Last Sunday afternoon I visited Dudmaston Hall in the village of Quatt with my husband Franc and mother in law Janet. This home is a 17th century mansion set in a 1192 hectare estate and has always been occupied by members of the same family. It’s National Trust tagline is “An old family home shaped by modern tastes and culture”.
In 1921 it gained an international reputation for its “enlightened forestry” as then owner Geoffrey Wolryche-Whitemore discovered fairies, divas and other elementals using the bottom of his garden as an ashram. He didn’t really. He probably just styled and managed his land in ways no other country gent had ever thought about before.
In 1952 childless Geoffrey passed the estate to his niece, Lady Rachel Labouchere, only on the understanding she would hand it over to the National Trust. She honoured her promise and in 1980 the Trust rushed over to place their ubiquitous thistles on every available chair and to make beds look as unappealing as possible to deter tired pensioners:
There is a no photography rule out of respect for the family who are currently enjoying it, James Hamilton-Russell (second cousin of Lady Rachel), his wife two children and a big brown dog. Hence, I only have a sneaky few. I especially needed to capture this cantilever staircase, one which appears to half float in thin air going “Look mom! No hands!”.
The sales leaflet touts Dudmaston Hall as “a house with a surprise” which I believed to be the startling appearance of these spooky sisters reminiscent of those in “The Shining”:
Or maybe this hideous day wear of Lady Rachel, although to be fair she was more concerned with preserving the iron bridge heritage of the nearby town of Ironbridge than being a fashion icon. And rightly so.
The surprise actually turned out to be *spoiler alert* the unusual installation of a spacious high end art gallery in the property. Lady Rachel married a diplomat, Sir George Labouchere and so much of their life was spent travelling the globe where he collected up expensive art. Franc loves foreign paintings so I left him gazing upon George’s 50s and 60s treasures for many hours. He was so overtaken with the rapture he needed a lie down: