Shock, horror! You’ve walked through the pleasant gardens to the entrance of the house and entered the 16th century doorway and what do you find? Someone is sitting eating sandwiches in the Parlour, while a glass of wine and unfinished meal has been left at one end of the fine table in the Dining Room and you can hear the noise of balls crashing against each other in the Billiard Room.
Worse is to come! You wander upstairs and you find people lying in the four-poster bed in Queen Anne’s Bedchamber. Do these people have no respect? Why are the volunteers not stopping this – in fact they seem to be positively encouraging it. What has happened. Has the world gone mad?
Here, in the 16th century Manor in Avebury, the National Trust has broken all the rules……
Avebury is one of my favourite sites, in part because there is an informality to the ancient Stone Circle which you navigate along with the sheep while, if you want to, you can touch the stones, (whereas at Stonehenge the stones are more monumental and people are kept at a distance) and, in part because of the strange and unexpected link to Scottish marmalade.
Avebury Manor is a charming historic house, but when the Trust decided it should be opened to the public in 2009, there was nothing inside. Nada! No doubt it could have brought furnishings from elsewhere, but, by a stroke of luck, the BBC was at the same time looking for a house which could be researched, furnished and decorated appropriately for a four-part TV-series ‘The Manor Reborn’. Thus the Avebury Manor we see today was created, with rooms decorated to reflect different periods in the building’s history, the last being the Parlour, envisaged as it might have been when Alexander Keiller, the Scottish marmalade magnate and the last owner of Avebury before the National Trust lived here, a man who dedicated great efforts to archaeological investigation and interpretation of the unique site.
The BBC commissioned craftsmen and women to recreate furniture and furnishings using traditional skills, so that while they look authentic, they does not have the patina of age and therefore the Trust is happy to see them used in a way that is not possible in other properties, but please take your shoes off before you climb into the bed!
A great collaboration, with a fascinating researched result that brings the Manor to life.