Tuesday 31 July 2018

Wightwick Manor: A Pre-Raphaelite Dream

Last Christmas I was lucky enough to be gifted something utterly glorious by one of my oldest, kindest friends, National Trust membership.

Ever since we have endeavoured to visit as many places as possible, and I’m always on the look out for anywhere in striking distance that poses a potential day out. Looking through the guide book I spotted something which looked incredibly appealing; Wightwick Manor and as soon as I read the words ‘Pre-Raphaelite Art Collection’ I knew it was a must.

As soon as I walked around the exterior I immediately knew this was it; my favourite property to date. I felt something deep within me stir. The exterior was yet another example of Victorian perfection. With its Tudoresque timbered structure marrying brick, wood and render in perfect harmony. The details across the exterior were nothing short of perfection. Exquisite brick chimneys dotted the roof line adding splashes of red amongst the black and white and complimenting the block base. The once jet black fumed oak now aged hint of brown and silver with time, twisting and turning forming almost mesmerizing patterns against the white lime render. Intricate carvings lurk here and there, faces looking for a viewer, barge boards with impossibly delicate detailing and layered window frames nothing short of exquisite. The house was no vast mansion, no lavish pile, but its aesthetics were what I consider the pinnacle of British architecture and style. In that uniquely Victorian way the Manor marries the medieval, Gothic and Tudor in a way which is utterly believable, totally respectful and considered and entirely perfect.

Once inside it felt as if someone had looked deep within me and created my ultimate Pre-Raphaelite dream. The interior felt dark and gloomy, with an incredible atmosphere that weighed heavy. The lower ceilings of the the entrance hall, study and corridors gave the building a cosy feeling which I felt was utterly unique of any building this size I'd ever visited. The endless wealth of textiles, Morris wallpaper, rugs, paintings, stained glass and so many beautiful objects gave the Manor a homely feeling which instantly warmed my heart. It's eclectic nature struck a chord with my own excessive, magpiesque traits and indulged them to the nth degree.

The entire Manor was a feast for the senses from beginning to end. Dante Gabriel Rosetti paintings and drawings hang here and there, above piano's, in dark hidden corners, against deep wood panelling which only serve to accentuate the decadent nature of this glorious place. I wander down the dull corridor and beams of light strike out at the giant potted plants which give a pleasant scent of foliage. All of this is a prelude to the great hall, where a woman plays the piano filling the house with a dreamy lull that easily transports you back to the Victorian heyday of the home. Blue and white china glint out from the dressers and shelves while vases of wildflowers give the impression that Morris's furnishings have come to life and taken over the room in which they sit. A Pre-Raphaelite beauty waters her plants by the piano in a large painting by George Fredrick Watts. Illustrations of Ravens, Hares and Lions linger in the shadows and a Burne-Jones painting waits for you at the end of the grand double height space, beckoning you forth to the rest of the house. 

The entire Manor is a temple to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Arts and Crafts movement. Paintings from the great names of the movement including; Millais, Rossetti, Ford Maddox Brown, but also lesser known artists, including the more prolific females within the group; Lizzie Siddal, Evelyn De Morgan, Emma Sandys all grace every nook and cranny of this utterly unique place. No detail or object feels unimportant in this Victorian wonderland where everything has its place and even the tiniest trinket would be missed in the gloriously eclectic ambiance of this honest, comfortable home.

Wightwick Manor is a must see for all obsessive Victorian enthusiasts like myself, especially if the Pre-Raphaelites is your passion. I confess the place thoroughly bewitched me, and the moment I left I began pondering my return. Only the most special places in the world leave you feeling that way. I've been more lucky than most to have found just a few of them in my life so far. Until next time Wightwick.

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