We hadn't planned on another National Trust trip until later this week but on discovering that Sunnycroft, the next place on our agenda, was due to close for the season we had to act fast. After yesterday's exploits, a 12.30 Wetherspoons lunch date that resulted in us staggering home at 10pm, getting up bright and early wasn't as easy as it should have been.
Hard to think that the enchanting approach to Sunnycroft is bang in the middle of a housing estate on the outskirts of bustling town centre, isn't it?
So what is Sunnycroft? It's a rare Victorian suburban villa and mini-estate, small in stature but big on impression, built by the aspiring middle classes of the day to emulate the grandeur of Shropshire's country houses. The rarity is that most houses of this size have long since been carved up by developers or flattened entirely. Sunnycroft is a survivor, bequeathed to the National Trust in 1997 by the last family to live there, The Landers, who bought the house in 1910.
It may seem a bit odd for us to visit a home built in 1879, when our own house is over a hundred and thirty years older, but it wasn't just the architecture we were interested in, it was the stuff inside.
The Landers threw nothing away and so Sunnycroft is home to some eight thousand items, too many to have on display but enough to allow a tantalising peek into how they lived their lives.
Vintage coats and battered leather bags, left from the last time the owners had worn them.
The pantry was roped off as the original linoleum floor was in a very delicate state. I took a fancy to the green glass bowl on the top shelf.
The Landers weren't the first owners of Sunnycroft. It was built for JG Wrackrill, a wealthy local brewer. On his death in 1880 the house was put up for auction and purchased by Mary Jane Slaney, the widow of a wine and spirit merchant, a year later. Its said that she married well, outlived two (much older) husbands and inherited a large amount of money from both them and her well-to-do family. She extended the house in 1899 and became famous for hosting parties, up to three times a week for between 25 to 30 guests at a time. Apparently you were nobody in Shropshire's high society unless you'd been invited to one of Mrs Slaney's parties.
Designed to impress, these Maws & Co. tiles were said to have cost almost £2000 at the time. A staggering amount of money.
In accordance with the etiquette of the day, Sunnycroft was divided into male and female areas. This was the billiard room, when the gentlemen guests would play with their balls over a glass of something alcoholic and a smoke (nothing changes, does it?)
The Leg 'o' mutton sleeve belongs to Mrs Slaney (a fabulous guide who dressed and acted the part of the lady of the house brilliantly). Oh, how marvellous! She exclaimed when she saw me, Finally a guest who knows how to dress to impress. One simply must give me the name of ones seamstress when one departs, my dear.
I loved this almost psychedelic Victorian runner on both the landing and the stairs.
A gentleman's guest bedroom.
The cook's bedroom.
The volunteers decided they should keep me in the house as a permanent exhibit. I'd be quite happy to oblige, there's some bostin' charity shops down the road.
The mannequin in the master bedroom gets changed several times a year. This is one of Mrs Slaney's mourning dresses, designed for evening wear. The curtains had to kept drawn to prevent it being damaged by sunlight. The room guide, after admiring my outfit, opened the wardrobe behind me to reveal the contents, it was crammed with Victorian dresses to die for.
In one of the many outbuildings we saw the Lander family's Daimler, purchased at the Earl's Court Motor Show in 1955 and recently valued at over a million quid. Testament to how cluttered the outbuildings were, the National Trust had owned Sunnycroft for over a year before they discovered it.
|I've had to borrow this image as the car was wrapped up in plastic and didn't photograph very well. SOURCE|
|WEARING: 1970s Collier Campbell wool maxi dress & matching Marabou feather trim cape (Birthday present from Babouskha Vintage, 2014), Vintage Pakistani velvet & bullion work tote bag (Jumble sale, years ago), Felt hat (Car boot sale)|
Sunnycroft, 200 Holyhead Road, Wellington, Near Telford, Shropshire TF1 2DR
That's it for culture this week, I promise. Normal service will be resumed shortly with a return to the usual charity shop tat, drunken exploits and tales of bad behaviour.
See you soon!