Saturday, 15 October 2016

Sudbury Hall

I don't know what I was expecting from Sudbury Hall and the National Trust Museum of Childhood in Derbyshire. I think I was expecting it to be the National Trust Museum of MY childhood, which would basically be the set of Saturday Superstore with Enid Blyton as the presenter and a cartoon sausage on a fork appearing out of nowhere every few minutes.

Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood are in the same building, but they are separate entities so you can visit one or the other as you prefer.

Sudbury Hall
Can you just pretend the car is not there - it's cheaper than Photoshop 
We started off in the Museum. It begins with a really good replica of a chimney that little kids can actually climb into to see what life might have been like for them 170 years ago - quite handy if your offspring ever need reminding that a broken iPad is not the worst thing that ever happened to any child ever. 

Then there are loads of toys from olden times - I loved these cat skittles:

Cat nine-pins Steiff

And there were a few faces that I recognised from my own childhood days, although I don't remember Sooty looking this depressed:

Sooty at Sudbury
Poor old Sooty - maybe that rat stole his jumper
HOWEVER. I knew - I just knew - that there would be SOMETHING unexpected in that museum that would stop me dead in my tracks and throw me back to my younger days. 

And here it is. It wasn't Grange Hill, or Claire and Friends singing 'It's 'Orrible Being In Love When You're 8 and Half' in Search for a Superstar, - it was this orange Sindy bathroom suite, which I hadn't seen for at least 35 years. I can't recall which of my friends it belonged to, but I remembered every single bit of it, from the little white taps to the brown bath mat. I take my hat off to whoever got Sindy's hair into this Betty Draper do though - I remember her barnet just sticking up in the air and being impossible. 

Sindy Bathroom Sudbury
Proust had his madeleines to remind him of the past -
it's a little fringed brown bath mat that does it for me
ANYWAY. Once we'd looked round the museum we went next door to the actual house itself. This is a rear view of it:

Sudbury Hall rear view

A bit of history for you:

  • The Vernons arrived in Britain with the Norman Conquest
  • There are many branches of the Vernon clan, including the slightly mad lot at Hanbury Hall
  • However, the Sudbury branch inherited the Sudbury estate in 1513, when John Vernon married a local heiress
  • John left his property to his two sons - John Jnr inherited Sudbury and Henry got an estate in Staffordshire
  • The brothers appear to have been great pals, until Henry married a woman called Dorothy - John did not approve
  • John was a bachelor in his forties when Henry died in 1592, but he wanted to stop Dorothy getting her hands on all of the family estates - so he married a woman called Mary, the widow of his cousin, who handily already had a son called Edward Vernon
  • John died in 1600 without an heir of this own, and so Dorothy and Mary went into battle for the property
  • It was all sorted out in time-honoured fashion - Mary's son, Edward, and Dorothy's daughter, Margaret, were married off to each other (it's not known what they thought of this) and they were given a house at Sudbury
  • However, the house we see today was actually built by their grandson, George, after he inherited in 1660
  • The house was handed over to the National Trust by the 10th Lord Vernon in 1967, although he built himself a house on the estate and his family still live there apparently

The house has a Long Gallery, which was quite unusual for its time:

Long Gallery Sudbury Hall

In the Long Gallery there are a number of portraits, including these two. The first is Nell Gwyn, mistress of Charles II. The second is Barbara Villiers, mistress of Charles II. Do you get the feeling that he had a thing for shepherdesses whose clothes kept falling off?

Nell Gwynn Sudbury

Barbara Villiers at Sudbury

Anyway, let's move on to more important matters. It took us a while to get to Sudbury today and we were both REALLY looking forward to our scones. I spotted a pile of them sitting on the counter as I walked past the tea room window - I think I may have broken into an actual sprint at that point. 

We were rewarded though, because the Sudbury Hall scone was fantastic. It looked perfect, it felt a tiny bit warm, and it was light and delicious. It even looked happy to see me. Definitely one of the best NT scones ever.

Sudbury scone
Maybe it's me, but I'm sure this scone was smiling for the camera

Sudbury Hall: 4 out of 5
Scones: 5 out of 5
Ability of 1980s children to be wildly jealous of anyone with an orange doll's toilet and a rubbish mirror: 5 out of 5 

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