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