A garden and a house and a very very old tree.
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Went to Biddulph Grange Gardens. Thy were created by a man who made his fortune out of coal and iron ore mining. He was smart enough to lease the deposits to another man so he didn't have to worry about anything but his huge house and lovey gardens. He was also smart enough to sell the house and gardens and mines to the other man when he decided that the area was getting a bit crowded. The house is still there of course but it is not open to the public.
The gardens are not huge spectacular displays of flowers or large expanses of lawns and trees, but more of a wonderland in style. There is one section modeled on the old dinner plates that had a Chinese scene painted on it. They were very popular many years ago and some of you may remember them. It had the bridge and the temple and a wall around it to represent the Great Wall. There were little buildings scattered about the gardens with dark passages leading out to different parts of the garden. One area was set up like an Egyptian scene. The sun came out regularly and we had lunch on a bench in the Tennis Lawn area. There were large puppets all around the gardens made by local schools. The Tennis Lawn had Andy Murray. There was also an Army Cadet, Superman, Danger Mouse and Neil Armstrong. Probably more of them but those are the ones I can remember.
After that we went to Little Moreton House, but on the way we passed through a village called Astbury. The church caught my eye as we drove through as it was so large. We stopped and had a walk around the church but it was locked up. Such a shame that pond dwelling losers spoil it for all the honest people, but they rob the churches of the collection money and any valuable items they see. On the notice board outside the church was a short history of the village. There has been a church on that site for about 1000 years and the graveyard has a Knights Tomb and a tree that has been carbon dated that shows it is 2000 years old. We found both things and as you will see the tree is totally hollow. I wondered at how it gets enough nutrients up what is left of the trunk to support life, and yes it is still alive and full of leaves. Remarkable.
Had a beer in the pub opposite the Church. It was an old coaching inn and very nicely done inside and out. You will see a pic of Jean on the phone talking to Jean on the phone.
The house we went to is rather quirky and quaint. It was built by the Moreton family who owned a fair bit of the good Cheshire land in the area and were very successful farmers. They also branched out into owning shares in local coal mine and lime quarries, and owned three grain Mills. The head of the family held the title of Yeoman, which amongst other things means "a free man owning his own farm".
The house existed when Elizabeth the first came to the throne and as you will see from the pictures there is barely a straight line in the building as it has subsided and warped over the years since it was built in the early 1500's. One of the pictures shows an addition which was built in 1559.
Apart from the foundations causing the house to move around they also had a problem by adding second, and in the case of the Main Hall, a third story to the original buildings. These were just too heavy for the support and so the house is all over the place. The National trust spent a lot of money removing inner walls and putting steel supporting beams in and then putting the walls back. They didn't try to straighten any of the walls out so it looks just like it did hundreds of years ago.
We were given a 40 minute tour by a lady who had great knowledge of the house and it's occupants and the living conditions 450 years ago, then we had a wander round the other parts by ourselves. Travelling shows would come to these houses and perform plays. All the servants and farmhands were allowed to watch and then as the player were not of the Yeomanry class, they slept in the servants hall. The servants were treated to stories about life in large towns, such as London, and what ships looked like. The servants maybe went into the nearest large village, Congleton, which was about 5 KM away once a year. so stories about outside life were very much sought after. What a strange life it must have been.
By the way, if you thought, as I did, that the name Board Games (such as Monopoly) were called that because they were played on a board, then you are wrong. The dining table was "board" of wood supported by trestle which was turned upside down to play games (as hard as it is to imagine, they didn't have Playstations back then!) Things like the squares for chess were carved into the wood, hence the name "board games". Just another bit of trivia for your net quiz night.
One of the other interesting facts about life in those days was the arranged marriages. It seems that it you reached the age of 5 there was a reasonable chance you would actually live to grow up to a marriageable age. The families in the area would meet and select the marriage partner for their sons or daughters. By the time you were 12 you were betrothed to your future partner in life, and legally binding contracts were signed. You may not see the other person again for years and then all of a sudden, you were taken to a church and got married. Bad luck if he or she turned out to be a spotty faced oaf with the manners and looks of a wild pig, the contract had been signed and had to be honoured.
A good day out and the weather stayed reasonable all day. Later on as we were heading off to bed it started to rain, but ran at night is not a problem.