The Spring Clean at Tredegar House continued this week and we moved from the Gilt Room to the Brown Room. This is my favourite room in the House. When I open the doors to the Brown Room first thing in the morning, the smell of oak is wonderful. This room has oak panelling on all sides and a giant oak that grew on the Estate provided the planks for the floor. Originally these were all single planks running the length of the room – forty-two feet.
The carving in the Brown Room is quite magnificent, and the name Grinling Gibbons often crops up. Members of the Morgan family often claimed that Gibbons contributed to the House’s decoration, however this lacks the finesse associated with his work. Nonetheless it is impressive. Carved busts of Roman emperors are positioned between the scrolled pediments in the upper reaches (although busts of Augustus and Livia above the doorways are later replacements) and probably date to the Late Seventeenth or Early Eighteenth Century. Below the panels amongst the scrolling acanthus leaves are serpents and putti, lions and griffins (supporters of the old family coat of arms) and allusions to Green Man motifs and cartoons of royalty perhaps.
The ceiling here is a Victorian replacement, the original had an oval painting in the centre depicting “The Tribute of the Gods to Flora and Zephyr”, collapsed in 1848. Above the fireplace had been a depiction of the seduction of Callisto, but it seems to have disappeared sometime in the third quarter of the Twentieth Century. The painting that hangs in its place is by John Wooton. It shows Sir William Morgan with his favourite racehorse, Lamprey. It was originally part of the Tredegar Collection, but is currently on loan from the National Museum of Wales.
The Brown Room was the state dining Room at Tredegar in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries and the furniture on display is from that period. Again, we have the National Museum of Wales to thank for the loan of the tables; the chairs, however, were kindly donated to the House by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
The Brown Room contains several portraits of Morgan family members. These include Lady Elizabeth, who ended her days in an asylum, Henry Morgan (better known to rum drinkers as Captain Morgan) and Lady Rachel Cavendish who is said to have put a curse on the Morgan line following unsuccessful battles over the inheritance of the Tredegar Estate. That, however, is another story.