Monday, 20 May 2013

Travellers Club

It's a pity we couldn't go round the gardens when we went out on the Travellers Club coach trip last Tuesday - it poured down all day. However, the interiors of the places we visited more than made up for it.
In the morning, we went to Llancaiach Fawr Manor, a fortified manor house that was set out as it had been in 1645, with costumed guides who spoke seventeenth century English. I was most impressed with the quality of their costumes - and their knowledge. The man acting as the agent and surveyor of Colonel Pritchard's estates asked us where we came from, and when someone said Hay-on-Wye, he said that it was a good thing we were away from home at present, as he had heard the Scottish Covenanters were marching on Hereford (which they were!). He gave the impression of being a Royalist supporter - but one who was exasperated with the King! Another guide, the chief groom, declared himself to be a Republican, and said that if Colonel Pritchard told him to fight for the King, he would leave the Colonel's service. (Shortly after Charles I visited the manor, the Colonel declared for Parliament).
In the kitchens we were entertained by the under dairy maid, and we started and finished with the music master of the house, who demonstrated a bowed psaltery for us in the children's bedroom - and later, in the master's bedroom, became highly embarrassed when one of the coach party asked him where the Colonel and his wife got together to have babies since they had separate bedrooms!
When I got home, I did a bit of research about bowed psalteries - it's a triangular instrument with strings of varying lengths, played with a bow similar to a violin, though the bow only touches one string at a time. It seemed like an ideal instrument to take along on medieval re-enactments, and various websites said that it was very easy to play - so it's a pity that it was actually invented by a German school teacher in 1890!

The armoury, and Colonel's study, at Llancaiach Fawr, from their website

We had lunch there in the modern cafe, and then went on to Castell Coch, near Cardiff.
I've wanted to visit Castell Coch for a long while - the bus down to Cardiff used to pass it, up on the hillside surrounded by trees. The route has since changed. It looks like something straight out of a William Morris fantasy, and it was designed by William Burges for the Marquis of Bute - the same man who designed the wonderfully mad interiors of Cardiff Castle.
Adding an extra frisson to the visit was the fact that the previous Saturday's Doctor Who episode had featured the castle being attacked by Cybermen! They also used footage of the library at Cardiff Castle for the Tardis library a week or so before.
The interior of Castell Coch is wonderfully mad, too - and when we looked at the differences between the Marquis's bedroom (and single bed), and Lady Bute's bedroom (with it's carvings of nesting birds symbolising romantic love, and the enormous dome decorated with pictures of monkeys over the bed) it was obvious where that couple had gone to make babies!
Although the interior of the castle is a High Gothick fantasy, the exterior is actually built directly onto a genuine 13th century castle which guarded the valley, and was built by the Clare family, who were lords of Glamorgan at the time. (Earlier in the day, we had learned that Colonel Pritchard and his wife Mary owned two thirds of Glamorgan between them). It was all stairs - but some of the best bits, like Lady Bute's amazing bedroom and the exhibition of stained glass from the dismantled chapel, are at the top of the staircases.
There was a cafe here, too - a very tight squeeze! - but very nice cake.

Rooftop view of the castle.

It really was a great day out!

The next trip the Travellers Club are running is to Lacock and Lacock Abbey, in Wiltshire, on June 14th, used as a location for Harry Potter and Cranford, and home of the Fox Talbot photographic museum.
I'll be going with them on July 9th to Bath, and in August there's a day trip to Aberystwyth.

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