Erddig – Jewel In The Crown of Welsh Country Houses

Erddig was another of those places we stumbled upon almost accidentally. No prior plans to visit and no expectations, it was chosen as a sensible stopping point on the way home from our Welsh trip. A National Trust house, we made our way along twisting, winding country lanes to what seemed like the middle of nowhere outside Wrexham. What we found in this quiet corner of north Wales was a country house with a charm all its own.

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Gorgeous gardens, extensive grounds to explore but more intriguingly a house stuffed almost to the brim with all sorts of treasures and tat collected by a landed gentry family who were serious hoarders. The estate was passed to the National Trust along with 30,000 items and a proviso that nothing was ever to be thrown away. There’s so much that only a third of those items can be on display at any one time – the “stuff” ranges from rare Chinese silk to a pack of cards. They threw nothing away.

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After coffee in the lovely stable block and a quick look around the gardens we found the entrance to the house, eagerly anticipating what would lie ahead on the self-guided tour. Very dark inside was my first impression and just a teeny bit gloomy. However my interest was piqued by the poems displayed just about everywhere all over the house on just about every wall. The master of the house composed a poem about each and every servant who worked here, telling their life story in verse and left for us today a rare and intriguing insight into those whose lives usually pass unrecorded. I loved it.

We read about the butler, the nanny and many others – even a lady who, having spent her entire working life in service here, when she reached retirement age with no other place to go, was found a job as the “spider catcher” a job title she kept until she died at Erddig.Β It is evident that this was a place where servants were more like family. The family actually had more photos and pictures commissioned of the servants than of themselves – unusually close master/servant relationships indeed. The Yorke family regarded those who worked for them with real affection.

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At the very end of the tour in the last part of the house we found a video playing on constant loop, sat down to watch and became completely absorbed. It was a BBC program about the last owner of this house (son of the poet) and how he came to pass the estate to the National Trust. He told, in his own words, the fascinating story of the Yorke family sprinkled with anecdotes about life in the house before and after the turn of the century – when their fortunes shifted. He picked out a wealth of interesting items – most on display in the house – talked about them and also how the whole place nearly collapsed due to subsidence from the coal mines beneath. Such an interesting story, it also gave such perspective I only wish this had been shown at the beginning of the house tour and not the end.

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The outhouses, sheds and wealth of other buildings are, like the house, packed full. We saw bikes, cars and even a penny farthing.

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A great adventure playground in the woods – Wolf Den – got the thumbs up from Son and although we spied the horse and carriage being prepared for rides around the estate, time pressure meant we had to leave and forego that pleasure this time. Still, maybe some day we’ll be back. A fantastic place, well deserving of its description “the jewel in the crown of Welsh country houses.”

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37 thoughts on “Erddig – Jewel In The Crown of Welsh Country Houses

    • It was fascinating – there was so much to see ranging from the incredible to the bizarre and everything in between. It was definitely well worth visiting and I think sometime we might go back again.

      • If you ever get to Vermont, you should check out the Shelburne Museum. It is the best museum I have ever visited because it is such a random collection of objects over a vast site. It was based around the collections of one eccentric woman. She collected American barns but there are collections of Shaker tools, model circuses, Impressionist paintings … Really eclectic and entirely absorbing. I cannot wait to take my kids to see it.

  1. Loved this post. The story of the relationships is wonderful – I think the spider catcher is brilliant! – and all those wonderful old objects… Just my thing. (The doll house might be my favourite…) Happy weekend!

  2. What I love especially about this is the recording of the servants, particularly the women, whose history is often overlooked. And I absolutely concur with the comment above about Shelburne. We thought it would take a couple of hours but spent a day and a half there! (The ticket covers two days). There is even a ship on the lawn – see Northern Vermont and go if you can!

  3. Another terrific find and another reason why I always rent a car whenever I’ve visited Europe. I almost always stay off the main highways and take secondary or back roads. Only then can you find peace like this. Thank you again, Joy.

    • I completely agree George – you never know what you’re going to find on those little back roads. I don’t think you could ever get to this place without a car. We love seeing what’s off the beaten track wherever we go!! Hope you have a great weekend.

  4. What a serendipitous find Joy! Just love the old house and the collections – the children’s playroom is adorable with the doll’s house and the teddy bear with a black beret (he looks a bit like mine which I’ve had since I was a baby but not this old!). I must look Erdigg up as the Wrexham area is another place on my putative wish list. I have traced my mum’s family back to Ruthin in Denbighshre (my great great great grandmother came from here) and Marchwiel near Wrexham, where her daughter, my great great grandmother, was born and grew up. The other interesting thing is my gt gt granny was in service at a big country house somewhere in the area (haven’t been able to find out which and my dear mum has dementia so can’t tell me). She met her future husband there, who was also in service as a footman, (he came from Malpas just over the border in Cheshire). They eloped to Chester (we don’t know the reason but my nanna and mum told me the story when I was growing up) and my gt gt grandfather worked first in the cotton industry (in Manchester) then the woollen industry in West Yorkshire. So that’s a roundabout way of saying this post is really interesting for me on a number of levels. Thanks for sharing all the lovely photos too it looks a great place to visit! Hope you’ve had a great weekend πŸ™‚

    • What a great story Rosemary – to have that level of detail so far back in your family tree is incredible, sounds like this area holds so much of interest for you. How sad about your mum but it sounds like you’ve made terrific progress with your family tree. My mother-in-law has spent years on her side of the family and made some fascinating finds. It’s really intriguing – I would love to know more about my ancestors, maybe some day will get around to researching it!!

      • It’s fascinating Joy – my late nanna was a great source of information on her side of the family and she passed that down to my mum (and myself) so I had a good starting point. It is time consuming though and I haven’t got much time at the moment to do any more research – I’ve reached a point where I’d have to visit the area and go through libraries and public records ….one day!! Yes it’s been sad to see my mum go downhill she’s in a nursing home now though my dad is still active and living independently. I looked up Erddig and it’s only 3 miles from Marchwiel where my gt gt grandmother and family lived I will have to go there at some point!

  5. Oh, I love this! Like RoseMayLily my great great grandparents were in service in a large country house in the Wrexham area, and we don’t know which one. She was the lady’s maid and he was the (younger) gardener. Smitten, he pursued her until she agreed to marry him. We have photos of them both, so it would be interesting to go there and see if they match any of the descriptions in the poems. What a fascinating place!

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