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Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Historical Adventure at Snowshill Manor

I set off down the Fosse Way as I often do on my adventures not being a fan of motorways or dual carriageways. I think you miss so much travelling on those sort of roads. I love the changing views as I travel up and down the Fosse Way, plus it takes me on some amazing adventures.

 If you don't mind narrow roads, take the scenic views as it is well worth while. The journey from the Fosse Way to Snowshill was worth the trip alone. The beautiful woodlands covering the hills as they dip into the valleys and back up again with leaves already starting to change colour. I promised myself I would return in a few weeks' time because I so want to see these hills covered with the Autumn colours. It must make a very pretty picture. As with Spring and everything awakening, Autumn has to be a favourite time for me too. I love the warm colours it gives us and it makes the dullest roads look so pretty.

Arriving at Snowshill with its narrow roads and typical Cotswold stone houses, I knew right away that this place needed time to explore and I would have to do it over a few visits. There was far too much in this area to see in just one day and I wanted to see it all.

Do you think this counts as one of National Trust's reflection photos?

I parked in the National Trust car park which was a little further away from the house than I thought it would be but as it turned out, this was an added bonus. For those who can't walk too far there is a buggy available to take you up to the house but if you can walk, you will find the views breathtaking with lots along the way to keep little children amused. It is not far, just a 15 minute walk unless like me, you keep stopping constantly along the way to take in the view.

The last bit of the walk which leads you up to Snowshill Manor takes you past an Orchard full of plums, apples and pears with a cherry tree covering the walk way and elderberries growing on the other side of the path. A wine and cider maker's heaven and definately mine! ( I make a lovely Elderberry wine ) The walk continues through a second Orchard where I had to stop for awhile to take in the view. Trees laden with bright red apples and the Manor in the background at the top of the hill.

My kind of life. I love Orchards and have always wanted one but we only have a small garden. Saying that, I still have five young fruit trees in it. There is not much room for anything else but I have my trees. I love the feeling of walking outside my back door and picking my own fruit. You can't get any fresher than that!

The lovely long border which runs down the hill.

I had been given a ticket to enter the house which had a very useful map printed on the back of it. I did not have to wait long to go inside the the Manor itself and I have to say I did not quite expect to see all I did see.

 The gardens you see today, Charles had designed and landscaped as when he bought it, it was still all farm land.

Snowshill Manor was built in the 15th century but as like with so many old house, this one has been changed and extended with time by it's owners. Charles Paget Wade bought the property in 1919. Wades family made their fortune in the Sugar plantations of the West Indies of which Charles inherited in 1911 after his father's death. He had been collecting items of interest since the age of of 7 while living with his Grandmother in Great Yarmouth who was a small time collector of trinkets herself.

The inheritance gave him the income to buy a property for his collection and Snowshill Manor was to be that place. The house was not in good condition when Charles bought it but he liked that it had not been modernised. He had made architecture his career so restoring a run-down Manor did not put him off at all. He took great care to restore the house, keeping as many original features as possible. It took years to get the house to how he wanted it but an artist does not rush.

When the house was finished, Charles decided not to live in it but refurbished the cottage that stands right next to the house into his living area, known as the Priest house.

Charles Wade has been written about often because people want to know about his eccentric ways and the man who collected strange items from around the world. There are good stories as well as not so good stories but I have to admire this man. During the early 1900's to around the mid 50's, so many precious historical items were just thrown out and beautiful big houses knocked down. I really think it was a generation which did not know the true value of these items and places. You would not be allowed to do this these days but then I guess with two World Wars they had other things to think about.

For one man to collect so many old things and keep them safe as he did is an amazing thing. He had a museum in his own house which now everyone can enjoy. It might be mad but it is also amazing. Being a lover of history and art, I really do love this house. Having autism in the family, people have often referred to my children as being a little eccentric and well, maybe they are a bit but they are all originals and I love them for that. I do know that one of our children would love this Manor and probably quite happily live in it. Maybe this is why I understand how someone could live like this. I am not saying at any point that Charles had autism but some people with autism become great collectors of the strangest things and are often perfectionists in their work too!

Charles loved and admired the craftsmanship which had gone into the items he collected and had restored them himself, taking his time to get them right. He was very dedicated and keen on keeping things as they were originally made. He became very skilled in restoring these items and if you walk around the house you will see the hours he must have put in to his collection and also some of the items he created himself. He was quite an artist.

I really liked this little corner set up for writing. My daughter would love it.

In his later life he feared for his collection so in 1951 he gave Snowshill Manor house and estate to the National Trust so that it would be protected long after he had gone. Of course giving it to the National Trust means that we all get to see his collection. Walking around the house I have to love his dedication. Every room is very different from the next and every corner is filled with so many items. Many would have been lost for ever had he not bought them and restored them.

The clock face in this room reminds me a little of the clock that stands in the kitchen at Charlecote Park. Much of what I saw this day, I have seen similar items in other National Trust properties but maybe not such a variety in one house alone and not collected all by one person but many generations. It was a marvellous collection. I have heard a lot about the oriental items in this house but there are also many British historical items to see from beautiful pieces of furniture to spinning wheels,Looms, bicycles and all sorts of nick-knacks.

There is far too much to take in in one day so a second visit is needed which I will do as Autumn sets in properly. I really want to see the scenery at that time of year. One thing I really loved about this house was how every room had a name above the door. A lovely touch.

I had read so many stories about this house and in a way expected it to be so cluttered with items that it might be too much to enjoy but it is not. Wade did not only collect these items but he dressed the rooms. Everything had its place and there was an order to his display. Being a man who seemed to like the theatrics he brought this into his home and his life and it is said that he would often be dressed in some of the historical clothes he had collected. To me it is all part of the same thing. art , theatrics' it is all signs of a very expressive artistic person and these people are often portrayed as eccentric.

The Armoured chests or 'Armada chests' in this room are fantastic. I want one! They were made in Germany in the 17th century and used as strong boxes with amazing mechanical locking systems. Such skill and craftsmanship.

A second trunk in this room. The locks remind me of the old Celtic brooches.

One collection that sticks out in this house and which seems very popular amongst visitors is that of the Japanese Samurai collection. When Charles Wade originally designed this room, he allowed creepers and trailing plants to cover the window in order to produce the atmosphere he desired. Today the curtains are kept closed to give the same feeling or darkness and fear. 

There is a lovely story I overheard while walking around this house. When Wade bought a few of the Samurai suits he was unable to carry them all so decided to wear one and carry the rest, which ending up with him being arrest as he looked threatening. I can just imagine the looks a Samurai soldier would get walking through the streets today, never mind in the early part of the 1900's :) There are a lot of stories to be told about each room and the room volunteers were happy to answer any questions people had.

I wasn't sure if any of these photos would actually come out as this room was very dark and like all National Trust properties you can't use a flash inside so it does not damage the fabrics that are very old. I had to keep the camera very still but I was happy they turned out ok.

This is the Grey Room (Noah's dove)

Charles did not sleep in this house but when visitors came they would sometimes stay in this room. The canopied bed was made in Wales and dates back to the 1700's. Next to the bed sits a beautiful golden harp.

A Chinese cabinet full of miniature carvings.

The second Bedroom which is called 'Ann's Room' named after Ann Parsons secretly married Anthony Palmer in 1604 on Valentines day. Wade marked this event above the door and I think it was on a cabinet I saw too. He also put the motto 'Armor et tussis non celantur' (Love and a cough are not concealed) above the entrance to the room. It is said this room is haunted and a ghost can be seen at times walking from the music room which adjoins this bedroom. I think all old houses must have their ghost stories.

By the fire sits two rocking chairs which were shaped as many old chairs were to keep out the draft as these old house could often be very draughty and the heat from the fires being the only source of heating. Have a look as you walk around old properties, how the chairs have high back and curve around the person.

The bed was made around 1630 . A little bit of trivia for you. Old beds like this often had a robe base under the mattress which would be tightened before use and is where the saying 'Sleep tight' came from. You learn something new every day.

I loved the small chests that sat on top of the bed.

Wade does not have many books that I saw in this house but the ones he has date between the 17th and 18th century and are mainly religious and legal books. He did not have electricity in the house in those days so books would be read by day light or candle light.

This bedroom has two rooms that join it. The first of these two rooms is the Music room which is full of all kinds of instruments. Another great collection. The instruments are from the 18th and 19th century and  were collected for their fine craftsmanship. Wade seemed to love people work and seemed to really be in awe of it. He understood the amount of work and skill that had gone into so many things and wanted to preserve them. Many of these instruments still look the same today only they are not all made like they used to be or and built to last. So many skills lost over the years.

These tambourines below are beautifully painted.

This is a strange one, twisted like a snake.

The second room that joins Ann's bedroom is that of the 'Seraphim room'
This room is full of items from Indonesia, mainly Java and Bali. This room was also very dark but I managed to get a few photos.


I took this next photo because I liked the way the light lit up the boots.

           A 17th century Spanish vargueno (cabinet)

The Mermaid room contains dolls houses full of very old miniature furniture and figures also a cabinet with antique dolls inside it amongst many other things. Click on the images to enlarge.

                       The Dolls house and cabinets in the Mermaid room.

Next I entered the attic room which is called 'A Hvndred Wheels' and for good reason as you will see.

Charles Wade seemed to have a special interest in personal modes of transport and how it developed. He did his best to collect as many different types of bicycles and prams as he could that were still made by craftsmen rather than mass produced in factories. You can't help but wonder how he managed to try some of these bicycles out in the surroundings of the Manor with it's steep and twisty roads and many of the bicycles were in the early stages of development so had no brakes.

He managed to find a very rare collection of Perambulators which are basically a very early style of what we know today as prams but these were built to a very high standard and are quite amazing pieces of history. 

I love the one that looks like a coach, it has to be my favourite.

Above the Perambulators sits a row of  farm transport models and also some wagons. The detail on these items is really something. 

In the attic along with the transport items stands a  small windmill or wind toy which Wade bought from Norfolk and repaired. Today it sits in the attic as it is too old to withstand the weather but I was told one of the volunteers made the amazing replica below.

                                           The Original.

The one made by the volunteer.

I think it is great with the little soldiers which look like they are marching.

Whoever it was that made this did an amazing job. Don't miss this if you visit. It is close to the Manor's restaurant.

The next room was only a small room but full of traditional toys.

Then we came to the room which was called the 'Top Royal' because it is at the top of the house and contains tradesman's equipment and tools including a cobblers kit.

The next photo is not great as it was a very quick visit before the room was closed as they were a little short on volunteers this day but a kind lady allowed me a few minutes inside. It was also full of country crafts for spinning and weaving. Until the 1920's cloth and silk making was done on a smaller scale, often in people's houses but as factories took over these became obsolete.Wade wanted to save these too so bought them as they stopped being used.

He also managed to acquire this amazing loom which just adds to his brilliant collection.

This next item I was very happy to see. It is a box mangle and was used to press freshly washed linen. It is identical to one that sits in the drying room at Charlecote Park but unfortunately that one is not in an area open to visitors. Recently I was asked if I could take some photos of the hidden places in Charlecote Park which of course I jumped at the opportunity to do so. I love exploring. I thought I had seen most of what Charlecote had to offer but I was so wrong. There were a few places I had not seen before but the drying room took me by surprise. I hope one day it will be open to visitors.

On the landing as you walk down the back staircase.

This room Charles Wade installed the barrelled ceiling as well as the writing around the room.

Originally this room was used to store coal for the next room.

'Salamander the Dragon' which would have been the original kitchen was a room Charles used to entertain his guests in. He loved his theatricals and would dress the rooms to entertain even down to making this room smoky to tell his ghost stories to his guests.

As you walk around this house there are a few things that tell me that Charles Wade was a little mischievous and had quite a sense of humour. I will leave these things for you to explore and find yourself. I have only covered a very small amount in this blog even though it is longer than my usual blogs and I have to say my photos do not do the house or the collection justest.

This room also contains armour and had coasts of arms running along the wall. Charles designed his own coat of arms and inscribed within it read 'Nequid Pereat' which mean ' Let nothing perish' I think Wades collection is a good representative of that.

George and the Dragon.

The cottage at the back of the house which was called 'The Priest's House' where Charles Wade lived. This cottage was never a real Priest's house but was named in recognition of when the house belonged to Winchcombe Abbey. This building was originally a bakery and brewery.

 The first part of this house contains the living area and kitchen.

The bedroom chamber has been decorated like a church even though Charles himself was not religious. I guess it goes with the name of the building.

His bed was the Tudor box bed on the left of the room. On the right is a small door which leads the Wades wife's own bedroom.

                                      The bathroom.

In the outbuilding I found these wonderful items. A couple of old fire engines and an amzing old cart which I heard someone refer to as Cinderella's chariot.

 The detail on this was beautiful. I wonder what it was used for?

I always promise myself that on my birthday each year I would visit some place new. Last year it was Waddesdon Manor which I really enjoyed. This year it was Snowshill Manor and it did not disappoint me either. I am looking forward to my next visit. I hope you have enjoyed this blog. My apologies for the length of it but it is very hard to fit the life's work of Charles Wade into a shorter blog. This is a man I have to admire. He dedicated his life to collecting historical items and restore them to their former beauty. His passion for these things is very easy to see. A Great day out.


                                                Photos copyright Jana Eastwood


  1. Excellent photographs, some of most atmospheric I have seen as a volunteer at Snowshill Manor. Some of your facts are not quite correct so do come back for a guided tour when we start opening seven days a week during our season. [Seven day opening starts September 2015] Also, do try & take in the Introductory Talk before you tour around the property.

  2. Hi, Thanks for your comment. I am pleased you like the photographs. It's not always easy to take photographs inside without a flash but I try my best. Regard some of the facts not being correct. If you would like to let me know which, I will happily amend this blog. I will be back at some time as I really like Snowshill Manor but I can't promise when. Thanks again.Jana