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Applying to the Housekeeper

Madresfield Court, the ancestral home of the Lygon family, is a rather interesting stately home on the outskirts of Malvern. It’s not in the care of the National Trust or English Heritage, but seems to be under the control of a family trust. Once a year in Spring it opens its gardens for “Daffodil Sunday”, when it feels like half of Malvern turns out to walk in the woods, get lost in the maze, eat ice creams on the lawns, and generally see how the Other Half live. Christopher used to really enjoy visiting there, and spent hours photographing the daffodils, crocuses and fritillaries carpeting the grounds. However, the doors of the house itself were always firmly barred against the Great Unwashed. I have visited there before, a long time ago when I was a child growing up in Worcestershire, and have a vague recollection of lots of dark wooden panelling and slightly shabby furnishings.

When I was away for the Pudding Club weekend last month, there was a copy of Cotswold Life in my room. That’s a very posh, aspirational lifestyle magazine that I would never buy, and probably wouldn’t even bother looking at in a dentist’s waiting room. In fact, come to think of it, neither my doctor nor my dentist is that up-market! But since it was the only reading matter apart from a Gideon Bible, I flicked through it. My eye was caught by an illustrated article on Madresfield Court. Apparently, Evelyn Waugh was close friends of the Lygon family, and the house and family served as the original model for Brideshead Revisited. Also, it seems that the Court was earmarked as a refuge for the royal family during World War II should London become too dangerous. I found the article so gripping, that I lost track of the time and was interrupted in reading it by a phone call from the Hotel Reception, saying that my friends were all in the bar and wondered where I’d got to! Oops!

At the end of the article was a short statement saying that the house was open By Appointment Only between April and July, and gave an address to write to for further information. I scribbled it down on a scrap of paper and then went to the bar to join my friends. I forgot all about it until I went to the pottery last weekend, when I found the note at the bottom of my handbag, and decided to do something about it. It felt very reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel – in Pride & Prejudice, Lizzie Bennett and her aunt and uncle applied to the housekeeper to be shown around Pemberley. This was the Estate Office rather than the housekeeper, and in a slight concession to the 21st century, I was able to find an email address rather than writing a letter, but nonetheless it felt very feudal!

It turns out that there is indeed an established process for applying for admission to the Court. There are a set number of days per year when the house is open to visitors, for groups of up to 50 people at a time. You have to apply (and pay!) well in advance – they won’t accommodate people who just turn up on spec. They cater both for groups and for singles/couples, though the latter might get added onto a pre-existing larger group, up to the overall limit of 50 people. I’ve been in negotiation with the Estates Office, and selected a first and second choice of dates. My application has been accepted, my cheque’s in the post, and I’m looking forward to having a good nose around the house next month.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Sally B | 28 March 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    You will love the embroideries in the chapel

  2. pauld | 28 March 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    i guess when one lives in or owns a big country house one doesn’t want any old riff-raff wandering around, one would need to vet them before allowing them into ones house 🙂

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  1. […] had a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon yesterday. I’d applied to the Estates Office for an invitation to take a guided tour around Madresfield Court, the closest thing that Malvern […]