Amongst the new places we discovered on our recent caravan excursion, was National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey. We didn’t have particularly wonderful weather for our visit so we ‘did’ the gardens before the house. Our timing was spot on.
In its earliest incarnation a community of Augustinian Canons, the Abbey shares its name with the Welsh Island but is in fact situated in the heart of England. Most recently it was the home of the very wealthy Fairhaven family; the 1st Lord Fairhaven, leaving it to the National Trust on his death in 1966. The family owned the property for less than half a century but spent a fortune restoring it to its 18th Century splendour.
The art collection is quite something and the story behind one painting pleased me. Lord Fairhaven and his mother enjoyed a very close relationship and on hearing that the library book shelves were to be constructed from timber reclaimed from the old Waterloo Bridge, she purchased John Constable’s Embarkation of George IV from Whitehall: the Opening of Waterloo Bridge, 1817 which takes pride of place in the room.
Lord Fairhaven was also a devotee of the royal family and of Windsor Castle, to the point of being obsessive, and had in his collection a whole series of paintings of the Castle. He also had some eccentric – nay anal – habits, for instance, insisting that he was served first at table and that guests shouldn’t continue to eat after he had finished.
Enough of the man and the house. I found the garden particularly charming and it happened that our visit coincided with the annual Dahlia Festival. The garden is made up of a number of ‘rooms’ and dahlias were in evidence pretty much everywhere from the entrance to the visitors centre to the sweeping dahlia bed where they were arranged, just as Lord Fairhaven would have liked, in rainbow colour order. Almost last on our garden tour, our appreciation of this garden suffered a little from the fact that the rain had begun to fall, as if it meant to, and the lawn was staring to become a quagmire. That’s when we decided enough was enough and we made our way into the house.