Although it may seem like I’m pushing England on you, dear audience, with another post on the sights and sounds of English cultural heritage, I really did not intend to follow up my post on the Lake District with another England-related one. The truth is I came across the history of Wrest House recently, and I simply could not ignore its relevance as a great tourist attraction that even Brits would love to visit.
I’m sure that most of you that are not from the UK never fail to picture large country manors, hunting dogs, and gentry in tweed when someone brings up English culture. Thus, when arriving in the UK (and England in particular) we are all somewhat disheartened to not find luscious country houses on every corner replete with their own hunting grounds, magnificent staircases, and statue gardens. But we’ve all seen and drooled over Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey, and we want our elaborate manors, dammit!
Never fear, my dear fellow anglophiles, for I have discovered something that will appease your feelings of dissatisfaction at the lack of realism in all those disappointing stereotypes. Wrest House is everything you have dreamed of and more when you pictured yourself visiting aristocratic country homes in the vein of Lizzy Bennett. Wrest House in its (more or less) current state was built by Thomas de Grey, member of the aristocratic de Grey family that lived on and owned the estate for centuries. In 1834, de Grey decided to demolish the Medieval mansion and build in its place (or rather, 250 meters to the north) a magnificent palace in the style of the French Chateau. The mansion was completed in 1839, which was relatively soon by the standards of the time. Although the de Grey family has disappeared, the building has continued to be constantly in use. During World War I, it was converted into a military hospital. Currently, after the completion of renovations in 2011, the upper floors of the manor are used as office space, while the ground floor is open to visitors.
On the ground floor, visitors will find the fantastically imposing Staircase Hall, a library which was the de Grey family’s living room, Countess Henrietta’s sitting room and conservatory, and the Drawing Room which still contains paintings of barely draped 1830’s ladies. The exhibition focuses on the de Grey family history, as well as the workings of the estate during that era.
Then, of course, there is the garden. The Wrest Park gardens showcase the development of landscape design over three centuries. You will be able to see English, French, Dutch and Italian styles all in perfect union with each other. Some of English’s history’s favourite architects, such as Thomas Wright and Capability Brown have worked to fashion the gardens to reflect the opulence of their owners. Unlike the building, the gardens have remained true to their mid-17th century style. Some features of the garden include the Long Water (created in the 1680s by Anthony de Grey), Thomas Archer’s Pavilion (built-in 1709-11), and Brown’s famous serpentine lakes.
Moreover, since its renovation, the house comes with splendid visitor facilities that make for an easy and relaxing day out for the entire family. Or you can go alone wearing period garb and pretend to be a count/countess. Your choice.