Great Britain: homeland of storytellers such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Blake, T.S. Elliot. Land of tempestuous clashes of classes, races, ethnicities and rulers throughout the island’s history, conflicts that have birthed some of the world’s most exciting tales, resulting from eyewitness accounts of their unfolding. But what are the real places of legends and history? Follow The Italian Eye Magazine and discover Great Britain’s generational caretakers: the National Trust sites.
In 1895, three wealthy patrons accepted the task of restoring and preserving the immense wealth of British heritage, which lays threatened by the wear and tear of time. Their tireless work eventually grew into a large-scale endeavour to become the National Trust of Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty. National Trust for short.
Over the years, it has transformed into the largest membership organisation of its kind in the world. For revenues, it relies heavily on annual subscriptions.
The organization has taken upon itself the colossal task of preserving over 200 landmarks from Britain’s history. These include such monumental sites as Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, the childhood homes of members of the Beatles; lately, Castle Ward has been added, better known as Winterfell from the hit TV series Game of Thrones. National Trust is also the largest private owner of land, with some 610,000 acres; moreover, it boasts a collection of nearly 1million works of art in its repertoire. To the organisation, it is a sacred duty to tell stories both to the Brits and their guests; this has earned it the title of curator of the United Kingdom.
Packwood Lane, Lapworth, Warwickshire B94 6AT, +441564782024
Originally a farmhouse from the mid-16th century, Packwood House is an impressive Tudor–style home. It was restored during the First and Second World Wars by Graham Baron Ash. Featuring an extensive collection of fine tapestries, artwork, and furnishings, this house has been rated as a Grade I building – one of utmost historical relevance to the United Kingdom. This estate also features the world-famous Yew gardens, which symbolically mirror the Twelve Apostles and Four Evangelists of Christianity. Visitors will often find the estate populated with families having picnics on sunny days, as well as children playing hide-and-seek throughout the gardens.
Wellesbourne, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV35 9ER, +441789470277
Calling this massive Victorian-style mansion “huge” is still like underrating it. Located nearby the world-renowned Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, this house was owned and inhabited by the Lucy family for approximately 900 years. With around 185 acres of land, and considered a site of Grade I, the house features a brewery, courtyard, and a labyrinth of grounds complete with intricate gardens.
Inside the Great Hall, one will find another fine example of Tudor-style architecture, and several rooms feature correspondences between the Lucy family and Oliver Cromwell – the progenitor of parliamentarism during the English Civil War – with a large collection of family portraits, as well as one of the first paintings to feature Black Africans in the West Midlands.
55-63 Hurst Street/50-54 Inge Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4TE, +441216667671
Built for Birmingham’s rapidly expanding working class population during the Industrial Revolution, these houses are literally built “back-to-back” to keep as many families together as possible. This location illustrates the rather difficult circumstances of those participating in Birmingham’s rapid development; it also celebrates the diversity of the city’s growing working class ethnicities and cultures. The communal homes operated between the 1840s – 1970s and represents only a few of the last surviving models of their kind; many were demolished in favour of council houses.
This landmark is only available by a pre booked guided tour, and chronicles the lives of a toymaker, jeweller, as well as other families who shared cramped but oddly comfortable living conditions there. Definitely a must-see if you are interested in learning about the special place Britain calls “Court 15”.
Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 5JA, +441789400777
Any fan of the blockbuster film V for Vendetta would recall the legend of Guy Fawkes, the dastardly revolutionary who helped plan the Gunpowder Plot against the King of England. Coughton Court was the special hideaway for both this planned insurgency and the Throckmorton Plot, named after the Sir Francis Throckmorton, who owned the estate since the early 1400s, to murder Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. Today, it’s fair to say that this family house became a meeting point for a garden variety of conspirators.
The Tudor–style house features over a hundred acres of farmland, a lovely courtyard full of gardens and places to picnic, an immense treasury of paintings. Visit also the nearby St. Peter’s Church, which became Anglican during the Reformation, and where members of the Throckmorton family were buried.
Upton House and Gardens
Banbury, Warwickshire, OX15 6HT, +441295670266
The Upton House epitomises itself with the slogan. “Banking for Victory”. In fact, it became a makeshift enclave for the financial elite during World War II. During the Luftwaffe’s merciless bombing campaigns on London, many workers from two companies – M. Samuel & Co. and Shell Transport & Trading – relocated to this secluded manor in order to procure supplies, finances, and continue operations as the war progressed. Due to its clandestine nature in the West Midlands, substantial number of rooms, and ample access to supplies and running water, this house was the equivalent of the Batcave for bankers.
The house was primarily owned by Lord Bearsted and Mary Berry. The couple holed up in the Long Gallery of the house with plenty of office equipment, telegrams, and wartime banking propaganda, alongside the gallery’s endless collection of fine art from internationally-acclaimed artists, to ensure that Britain banking and art could endure the trials of Hitler’s onslaught.
Ticknall, Derby, Derbyshire, DE73 7LE, +441332863822
The model example of the phantasmagoric, abandoned dwelling comes alive at Calke Abbey. But rather than restoring it, the National Trust chose to preserve it at its most rudimentary level; precisely the way the Harpur family would had wanted it. This Baroque–style mansion was home to the eccentric Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe, 10th Baronet, whom left the manor in a dilapidated condition. Due to his fondness for taxidermy, hunting, lack of upkeep, and antisocial behaviour, some historians believe that his family had been plagued with a hereditary affliction similar to autism or Asperger’s.
The mansion features his endless collection of embalmed animals, a extravagant welcoming gift from the Royal Palace, which was casually tossed aside (visitors will notice it immediately), and vast grounds with an isolated church nearby.
Moseley Old Hall
Moseley Old Hall Lane, Fordhouses, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, WV10 7HY, +441902782808
Another famous analogy found within Britain’s tempestuous history can be noted in the daunting escape of Charles II. In 1651, after experiencing a crushing defeat by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army at the Battle of Worcester, Charles fled to Moseley Old Hall and sought refuge amongst the Whitgreave family. Remaining concealed within the tiny space of a priest hole for several days, the King found himself amongst a precarious fight for survival as guards patrolled the roads in hot pursuit of his whereabouts. Attendees of the Hall can hear his story, read his personal manuscripts and learn the tale of a man seeking redemption through the good graces of his fellow countrymen.
Rising Lane, Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire, B93 0DQ +441564783294
Home to the Ferrers family for over 500 years, this house is one of the Trust’s older dwellings. The property is quietly situated within the Forest of Arden and comes complete with an encapsulating moat and hidden openings for guns, which offered sanctuary and protection for members of the Catholic faith as they escaped persecution from the Protestant Church.
Up in the Great Hall are the stained glasses to commemorate Henry Ferrer’s dedication to protecting Catholics; and on the floor of one of the rooms there’s a famous stain of crimson where an unfortunate incident had taken place. Despite the contradiction and mystery behind it, this landmark remains one of the Midland’s most cherished places for England’s diverse religious history, and the men and women willing to risk everything to preserve it.