Over the last two days, we have spent some time visiting National Trust properties around Colchester. All of these properties are well maintained. They all have a visitors centre with a cafe, shops and toilets and, as such, are a very reliable places to visit. We get free entry on a reciprocal basis with our Australian National Trust membership and this is a great saving to us on our travels.
Many of these properties were forfeited to the government in lieu of paying the UK’s punitive death duties while some were more nobley donated to preserve their history. Others were purchased by the National Trust because of their historical value.
One of the ones that we visited was Paycocke’s House and Gardens at Coggeshell. This is a surviving example of a Tudor merchant’s house and garden. The house was built for Thomas Paycocke, a wealthy cloth merchant. It was very nearly destroyed in the 19th century, but was rescued and restored in the early 20th century, before it was handed to the care of the National Trust.
The house has been described as an attractive half-timbered house, which is notable, particularly for it’s intricate woodwork and carvings.
Nearby is the village of Felsted, which was on our list to see from our Google search of quaint villages in the local area. It scored a relatively low rating in terms in quaintness, but a high score on the ‘impressiveness’ scale after we drove through the school grounds of the Independent Felsted School within the village. It was easy for us to form the impression that this school was a very ‘pukka’ learning establishment. It’s a coeducational school for both day students and boarders. It has existed for 450 years and has some very expensive enrolment fees.
I noticed that the school’s website shows the Head of the Junior School delivered a message about ‘courage’ to the Primary School students in support of the D-Day commemorations. On 25 July 1953, the school’s Combined Cadet Force armoury was raided by the Irish Republican Army, making off with 8 Bren guns, 12 Sten guns, an anti-tank gun, a mortar and 109 rifles. No ordinary school would own this level of armament!
The local inn – The Swan – was a very hospitable place for lunch with every good food.
This morning we drove back to the town of Long Melford expecting to see Melford Manor, another National Trust property. We stopped here the other day, but we were too late and the property was closed. Today, the property was closed all day.
Not to be deterred, we consulted the National Trust’s website and found two other properties nearby that we could visit. The first was a very fine mansion at Ickworth.
The enormous house, built between 1795 and 1829, was formerly the chief dwelling of an estate owned by the Hervey family, later Marquesses of Bristol, since 1467. In 1956, the house, park, and a large endowment were given to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. The family’s once private home, the East Wing, is now run as The 60-room Ickworth Hotel on a lease from the National Trust. Apartments,. The East Wing, or Rotunda, was built as a place in which to entertain guests. This is the area that is open to the public and managed by the National Trust.
There is a church on the estate and some large areas that were once gardens. These are now being redeveloped, complete with scarecrow.
Further away, in Cambridgeshire, we found another property – Anglesey Abbey.
This is a country house, formerly a priory. The 98 acres of landscaped grounds are divided into a number of walks and gardens, with classical statuary, topiary and flowerbeds. The grounds were laid out in an 18th-century style by the estate’s last private owner, The 1st Baron Fairhaven, in the 1930s.
A community of Augustinian canons built a priory here, known as Anglesea between 1100 and 1113. They were expelled in 1535 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. After many owners, in 1926, Anglesey Abbey was bought by Huttleston Broughton, later Lord Fairhaven, and his brother Henry. Lord Fairhaven fully restored the house which had fallen into disrepair and began to collect beautiful furniture, artworks and statuary. Lord Fairhaven did not marry and had no heirs. He died in 1966 and left Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust – lock, stock and barrel..
It is set in some beautiful grounds and now looks as though it is a combination of a very wealthy 1920’s American house in a Jacobean building from the 1600’s.