Saturday, 26 April 2014

Nuffield Place

If you drew a Venn diagram and put the National Trust in one circle and Top Gear in the other, the bit in the middle would say Nuffield Place. For this is where Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motor Cars, lived for 30 years until he died in 1963.

Nuffield Place

I'm not into cars or Jeremy Clarkson at all, but Lord Nuffield, or William Morris as he was known to his mother, was a fascinating man. He started his own bike-building business in 1892 in his kitchen with just £4 capital - he left school at 14, needing to earn some money for the family, but decided to go it alone when he was refused a pay rise from his bike repairer employer. 

He moved onto motorcycles and then cars. He wanted to build a car that was affordable and he did - the two-seater Morris Oxford was launched in 1912. The four-seater Morris Cowley, and eventually the Morris Minor (and even I know what a Morris Minor looks like), followed.

But you'll be disappointed if you're expecting to see loads of cars at Nuffield Place. The only car on show is Lady Nuffield's Wolseley - Morris bought the Wolseley firm in 1927 when it went bust.

The house is very much the star of the show at Nuffield Place and although it's roomy, it's a very modest house for a multi-millionaire industrialist. 

And that unshowiness says an awful lot about Morris's personality. He was a hugely wealthy man but he preferred to give his millions away - there's an Oxford college named after him and he gave generously to medical causes.

The whole place is down to earth. In his bedroom there's a wardrobe that opens up to reveal a little workshop, allowing him to fix clocks and other household items when he couldn't sleep at night. I was just leaving the room when I overheard the guide tell another visitor "and there's his appendix right there on the shelf of course" so I had to scoot back in for another look and sure enough there it was:

Lord Nuffield Appendix

I read a short book called Lord Nuffield by Peter Hull before I went to Nuffield Place. Admittedly there were paragraphs like "they specially designed and built a small 10-horsepower (8.9 horsepower RAC rating) four-cylinder side-valve T-head engine, with a 60mm bore and 90mm stroke, splash lubricated, with a three-bearing crankshaft and on which both the inlet and exhaust manifolds were cars with the cylinders" which might as well be written in Greek for all I understand of it, but there were plenty of insights into Morris's character. And here's a portrait from his billiard room to give you some idea of what he looked like:

Lord Nuffield portrait

But now the tricky bit. They had scones at Nuffield today but only cheese scones. I realise that nowhere in the terms and conditions of the National Trust Scone Blog does it stipulate that only sweet scones are included (I don't have any terms and conditions for one thing) but we'd had a long drive and a cheese scone just wasn't going to cut it. So I had some Victoria sponge cake, which was divine, and the scone sidekick had to be a millionaire's shortbread sidekick for the day (and that was divine too). 

Nuffield Place: 4 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 5 - they only had cheese scones
Availability of previous owner's body parts: 5 out of 5

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