Saturday, September 9, 2017

Wightwick Manor

Given that it's only just over an hour away from me I don't know why it took me so long to find out about Wightwick Manor (there's a list of National Trust places like this that make me think they could be doing a better job of letting people know what's out there), but now I have I'm here to spread the word.

I read about Wightwick in an article someone had posted somewhere (details are hazy) about Pre Raphaelite houses. Wightwick is on the outskirts of Wolverhampton and sounded intriguing, the reviews for the cafe were also excellent (I can personally recommend the coconut and pineapple cake). We went today, which also turned out to be a heritage open day so entry was free which was a bonus that went some way towards mitigating the cost of (William Morris themed) umbrellas. It was sunny and dry when we set out, but that didn't last.

Wightwick Manor was to be the family home of the Manders, reasonably wealthy, and rising, industrialists from Wolverhampton, with keen social consciences. The project was started in 1887, and then the size of the house was doubled between 1892-3. The Manders taste ran to the arts and crafts so the went to Morris & Co for their wallpaper and various bits of furniture.

Geoffrey Mander, who inherited the house from his parents, seems to have shared both their taste and their socialism. In 1937 he gave the house, its contents, and an endowment to the National Trust. At that time it was still technically a modern house, but it was also a well preserved piece of late Victorian taste, and it's gone on to be something more. The Manders continued to live in the house and in partnership with the Trust further built the arts and crafts and Pre Raphaelite collection - this is an ongoing process.

There are some remarkable things here; an extensive collection of Rossetti's work, pieces by Elizabeth Siddel, Burne Jones, ceramics by William de Morgan, paintings by Evelyn de Morgan (there's also an extensive exhibition of both their work in the Malt House gallery which is quite stunning). There's also a wonderful Cecil Aldin freeze around the nursery wall. There is wonderful Pre Raphaelite stained glass - and essentially I would happily move in tomorrow.

If I had a criticism, it's that it isn't always clear what your looking at, the pictures aren't labelled and though some of the rooms had lists and guides that helped answer questions, not all did. Altogether though it's a brilliant opportunity to see the art against its intended background, and see the wallpapers and textiles together. The house itself is a delightfully romantic confection full of alcoves, hidden corners, and treasures. It is well worth visiting.


  1. Lovely photographs! What did you use to take them (other than a good eye)?

  2. It's the camera phone on my pretty much bottom of the range Samsung galaxy a5. It's pretty good at what it does well, terrible at everything else. I'd like a proper camera again - I haven't had one since the days of film, but the advantage of phones is that I always have mine with me, and a proper camera would be one thing else to cart around and inevitably forget half the time you want it.

  3. Very impressive ... makes me wonder why I lug around a digital SLR and an extra lens!If you are looking for something compact, my husband recently bought a Panasonic Lumix and is delighted with it; light, very portable, excellent zoom and a proper viewfinder.

  4. Because your SLR can handle changing depths of field, and light levels, probably gives you truer colours, doesn't make you despair of ever getting a decent picture of an interesting looking tree, and so on. It doesn't t worry me to much because I tend to focus on details which the phone handles quite well, but the dining room picture (included for the stuffed wombat, and the dim picture in the background which is of Millicent Garret Fawcett and her husband - and which I was tremendously moved to see) shows it's shortcomings. I'd love an SLR, but can't quite justify it at the moment.

  5. I have enjoyed the photographs in this post, the light seems to have been just right. How did you know that it was a Wombat on the dining table?! I have a little Fuji Finepix camera which is very good for macro shots and is light enough to carry easily.

  6. It's clearer when you see it! Rossetti had a pet wombat (called Top?) which is why they have a toy one on the table. Seems he had a thing for exotic animals. The light was good, or at least it was the sort the phone camera likes. I just use an iPad these days so transferring photos onto it is no longer an option - and that puts me off buying a small camera. I like the idea of getting something a bit bigger and really making the effort with photography, but then it's another expensive hobby to add to the list...