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Don't Shrug your shoulders at Shrugborough Hall
The Complete Working Shugborough Historic Estate (Staffordshire)
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
The Complete Working Shugborough Historic Estate (Staffordshire)
Advantages: A brilliant family day out something for all ages and very enjoyable
Disadvantages: A rainy day may disappoint for the outside activities
In December 2008 we visited Shrugborough Hall for a Christmas fair and had a wonderful evening. We walked around the stalls listening to carol singers and savouring the aroma of the hot chestnuts, burgers, hot potatoes etc. The house was open and lit up by candlelight and the Christmas trees were on display. I really wanted to go in, but the queue was much to long and I didn't have a chair with me; as I can't stand for too long it was not for me to wait in that queue, so my husband promised to take me back for a visit in the summer. We also went back last Christmas 2009 arriving really early this time, but still didn't beat the rush and the queue for the candlelit house was still too long, forever the optimist I will have to try and get there even earlier next year.
With us visiting local sights for our main two week holiday last summer, the visit came much earlier that we expected, and we set off towards Staffordshire for our day trip; we also picked one of the few really nice days of our two week break to go.
As this was our second visit we were wise to our sat nav and this time we followed it and it got us there really easy with no problems. On our first visit we forced it to take us the way my husband thought it would be quicker and we ended up coming in from the other side and the post code sent us to an industrial estate it took us quite a while in the dark to actually locate the entrance (lesson learnt).
We arrived early in the morning and parked fairly close to the entrance in the disabled parking section. (I have to point out that this is a different area it seems to where we parked for the Christmas evening, possibly because you see more with your day ticket and are restricted with the Christmas event one).
We went to the admission desk, which is located in the gift shop and advised the lady that we had reserved a motorised scooter to get me about on our trip. She kindly went on to inform me that I would not be able to take in into the house, but if I had difficulty when I got there, wheelchairs are provided inside to help you and see if you cannot manage the stairs; it may be prudent to mention that you have to enter the Manor House via a staircase as well. After purchasing our tickets and buying the guide book she took us outside and explained my electric wheelchair to me, and left us to it after explaining we have to bring it back to the same spot on our return. With me seated we set off towards the walled gardens and had a little drive around, fortunately it doesn't go that fast so my hubby didn't need to run to keep up with me.
The walled garden was built around 1805/06 and had revolutionary brick walls which were actually hollow inside and they had intermittent furnaces, these sent hot air all around the gardens to produce a mild micro-climate for the more tender plants, fruits and vegetables. They had staff in costume working the plots and you could even buy some of the fruit and vegetables, oh and plants which they produce.
There was a head gardener's house and other buildings next to the walled garden, some are used for craft rooms, there was only one open at the time of our visit which was one for making candles; they were only too happy to give you a demonstration and sell you some of their wares.
After leaving the gardens we came out onto the road which runs through the estate, it was only a short walk to entrance that leads you to the working farm. There you see a sign that says 'All the persons you meet in costume today think they lived in the 1800s they believe that eight pints of beer a day and £21.00 a year is a good wage. Please ask them about their lives, but remember they do not know anything about the 21st century, so please spare them any questions that assume such knowledge'. I looked at this sign and my excitement grew; I do enjoy it when the properties are not only dressed for the time period but the staff are too, and here they interact as well, much more fun.
We looked around the farm house first, which has fully 'dressed' rooms for the period, with some of the furniture being on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum. When you entered the kitchen the 'cook' was there in her period costume baking bread and biscuits, there was even a plate of recently cooked biscuits for you to try. The range she was using is actually a replica of the original one which would have been there; she went on to tell you how they cooked during the 1800s and she kindly offered us one of the biscuits she had baked.
On the way out of the kitchen was a photocopy selection (on A4 paper) of Shugborough Park Farm favourite recipes for 50p or £1 I can't remember exactly, but I did buy one to remember my visit and maybe even try the odd recipe; there are 17 recipes in all including one for my favourite hot cross buns. We both really enjoyed looking around the building, although I think I found it more interesting than my poor hubby.
After looking around the farm house I got back onto my electric wheelchair and off we went around the farm yard; this is great for both young and old, if you like architecture look out for the decorative brickwork in the eaves of the building. You can see displays of farm machinery and some farm animals, it was here that a young calf opened its eyes ready for me to take it's photo, she looked so cute.
There is also a working Mill here, I didn't get to see all over it as my legs ached a bit and I still had the Mansion to do, so hubby did the gentlemanly thing and looked for me taking pictures so I could see what I had missed. We took our time and enjoyed it very much and then went on our way across the meadow towards the servants' quarters and the Mansion, in doing so we passed the 'tower of winds' which is a replica water clock which was once used as a dairy on the ground floor and a gambling den upstairs, this was built in 1765; it was not open to go inside, so we could only look in wonder at the outside of the building.
It is quite a hike from here to the Mansion, but they do offer a mini bus or train ride around the estate, the stop for this is just before the entrance to Palmers farm, so you would have had to double back on yourself after visiting the farm to catch one of them. As I am in this chair today, my husband stayed with me and we made our way across the field, which was very peaceful and picturesque; it appears that more people take the free transport option than enjoying the walk in the sunshine, but it is a very big place and we are only half way through our visit.
We finally arrived at the Mansion House, the Servant Quarters and County Museum; we decided to do the Mansion House first and work backwards. The entrance was down the drive and around the corner; the house looked very majestic and beautiful with a large staircase leading you up to the front door. We parked the wheelchair at the bottom of the steps and my husband helped me up to the main door. The staff watched us and opened the door for us to enter, they offered me the virtual tour, but I declined as I had been conserving my energy specifically for this moment to see the Mansion in all its entirety. I must say at this point although you only get to see part of it as the other part is still lived in, you do get to see a lot of the house. The staff even offered me the use of a manual indoor wheelchair for the downstairs only (as there are no lifts), this too I declined as hubby suffers terrible with his back and at 6ft 2in tall it is a lot of bending to push me in one. So they pointed us in the right direction for us to start our tour and also advised us that the use of cameras was not allowed (surprise, surprise).
The Mansion House was originally built in 1694, but it was extended on a couple of occasions in later years with a new wing in 1748 and again further improvements including a ten columned portico and steps between 1790 and 1806. The hall where you enter has an oval effect with marble columns and curved plasterwork; you will see some lovely sculptures displayed as well.
The state dining room was spectacular with the dining table set ready for the big event; it has been described (from the guidebook) as the finest Rococo interior in England. All I can say is that I was extremely impressed and just wished I could have taken photos of it as the ones in the guide book were a little disappointing. The rooms were everything I would expect from a house of this stature and were all well presented and displayed wonderful period furniture and artwork. Each room having a member of staff at hand to tell you about the history if you want to hear more; the library was amazing so many books and the room next to it was full of wonderful family photos. I did notice a book by Lord Litchfield which I have a copy of at home was on the side 'The World's Most Beautiful Women' I got my copy from Avon when I worked for them as a gift because their make-up was used on some of the models in the book photographed by Lord Litchfield.
Part of the upstairs rooms have been changed to display items like a museum, one of these rooms is showing a display of some of the photographs which Lord Litchfield had taken. Another display here was a model of the Centurion, which was completed in 1747 this has been loaded to the house by the National Maritime Museum; this was a handsome ship.
The house was brilliant but my review would go on forever and I still have more to see yet on our visit; I must mention before we leave the Mansion House that whilst we were inside the house there was a rain shower and one of the members of staff came out with me and wiped the seat of the wheelchair dry for me before I got back on it and continued our visit, I did think that this was a very thoughtful act on his part.
After leaving the house we moved onto look at the Servants' Quarters and the County Museum. The Servants' Quarters is situated next door to the main house and has two large courtyards, the one has a large stone circle in the centre where the household wastes is held and the second one is found under the clock tower and this is the stable yard.
We walked through the coach house and saw a lovely display of coaches which the family have used over the centuries, they were magnificent and in excellent condition, best of all I could take photos for my memory album. Walking through here was like going through another house in its own rights. You go through the kitchen and into the laundry room where there was a member of staff in period costume, who was ironing some cotton gowns with an old fashioned metal iron. It was quite interesting to watch her work and she was happy to answer any questions about her work.
There were a few members of staff in and around this section as you moved from one room to the other; the servants hall with its large wooden table in the centre was actually quite sparsely decorated (as it would be really for the servants), they had tin plates on the table to show you what they would have eaten off, very different from the lavish wares that the main family used.
We got to sample a little beer when we visited the brew house, something for my husband to enjoy; the Anson family at Shugborough took brewing beer very seriously and their cellars were crammed full of barrels of beer. The tour is just never ending after walking around the servants quarters it leads straight into a museum full of displays like an extremely large puppet collection, which is a vast collection of marionettes, shadow puppets and glove puppets which have been on display since their arrival in 1993 (The Abbots Bromley Puppet Museum, the collection is owned by Douglas Hayward). There was also a tailor shop which was once a family run business in a village close by, a pharmacy which is a reconstruction but is filled with items from the Stafford and Leek areas, and a general store.
The museums continue up the stairs with further displays such as a Victorian classroom and a display of fashion and the undergarments that made the ladies dresses expand out. My mind was buzzing taking everything in that we had seen and there was so much to see; after our tour we decided to take a stroll (well a ride in my case) around some of the beautiful gardens and grounds. You could quite easily spend an hour or so strolling peacefully around here, it was quite simply beautiful.
There is a large lake which gave you a peaceful and tranquil feeling, also various monuments which you could look at as you go round. When you buy your ticket you get a map of the halls and gardens and all these monuments are marked on the map with little pictures and descriptions down the side telling you what they are. I have to say we were a little worn out by this time so we just enjoyed the peaceful surroundings before heading back.
Another nice thing about the walk was that you got to see the rear of the house (the lived in part), there was a lovely fountain here which I enjoyed getting a picture of.
As of 2010
You can buy tickets here that last you for 12 months
Adults cost £20.00 for one ticket, but if you buy 2 Adult tickets you get it for £35.00
Children's tickets cost you £11.00 each,
A family ticket will knock you back £45.00 ( this is normally two adults and up to 3 children).
OAP tickets cost £15.00 ea,
They do offer an Adult and Child ticket together for £22.50
All pass holders have to be named so you can't swap them around.
You can buy these over the phone if you have a credit/debit card by ringing 0845 459 8900. These tickets last you for 12 months from the time you purchase them and allow you unlimited access throughout the season; you can book on line as well.
There are more offers and details if you take a look at their web site, I have only given a sample here. www.shugborough.org.uk
You can just buy normal tickets as well and these cost for 2010
Adults - £12.00 (you can get a small discount if you book in advance)
Concession prices - £9.50
Children - £7.00 each child
Family - £30.00
Small family (1 adult and 1 child) - £15.00.
Looking at these prices the season ticket sounds really reasonable because you will definitely enjoy going more than once.
There are different offers on the web site for example if you collect Tesco vouchers or a member of the National Trust etc.
It is open daily between March 19th and 28th October between 1100hrs and 1700hrs.
They also hold special events throughout the year so it is always worth looking at the web site to see what is on offer.
Don't forget to take a look at the website for special events, like the one we attended at Christmas.
Shrugborough hall is to be found in Stafford, it is signposted from Junction 13 of the M6 and you will find the main entrance on Milford Common on the A513 Stafford to Litchfield road, there is a link to a street map on the site if you wish to follow that route.
ST17 0XB is the post code for your sat nav, and on some sat nav's you can even search under attraction.
If you come by train your nearest stations are either Rugeley or Stafford.
There is a bus service available from both the above towns, you catch the 825 which drops you near the hall and you can then enter the estate on foot via the exit road.
Their website is wonderful for useful information about travelling it even gives you travel times from certain parts of the country, for example it is only 2hrs 40mins from London.
I have mentioned that they do cater for disabilities throughout the review, I found it very easy to get around on the motorised scooter(wheelchair), but these are limited, so I would recommend that you book one in advance so they can keep one aside for you.
We did get to use the toilets and they were very clean and accessible. We didn't stop to use the café or restaurant as we were heading to the Golden Orient for a Chinese buffet (I just had to go back after our last visit).
Would you like to know where the word 'Loo' came from, well according to the guide book Lady Louisa Anson, who was the eldest daughter of the 1st Earl, was said to be a surly woman and prone to being very unkind with her words. Her husband Edward King Tenison had a rather large nose and became quite deaf in later life, so Lady Anson would speak on his behalf and spoke quite a lot out of turn and often her comments would be hurtful and cause offence; anyway this led to certain young Dukes referring to her as having a 'potty mouth' and they took her name plate and put it on the door of the W.C. It is believed that there after it was always referred to as the Lady Loo.
I would highly recommend a visit to Shugborough Hall, I really enjoyed it and there is so much to see and do; most definitely excellent value for money. You could easily spend an afternoon here, but it wouldn't take much to stretch that out into a whole day. There was not one part of the visit that we didn't enjoy, even my husband thought it was lovely and has promised to take me back again.
Thank you for reading
Summary: A brilliant family day out something for all ages and very enjoyable
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