Monday, 25th April
Well, hello, loyal reader! 👍
On our itinerary today: English Heritage’s Wroxeter (remains of a Roman City) and National Trust’s Attingham Park (an English country house). We last visited the latter back in July 2004 (so, naturally, I don’t remember any of it!) 😮
English Heritage: Wroxeter
11.02am: As we arrived at Wroxeter after the short 25-mile(ish) journey, it was the first time we’d used our English Heritage cards this holiday. In spite of the forecast, it was a somewhat chilly start to our exploring, but we were looking forward to see how much of this ancient city was still standing. There’s also a (very) small museum here that shows off the findings as a result of numerous archaeological digs over the years – and we’re looking forward to that too!
Today’s top factoid? Wroxeter was the Roman’s FOURTH-largest city in the UK. The others? York, St Albans, Cirencester, Colchester? – no idea! Answers on a tablet please!!!!
Well, actually there wasn’t too much to see here at all! But I guess the fact that anything was still standing after all this time was a testament to those Roman brickies!!! 😁
It won’t take you long to soak up the whole site – we were pretty much done inside 20 minutes. There’s plenty of information on the plaques that are dotted around the location, but some were hard to read as they’d faded over the years from the Sun.
Part of the overall site includes a reconstructed Roman town-house. It’s a bit ‘clunky’ and sits across the road, separately from the ruins.
Clearly, a lot of work had gone into its rebuilding and it’s definitely worth a look!
Our final stop here was a wander around the Museum (located through the shop). The last formal dig here was in the mid-70s, and they’ve got plenty to show for it – it’s just a pity that the Museum wasn’t larger.
All-in-all then, a worthwhile visit, but there wasn’t quite as much to see here as we thought.
National Trust: Attingham Park
12.04pm: It was the shortest of drives to Attingham Park (5 minutes!). We’d worked out that we hadn’t been here for nearly 18 years – and we only knew that because I’d (very) briefly blogged about it back then! The rest was a blur, which is about par for the course with me, but even Ann couldn’t remember any details… and that’s a first!
The first thing we noticed on arrival was how busy the car park was! It was just another Monday in April but there were hardly any spaces left! Weird! 😲
After eventually finding a spot, we headed for the main attraction. The first thing we came across was one of the largest courtyards I think we’ve seen in a long time – this was surely a sign of things to come.
Just like yesterday at Erddig, we decided to leave the House until last and soak up the scenery outside, making the most of the improving weather (now up to around 16-17℃). We hit one of the trails that promised some spectacular views of the immediate landscape that was part of the Estate.
The views were delivered as promised! Absolutely gorgeous!
After soaking up the impressive green landscape, before heading for the House, we decided to take a walk around the Kitchen Garden (yesterday’s at Chirk Castle had been such a disappointment!)
We shouldn’t have been surprised – the Kitchen Garden was massive. Not the biggest we’ve seen on our travels, but certainly in the top five!
Weeds are no respecter of social class or wealth – they’ll grow anywhere! We spotted that some of the beds needed a bit of attention, but I guess that’s one of the ‘joys’ of gardening!
As we said goodbye to the Kitchen Garden, we noticed various ‘sculptures’. I’m pretty sure they were decorative rather than serving some other function. One reminded me of the film: The Wicker Man. 😱😱😱
1.06pm: Our feet were screaming for a sit-down, but we soldiered on towards the House – our final destination during this visit to Attingham. Our impression so far having experienced the grounds and the kitchen garden was: ‘Wow! There’s some money here’, so on arrival, it was worth quizzing the Volunteer on the door as to the history of the place.
The current building is the last word in ‘extensions’! Not content with just accepting the estate as a wedding gift (beats a toaster ehh???) the original house – Tern Hall – was built around in every direction by Noel Hill, the first Lord Berwick. History records the Hill’s as being wealthy but spendthrifts (not an ideal combo!).
The 2nd Lord burned through the family fortune requiring TWO bankruptcy auctions to pay off the debts. The 3rd Lord bought back as much as he could, but just as things were improving, the 4th Lord drank his way through the cellar’s contents (but redeemed himself by fathering so many children, it kept the family name going for centuries!) Who needs EastEnders ehh?
The 5th Lord had been smart enough to sort out the P&L for the Estate, created the Farm and established a nationally famous herd of Hereford cattle. So, things were going well, but he’d been so busy with the Farm, he forgot to have any children!! 🤔. Passing the Estate to his brother, who was 60 years old at the time, resulted in… guess what? No sprogs! Again!!!!
Fast forward a few generations, and by 1947, the Estate was handed over to the National Trust. The title had become extinct and the new owners – NT – began to restore the property. These days, visitors can see some of the restoration happening in real-time. And there was some evidence of this today during our visit, with scaffolding erected where staff were working on cleaning some of the artworks.
Our first impression (in spite of the family not being known for its wealth-management skills) was err, ‘wealth’! This was mainly down to the 8th Lord who mortgaged part of the House to acquire much of the treasures we saw today. Somewhat ironic then, that the family motto was: “Let wealth be his who knows its use.” 🤔
Yes, it all felt very opulent (and if we hadn’t read about the family history, we’d have been none the wiser about the twists and turns of the family’s fortunes!).
The wealth seemed to be evident ‘below stairs’ too. The servants’ working area and their accommodation seemed a million miles away from the dark and cramped areas we’d seen in most other properties. One of the most interesting parts was they displayed the typical wage of various staff on the dinner plates!
1.32pm: As we returned to the car, we wondered why neither of us could remember ANY of this from our first visit back in 2004. Today’s top tip? “Don’t get old!” 😉
Tomorrow, we’re heading for a day in Shrewsbury that includes a visit to the famous prison, the museum & art gallery and if time allows, Melverley Church, on the way back. See you then!
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