Whilst we still had the hire car we took advantage of a clear, bright day on Monday last week and set the sat nav to take us to Basildon House. By a very circuitous route because someone (he who shall not be named) put in the wrong post code, we did arrive eventually ...
... the home of Lord and Lady Iliffe from 1952 until 1978 when Lady Iliffe presented it to the National Trust along with the gardens, park and a large endowment.
In 1928 Basildon was sold to the 1st Lord Iliffe who removed some of its fixtures and fitting to his London home and put the house back on the market in 1929. Lot 32 of that sale was the house which was purchased by a property speculator who offered it for sale to America. The buyer would pay "$1,000,000 to carefully take it (the property) down and re-erect it in America" but because of the Depression could find no takers and after stripping the house of many of its fireplaces, doors and their frames and some plasterwork the house was abandoned. Apart from the building being requisitioned in the WWII and used to billet troops and prisoners of war the house was left empty and derelict for nearly 40 years.
To enter the house we walk up the stone staircase and into the hallway to start our tour ...
The first room we encountered was The Sutherland Room which now homes an exhibition of Graham Sutherland's studies for the tapestry "Christ in Glory which hangs above the alter in Coventry Cathedral.
This became the main room Lord and Lady Iliffe occupied when they purchased the house which was then in a very parlous state, very certainly saving it from demolition. It took over two years to renovate the house; the whole household helping enthusiastically where ever they could.
Because the architect was John Car 1723-1807 who had designed several other grand houses with similar dimensions to Basildon Lady Iliffe, when the opportunity presented itself, would attend sales at these houses and purchase items to renovate her home including doors and door furniture which fortunately were the exact size of Baslidon's doorways, saying that there was no need to even drill extra screw-holes!
Lady Renee Iliffe's portrait, painted in 1945 hangs in the ...
... Grand Staircase (recognise the drama?) This staircase would have been used for important visitors who would have entered the house via the door which led into the main hallway, the family would use what was called 'the side staircase'.
Next came the dining room with its beautiful ornate moulded and painted ceiling and walls ...
... and where this scene was filmed
The Octagon Drawing Room with its red felt wall covering. The cook helped Lady Iliffe to nail the felt to the walls while the butler held the ladder!
Fantastic views from this room of the gardens and looking towards the River Thames
Recognise another drama here?
The Green Drawing Room was under wraps when we visited (apparently the main heating pipes are under the floor which will be partly removed to carry out essential maintenance). Here again Lady Iliffe used her innovative skills in interior decoration utilising curtains purchased from Englefield House to hang on the walls and if you look carefully you will see where the fabric has faded where it would have caught the sun/light from the windows. I found it amazing that curtains from one room in a house could cover this whole room's walls!
Up the grand staircase we visit The Crimson Bedroom. The curtains, bed and other furniture came from a sale at Ashburnham Place; the rug was made by Lady Iliffe herself depicting flowers and shrubs from the gardens, it's also signed and dated by her.
The dressing table however is very different. According to the guide underneath the fine linen drapery made also by Lady Iliffe are two utilitarian pieces purchased from the likes of MFI in the 60's - don't you just love it!
Now this room I loved - Lady Iliffe's Bedroom and bathroom - light and airy and lots of family photos on display. The room was badly damaged by fire during its occupation by troops during the war and needed major renovation.
The Old Kitchen - another delight - set in the 1950's
Nearly the end of the house tour we pass the servants staircase which was really, really narrow and winding into what is now ...
... the restaurant and dining area part of which would have originally been the servants hall. Through the window here you can see the steps we climbed to the main hallway and house above and to the left this door would have been used by the family on a day-today basis.
After a delicious lunch we left the main house and walked outside to the rear of the building ...
... and the gardens
A story in Plutarch's life of Alcibiades tells of the statesman owning a large, handsome dog whose tail Alcibiades cut off so as to invoke pity from the Athenians and distract them from his worse deeds. The broken tail of this sculpture led Jennings to link it to this story, calling it "the dog of Alcibiades"; under this title a pair of copies in Portland stone were installed by Robert Adam at Newby Hall, Yorkshire, about 1780, and in the later 19th century a pair in cast stone were set in the gardens at Basildon Park, Bedfordshire. A 19th-century pair carved in serpentine were sold by Bonham's, London, in 2005
... and to the South Pavillion where an 'On Location' exhibition was being held - The Grand Tour, artwork collected by Sir Brinsley_Ford (1908-1999)
The large picture on the wall to the left caught my eye -
Thomas Patch specialised in caricatures of the British aristocracy - that's Patch up on the Medici statue.
After donating Basildon to the National Trust the south pavilion, formerly the laundry, was converted to a private house for the Iliffe's.
Yes, it's that balcony!
Next ... a walk in the park
Lots of grouping of trees all having this distinct spiral pattern on the trunk - must come back in the summer when it has leaves so I can work out what sort of tree it is.
Interesting building in the corner of Basildon Estate - a lodge perhaps but I couldn't find the information on the net even though I did a few days ago!
Basildon's Lodges, the entrance to the estate
Looking towards the Thames over the railway line. Beale Park is very near here and we need to look on google maps to find a way of walking here to Basildon when moored at Lower Basildon/Beale Park.
Back to The Stables
which house the NT ticket office, shop and cafe and toilets.
... and back to the car.
We've had a great day here and I loved it ... can you tell?!!