Thursday, 24 March 2011

Shugborough - Part 3. Dissipation and Ruin, followed by a good marriage.

(Posting 1: The new rooms at Shugborough, opened in March 2011)
(Posting 2: How the wealth originally came to Shugborough)


Before we start, a quick photo showing yet another bed heading/pelmet for the collection.
So our pirate, sorry, Admiral of the Fleet, was safely ensconced at Shugborough and started a chain of acquisitions, and generally spending and enjoying his wealth.

The house went through the family and various family members altered things along the way. I'll pick up the story when Thomas Anson became 1st Earl of Lichfield in 1831. His inherited fortune was worth about £70,000 (a fairly large amount at the time) 

I've used various calculations to bring this amount up to date for you. Using Average Earnings, this is just over £58 million.

He was a man who loved to spend, wanted political advantage and needed to spend lots to achieve that, and he was a notorious gambler. Despite the enormity of his wealth, he was soon in debt. Imagine getting through £58 million like that - truly staggeringly awful.  His gambling expenses forced him to mortgage Shugborough, but it wasn't enough and he had to sell the contents of this and his other London homes.

The sale catalogue includes things such as Rembrandt paintings, 10,000 bottles of wine, sculptures, books, and even the tools from the walled garden.

His son the 2nd Earl must have had a bit more about him. He married Harriet the eldest daughter of the Duke of Abercorn, and between them they started to put back what they could, and buying new where they couldn't. They achieved all this by selling one of their London homes.

The 3rd Earl was even better. He started to use his brains and energy to run the estate himself, sacking the land agent and saving heaps of money. He was able to pay off the enormous mortage by borrowing smaller amounts from friends, and invested "in the colonies". I don't know what the latter means exactly, but most of what is there today is as a result of the 3rd Earl. Lets hope it wasn't slavery, sugar plantations, tobacco etc, but something outdoorsy and invigorating and more or less harmless; sheep farming in Australia perhaps?

 You enter the house through it's central section which was built in 1694.

The Hall has 8 marble columns and is filled with classical sculptures.
 And into the State Dining Room.

 I'm told the "cappricios were bought back by Thomas Anson, on his Grand Tour"

I suspect they mean the paintings, and I hope it wasn't more of a Grand Sneer.
 The elaborate plasterwork done by Vasselli.

There are 3 horses bodies and four heads (oops?)
 This I believe to be Sevre porcelain. Love the knife and forks which sort of match.

I wonder if you can buy matching cutlery and china these days?

One of two very elaborate vases. There is a bird on the front, one on the handle and a couple at the bottom.

The red drawing room

 This room used to be a bedroom but was converted to look like this in 1794.

The walls are covered in Eckhardt and Co in a shade of salmon etched with silver.

It contains 14 chairs and two sofas. They were supplied by London upholsterers Charles Smith and Co and cost £296. (about £245,000 by the Retail Price Index) They had leather stockings to protect the legs from cleaners, and the backs are not decoraed as they were designed to sit against the walls.

French clock which is pure baroque!
 To the left and below, the Saloon with a view from the front of the house to the back.
 Scagiola columns in the Saloon. Designed to give a false perspective and make the room look longer.
 This is a model of the ship the Centurion. This was the one that captured the Spanish treasure ship and bought the original wealth to Shugborough.
 Amorial service. This was given by merchants in Canton, in thanks for the Admiral's help after the fires which destroyed the town.

The Library

I love a library, and they don't get much more comfortable or delightful than this one. Left is the false door, that looks like shelves of books and hides the entrance. If you look at the hinges you can see how thin it is.

I have a few photos of this space as it was probably the best one I've come across recently.

Again the perspective has been played with by adding mirrors at the sides of the columns and appearing to show lines of bookcases. The far end of the room is also apparently narrower.

The bookcases at the end are thought to be the Admirals original ones, but sadly his books went in the sale.

The family used to toast muffins at the fireplace. It was an exceptionally good muffin toaster apparently.

 Library table beautifully arranged with small bits and pieces.

 The Anson Room included the sword surrendered to Admiral Anson from the Captain of the Spanish treasure ship.

Chippendale desk of vast proportions.
 I love a good table top display, and have a passion for glass topped tables and boxes which contain beautiful or interesting bits and bobs.

The items in the Anson Room include his repeating watch, his snuff boxes, his seal box, wood from his cabin on the Centurion and some coins minted from the captured Spanish silver.

The final posting on Shugborough coming soon, with some of the more bizarre and amusing family tales.

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