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Published: June 18th 2018
Picture the scene. It is a warm sunny day. We are in Italy. Possibly around Venice or theVenetoand there are two rather studious gentlemen deep in conversation. Okyou have to use your imagination. They lean over a table pouring over plans. Andrea Palladio born in 1508 and died in 1580 a leading architect very active around the Republic of Venice. His houses are everywhere. If you have the cash Palladio is your man. Influenced by the roman and Greek architecture he was one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture. Even in damp and rainy England there are examples of his style of architecture. He shakes his head in disbelief and can be heard to mutter the words " Wood ..................wood columns!!!!!! Never. Cheap skate builders. I am not putting my name to such a monstrosity. I wouldn't build columns in anything but stone."
Fast forward a few hundred years. Gabby is being driven up the M1, towards Leeds, she travels across the M62 and is heading for her early morning appointment to have her solar panel, second gas bottle and BBQ point fitted. It is hard to believe we are five months into the year. We
have bumbled through Easter, May Bank Holiday Monday and today is the Whit Bank Holiday. The roads are empty and we have a comfortable drive across country. The job wont take long which is a good thing as we are too far out of town to visit. The shops are closed and all we can do is sit and read, drink coffee, eat biscuits and I knit to while away the hours. Job completed and Gabby had her new panel plus a better display. One that shows us exactly how much power is being in put from the sun. We manage the extra weight of the panel by sorting out the tool box throwing out what is unneccessary. The BBQ point means we can ditch the portable gas bottle. The extra bottles weight is managed by ditching that bottle. As we sit we receive calls - we can have a bed and various other equipment on loan from the hospice. We need to make an appointment to meet the district nurse who will manage the driver and the drugs. The phone never stops. The doctor wants to come round and update himself on progress. It never stops.
again another couple of weeks. It is June. The weather has been summerlike on one day and more like April showers the next. Throw a bit of wind in and cloud. The elderberry trees are dripping with white flowers. The roadsides are full of Queen Annes Lace and Ox Eye Daisies. We are off to Staffordshire. Shugborough to be precise. A national trust property within our two hour window drive from home. Shugborough is close to Cannock Chase a few miles east of Stafford. Originally owned by the Bishops of Lichfield until the dissolution of the monasteries when it passed through several hands before ending up with William Anson in 1624. The estate in its entirety stayed in the hands of the Lichfield family until 1960 when it was given to the National Trust in lieu of death duties,
The parking was as always easy with plenty of space despite the children off on an inset day from school. The park a long walk until we reached the small café. Lunch was a pasty . Thick pastry filled with slices of potato, meat and vegetables. Washed down with organic orange juice. Our next stop the working farm, sheep in
the fields, large fat pigs snuggling up to the thick mud.
The house was imposing. Free to enter we were looking forward to something a little different. It was also a break away from caring responsibilities which weigh heavily on us at the moment. As we walked across the front of the property we could hear the sound of the trains. Hard to imagine that they ran so close to this historic working farm estate. The Trent Valley Line planned in 1845 was carried under the landscaped grounds through a 776 yard tunnel which makes it almost invisible. The tunnel entrances are listed and ornamental with elegant stone bridges carrying the road over the tunnel. The trains still rush by along the West Coast Main Line.
We climbed the steps into the hallway and were greeted by the volunteers who explained that the Lichfield apartments were closed today but we could visit the rest of the house. A house shaped by adventurers, travels and triumphs. The small hall was altered by Samuel Wyatt in 1794 and was designed to display a number of sculptures. The Doric columns were influenced by the temple of Delos . We wandered through
the State Dining room, the Red Drawing room , the Saloon and the Library, These contain some of the most opulent and highly decorated interiors in the hall, for me the ceilings were the most impressive features. The rooms were refreshing compared to normal National Trust houses as the furniture and fittings seem to be lighter than usual. The Library was created by Thomas Anson with a distinctive plaster ceiling depicting Fame and Minerva surrounded by trophies representing the Arts and sciences.
We moved slowly through the Room of Ideas, the room of imaginary landscapes and the room of treasures. Most of these rooms were empty as the family had been forced to sell most of the ideas, imaginary landscapes and treasures. We were encouraged to think what ideas , landscapes and treasures we would fill the room with.
The remaining ground floor rooms were dedicated to the Room of circumnavigation were we were told the story of George who circumnavigated the globe. He captured the Spanish fleet and took home 91 thousand pounds which in todays money would be somewhere in the region of 9.5 million pounds. Later he plundered the French fleet bringing home 30, thousand
Finally the Verandah Room contained a 208-piece dinner service commissioned to commemorate Admiral Anson's circumnavigation of the globe in HMS Centurion.
So what else was there to see in Shugborough? It was the home of one Thomas Patrick John Anson born 1939, the son of Anne Bowes- Lyon niece to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. When his father died he took on the title of Patrick Lord Lichfield society photographer and relation to the current queen. We did see some of his rooms full of old fashioned photographic equipment but sadly had to miss his private apartments. He was selected to take official photographs of the wedding between the Prince of Wales and Diana Spencer. Many of his photographs were of the bright young things of the swinging 60's - Twiggy, the Rolling Stones. Iconic photographs that took us back to the heady days of the 60's. A trip down memory land before we walked round the pretty gardens. Not large by any standards but full of mauve alliums. We gave the parkland a miss as home was calling.
So what is this with Palladio holding his head in his hands and feeling a sense of despair. As we walked out of the building the Doric columns which looked to be stone were in fact made of wood and painted. The Ansons had skimped on the purchase of top class stone and spent their money elsewhere. Palladio would have been disgusted had he ever seen the wooden columns.
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