The traffic flowed and we arrived around 10.30 am, driving down through a double avenue of lime and golden yew decorated with bright red Christmassy bows, and there was plenty of time to sample the goodies in the Cow Barn.
From 1844 – 2001 this was the country home for four generations of the Gibbs family, their bolthole from London. Originally purchased by William Gibb it was transformed in 1864 by his engaging John Norton to redesign and rebuild, the result being a home in High Victorian Gothic.
William’s grandson George became the first Lord Wraxall in 1928 and his son Richard, who never married, had an army career. On his death in 2001 his will named NINETEEN beneficiaries so the property was sold, and that is why we could use our National Trust cards.
There are Gentlemen’s Rooms and Ladies’ Rooms and a Boudoir for the Lady of the House with exquisite boxwood carvings of nature. The Hall, where guests were greeted, was re-designed in 1889 by Henry Woodyear, the imposing staircase being intended to impress the local gentry. The top grade Library holds around 2000 books but was also used as a family Sitting Room.
The Gibbs were supporters of the High Church Oxford Movement so that religion was the focal point of their lives, and before the Chapel was built prayers were said in the Organ Room. The Drawing Room is the grandest, forty feet long, but regrettably the blinds were all down during our visit and in the dim light we could not fully appreciate the colours of the decor.
The Chapel was commenced at the end of William’s life, a superb copy of the mediaeval Sainte Chapelle in Paris, and some of us took part in the Nativity service. Founded during the hey-day of Victorian plant collecting, the Arboretum was called by the family “Paradise Garden”, a quiet, peaceful place with meandering pathways. The parkland is a delight to walk through and we were lucky enough to keep dry.
There was a degree of differing opinions on the Christmas decorations, but no -one disagreed about the superb restoration work carried out by the National Trust to preserve this remarkable home. The Gibbs were true Christians: and their money also ensured the well-being of those who worked for them.
Our thanks to Claire for another “Grand Day Out”.