Saturday

 

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A fine September Saturday with nothing in the diary, so what better way to spend it than out in the fresh air with a bit of culture thrown in?

 

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If it all comes for free as well, thanks to our ArtFund membership, then all the better!

 

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Friends had recommended we pay a visit to Tredegar House, not a million miles away from us and yet somewhere neither of us had been before.  We had no idea what to expect, didn’t bother looking anything up (beyond noting the time of opening on a Saturday) and arrived feeling pretty relaxed and with open minds.

 

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A walk around the lake was a great way to pass the hour or so before the first guided tour.  We’d heard from our friends that this was really very good indeed and were delighted to find we were in a small group of just six visitors.

 

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Our guide, Chris, was superb – the amount of knowledge he shared was incredible, the stories were fascinating and the way in which he brought the Morgan family and their history to life was marvellous.  After nearly two hours of taking us into almost every corner of the building, the wealth of background information all generously told with a wry sense of humour left me wondering why we’d left it for so long to come here.

Sadly, no photographs inside, but there are a few pictures here and the Tredegar House Blog contains a flavour of some of the stories of the more colourful characters we learned about.

As usual, I had my notebook and pencil and scribbled my way around, noting a few things to find out more about later.  There were some really great portraits about the place including one by GF Harris (Rolf Harris’ grandfather, I learned) and another, of Lady Katherine Morgan, by Augustus John.  Perhaps my favourite note is the list of labels on the drawers in the Housekeeper’s Sitting Room, written down quickly as we were picturing the scene when cook came “cap in hand” to request the particularly valuable ingredients kept safe in the Housekeeper’s care.  On the set of drawers contained within a wall to wall cupboard, I read

Spice

Spice

All Sorts of Seeds

Barley Sugar

Cocoa and Chocolate

3 Sorts of Almonds

Pistacia Nuts

Hartshorn Shavings

Isinglass

With the new series of Downton Abbey just starting and features popping up all over the place about life in a grand country house, “downstairs” was all a little more familiar to use than it might have been this time last year.  We almost expected Bates to come through the door at any minute!

 

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Tredegar House is owned by Newport City Council but the management of the property will soon be taken over by the National Trust.  Having encountered a remarkable group of staff members today from the minute we stepped inside the door, we left hoping that the delightfully friendly attitude will remain and that the change will bring only improvements to this great place.

 

Finally, any excuse to watch the Newport parody of Alicia Key’s Empire State of Mind on YouTube is welcome in this household. (I linked to the version with subtitled explanations in case you’re not familiar with the vernacular!)

The busiest day

Ouch