On our second day in Portsmouth we managed to finish off the main attractions at the Historic Dockyard, including HMS M33 (the only surviving ship from the Gallipoli campaign) and HMS Warrior (Britain’s first iron-clad warship).
Moving North, we kicked off our 2016 “Savings” campaign with visits to Basildon Park and Greys Court.
Basildon Park is a late 18th Century Palladian-style mansion of the type you had built once you’d made your fortune with the East India Company.
It seems to be very popular with the luvvies. We got a “film tour” which told us all about which films and TV series that we hadn’t seen had used which bits of the house…. From Pride and Prejudice through the Duchess, Dorian Grey, and Downton Abbey, it seems that a period drama just isn’t complete without a shot or two of Basildon Park.
Greys Court is a Tudor house that didn’t sound that great in the National Trust book but was actually fantastic. We got a guided tour explaining the history of the place, with many of the previous owners somehow linked to people we had actually heard of (for example, one of the owners married a daughter of Mary Boleyn, later chief Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth 1). For me the familiar names continued right down into the 20th century. In 1937 Greys Court was bought by Sir Felix Brunner family. Ah yes, that’ll be Brunner-Mond money, I thought. See, all roads really DO lead back to Northwich….
Greys Court has the oldest donkey wheel and well in the country, we were told, dating back to the 16th Century. Whilst horse wheels are horizontal, donkey wheels are vertical, like hamster wheels. The donkeys would know, when they heard the bucket hit the top, that it was time to turn around and start trudging in the opposite direction….
Next stop was Upton House,which is another WW2-themed National Trust property (as was Hughenden, which we visited in November on our way South). This one was owned by Lord Bearsted, the chairman of Shell. M. Samuel & Co, part of the same group of companies (later Hill Samuel), was moved to Upton House on the outbreak of war. The slogan everywhere is “Banking for Victory” but the National Trust seem to deem Banking to be too complicated for their visitors as there was no explanation of what actually went on or how it contributed to the War effort…. The best I could come up with was a typewriter and a ledger left out in the room used during the war by the Bank staff.
We then had a day at the NEC looking at shiny new motorhomes. Unfortunately, many of the big manufacturers weren’t bothering with the February show, so there wasn’t a Buerstner or a Dethleffs to be seen…. Oh well…. We decided our favourite was a Frankia. It was a snip at £80k (more if you wanted a Mercedes instead of a Fiat)…. It’s a good job Kampington is perfect…..
We squeezed in a bit more National Trust Savings on the way home, visiting Calke Abbey. This is billed as the un-stately home, one where they’ve repaired the fabric of the place to stop it falling down but have otherwise left visible the decay that was the fate of many such houses in the early 20th Century.
Mark declared this to be the best National Trust property he’d been to (I didn’t like to mention Speke Hall, his previous favourite on account of the snooker table you could actually play on). I’m not sure if it was the case after case after case of stuffed birds or the sheer tonnage of other “junk” around the place that inspired him…..
From Calke Abbey we sadly returned to Little Roodee for a night before heading for home on Saturday 😦 Both our houses do seem to be still standing…. Kampington is well except for the cracked shower tray, which we need to get replaced in the next couple of weeks ready for Kampington’s next adventure…..