinating in that there was so much ritual to so many facets of domestic life and that there were so many rooms that had particular uses. For instance, there is a dinning room, a morning room, smoking and games rooms that had no other purpose. There are separate rooms for the lord and the lady of the house. There was not only a generous kitchen, but dairy, fish and meat rooms as well as a bakery. The children had their own nursery and playroom as well as a schoolroom and bathroom and the nanny had her own room and bathroom too. Sculleries are everywhere and there are even special spaces where food was kept warm before serving and even the family luggage, of which there is a mountain, has itís own special room.
Strange in that even with so many folk walking around there seemed to be an uncanny quiet about the place. Ghosts still liger, watching, making sure you behave yourself. It sounds silly, I know. But I felt as if I was intruding, and the atmosphere of quiet appeared to affect every one there. It seemed no one dared make any noise and we all spoke in very hushed tones. Strange. I donít feel that any one would ever see a ghost as such, but there is a sadness that hints at the tragedies of lives departed that still lingers in the corridors and rooms, especially around the sleeping quarters. Why, I havenít got the faintest idea. Also, in the west wing I caught the faintest smell of smoke (no there werenít any fires I could see). I donít know, maybe it was just me and my still active imagination, although the house has seen itís fair share of family traumasí over the centuries but nothing that could be called bloody.
Hereís another strange observation. It seemed that I was practically the youngest person there, and at 44 thatís not an easy thing to accomplish. Apart from the odd exception, all the other visitors seemed old, made up of couples with plumby accents and inexhaustible knowledge of their surroundings. A bit unnerving that. I think I would rather walk among the ghosts.
For those who are studying or wish to study the local history in general and social history in particular, Lanhydrock House is an absolute goldmine of detail. With allsorts from the tiger rugs in the games room to the diner menus (in French, of coarse) on through to the kidsí toys, you could spend months taking it all in and still find something new. The collection of books maintained in the Gallery is another joy to behold. The reading these people used to do. And the records that were kept, as precise as anything that we use computers for today. Amazing stuff. And there are pictures everywhere, prints and oils, mostly portraits of family, friends and associates. Again, itís fascinating stuff, looking at the face of a man 200 years your senior.
For me, the kitchens and associated rooms and bakery were especially interesting. With fast, convenient food being the norm nowadays, when we rarely spend more than half an hour a day in the kitchen, to see how things used to be done, when people could spend anything up to eighteen hours a day preparing food, and all fresh too. It was an absolute joy.
Mind, I got the impression that being the lord and lady of the house must have been tedious to the point of torture at times. Especially as they had some one to jump to their every whim. Also, as we all know, the victors always, with few exceptions, write history. And in the case of Lanhydrock, the previous owners, the Robartes, seem to be documented as being most benevolent to their staff and the local community, not only putting their trade locally whenever possible but also doing quite a bit for the charities as well. However, to me, I think you would need a certain ruthless streak about you to hang on to, and run profitably, a place such as this. For instance, the rules for the domestic staff, which can be viewed as you walk through, are quite strict, draconian even. I find itís these little details that can sometimes shed a truer light on how people behaved, and their attitudes. Interesting.
In the world of pushing and shoving where everything is attainable by fair means or foul, itís fascinating to tour such a place as Lanhydrock and get a glimpse back to a time where people took pride in their work and in themselves. When each had their job to do and a certain dignity was gained from the knowledge that they had time and grace to get it done to the best of their ability. Itís a place where you feel that pride, loyalty and obedience still has a home. A rare thing indeed.
However, I found it quite sad that such places highlight the fact that the inequalities of life are just as great now, as they were then. No mater what some might people say. And the class structure, now as it was then, still maintains a social segregation that will never change. But, at least these days, we have the freedom to have a go at crossing that divide, eh?
Visit Lanhydrock House. As a (almost) living museum it is a pleasure to walk around. To see things as they used to be, how things were achieved and how folk conducted themselves is sometimes disturbing, sometimes enchanting but always engrossing,
Try it for yourself.
Summary: A strange place.
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