Great Chalfield Manor

With the half term in full swing time to use the National Trust membership and visit some historical places and not allow Lily to vegetate on Minecraft. So Chalfield Manor was chosen only a short distance from our home, I have cycled past it many times and after reading that Wolf Hall was filmed there we just had to have a look.

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The house is a moated manor house built around 1465–1480 for a Thomas Tropenell a modest member of the land gentry,who made a fortune as a clothier.It has had a checkered history, from a garrison for the parliamentary troops in the English civil war the soldiers when  bored and drunk wrecked the manor shooting out the windows with their muskets, the house fell from grace and became a farm house in the 1800’s with many of the ornate interior designs lost.

The house and garden were purchased by George Fuller MP  in the early 1900’s, and restored and furnished between 1905 and 1911 by his fourth son, Major Robert Fuller, under the guidance of Sir Harold Brakspear. The restoration included a sympathetic garden design by Alfred Parsons . Robert Fuller gave the property to the National Trust in 1943, and it is open to the public.

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The gardens are of the arts and craft period of design,walking around the old moat at the rear of the manor is a walk through a wooded area which then brings you to a meadow area dotted with trees and clematis rambling through the branches and beyond lay the paddocks.

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The tour of the house began ,but due to the families request no photographs are allowed,it has been beautifully restored as you learn that the main hall had collapsed and the whole house was going to be demolished before the restoration,  standing in the hall looking ahead two rows of stag heads from a hunting outing from days gone by line the wall looking down on you from above you can imagine them stood in the local wood the early morning mist swirling around them in a mystical scene. Looking to your right high on the wall a Tigers head, a trophy from the spoils of an empire hunting trip bears its teeth as it watches you ,and then you notice the bears head with its mass of black hair eyeing you up and  down,looking hard the stone mask of the bishop of Salisbury and king Edward can be seen Thomas was not a lover of the people in charge,sounds familiar , large tapestries  hang depicting various scenes from the christian faith, and a large stone fireplace is off to your left .The ceiling is unique for the period the hall was built, as it hides the roof trusses which is how modern houses are built.

To your rear and where you entered the great hall a dark wooden paneled balcony that was added to allow the orchestra to play their sweet music whilst the Lords and Ladies danced  below and also another mask on the wall to allow Thomas to spy on his guests before the balcony was added  ,move out of the hall and into what is used as a dining area,dark wooden paneling adorns the walls and another grand fireplace,when this room was restored behind a section of the paneling as you enter a wall painting was discovered , A powerful man in his best beaver hat and motley coat with heavy purse or money bag and a dagger. Behind him is a cloth of state and he appears to be rising from an armchair, is he the Franklin of the Canterbury Tales?

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Thomas Tropenell MP commissioned a series of six painted wall panels of St Katherine of Alexandria, a beautiful and intelligent Egyptian girl, for the chapel he added to All Saints’ parish church. His great granddaughter Anne paneled him over and he reappeared again in 1906 during restoration of the Manor,on closer inspection you become aware of the right hand and the six fingers which is the same as Ann Boleyn. Also found behind the paneling overlooking the front entrance door was a Arrowslit  similar to this.547px-Windsor_castle_window

Heading up stairs into a spectacular sitting room that had once collapsed the scale of the restoration can be seen the beautiful roof trusses spanning the room above your head and another grand fireplace that in the winter would roar into life to expel the icy fingers in the depths of the long dark winter nights, onward’s to the bedroom a four poster bed the center piece of the room and yes a grand fireplace, in the a corner a small  door way with stairs that lead to the roof space a servants passage way.

A great day out ,and a place with lots of history,onsite cafe for a well deserved refreshing drink after enjoying the gardens and the house.

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