So this house, wow. I don't know if I can properly describe how great it was. And not great as in grand. I mean sure, it's big and it is old - but that's not what I mean with this place. The National Trust acquired Chastleton in 1991 when the family that previously owned it could no longer afford its upkeep. That family had been in possession of Chastleton for the past 400 years.
When the Trust took over its care, they decided on a very different angle. Instead of refurbishment and updating, they opted instead to merely preserve the house in the state that they got it. In this case it was an exquisite example of a 17th century Manor home. Even the "modern" effects from the family in 1991 are barely visible in a few rooms and amount to a television and a telephone.
But the 17th century bits have been lived in and cared for for 400 years and look exactly as they did then, but with an almost decrepit patina of slow disuse over time. Not exactly forgotten but faded. I cannot explain it. There is a quality about wandering in the house that feels as if you're spying on something personal. Perhaps it is the effects still left in the rooms or all the wonderful stories and history that permeates the house as you walk through it. Each room has Trust volunteers that can tell you story after story after story about the family and the house. And what stories!
This family were Jacobites! Rebels of the highest order. But then in the civil war (that's a bit earlier than the Jacobite rebellion) they were Royalists! There is a fantastic story, much told and referenced all over the house, of how the current owners of the house were staunch royalists and after the battle of Worcester in 1651, Arthur Jones galloped it hot back to Chastleton with Cromwell's soldiers in pursuit. His wife Sarah hid him in a secret room and whilst the soldiers did their best - they found his lathered and exhausted horse - they could not find him. They quartered in the house that night and Sarah laced their ale with laudanum. Once heavily asleep from the drug, she swept her husband out and helped him escape again on horseback! Exciting!!
I don't think I've had such a great time wandering about an old great Manor house. Nothing about it was sterile or museum-like, as so many of these places can tend to be. I simply felt like I had wandered through some faerie door back in time and was gifted a glimpse of how things were.
The highlight of course, is once you get to the third floor - the long gallery is absolutely gorgeous. They used this place as one of the filming locations for the excellent BBC Drama Wolf Hall.
My second favorite room was way down below on the ground floor though, the old kitchen. It was totally fantastic.