History Blog

Review: Anglesey Abbey

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Back in the autumn me and my boyfriend paid a visit to Anglesey Abbey. Contrary to it's name, it's not actually on the island of Anglesey. It's just north of Cambridge, near Newmarket. I've visited Wimpole Hall, which is also in Cambridgeshire, plenty of times, but this was my first visit to Anglesey.

The History of Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey is a former priory that was originally founded during the reign of Henry I. Like many religious houses it was closed down on the orders of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and then became a private residence.

In 1926 Anglesey Abbey was sold to the Broughton brothers, who were from a very wealthy American family. The eldest brother, Huttleston, became sole owner when his brother Henry married. Huttleston was a collector of art and antiques, and used the house as both a country retreat, where he entertained various Royals, and a showcase for his collections. He set about restoring both the house and the gardens to their former glory, and on his death left the house, it's contents and the gardens to the National Trust.

The Abbey Building

Anglesey Abbey is a property that has benefitted from customer-friendly amendments over the year. The car park is tarmaced, with spaces for campervans towards the back and disabled spaces at the top. You can pay for your ticket or buy National Trust membership in the visitor centre, which also hosts the shop, café and toilets. You will be offered a map, and given the size of the gardens I highly recommend that you accept it!

Once you're all paid up you walk through the gardens towards the Abbey building itself. Entrance is through one of the side doors, rather than through the main entrance. Even though it wasn't a particularly wet day we were asked to put carpet protectors over our shoes, and with that done we were allowed in to the building proper. Like many National Trust properties you follow a one-way system that leads you through some of the rooms, but not all of them. As you go around there are various paper-based guides that you can read, or volunteers who will answer your questions.

The rooms that we saw were very well kept, and the various pieces of artwork and beautiful antiques were nicely displayed. My favourite room was the library, partly because of all the books, and partly because the volunteer pulled back the curtains to show the initials of various illustrious guests, carved in to the glass panes of the window. Upstairs one of the volunteers explained how various members of the Royal family stayed as over night guests when attending the races at Newmarket. Back on the ground floor we were about to descend a staircase in to another room when another volunteer stopped us to ask if we were both able to get back UP said stairs. The room had no doors or windows, and apparantly people frequently went down who then announced they struggled to get up stairs and would need some assistance! She also asked us to mind our steps as people fall down them as well. However the room was well worth it as it had some gorgeous examples of carved jade in green and purple.

The Gardens

The house is nestled in a lovely set of gardens, which have various areas hedged off to great smaller gardens, such as a rose garden. There's also various statues dotted around the place, and winding walks along gravelled paths. If we had had more time we probably would have seen more of the garden, but as we had been to Wimpole that morning we were both worn out. Instead we settled for a stroll outside the front of the house, followed a path down the side which led to a lovely lawn and some benches, and after a rest we walked along the river to Lode Mill, then went back via another path towards the house.

Lode Mill

Lode Mill is a working flour mill that is in the Abbey gardens. The National Trust states that "most of it's working parts are 150 years old", and also points out that a Mill was recorded on the site in the Domesday book. When we went it was covered in scaffolding as the outside was being repainted, but visitors were still allowed inside. It is still used to make flour to this day, which can be purchased from the gift shop back in the visitor centre. Even if you're not interested in the mill itself, it's still worth a walk up along the river due to the lovely view.

Overall me and my boyfriend really enjoyed our visit, and once I get National Trust membership again I'll be popping back for another walk around the gardens. If you're near Cambridge then I highly recommend you give this property a try, just not when you're tired!

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