Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Upton Top Ranking - Art Deco Glamour In Rural Warwickshire



In 1927 Mr AR Motion put his house and accompanying 800 acre estate up for sale.



Andrew Motion was an East-End boy made good. He'd worked his way up from humble brewery labourer to owning a hugely successful brewing business. He bought Upton House in Warwickshire in 1897, considering it to be a suitable country estate for a man of his standing but, at the age of 70, with his wife in declining health and his six children married and living independently, he decided to downsize.



Upton House was bought by Walter and Dorothea Samuel, Lord and Lady Bearsted. Lord Bearsted had become one of the wealthiest men in Britain after inheriting the family fortune, amassed from his father's development of the Shell Transport & Trading Company which gave him the funds to buy and redevelop Upton for the modern age. 



The building work soon began with esteemed British architect Percy Morley Horder employed to transform the "old-fashioned" country house into a "made to measure" home, suitable for hosting glamorous Jazz Age parties and for showcasing Lord Bearsted's large collection of art.

Percy Morley Horder's office as it would have looked in 1927


1920s Britain was an era free from planning laws and the rich could pretty much do what they liked with their money. On buying 17th Century Upton House, Lord Bearsted proceeded to knock down walls, rip out wood paneling & cornicing, move doorways and lower ceilings. Original staircases were remodeled and fireplaces removed and replaced with built-in alcoves to accommodate Lord Bearsted's collection of antique figurines. What is it they say about money not being able to buy taste? 


Mercifully, Upton House's facade remained untouched throughout the renovations. 


On arrival we made our way to the Land Agent's office and booked an architectural talk, with a tour of the house an hour later. The talk was interesting and the National Trust volunteer engaging and lovely but the gloomy, characterless interior of the house left us decidedly underwhelmed, in marked contrast to our opinion of the gorgeous exterior.


We took a stroll around the grounds, which looked beautiful despite the chilly weather (so much for Spring, it tried to snow when we got there!)


On re-entering the house the curtains had been drawn and the rooms were flooded with light so the dingy interior looked a lot more enticing - maybe those renovations weren't such a bad idea.  To mark the ninetieth anniversary of Upton House's sale The National Trust had enlarged and hung original photographs of the interior over the more recent renovations so visitors were able to imagine the original layout of the house before it was purchased by the Bearsteds.


After the land agent (a National Trust volunteer in disguise) ran through the particulars of Upton House we were left to roam around at our leisure and invited to open drawers and have a poke around.



You can tell a lot about a person from their taste in books!

The billiard room

Cosy family living space just off the Grand Hall






The original fireplaces were replaced with reproductions then considered to be far more fashionable

Lord Bearsted amassed an incredible art collection including several works by Rembrandt & Canaletto over his lifetime. He'd inherited a fortune of £4 million in 1927 (said to be around £150 million by today's standards) so he could buy whatever caught his fancy. 


Lord Bearsted didn't just splash his cash on home renovations and art, he contributed over half a million pounds to Kindertransport, was a trustee for the Tate Gallery and donated to the National Art Collections Fund. On being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1948 (and dying months later) he bequeathed Upton House and Gardens to the National Trust, ensuring it would be enjoyed by the nation for years to come.


After an hour or so exploring the downstairs, Upton House was beginning to grow on us. Although these 1920s stairs weren't as fabulous as the photos we'd seen of the original stone staircase we had to admit that they were still pretty spectacular.



Unlike normal people who move into a house and buy a picture to fill a space on a wall, Lord Bearsted built his house especially to accommodate his paintings. 


I'd read a few reviews on Trip Advisor suggesting that the upstairs of Upton House wasn't worth bothering with. After seeing for ourselves it only goes to prove that a lot of the site's contributors are mad (so book a hotel on their recommendations with extreme caution!)


This sweet little Art Deco bedroom was adorable.


Although the clothes on display in the Modern Ages room were reproduction, they'd captured the Jazz Age well. 


The volunteers encouraged me to rummage through the wardrobe and try on this burn-out velvet piano shawl.



I felt quite at home looking at my reflection in this 1920s sink unit, we inherited its twin when we moved into our house (and still taking pride of place in the utility room).


Lord Bearsted owned Shell and the many vintage advertising posters on display along the corridors of the upper floor made Jon (and me!) weak at the knees.




The opulence of Lady Bearsted's bedroom was incredible but I nearly died when I saw the Art Deco splendour of her en-suite bathroom.


Yes, the walls & ceiling really are silver.


I'd have loved to have met Lady Bearsted, she must have been quite a woman.


We were invited to take a test to see whether we had good taste (as defined by a 1920s edition of Country Living magazine) and I passed the test with flying colours. So I was right when I called Lord Bearsted's collection of china figurines hideous! 


After a final wander around the gardens we strolled back along the elegant carriage walk and made the hour long journey home.


Upton House, 
Near Banbury, Warwickshire
 OX15 6HT


Hope you enjoyed your trip, we did!

See you soon.

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.


Click on the photos if you want to see them in more detail (especially that bathroom!)




82 comments:

  1. That silver bathroom is something else! You are right, that collection of antique china figurines is hideous :)

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    1. That bathroom was the highlight of the house. I was expecting bad things after seeing that porcelain collection! x

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  2. I DID enjoy the tour!
    The two of you looked quite at home there ♥

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the tour. That house would have been perfect for parties! x

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  3. V cool!!!! Love the interest and focus on art!!!!

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    1. Me, too! Imagine being rich enough to buy a house just so you can accommodate your art collection and throw parties. x

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  4. That silver is amazing. So stylish the Art Deco period....I always love the clean lines. My grandmother burnt all the inherited Victorian mahogany furniture so that she could have the latest clobber. She was a flapper and used to make herself a new dress every week for the dance on the Saturday night!
    Arilx

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    1. The 1920s must have been an exciting time, dressmaking patterns enabled women of all classes to wear fashionable clothes and the interior decor was a world away from the over the top ornamentation of the Victorians! x

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  5. Wow! The silver bathroom was amazing! I'm so glad you treated us with pictures of this estate.

    You two look great as usual.

    Happy thrifting ;)

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    1. Thank you! I wasn't sure if those photos would come out, cameras are allowed but flashes weren't. xxx

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  6. We can beat Upton as we are 1000ft above sea level but we cant beat them in size. I could easily get settled into that cosy family room and library.
    I'm surprised they weren't watching you for running off with some of that historical clobber haha. I did shiver when you mentioned ripping the guts out of the place but it still looks a fabulous house and the exterior is very handsome.
    Your National Trust days out are great for us readers as a lot of them we would probably never get to, so thank you for the virtual tours.
    Hope we get some good weather on Sunday. Looking forward to the gang all being there. xxxx

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    1. Upton isn't far from your sister. I think you should squeeze in a little trip next time you're visiting - if only to try on the clothes. The 1920s gent's tweed jacket hanging up in the architect's office was gorgeous, the Welder would have taken a fancy to it! x

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  7. Thanks for the cool tour, Vix! (That sink unit is fab but the first thing I thought was 'man, that is so cool but it would be hard to keep clean!' Hehee)
    xox

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    1. How practical! My first thought was " I want that in our house", I'm so undomesticated! xxxx

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  8. weird that my den has the same green carpet as the fancy bedroom. LOVE the silver bathroom! Thanks for the tour

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    1. I'd never seen a carpet quite like it, Jon wants one in our house now! x

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  9. Beautiful place! I especially love that bathroom! Would loved to have visited back in the 20s for a party! :)

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    1. I bet all the parties started and finished with Champagne in the bathtub! There was a swimming pool in the grounds, not very practical in the UK! x

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  10. Whyever would someone need to downsize from a house like that? Hahaha! What an excellent tour, for you and Jon in person, but for us checking out your photos here. You look quite at home in the manor. Silver bathroom. Yes. And htat's great how you could poke around the library and the drawers and the closets. Thanks for this fantastic diversion.

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    1. I know! I wonder how many bedrooms he downsized to, ten?!
      We need a silver bathroom in our lives! x

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  11. Oh, that's so much nicer than silver foil wallpaper;)

    I loved your tour, and being able to get up close to the books, etc. is a nice feature of the place. Renovations can go seriously bad in the wrong hands but this didn't look that awful to me.

    Love your coat, though it seems a pity to still need one with daffodils blooming. What messed-up weather.

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    1. The renovations were well done, I'll give them that!
      Spring in the UK means daffodils and plummeting temperatures. I found that coat a fortnight ago and it hasn't been off my back since! x

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  12. I adore these online tours. I get some armchair travelling in.

    The art collection was very impressive as was that bathroom! WOW!!! Incredible.

    Thanks for taking us along with you.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. isn't that bathroom amazing? Silver walls and oil paintings bigger than a house, that's my kind of opulence! xxx

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  13. I agree with Suzanne. Keep these tours coming. How great to get to poke and try things on!

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    1. We will! The schools break up for the Easter holidays on Friday so we'll be giving the national Trust properties a wide berth for a fortnight, they get crazy busy as you can imagine. xxx

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  14. Hi Vix, love the tours, you look like the bathroom was made for you, your outfit perfectly coordinates! Jon looks relaxed by the daffodils too. I wander where you two will be off to next. Xx

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    1. My coat does match - I hadn't realised that. Obviously that mad bathroom was waiting for me! If only I'd have been a rich socialite in 1927, Upton House would have been mine. xxx

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  15. Someday I want a gilded hammam similar to that bathroom! It must have been a real feat of engineering to get that modern bathroom plumbed & installed in that old manor house.
    What an interesting art collection Lord Bearsted had, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
    Thank you for the brilliant tour, Madam Vix!
    xox

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    1. A gilded hammam, how fabulous!
      Can you imagine the cost of introducing plumbing back then? It was a real luxury. I'm not sure what would have cost more, the building work or that silver paint! xxx

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  16. Thanks Vix for a great arm chair tour. Loved it. So interesting. Look forward to more.

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    1. Thanks, Sally! There will be more (after the school holidays!) xxx

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  17. That bathroom is gorgeous! It looks like quite a live-able house, it's impossible to imagine actually living in some of these grand country houses but I think the 1920s renovations gave this one a more homely feel

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    1. You're right, Upton House had a really lovely homely feel despite its size. xxx

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  18. I like dropped waists. Very flattering, for me anyway.

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    1. I love dropped waists, too. They help to make me look taller - always a good thing! x

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  19. What a great read! What a grand house and estate, although it's a pity that many of the original features were ripped out. I would have loved to poke around inside that house, and I always have a look at the bookshelves whenever we visit NT and other properties. I must admit, it does look lovely, in spite of the extensive renovations. Reproduction or not, I love the display of Jazz Age clothes. That bathroom is truly spectacular. xxx

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    1. I'm a real Luddite when it comes to renovations in ancient houses but looking at the old photographs I grudgingly had to admit that Upton looked a lot brighter and more welcoming after the work. xxx

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  20. We *always* have our homes built around our funky art collections (no, we don't)!! Thanks for this fabulous tour. The silver bathroom is too grand to even turn the water on, but gorgeous to look at. You and Jon look cool as always, xox

    -Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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    1. How the other half lived, eh? xxx

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  21. The intense red of your ensemble matched well with that splendid repro coat and hat in the wardrobe exhibit. What a good idea, providing visitors an opportunity to try on garments typical of the period!

    The silver bathroom tempts one to wonder, "How could...?" But, dear me, how did a house party occupying 15 bedrooms cope with only 3 baths? Less silver, more tubs and toilets, I say!

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    1. It wasn't planned that I matched the wardrobe or the bathroom decor, honest! It must have been my legendary spooky Sixth Sense!!
      You know what they used to say about us Brits, that we're not exactly renowned for our hygiene! xxx

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  22. Thank you sooooooo much for the tour. Many times we do nt go to these houses because it costs a bomb, but I love them
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXx

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    1. My pleasure! I didn't realise what great value National Trust membership was, we pay £8.60 a month between us and can visit (and park) at all their properties for free. Bargain! xxx

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  23. How right you are...you can tell loads about a person from their bookshelves and money definitely does not buy taste. (An oligarch's wife came through the airport on Monday, what a state! Too much botox and bling, accesorised with a Honey G baseball cap and a dreadful fake tan.) Thank you for the armchair tour around Upton House, loved the Imperial Airways prints and wow...that is quite a bathroom. Wonder if Mr. Motion was any relation to the ex Poet Laureate? xxx

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    1. Oh dear! What a shame today's millionaires squander their money on plastic surgery and hideous bling instead of art and silver bathrooms.
      I wondered if the Motions were related. It's an unusual name, isn't it? xxx

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  24. It's a home day today, with violent thunderstorms coming through. In other words, the PERFECT day to sit in a deep armchair and enjoy my ramble through Upton House!! What an extraordinary place, and so wonderful that it was put in trust. Your pictures and commentary are so delightful, and I agree that the upstairs contains treasures too!! Of course, I love the glimpses of you and Jon in situ. I'm about to scroll back in time and enjoy more of your posts. LOVE YOU!!!!

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    1. Yay! It's so good to hear from you, Jean. I do miss you! xxx

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  26. I've been working all week so I've just now caught up with your latest post, it looks like a fascinating day out, especially being encouraged to try things on. The gardens are pretty and as ever your outfit is lovely, I love your choice of colour :) xxx

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    1. Working? that'll never do! I was feeling optimistic after Monday's sunshine and ironed a Hawaiian dress to wear - I should have known better. It was freezing yesterday morning so out came the Winter gear again! xxx

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  27. That silver bathroom is fabulous, what a lady! I bet she knew how to create intrigue.

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    1. isn't it wonderful? You can't help but admire someone with such wild taste! x

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  28. Hmm. He really did blandify the inside of the house, didn't he? Such a shame. On the other hand, I can't bring myself to completely condemn someone who helped fund the Kindertransport.

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    1. I can't understand people who buy old houses and then proceed to rip the guts out of them. If you like modern houses buy a bloody modern house and leave the old stuff to those of us who appreciate it, you heathens! xxx

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  29. That bathroom is heavenly!! I'd be quite happy in the bath with a glass of something. Best bit of the house! Thanks for the tour, one for us to add to the list xx

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    1. The bathroom was the highlight of the house. There was an incredible Art Deco swimming pool in the garden but it was being renovated - well worth a return trip to admire it! x

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  30. Another fabulous tour! I love how you can take photos inside, so many places are against that sort of thing. So many wonderful things to take photos of, and then there is the gardens outside!!!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the trip, Sue! There does seem to be a lot more properties allowing photos, I wonder if it's because so many people have camera-phones these days and take sneaky snaps anyway. xxx

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  31. the house looks very beautiful! and i´m very curious to see more of the art collection. once we come to england i just print out your national trust posts as a guide - trip advisor can go home ;-P
    glorious outfit my dear! xxxxx

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    1. You won't need to print off my blog posts, Beate - I'll be your guide in person. Get over here! xxx

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  32. Wow, Lady Bearsted's bathroom is just insane. I bet it was such a shock walking in there and seeing that! I'd love one in my house xx

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    1. After reading the negative Trip Advisor posts and being underwhelmed by the renovations downstairs I was amazed by the bedroom/bathroom! xxx

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  33. The house is beautiful. I'm not to crazy about the figurines though. The bathroom looked big enough to live in-and very unique! Love reading about the all the homes you visited so far with the National Trust tours.

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    1. I thought we were in for a hideous house when i spotted those figurines. I'm glad Upton redeemed itself with the bathroom! x

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  34. Oh dear I've only ever been to Banbury shopping, what a philistine!

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    1. You need to rectify that - go back, shop and visit Upton. The tea room's licensed and does veg curry! x

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  35. I just adore that beautiful interior! The art deco bathroom is truly stunning and I adore the gardens too! I'm so glad they drew the curtains and it all seemed a lot less dreary!

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    1. Isn't that bathroom fabulous? xxx

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  36. I always enjoy reading your wonderful commentary as much as seeing the photos of your discoveries, so yes - I definitely enjoyed my trip! I think I can hear the staircase squeaking and smell the smells of the old house. Your outfit is joyful! Much love!

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! I thought of your love of Art Deco when I was in the bathroom! x

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  37. I did enjoy my trip, thank you very much! Glad you ignored the reviews and climbed the lovely stairs. xx

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    1. Me, too! Some people are more interested in the length of the queue in the tearoom rather than spectacular bathrooms! x

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  38. I so enjoy the vicarious tours through these massive English homes. It's nice they let you take photos inside, and rummage around in the closet. That bathroom is stunning!! I agree with you about the china figurines. As "they" say, money can't buy taste!

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    1. I know, I love how some of the NT houses are so relaxed and easy with you having a proper look. I'm not a fan of the super posh roped off palaces. xxx

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  39. Thanks for another great day out with Vix and Jon!! Loved it. (Hmmm...the figurines but that bathroom is pretty speccy - real silver ceilings as you do!!) xx

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    1. Jon wants a silver ceiling in the kitchen now, not sure if that's a step too far! x

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  40. Crikey, that bathroom is something else! I'm sure I've seen a gold deco bathroom on my travels.

    Oh no, no no no, I hate those figurines! Though I prefer glass I do have a penchant for the insane majolica ceramics xxx

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    1. Some of those majolica ceramics are so bad, they're good! xxx

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  41. Simply breathtaking! This place just kept getting better and better as I progressed through your photographs. I love that all the decorative details and accessories are still in place.

    I appreciate and thank you for taking me along on this tour and all the previous ones you've taken (and will take in the future) to the magnificent historic properties you have in your part to the world. Such a treat!

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Don't be shy, if you enjoyed your visit leave a comment, I can come and visit your blog if you do.
Love from Vix
xxx