Another week, another set of heritage adventures! Welcome back and I hope you all enjoyed the lovely weekend weather. This week, I’ve had interesting peek into the construction of an aircraft factory and explored a very rare example of a Victorian mini-estate at Sunnycroft.
Today the Herbert was bustling! The atrium was full of very happy students decked out in caps and gowns getting ready for their graduation at the cathedral. This, unfortunately, meant that the History Centre was a little less busy than usual – but it was great to see some children with their parents checking out what was on offer.
My cataloguing for the day started out very well – the first book was totally empty! Never had one of those before! This was followed by an amazing book of Rootes Securities data sheets outlining plans for a new aircraft factory in Coventry including technical drawings, specifications, layouts and a full colour plan right at the back.
Interestingly, I came across a lot of material for Alvis – another Coventry car company not related to the Rootes Group at all. I decided to catalogue them anyway as there was no-one around to ask about it. There was a lot of articles from the 80s that demonstrated the military technology that they were working on. I don’t know why, but it felt very strange to look at.
Amusing articles this week included an advert from Alfa Romeo that used the fact that it was horrifically expensive as its USP (£2394.1.3 in the 60’s) and a rather perplexing story about 12 tanks going missing…
Rachel Reviews… Sunnycroft
We decided that we’d have a go at taking public transport to a National Trust venue whilst the weather was nice. We fell, somewhat, at the first hurdle. The train in front of us broke down at Tile Hill so we were stuck on the train at Coventry for 40 minutes. At one point, they announced that they would be diverting the train back via Leamington but they must have fixed the previous train because we headed out the right way.
So, we arrived in Wellington pretty late and then we had to walk from the station to Sunnycroft. Surprisingly, there were no signs pointing the way and seeing as it’s advertised as being a walk away we thought that it might be better signposted. Oh well, some friendly locals were able to point us in the right direction and we got there without further incident.
The first glimpse of Sunnycroft was nothing short of impressive. Towering redwoods lined the drive down to the house and created an imposing canopy. We decided to take the side path through their allotment to take a look at their lodge. There we found a Daimler car (another classic Coventry car) being stored in a rather large plastic bag!
Then it was time to grab something to eat. The tea room at this venue was based in The Smoke Room and the food they served was very much in keeping with the time of the house. We booked ourselves onto a tour of the house and took a look around some of the gardens, which was really nice. I struggled to find the toilets, and felt that these could have been a bit better signposted.
Our visit round the house itself began with a talk from a volunteer who gave us a comprehensive run down of who owned the house and when. This was in the Billiards Room, a part of the ‘male’ side of the house. Who decided to gender parts of a house? How weird. Speaking of weird, under the billiards table there was a tiger skin rug named Freddie. The volunteer showed us a picture of the rug at Christmas where they’d give him a little party hat for the festivities.
After that, we were free to explore the house at our own pace. We had a children’s trail, given to use somewhat bemusedly by the lady on the door, and took our time exploring every room. Like most National Trust properties, the rooms were pretty dark so to conserve the precious artefacts. This, unfortunately, made it quite hard to take pictures. I particularly like the drawing room with its pianola (player piano).
The journey upstairs was dominated by the very impressive skylight and array of portraits. These rooms were full of personal artefacts and it was amazing to be able to such a human history of the building, especially the beautiful needlework and the quotes that told stories of the previous occupants. The experience really got me wondering what the National Trust would put on display if they acquired my house one day. Quick look in the servants quarters and a poke around the kitchens and we were finished with the house.
As the weather was so beautiful a lot of sports equipment had left out on the lawn for people to play with. We took over the badminton set, which was great fun even if the wind kept stealing the shuttle to give to the bush. After exhausting ourselves, we took a quick walk round the hidden garden paths where a variety of flowers lay hidden and some chickens! The greenhouses were also lovely and included some little succulents, which I loved. We left via the stepping stones over a tiny stream and walked a different way back to the station.
This was a very enjoyable day out. In fact, the most frustrating thing was getting there! I definitely think that there should be more signs for walkers if the site is going to be advertised as being within walking distance of the station. Everything else was lovely. The site was interesting and the house had been set up very nicely. All the staff and volunteers were helpful and informative and there was generally a very nice atmosphere. The weather was perfect and some people were able to have cream tea on the lawn. It was very quiet for a weekend visit and is suitable for visitors of all ages, although people who grew up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s would probably enjoy it most for the memorabilia in the house. 4 stars – ★★★★
Hope you enjoyed this blog! My question for you this week is – what would be on display at a museum of your life/house? Let me know what you think!