Hob nobbing with the gentry – a visit to Shugborough Hall

Before we set off to Rugeley we took advantage of Shugborough’s Monday ‘pensioner’ deal – £6 for a ticket for the house and garden. Being old does have some advantages! We’ve moored here many times and always meant to visit – at this price we just couldn’t resist. Shugborough Hall is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. The last one to actually live there was the renowned society snapper Patrick Lichfield (he of the Unipart and Pirelli calendars).

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To get there you have to walk across the 16th century Essex Bridge – the longest packhorse bridge left in England with 14 of its original 40 spans left standing. It was allegedly built by the Earl of Essex to facilitate Queen Elizabeth I’s access to his hunting lodge. Virgin queen? I think not!

EssexBridge

When we turned up there was a bit of time before the two guided tours started so we had a look around the servants’ quarters.

I’m always fascinated by large kitchens and this one didn’t disappoint. I’d really love to have a go at preparing a large meal in one of these kitchens (with the appropriate number of people helping of course). Cooking in the kitchen at Wrytree Farm in Northumberland was a kind of mini version of this with its Rayburn and massive walk in pantry but it would still be great to have a go at the real thing.

Scullery Shugborough

The scullery with the pantry behind

KitchenShugborough

These cooks had been providing demonstrations for a group of local schoolchildren so the ranges were fired up and being used for baking

The laundry was interesting with this massive smoothing iron heater upper. She told us exactly how many irons it will heat but I’m darned if I can remember.

IronHeaterUpper

The sheets didn’t have to be ironed though as they had this incredible device. Damp sheets would be wrapped around wooden rollers and ironed by being rolled under hot coals. In a house this size it must have made life much easier! It’s still  not a job I’d have fancied though.

SheetPresser

It wouldn’t be a boating blog without a reference to one of these.

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The servants’ loo. Not that different in principal from a boat’s elsan cassette

We did both free tours of the house – the Admiral Anson (the 1st Baron Anson who was First Lord of the Admiralty in the 18th Century) tour and the tour of the private apartments of Patrick Lichfield (the 5th Earl of Lichfield who took photographs of naked ladies). Both were interesting but personally I preferred looking round the business end of the house.

We then had a bit of a wander round outside.

Shugborough

Folly SpringFlowers

20140407_140458Followed by a rather nice sandwich in the tea rooms – 20% off for pensioners on Mondays – bargain!

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