September 28 – Wimpole Hall

Some Church Micros, Village Signs and A Fine Pair Around Cambridgeshire

Hello for 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Today we decided to go to Wimpole Estate, a National Trust property, which is a  large estate containing Wimpole Hall, a country house, St Andrew’s church, a folly, a walled garden and a working farm. Wimpole Hall is Grade I listed, and the estate itself is Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The entrance gates and piers at the west entrance to the hall are listed as Grade II, and the stable block is listed as Grade II. Wimpole house was begun in 1640, and its 3,000 acres of parkland and farmland are now owned by the National Trust and are regularly open to the public.

Wimpole, the largest house in Cambridgeshire is sited close to the great Roman road, Ermine Street, Wimpole was listed in the Domesday of 1086. The house was held by the Chicheley family for over 250 years. The last of this family to hold the house was the politician Thomas Chicheley, who was responsible for the “new” house that was completed in 1650. Wimpole Hall’s grounds were laid out and modified by landscape designers such as George London and Henry Wise (1693–1705), Charles Bridgeman (1720s), Robert Greening (1740s), “Capability” Brown (1767), and Humphry Repton (1801–1809).

St Andrews church’s East window was by Powell of Whitefriars named “Christ in Majesty” with a reredos framing it. Chicheley Chapel is down a couple of steps and has some wonderful stained glass windows, one by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake c.1868, a Clayton and Bell c.1859, and a Heaton Butler and Bayne c. 1874. The chapel contained lots of memorials to the Earls of Hardwicke and a couple of brass memorials while the church had wall monuments to the Yorke family. The carving on the capitals was very beautiful.

We had a wonderful day walking around the hall and grounds. Every room in the house was decorated differently but the highlight was the Yellow drawing room with an apse and a domed ceiling designed by Sir John Soane,  a famous architect from 1753 – 1837. The book room and the Library were massive with over 4000 books with gild on a blue-green wall and an ornate ceiling. Other highlights were a chinoiserie grandfather clock and the grand dining room with gold and grey fruit on the ceiling and cornice work. The walls are navy with gold and the curtains are red velvet with gold tassels. The grand staircase goes up three stories with wonderful paintings framing the stairs. My favourite was a wonderful peacock painting by Jan Weenix, a Dutch artist from 1640 – 1719.

In 1938, Capt. George Bambridge and his wife, Elsie, daughter of Rudyard Kipling, purchased the house after having been tenants since 1932. They used the inheritance left to them by her father, and the royalties from his books, for the long-needed refurbishment of the house and grounds. The final chapter of Wimpole as an owner-occupied residence was closed in 1976 when Elsie died, leaving the property to the National Trust. In 1901 the estate had 60 staff, 12 live in and the rest in cottages around the estate. In the time of Mrs Bambridge there were only 26 in total and after the WW2 there were only 7 or 8 staff.

The walled garden was huge and beautifully laid out with espaliered fruit trees, hedges, flowers and vegetables. All the vegetables grown in the garden are used in the restaurant and cafe. The garden was inspiring with an orchard at each side and a large glass house.

Mid-afternoon we set off home finding church micros on the way. The first was the Methodist church at Orwell which was a nice easy find and then on to St Andrew’s. St Andrews was a lovely church with a colourful display of tapestry kneelers. It had a brilliant modern East stained glass window which was designed by Leonard C. Evetts in 1957-1958. The ceiling of the chancel was barrel-shaped with painted shields and bosses. There was a lovely painted wall monument to Jeremias Radcliffe from 1612. We took a short walk to an easy find and then we also found the Orwell village sign cache too. We did “A Fine Pair” at Wimpole before heading to St Nicholas in Arrington for another church micro. At Longstowe we found a church micro at St Mary the Virgin church. The church was rather lovely with a reredos made of marble tiles which had a tile insert which in this light made it look like brass. There was a fantastic altar tomb for Anthony Cage from 1603 and an octagonal alabaster font. The church was completely made of brick which shows on the inside too with some patterning in black brick.

We found two more church micros at St Helena and St Mary’s in Bourn and the church of St Michael and All Angels in CaldecoteThe Caldecote village sign was a nice easy find but there was no easy place to park the car. We stopped in a driveway and rushed to find and sign the cache. Luckily it was very obvious so it was quickly done and we were on our way again. One more church micro at All Saints in Knapwell and the last for the day was at St Peter’s in BoxworthBy now I was technically night caching now as it was nearly dark. Mike went to take photos of the church while I walked down the track to find the cache. I saw what I believed to be the right place but at first look, I could not find the cache. I tried again to zero in on the right position but it brought me back to the same place and this time I found the cache straight away. Just as well I had a torch.

A great day in some lovely places around Cambridgeshire and another visit to add to our National Trust tally.