Calke Abbey The Un-Stately Home.
Calke Abbey is certainly a grand old house, so for National trust to make the decision to leave it in its tired state, rather than tidy it up and restore it to its former glory, may from an outside perspective seem very odd.
But on visiting this place you realise its absolute genius to have come to this decision. National Trust have chosen to only preserve the house in the state that it was found rather than restore.
As you enter the house all seems to be well with this old property and straight away you know that the former owner was keen on a little taxidermy, and to gather that the owner was a bit of a collector is quite an understatement.
The eccentric Harpur family who once lived here had such a collection of items, some of which were hidden away for years. The house in Derbyshire was handed over to The National Trust in 1985, and it was then discovered that many of the rooms in the house had been left untouched for years whilst the final owner lived in just one small portion of the home.
This room was just as you came in the entrance clearly used for breakfast in the final days, as illustrated by the table setting. I'm not sure I could imagine enjoying my breakfast surrounded by all these deer heads, bulls, foxes and otters in cabinets watching me.
As you weave your way around the house the Taxidermy is increasingly evident, this family had a clear obsession with this old once popular hobby, if you could call it that. Cabinets are literally jam packed with all kinds of birds and wildlife it really was quite overwhelming how much was stored here, and to think they lived with these things around them.
Naomi standing in front of towers of cabinet after cabinet of stuffed creatures.
For the kids looking in these rooms was fascinating, Their verdict was, this was one of the best houses they had been to, and its not hard to see why, with so much of the house being filled with the most unexpected items.
I love how National Trust always encourage the children to enter into the experience with things to look at, touch and feel, like this little box of tactile items, like shells, pine cones, fabrics and discovery cards.
Of course the kids also had their little clip board with a list of treasures to find in various rooms, always a winner with the kids.
Some rooms look just as you might expect from a stately home but you soon see how things begin to peel and crumble as you discover more of the house.
There is an intriguing atmosphere in this house that just draws you into the time stood still, its sort of eerie but exciting, and you can see the kids just drawn in by the adventure of the house and its history.
An old wood panelled corridor with creaking floor boards.
Ornate wall paper peeling away.
Furniture covered by dust sheets just as it was found.
Old stone staircases.
An abandoned laundry room.
Inside the old kitchen.
Taking in the sites of this house you almost feel like you are trespassing on a hidden world that was left for hundreds of years. I think this site is quite unique and we had such a fantastic time here, we will definitely be visiting again very soon.
For Davinder and I both being Textile designers, these kind of places always ignite fresh inspiration for us. We already decided that this place would be fantastic to visit some day without the kids, so that we could sit quietly and sketch and draw various things around the house.
We got plenty of inspiration from the patterns on the peeling wall papers and textiles. I decided to create a third post on the prints we discovered so watch this space for part three on Calke prints.
I hope this post has inspired you to visit, or perhaps after reading all our National Trust posts you fancy joining so you can visit many of the places we have listed, for a much more affordable cost. Go check out their website for details.
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