In search of a breakpoint on a trip to the north I came across Wightwick Manor, a stunning looking Victorian mansion on the outskirts of Wolverhampton.
Wightwick was built by wealthy paint manufacturer Theodore Maunder of Woverhampton. It was later donated by Maunders son Geoffrey to the National Trust and is still in their care today.
As we approached the mansion, we went up a steep hill, which was lined in places by still blooming rose bushes. The black-and-white façade of the mansion, looking over the lawn, quickly became visible. It's the kind of place I would have liked to have lived as a child, great for hide and seek and the kind of property you can imagine will contain some kind of wardrobe that could take you to Narnia.
With a tired 8-year-old in the toe was our first stop for the day in the tearoom. This tea room in an old stable building offers light meals, cakes and refreshments.
Sufficiently filled we ventured into the gallery space. Here in the art gallery is a collection of works by William and Evelyn De Morgan, a creative couple of the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts & Crafts movement.
I wondered how my stepdaughter would take the gallery, but the volunteers were quick to challenge the kids. They gave them prints of things that were found either on the paintings or on ceramics, and challenged them to find them. It was not as easy as it sounds, and even we adults had to find a few! The reward for this was a sticker that always seems to have arrived well.
We then went to the mansion and recorded Wightwick's Exotic and Mythical Animal Trail, knowing we could not look around the property as we might if we were adults.
On the way we could all look around the rooms and admire some of the bizarre mythical creatures that were in wallpaper, tiles and even in ceiling plaster and dishes. Some of these creatures looked the way you would expect from a Harry Potter movie. The volunteer guides were all on hand to help us set out in the right direction and introduce some of the fantastic exhibits. Instead of being stuffy, as was the case in some National Trust homes, visitors were asked to sit on pieces of furniture with a black cat pillow on top.
Two of our favorite rooms in the house were the children's playroom with traditional Victorian children's toys and the adjoining nursery. Both had beautiful murals, including a very cute scene with ducklings and chicks.
In the Grand Parlor, a lady played her own music at the piano and many people sat nearby enjoying the informal concert. In fact, the music echoed throughout the house and made you feel like in Victorian times.
The mansion has many rooms to discover, including bedrooms, kitchens, a dining room and even an old Turkish bath. It gives a great insight into the lives of rich Victorians and those who have worked as their collaborators. It also has many features of William Morris interiors and pre-Raphaelite art, so anyone with a taste for interiors and art should see it!
The gardens and grounds of Wightwick were quite extensive, which I had not expected on the first approach. I really enjoyed strolling along the lake as the fall colors looked fantastic against the reflections in the water. In addition, there was one of my favorite tree species, the katsura tree (including the cotton candy tree). And yes, it really smells of cotton candy … yummy!
Although our time was short and we had to continue our journey, we had a little time so that the little ones could discover the forest play area. Away from the house, this area offers outdoor adventurers the opportunity to let off some steam, build caves and make friends. Appropriately covered with mud, we ventured back towards the car before continuing our journey.
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