Ok, so you might be here under slightly false pretences and you don’t need to worry about any real spoilers of the upcoming series of Downton Abbey. But today I visited Calke Abbey, Derbyshire – an un-stately home.
The Harpur Crewe family owned the Calke estate since since 1700s – an eccentric family with money troubles. Sir Vancey Harpur Crewe inherited the house in early 1900s. He was a fanatical collector and natural history buff and he filled the house with exotic specimens, neglecting the management of the estate and to put up rents of his local farmers. By 1920s, his daughter, Edith, the heir to the estate, struggled to keep the house intact. She downsized staff to just six members and closed off vast areas of the house, simply leaving tools, toys and furniture wherever they lay. Charles Harpur Crewe, the last of the family to live in the house, lived as a recluse and bachelor as the house decayed around him.
When the National Trust took over the house an unconventional decision was made to repair the house but not to restore it, telling the story of how grand stately homes, just like Downton Abbey, struggled to survive in the 21st Century. Some parts of Calke Abbey are exactly as they were left over 100 years ago. We should all be thankful that Mary persuaded Lord Grantham that modernisation of the Abbey’s agricultural property was essential!
Get the Knack
Calke Abbey is a popular estate near Derby, head their early to beat the crowds and also take time to wander round extensive grounds. Visitor information available – http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/calke-abbey/