Sunday, 15 March 2009
I've always stayed behind the scenes in theatres - not because I can't act (though I haven't tried since my schooldays!) but simply because I love the atmosphere backstage. I find it endlessly fascinating. Even when I go to see a play, I often catch myself thinking about what must be happening off-stage.
One fantastic advantage of the type of holiday I described yesterday is the chance to go behind the scenes at the National Trust. Not just at the site where we were working, but also on our day off on Wednesday, when we had a fantastic tour of the manor house at Petworth, West Sussex. Well, I say house. It's more of a minor palace really, with a whole wing that was built just to show off the art collections of the family who lived here! And grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, of course.
Most (if not all) National Trust houses close during the winter months, and Petworth was just about to open its doors again, but some of the winter covers were still in place in the chapel:
As volunteers, we were also treated to a look inside the ice house which is not usually open to the public. I can't get over the fact that they shipped ice from the Americas just because it was 'purer' than European ice!
You can hardly capture the scale of the underground ice stores in one photo, but I've tried for you:
We were allowed to take photos indoors (as you can see) which is usually off-limits to tourists and made us all feel extra-special. I hope you enjoy this glimpse 'backstage'.
I have to admit that I usually find more things of interest in the servants' quarters than in the main parts of these huge, posh houses. I love kitchens of any era, and I get serious pan-envy looking at some of these!
But I have to say I was very impressed by the murals at Petworth...
... and the carvings in the (imaginatively named) Carved Room ...
... and the huge, gallery-worthy collection of paintings and sculptures:
It was also pleasant weather for a stroll in the grounds to admire the follies (and daffodils).
The town of Petworth, two minutes' walk from the house, was also rather quaint, boasting an inordinate number of antique shops (and a perfectly acceptable number of tea shops).
All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I'd highly recommend a visit to Petworth to anyone - even if you don't get the personalised tour, there's still a lot to see.