Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Calke Abbey and Harold Staunton Church

Hello Readers,
We were off for three days after returning from Israel so we decided to see a couple of sights last weekend instead of lounging around the house all weekend long.  Our first stop was Calke Abbey (Wiki link) which is similar to Kedleston Hall from a few weeks ago except this place has not been refurbished at all and the grounds have not been kept up.  This was done purposely to show a manor house in decline instead of at its peak which was interesting.  Peeling paint, junk piled in bedrooms, overgrown lawn... this place was quite the contrast to the stately manor houses we have visited.  Summarising from the brochure and tour guides: the site used to be a priory in the 12th century, the house was built in 1704 for Sir John Harpur (the family name later changed to Harpur Crewe), and with the family line dying out the property was donated the The National Trust to preserve it.  The literature calls the family eccentric which may be true but they were also first class trophy animal hoarders as you will see later.  One thing that confused me is the name - it is called an abbey now, originally was a priory but was recently used as a manor house.  Brits can be so confusing.   

The Steve Frey pic - I think this guy is sticking his tongue out at me. 

Steve Frey pic - nap time.

Another Steve Frey pic - a rare black ram bleating at me. 

The Entrance Hall and Lobby - There were more animal heads mounted on these walls then any place I have ever seen. 

The Caricature Room - on the walls were political and society cartoons. 

A shamrock covered porcelain pig.

He's envious of the shamrock pig I guess.

Water buckets - from one of the guides there was one of the manor owners who was paranoid of fire as evidenced by the number of water buckets.  He once caught his daughter smoking in her bedroom and kicked her out of the house!

Early 20th century sprinkler system.

Sprinkler system assembled.

The Saloon - some rooms such as this one still looked nice...

until you saw the display cases filled with stuffed birds and the antlers lining the walls. I'm all for sportsmen trophies but this house was extravagantly excessive.

The Dining Room - not as fancy as other manor houses we have seen so I am guessing this family wasn't as rich as the other families.  

The Teresa Robinett pic - horse pictures lined The Library walls.

The Breakfast Room - the family started collecting "treasure" at some point and ran out of room to store everything so they just starting stuffing rooms like this one.  

The busy Boudoir - I think this decorating style is called cluttered. 

Early 20th century shower.

Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe's Bedroom - once rooms were abandoned the family started piling junk in them.  First step of hoarding I believe.   

The Bird Lobby - floor to ceiling display cases.  The menagerie has become to much by now.

Big Mouth Billy Bass' grandfather.

An earth closet - this predecessor to the flush toilet used dirt in the bottom and the dirt was replaced after using.    

The Main Staircase, made of oak and yew.  You can always tell in these houses what staircases/hallways the family used versus which ones the servants used.  The servants' are plain and bland while the families' are carpeted, decorated with art and usually painted or stained.

Hallway that has not been restored. 

A Magic Lantern - it reminded me of when we were kids and my dad used to set up his slide projector when company came over. 

Lantern lion.

The Lori Seppanen pic - bread oven on the right.  There used to be a fire and cauldron on the left, in the 1900's they removed it and put this boiler in place to supply the house with hot water.  Interesting seeing the conversion to a 20th century house as we walked through. 

The Brew House - monstrous beer brewing vat.

The Jim Seppanen pic - Kal posed by this huge tree. 

Front of Calke Abbey.  The troop is on the left.

Showing the front and side of the house.

On the grounds were the Walled Gardens which were kept up.

Also on the property was a church.  Having a church on your property must have been a status symbol back in the day.

Inside church pic.

Stained glass above the altar.

Another Jim Seppanen pic - you had to walk through the woods to get to the church.

A Jim Seppanen pic - I thought this looked interesting since it looks like a mushroom. 

Steve Frey pic - they had a deer park on the grounds.  Check out the albino deer.

The Stables.

Check out this posh buggy - fur lined floorboard.

Info board on the buggy for the curious.

After Calke was Staunton Harold Church (Wiki link or National Trust link).  We are National Trust members which means we can tour it for free (that's for you Ma) so we stopped by to check it out.  Short story for the non-link readers is the church was "...built by Robert Shirley an ardent Royalist, in defiance of Cromwell.  Imprisoned in the Tower of London six times, he died at the age of 27." 

The church is on the Staunton Harold Estate (link) which was not all open to the public.  We could walk the grounds and visit the crafts shops in the old stables but couldn't visit the hall.  Another large property but not as big as Calke.

The church, check out the Rolls Royce on the right.  There was a posh wedding taking place in the hall and there were three Rolls Royce cars in front of the hall.  I was going to take a picture of them once everyone went inside but they drove off before I could take it.  Bummer. 

The Serpentine Lake on the estate.

What used to be the Golden Gates entrance.  A stag is on the left, a talbot (hound) is on the right.  I didn't know what a talbot was either. 

The church was built in 1653.

Cloudy nave ceiling.  See the sheet below for the explanation.

View down centre of nave.

Brief explanation of the church ceilings.

Altar area.

The stained glass reminded me of our Israel trip.

Looking at the entrance and organ.

Side wall of church.

Robert Shirley.

Staunton Harold Hall, it was buily between 1760 and 1780.

A final Steve Frey pic - a bunch of lazy Holsteins along the side of the road. 

A quick Carol Seppanen book update - last week I picked up The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury, 439 pages.  I was thinking it would take place in Jerusalem and with us going there it seemed to be a good choice.  I'm over half way through the book now and only a few pages talk about the Holy City but at least it is an entertaining read.  Unfortunately it is looking like a series of books so I will have to buy the others to see how the story ends.  The story is about the Templars protecting a secret whilst their reign ends at the hands of the King of France and the Vatican.  Full of secrecy and conspiracy, it bounces between modern day and the final days of the Templars.  Right now the modern day treasure searchers are in Turkey following the encrypted clues that will unearth the Templar's secret.  Stay tuned.

Thanks for listening,


  1. Slow down, big fella. Two posts in one week.

    Take a look at one of my early posts before I got all verbose. We have the Shamrock pig, deer and a Rolls-Royce too!

    1. How funny, where did you see the RR? I should have "borrowed" your write up, I liked it better than mine.