Exploring Anglesey Abbey

The meadow was bathed with sunlight. The grass tickled as I wiggled to wake up my legs. A trimmed lawn enclosed by sharply shaped hedges stretched out from my feet. The landscaping was as neat as the facial-hair sculpting on hipsters. I marveled at the sheer manpower this scene must have demanded. Someone would have had to mow lawns, cut the hedges, trim the trees, organized the gardens, cleared the paths and washed the bizarre urns scattered about the property. Then this team would have had to wrestled back nature again. And again. And again. What kind of awesome power could possibly maintain this idyllic sanctuary?

I leaned back. Ah yes. Money.

So how was I lounging on a rich man’s lawn? Read on dear visitor, read on.

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Touring the rich man’s property was easy. I walked right though the front entrance, admired the priory-turned country home, toured his personal gallery and moseyed across his entire maze of football-length lawns without fear of reprisal.

Gasp! You trespasser, but how?! Ok, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.

In truth the property was now in the hands of the public. Anglesey Abbey, as it’s called today, is no longer Huttleston Broughton’s home. It is the relic of a rich man’s home. Now we plebeians are free to gawk and point and giggle in the hallways of a home where once even the Queen of England found herself entertained for a weekend.

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The Main rooms

It wasn’t all picturesque though. The man was the Victorian equivalent of a Star Wars merchandise fan. His house was stuffed to the rafters with artifacts. Two floors of art! The place was cluttered with trophies, fancy snuffboxes, statues, ancient cases, tapestries and beautiful furniture. Had he been a poor man he would have been labelled a hoarder.

Rugs were draped over railings. An oddly placed stone cat peered down at me from a tall pillar in the hallway. He had so many things he’d built an extra wing on his home to house his collections.

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The Servant’s Quarters

By the end of the tour I actually gasped in relief when we stepped into the stark servant quarters. A staff-member knitting to an endless cycle of five 1930’s tunes in the old servant break-room noticed our chirpiness and smiled.

“It feels more like what you’re used to here doesn’t it,” she said thinking we were happy to break away from the romanticized English country-home design of the rest of the house.

However, the relief was in the wall space!

In the next room I happily sauntered up to a kitchen counter with free baked goodies to snack on! In the next I was offered a bit of Salty Dog, a mix of gin and grapefruit juice topped with a salty rim.Cambridge Abbey-36

The house was like being sprayed with six perfumes, one after the other. Each scent is sweet, but you’re lost in the overpowering smell of the final choking concoction.

And that is the way it will stay. When Lord Fairhaven (his acquired classy name) passed away he left the place in the hands of the National Trust with the promise that everything would stay as it was. The collection would remain there, together, forever.

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The Questions

After J and I shambled back out into the sunlight we stumbled to the plainest spot we could find and flopped to the ground. Then we sat in the grass and blinked. We just blinked and thought.

What was the point?

Would I want my apartment to be left as it is in perpetuity? Good god no. If I somehow had something of worth I wouldn’t want people to have to edge past my sock drawer to see it.

My apartment is also a far cry from the norm. Would I consider it a capsule of history? Nope. But this guy certainly did. He was making an ark of his interpretation of old English gentry living (with the perks of modern day carpets, electricity and bathrooms). It was kind of like an amusement park—and an expensive one at £11.60.

(J and I signed up for the National Trust membership  so it was cheaper for us).

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Still, it seemed unfair for Lord Fairhaven to decide the items’ fates for eternity.

Maybe he meant he wanted his art collection to stay together wherever it travelled? Good I suppose for keeping the trust from allowing someone buy a piece for their own private collection.

But what if the trust needed the money to keep the fantastic lawns maintained though? What if the item could be placed in a museum to complete an artist’s collection?

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Rich Robin Hoods?

As J and I rattled off our thoughts the discussion began to wander, as they always do.

“This reminds me of the time we were arguing about whether it was good or bad of kings to ban hunting in their forests,” I threw in.

J was adamant that it was an unethical tactic to save the animals and trees (really for themselves), because it meant local people starved.

I was standing by the argument that  it couldn’t have been enough to starve peasants and it meant we had those forests and animals today. The sad thing is that the best person to save a space or item from rich people’s advancements (and ok the middle class) is another rich person. You can’t develop another person’s private property.

Over time, if we’re lucky, the land then falls to a national organization and the people. This can be a result of money problems, political progression, goodwill or a lack of children, but most often occurs because the energy required to maintain these antique wonderlands grows too significant.

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In the end I decided the man who owned the establishment isn’t important. Sure he made the place what it is today and sure he’s amusing for his enthusiasm, but it’s the peoples’ ability to cherish what they get that stayed with me.  And while the man’s castle was, I’m sure, full of treasure I think the diverse gardens and wild forest park on the fringe were the real gifts to the public.

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