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Published: September 2nd 2018
Woolly says – With fluffy clouds littering the sky, I took my role as navigator very seriously in Zoe’s absence, following the third wrong turn Jo stopped listening to my instructions for some unknown reason! My choice of destination for the day was situated on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, when built it had been considered the countryside, now it was clearly in the suburbs of the city as housing had gradually seeped into the green belt. Wightwick Manor is a Victorian manor house built in 1887 and is one of only a few surviving examples of a house built and furnished under the influence of the Aesthetic movement and Arts and Crafts movement, with heavy influences from William Morris, on paper it was enough to wet anyone’s curiosity. The house had been built for Theodore Mander, owner of Mander Paints (similar to Dulux but with no cute Old English Sheepdogs to advertise it) for his family and remained in their possession until 1937 when his son sold it to the National Trust. As the car came to a stop I clambered out and galloped off to start my investigations.
I followed more slowly behind enjoying the
warm sun and admiring the open terraces that fronted the property. Woolly says – The half-timbered building was a stunner from the swirly chimney stacks on the roofs down past the wonderfully carved lintel’s and windows to the leaded windows and stained glass. Having wandered round the outskirts admiring the details I realised that we had arrived to early to start our tour of the house so led the way into the gardens instead. I found myself standing on steep sloping bridge which spanned the busy road below, based on the Mathematical Bridge in Cambridge it led me into a small coppice where the sunlight danced through the branches and onto the leaves. Having waited for Jo to take her pictures we crossed back and set off across the orchards. The trees were laden with bright red apples and plump green pears, I wondered how many I could get into the bag before noticing a sign asking us not to pick, drat, the fruits looked so lush as well.
My small companion seemed to be enjoying the walk and having admired the ponds we consulted the map to find our way
to the kitchen gardens. Woolly says – Huge orange pumpkins greeted my eyes with red juicy looking raspberries calling out to be eaten, I hoped that Jo didn’t spot the red marks on my paws which might be a giveaway as to my activities as she admired the flowers that bloomed nearby. The gardens scarecrow was slightly different and reflected the interests the Mander family had in the suffragette movement as the straw body was covered in full suffragette costume complete with sash. We found ourselves in the former malthouse admiring the collection of paintings and pottery from the very talented William and Evelyn De Morgan, known their work in the Pre- Raphaelite period. The paintings were rather good while the pottery tended towards the reds and pinks and had lovely patterns or pictures decorating them.
We still had half an hour to wait until the doors opened to the Manor which seemed like a good excuse for a cake and coffee in the small courtyard. Woolly says – Well it would be rude to dismiss such a good idea and having settled down with my scone and
pot of jam I happily took turns between eating and attempting to lick the jam from my paws. I waited patiently while Jo administered a wet wipe to the jammier areas before trotting into the house just as the doors opened. The hallway was long with dappled colours shining onto the parquet floor through the stained glass. Every wall was covered with William Morris wallpaper with its distinctive patterns, the drawing room was large and had been used for women’s meetings during the fight to vote, purple and green sashes were draped over chairs which faced the splendid fireplace. Next door was the library with cosy armchairs just waiting to be used and a large desk covered in family photographs. The hall led us into the room known as the Great Parlour, in my world it should have been called the Grand Hall, it was huge with the most fabulous wooden ceiling, a mezzanine level and an immense fireplace which was bigger than our four man tent!
As I stood admiring the roof beams my eye caught a flash of brown and my ears the clatter of snooker balls, having removed him from the
baize that took up a huge amount of space in the Billiard Room I hurried him onwards. Woolly says – There was no sign saying not to play with the balls! I sighed and followed Jo up the wooden staircase and into the first of the bedrooms. Each room we entered had a different Morris design to admire, grand beds lay under canopies and the sunlight filtered through the lovely glass work, the whole building felt homely and a place that you wanted to spend time in. Down a long hallway we went taking in the view of the Grand Parlour from viewing area before finding ourselves in the day and night nurseries. Games were laid out and small chairs sat in the window ready for small bottoms to be seated while classic children’s reading bulged from the shelves. Opposite was the slightly overcrowded night nursery which had a wonderful animal frieze around its walls that had been designed by Cecil Aldin. A set of stairs led us up into the tower and the servant’s quarters, the family had proved electricity and hot and cold running water which would have made them incredibly good employers from the
maids’ points of view. The simple rooms were comfortable and would have made a pleasant place to live. The bathroom was huge and the bath deep enough to use as a swimming pool for an average sized person. From the tower the signs indicated for us to head down into the servants working area. The last thing you expect to find in a Victorian residence is a Turkish bath and it is one of only two in England to have survived, I peered through the door and the soapy smell that always lingers was still there, it didn’t look like the Turkish baths Jo makes use of in Alanya but I’m sure the family had enjoyed it. The large bright kitchen had an immense agar with plenty of ovens to roast and bake for a small army. The scullery had the expected dolly tub and mangle and led us back into the outside world.
We were both impressed with our finds especially the amount of Morris materials and décor that had been used, a rare find these days. The house had been wonderful and the grounds well worth a walk around and maybe even
a picnic, my small companion had made a good choice in his research. I smiled down at him but he seemed to be transfixed by something on the end of his trunk. Woolly says – I had stuck my trunk in the direction of the café in the hope that Jo might follow….. well if you don’t try you don’t get in my world!
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