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.
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
House * out of 5: ****
Garden * out of 5: ***
Theme tune: Dr Who Theme Tune with a Dalek talking about it being only the beginning…