Visiting the Nobility

Yes, I know you don’t come to this blog looking to encounter the upper classes of the land, but I’ve been put through it and now it’s your turn.

'This land is your land, this land is my land...'

‘This land is your land, this land is my land…’

It’s Midsummer and we’re having a week off work. The day after our urban jaunt around Widnes and Runcorn finds us up north in the verdant coastal lands around Grange-Over-Sands.

A town on the lovely coastal railway between Lancaster and Carlisle.

A town on the lovely coastal railway between Lancaster and Carlisle.

Genteel and Victorian.

Genteel and Victorian.

On the marshed-up edge of Morecambe Bay.

On the marshed-up edge of Morecambe Bay.

I remember coming here as a child and there was still sand where the marshland is now.

You have to cross the railway to reach the Promenade.

You have to cross the railway to reach the Promenade.

A gently quiet place.

A gently quiet place.

If you’ve been around the blog a while you might remember our walk down that hill into Grange from the Hospice of Hampsfell. But today we’re not here for serious moorland walking. Today we’re looking for monkeys.

As you may know Sarah takes great delight in Monkey Puzzle Trees and is currently, for reasons best known to herself, compiling an international data-base of all known monkeys. She is busy appointing ‘Agents’ from as far apart as Hereford, Widnes, London and Texas to help her with this mighty, some might say foolhardy and pointless task. Whatever, it gives her great  respite from her funeral work and her Monkey Puzzle Meanderings blog is quietly developing into a thing of intense and eccentric beauty.

So today we’re here looking for monkeys.

Some are already known about and we're here to photograph them, catalogue them and include them in the archives.

Some are already known about and we’re here to photograph them, catalogue them and include them in the archives.

But the joy of a true ‘monkey hunt’ is to come upon monkeys by accident and serendipity. And that’s what we’re up to. Walking and driving between known monkeys, reckoning that we’ll then find others by chance. The reasoning for this is that this most ancient of trees became highly fashionable amongst the moneyed classes of the late Victorian/Edwardian era. And where one of them has planted a monkey you’ll usually find a few others have too, to all ‘keep up’ with each other.

As a town that grew up with its railway as a haven and holiday destination for mill owners and other industrialists, we’re confident that Grange and the villages around it will provide fertile monkey territory. We’re not wrong either, and a haul of 16 monkeys are found on this day and featured in a post over on Sarah’s blog.

So I’ll write little more about monkeys here, so’s not to take the shine off Sarah’s post, but also because we’ve still got the Nobility to deal with. Here’s how it happens.

Sarah’s got a map with known and suspected monkeys marked on it and we’re driving to a village called Cark, where at least one is thought to be. But I drive into and through the village and no monkey has appeared.

“Where is it then?” I ask a rather shifty looking Sarah. “Oh just keep driving, It’ll be along here soon” she reassures me.

With which we proceed to pull up in front of what we technically term the ‘Fuck off gates of a Nob House’. She has knowingly brought me to a stately home.

Holker Hall, the house in question.

Holker Hall, the house in question.

This is a dangerous moment for Sarah. As she well knows I loathe and despise the landed-gentry. Viewing the lot of them as squatters and thieves. I am never impressed when I hear how many centuries these huge tracts of land have been ‘in’ their family. Because I have never and will never forgive their arrogance in putting walls up round land that rightfully belongs to all of us and behaving like it ‘traditionally’ belongs to them.

You get the idea.

“Who are this lot then?” I ask in-the-know Sarah. “Erm, they’re called Cavendish and are apparently the Dukes of Devonshire.”

More harsh words are said, by me, as I sketch out for Sarah how close to the top of the greed-heap this lot have been since the middle ages and how I seem to remember that one of them took tea with Hitler in the days of appeasement before World War ll. All true as it turns out,  plus the fact that this is nowhere near their main house, just a northern bauble that fell into the family’s lap early in the 20th century.

“Yes but I want to go in. They’ve got monkeys” states Sarah with steely determination.

So, £8 each lighter we're allowed into 'their' garden.

So, £8 each lighter we’re allowed into ‘their’ garden.

Not the house mind, that would be even more.

Though I do stick the camera through an open window for a look.

Though I do stick the camera through an open window for a look.

And we do find monkeys, 6 of them in fact (so that’s £2.50 each they cost us) in a garden of no particular interest.

But severe formality, requiring intense maintenance.

But severe formality, requiring intense maintenance.

Like mowing the lawns so they're all diagonally striped.

Like mowing the lawns so they’re all diagonally striped.

It all screams 'Money' and 'Because we can'

It all screams ‘Money’ and ‘Because we can’

Then there's this grandiose central feature.

Then there’s this grandiose central feature.

Nobility19

Versailles-like, stretching up to the sky.

Versailles-like, stretching up to the sky.

Nobility17 Nobility18

With a rill...

With a rill…

On either side.

On either side.

"Because we can"

“Because we can”

And no, we don’t meet any Nobility. But we do find their monkeys.

Here being catalogued by chief monkey-hunter Sarah.

Here being catalogued by chief monkey-hunter Sarah.

Whilst I sit in front of the Nob House regaling them with the history and purpose of Socialism.

Whilst I sit in front of the Nob House regaling them with the history and purposes of Socialism.

We leave.

One more time down to the Coastal Line.

One more time down to the Coastal Line.

Watched over by the monkey of Kent's Bank.

Watched over by the monkey of Kents Bank.

Lovely day though. Spiced up by a bit of righteous anger!

See Sarah’s politer version of the day here. Gives some insight on what it’s like taking me to visit a stately home!

9 thoughts on “Visiting the Nobility

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Worth a blog post on its own Robert! In short, I value the work they do conserving things like bits of coastline and truly ancient monuments. But am repelled by their Nob House and Gardens activities.

      But as I say, worth a longer and more considered response.

      Reply
      1. robertday154

        I tend to take the view that their Nob House activities (I suspect i shall think of them that way hereafter!) are important for giving everyone access at a more reasonable price to places that once only the privileged enjoyed. The money I do not begrudge them because it is ploughed back into the economy – often, the local economy – for the purpose of maintaining the Nob Houses and other good works, rather than just disappearing into some private coffers.

        But some of the Nobs put quite restrictive conditions on accessing some of the properties; and in preserving the Nob Houses, I sometimes feel that the NT gets a bit too close to some of the attitudes of the former owners. Granted, the NT themselves recognise this and are making steps to change their ways: but when you look at some of the people at the top of the organisation, you do have to wonder whether some of them think that they are the new inheritors of all the Nob-ness…

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        I think I’m a bit harder line than you Robert! My main thought on ‘giving everyone access to places that once only the privileged enjoyed’ is ‘Who cares?’

      3. robertday154

        “Who cares?” Well, I do, for one. It was working people who built the posh houses, and wove the tapestries, and maintained the gardens and estates, not the Nobs. I take the view that we should remember those workers whilst acknowledging that the system they lived and worked under, no matter how patrician and benevolent it might sometimes (and I stress “sometimes”) appear, was ultimately unjust and reinforced the inequalities of the class system. To its credit, the NT has tried over the past few years to reflect this, albeit in a rather muted way (probably so as to avoid upsetting those who revel in the displays of status and power for their own sake).

        I suspect you may harbour ideas along the lines of a “Year Zero” approach, that it might be better if all these vestiges of the old order were swept away and humanity advanced forward into a better age. I can understand the attractions of that approach. But I rather suspect that adopting “Year Zero” policies only tend to alienate those whose natural inclinations tend toward the conservative. The Soviet Union tried that with religion, and only succeeded in driving it underground, to re-emerge after 1991, stronger than before.

      4. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        I’ve never thought of myself as a cold hard Stalinist, I simply despise the monarchy, the upper classes and the British establishment generally. And I’m bewildered that so many people go along with propping up a system where we are all the ‘subjects’ of people who are, after all, only robber barons with a few hundred years of history behind them.

  1. Helen Devries

    Nob houses…lovely. That’s how they’ll stay labelled in my mind from now on.
    As for the NT…if I can’t afford to stay in my house I have to get out….but the NT lets the improvident scions of crooks stay on in their roosts.
    I saw a couple of programmes about an NT property in the south where the son of the bod who passed the property over to the NT was still strutting about trying to run the place…

    Reply

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