We went to Calke Abbey today which was fascinating. It’s one of many old country houses in the UK, but what makes this unusual is that it has not been restored to immaculate condition, but has been preserved in the run-down condition it was in in the mid 80’s. That includes rooms that were simply shut, complete with their junk, at the turn of the century, second world war or whenever.
There’s some intriguing stuff there – for example, a very early shower that has a hopper and a pump that pump the water from the place you stand back over your head. Love the way the pipes are disguised as bamboo rods.
And, successive ages of decay – for example, a building that had a water tank in where the building had fallen down, and a small roof constructed over the tank instead .. which had in turn rotted away.
But, the most intruiging thing was the effort that had gone into providing a high life for the gentry in the 18th Century, and the amount of staff to took to achieve this. It was impressive to realise that they had ice all year, but that took a large pond, a large ice-house, and staff to go and collect ice all winter and store it. Today, even most westerners on the poverty line would have a fridge. We were also surprised that they went to the expense of building a 60 metre tunnel so that the gardeners could get to the kitchen garden without being seen in the pleasure gardens!