Tredegar House (nr Newport, Wales): the NT takes over

We visited Tredegar, a house formerly run by the local council but which has seen a slow decline in visitor numbers, the week after the National Trust had taken over.   Easter Monday. The evidence of the council-history is there in the fact that the shop is housed in the same place as the local authority library!

All the gilding has just been shined, all the fragile pieces put away (thus embracing the new National Trust design of ‘visitor involvement’) and the volunteers primed for big numbers.

In fact, given many of the volunteers were new and there was also a general buzz around the place as new waters were ventured forth upon, the atmosphere was good.  However, given the rain (it was pouring), perhaps we benefited from not having to fight the crowds.  We were second into the house though, so we probably benefited from that too.

I needn’t really go into too much detail about the house because Steff, who works there, writes his own very comprehensive blog over at http://tredegarhouse.wordpress.com.  There’s another here.

The highlight of the house is, however, the gilded carvings in the late 17th reception rooms downstairs.  Ignore the National Trust bed that they’ve put in the centre for visitors to lounge on.

The dining room was also laid for a wedding (with strange shop dummies nearby).

Upstairs the theme is 1930s and the guides tell you about the rather gay, debauched life of its last proper owner, with baboons let loose in the bedrooms, skinny dipping, zoos in the garden, annulled marriages (not only the atmosphere was gay) and lots of hijinks. The room guides were dressed in black tie and very forthcoming with details.  Having myself once worked somewhere and learning that telling stories can sometimes result in a naughty journalist senstionalising things, I’m wondering whether once the thrill of being a ‘new’ room volunteer wears off (and the dry cleaning bills come in) and someone takes a look at Tredegar House from a different view, the black tie and the naughty stories will still be there in a year.  Good job we went this year then!

The kitchens downstairs are extensive and the volunteers there are very enthusiastic about live baking demonstrations and real fires in months to come.  If you ever read my house reviews though, kitchens rarely blow my socks off and this house just has another example of bog-standard kitchens (but with an impressively large housekeeper’s room that would swallow up the entire floor space of many modern houses).  Go for the gilding and the carving.  That’s the reason to visit this house.

We almost couldn’t fit in a trip to the house but decided to do so.  I’m very glad I did because it fits well into the history of the country house and provides an example I have rarely seen elsewhere.  It also taught me something about gardens which I’d never seen before, so more about that next time.  That, I should admit, is another good reason for the gardener inside anyone to visit.

Maybe Steff could tell me why there is a Dalek in the stables [later note: see his comment below]…

When visited: April 2012

Website: http://nationaltrust.org.uk/tredegar-house/

House * out of 5: ****

Garden * out of 5: ***

Theme tune: Dr Who Theme Tune with a Dalek talking about it being only the beginning…

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10 thoughts on “Tredegar House (nr Newport, Wales): the NT takes over

    1. ah yes, looks like they’ve done the old trick of having narrower floorboards in the centre, getting wider towards the outer walls of the room. must have escaped being taken for a ship! isn’t it strange how each of our eyes tune into something different. I hadn’t noticed them until now.

  1. Great photos! Glad you enjoyed your visit. The Dalek was produced in-house by staff for an exhibition/event some years ago. Dr Who gets filmed here quite a bit and we do get quite a few fans of the programme coming to view the House because of that connection. After the handover to the National Trust, it was thought that a Dalek might draw visitors into the Stables in order to have a good look around while checking that their eyes are not deceiving them.

    As for our smartly Hosts and Guides upstairs, it is difficult stopping them from dressing up. My colleague Chris was responsible for dressing the rooms and decided to continue with the Thirties Party theme with his own garb! He wears his own Tux and already had a reputation for being the most smartly dressed member of staff at the House before the NT arrived.

    1. Thank you Steff. Not being a Dr Who fan I hadn’t made that connection. We did like the little wooden horses in the stables to gallop up and down on though! I’m glad the black tie will continue 🙂 Hope you are enjoying record visitor numbers.

  2. Tredegar House has been a great resource waiting to happen. The cost of running the site, more than anything else, saw it move into NT management, and I think we all hope it will be a change for the long term benefit of the site.

  3. Your website has been suggested to me as one I would enjoy – and I’ve looked in, and I have enjoyed what I have seen. I have the 1000 Best Houses book (Simon Jenkins) but not visited as many as you have! But we are tucked away in Devon and it takes a long time to drive out of the county to visit houses that are in places other than the west country. But never mind, there is still plenty to see down here before we drop off the edge of England into the Atlantic!
    Margaret P

    1. Thank you for reading Margaret and taking the time to get in touch! We did our first proper house trip in the West Country in 2008 and we desperately need to go back to those houses where it rained and so we didn’t see the gardens! That’s travelling in England for you though. Poor Trewithen. The same happened to us in Norfolk this year – we were at Holkham but didn’t go to Holkham Beach because it was the Jubilee Sunday and so a wash out.

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