Category Archives: Tredegar House Events

A New Season at The House

I didn’t spend much time at Tredegar House during the 2013 Season (even then I was mainly in the office) but managed to put in an appearance at the Christmas event. The 2014 Season has begun with the opening of the Downstairs areas and some short tours Upstairs. Volunteers have been taking visitors up the Bachelor Staircase and into the Master’s Bedchamber, Cedar Closet and the Cow Bathroom. An area of the House that has not been regularly open to the public since the National Trust took over the management of the property.

Also, we are all delighted to see the House Manager, Emily Price, return from her maternity leave. Emily has been a key member of the Tredegar House Team for some years now. She was the Tredegar House Curator under  Newport Museums & Heritage Service and came here from The Queen’s House in Greenwich.

Tredegar House had a curator as it was, and indeed still is, a museum. The House is one of several National Trust properties which have full museum accreditation. The National Trust was keen to ensure that we kept our accreditation following the handover. It serves as a reminder that there is even more to the place than the beautiful building itself, there is the Tredegar Collection too.

In addition to the parts of the Collection original to the House there are many items on loan from other museums and galleries and from private owners. One of these items is leaving Tredegar House.  The full length portrait of Henry Rich, first Earl of Holland by (or after) Anthony Van Dyck has been displayed in the stairwell of the Great Staircase for many years on a long term loan.

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The Cedar Closet at Tredegar House

I have to apologise for not updating this blog as often as I should. I hope to do more throughout the 2014 Season. With visitors already getting access to rooms such as The Cedar Closet, we are already getting queries that we have not had to deal with for a while. Last week I was asked about the painted glass Sun Dial and the name of the artist. I think that could be something for the next post.

The full Tredegar House experience begins on Saint David’s Day.

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The National Trust’s Tredegar House is now open!

On Wednesday the National Trust opened the doors of Tredegar House to visitors. We had quite a week leading up to it. Several events had already been booked in during the run up to the handover by Newport City Council to the National Trust, and this meant that most of the changes had to wait until they were held. Paintings have been moved around, rooms have been reinterpreted, props and hands-on furniture have been brought in and more delicate items moved out. We have also changed the names of some of the rooms that we are showing in the styles of different periods. Therefore, the Brown Room is now the Dining Room, the Dining Room is now the New Parlour and the Morning Room is now the ….. well, we’re still thinking about that one. Most confusing for me is that the Staff Room is now the Mess Room.

The Brown Room was the C17th Dining Room. Photo by Monty Dart.

The Gilt Room was always the room that had retained most of its original decoration, but it always felt a little bare and so Venita Gribble (a professional film set designer) was brought in to make it all feel a bit more lived-in and to convey the idea of the opulence that would have greeted Seventeenth Century visitors to Tredegar House. Venita was responsible for dressing and furnishing the whole of the ground floor of the North West wing, in fact. A day bed is now in the centre of the Gilt Room and visitors can lie there admiring the wonderful ceiling.

A mirror next to the bed also allows visitors to view the ceiling without straining their necks. Photo by Monty Dart

The Gilt Room. Photo by Monty Dart

Before the National Trust took over the management of the House in March, Newport City Council had been involved in a huge programme of restoration and refurbishment.  Visitors could only view the House by guided tour (except on special “open days”), but there were over twenty rooms that had been brought back to life by the Council. Simon Jenkins said that it was “equal only to Powis among the great houses of Wales” and that it was “superbly repaired, furnished and displayed – though little marketed“.

Hopefully, the National Trust can address this last comment. Visitor numbers had dwindled. In 1983 over 200,000 people visited the grounds and 15,000 paid to go on guided tours of the House itself, and in 1985 the House tours attracted 20,000 visitors. These figures would seem to indicate that, as a visitor attraction, Tredegar House was going from strength to strength. So what went wrong? Why, as a tour guide last year, was I occasionally left looking for other jobs to do because  nobody at all had turned up for a tour? Why did visitors keep asking the question “Why haven’t we heard about this place before“? It has to be the lack of marketing again.  Another factor could well be that a visit to Tredegar House and Country Park had been a great family day out. Farm animals, boats on the lake etc. Bit by bit, many of these other attractions had disappeared. This is where the National Trust will make a huge improvement. Let’s get the families back, let’s see people coming down for the day and enjoying all the facilities and let’s make sure that everybody hears about Tredegar House and what a wonderful place it is. Yes, I am biased – but, justifiably so.

I quoted Simon Jenkins from his book “Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles” published by Allen Lane in 2008.


Tredegar House Opens on April the Fourth

On Wednesday, the National Trust’s latest property will be opening its doors to the public. Tredegar House had been in the care of the local authority, Newport City Council, for nearly forty years. When they took the House on it was in a dreadful condition and decades of Restoration projects began to bring the property back to its former glory. The Morgan family, who had lived on the site for over five hundred years, had sold up in 1951 and most of its contents sold off. Newport Council, with help from many quarters, managed to re-acquire many pieces and some of them will still be on show. The Council still own Tredegar House, but a unique partnership finally agreed to earlier this year means that the running of the House and its grounds will be the responsibility of the National Trust.

There have been some changes, and there will probably be a lot more. The House will benefit from the expertise in preservation and presentation that the Trust can bring. Indeed, over the last few months a small army of experts have minutely inspected the House and its contents and have come up with some interesting ‘finds’. Hopefully, I will be able to mention some of these in future posts.

A personal worry for me, previously a Council employed Tour Guide and Facilitator, was the intention to abandon guided tours. However, for the past month I have been kept very busy in my new role as a National Trust Visitor Experience Assistant. I have been preparing a group of rooms that we will show dressed as they may well have been in 1897, when Godfrey Morgan lived at Tredegar House.

As Captain Godfrey Morgan of the 17th Lancers, he had survived the Charge of the Light Brigade. In 1875 he inherited the Tredegar Estates from his father and became the second Baron Tredegar. Godfrey was probably the most popular and best loved of the Lords Tredegar. Known as Godfrey the Good he was renowned for his benevolence and philanthropy. On the other hand, he could afford to. Some estimates have put the value of the estate he left behind on his death in 1913 at ten million pounds. The journey his body took to its resting place in Bassaleg was the closest that Newport has come to experiencing a state funeral.

He treated his staff well and this seems to have engendered a strong feeling of loyalty. One of those loyal servants was the Butler. The Butler’s Pantry is another room that I have been responsible for, and my colleagues and I have been dressing it so that visitors don’t have to worry too much about damaging original items. You can polish the silver, brush his Lordship’s top hat, buff up his boots – or just watch other people working instead.

If you want to hear more about Godfrey Morgan, come along to Tredegar House. Either myself, or a colleague will be giving short talks on Victorian Tredegar in the Side Hall and Morning Room. If it gets so busy that it is not practical to do the talk (which is a possibility), just come and ask me about it!

Tredegar House will open on the fourth of April 2012, 11.30 until 4pm (last admission), seven days a week!


Evan Morgan and the 1930s Suite.

Although I have fallen behind on my updates relating the progress of the Spring Clean at Tredegar House, the Clean itself has carried on apace with only the kitchen areas remaining. There is much more happening at the House now, and I have found myself in a new position. When I last posted on this Blog I was a Tour Guide for Newport City Council. Since Saint David’s Day I have been aVisitor Experience Assistant with the National Trust and last week the other Tredegar House staff donned the NT fleeces and polo shirts as the takeover finally happened on March the Nineteenth.

In the meantime I thought I would mention a few rooms that have been spruced up. The King’s Room (and accompanying bathroom), Red Room and the Blue Room were actually cleaned several weeks ago. These rooms will be on view more or less as they are now, when the House opens to the public on the fourth of April (although you may have to book a place on a mini-tour included in the admission fee – please, check before you come to visit us).

The King’s Room recently appeared on the BBC’s Upstairs Downstairs, when it was depicted as a hotel room full of high-ranking Nazis. In the Nineteen Thirties and Forties it was actually the bedroom of Evan Morgan, Viscount Tredegar.  Evan was a man with very catholic tastes and, indeed, with a taste for Catholicism. You won’t find his grave in the family plot at the nearby St. Basil’s Church; his remains are at Buckfast Abbey. Evan had converted to Catholism in 1919 and even became a Private Chamberlain of the Sword and Cape to Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI. A portrait of Evan in his Papal robes hangs in the adjoining bathroom.

Evan Morgan was quite a party animal, and you can hear some of the stories about him, his menagerie, his fascination with the occult and the women in his life on the mini-tour of this suite of rooms.

From the King’s Room, past the Bathroom and then into the Red Room. For a while this was the bedroom of Evan Morgan’s second wife, Olga Dolgorouky. His first wife, Lois Sturt, had died while staying with friends in Hungary.  The Room has been restored to its former state by Newport Council, the Damask wall covering’s colour gives the room its name and the same applies to the adjoining Blue Room (a sitting room-cum-dressing room) which is again part of the mini-tour.

The idea is that we will be presenting these rooms to feel as if Evan is still there.

A couple of years ago, a clairvoyant kindly remarked that from the way I talked about Tredegar House I must of lived there in a previous life. I jokingly replied that I hoped it wasn’t as Evan. “Oh no, dear”, was her reply “He’s still here”.

I do wonder at times.


Christmas at Tredegar House

Once again the House is  decorated for the Christmas event, with the aromas of mince pies and mulled wine and the appearance of staff and volunteers in an eclectic array of costume and coiffure.  The Tredegar House Christmas is very popular in Newport and the surrounding area. Indeed, for many locals Christmas commences with their visit to the House. The popularity of Tredegar as a venue for Christmas carousing throughout the month of December and beyond is not a new thing though.

Take a look at the National Library of Wales Blog here http://www.llgc.org.uk/blog/?p=323 and you will see that from its very beginnings, this Restoration Period home was renowned for its Yuletide hospitality. Later Sir Charles Morgan would become known as one of the great Christmas hosts of the Nineteenth Century. Some accounts of the races, masquerade parties, banquets, servants’ balls, hunts and cattle shows are included in “A Monmouthshire Christmas” compiled by Maria and Andrew Hubert. When General Thomas Molyneux visited in 1808 he was impressed by the numbers – eighty guests and just as many servants (who were entertained in the Servants Hall) and over a hundred horses easily accommodated in the Tredegar stables.  The General was an annual visitor to Tredegar House over the next eight years and seems to have eagerly anticipated the masquerades in particular. The event was so big that it provided a boost to the tradesmen of Newport and those further afield in Bristol too.

“About a dozen firms were dependent on the patronage of the house in Bristol alone, an a further six or seven in Newport. The grocery bill in the early 1830s seems to have been twice as much as the wages bill for the whole household. The seasonal house party in 1838 accounted for the slaughter of 5 bullocks, 29 sheep, 10 pigs, 1 lamb and 2 calves.

……. Candles were a huge expense, especially to keep Christmas bright during the six-week season; in 1818 the December / January bill was for 1,153 candles”.

Christmas is still a good excuse for dressing up at Tredegar House and this year the theme is Sleeping Beauty. Mixed in with the fairy-tale characters are Staff, Volunteers, Friends and visitors in Georgian and Victorian costume. And, of course, Mr Scrooge. One year, when Newport’s ‘finest council house’ dropped the Scrooge character, there were complaints from Councillors and so he was reinstated the following Christmas. If you come to the House tonight make sure you wish him “A very Merry Christmas!”


Made by Hand at Tredegar House

This weekend sees the second visit to Tredegar House by the Made By Hand craft fair. The House will play host to many stalls of exhibitors, while the majority will be in the huge marquee erected outside the Seventeenth Century entrance. Last year’s event seems to have proved to be very successful indeed. The dates are 2 – 4 December and full details of prices and events can be found here http://www.madebyhand-wales.co.uk/whatsOn.php .

The Servants Hall will be hosting a number of events with free workshops and demonstrations. On Friday, for example, there will be a pottery Masterclass with Morgen Hall and later chances to learn how to make a felt purse and textile flower brooches. Saturday’s workshops involve embroidery and beadwork, while Sunday involves dying and painting bunting and flags.

Unfortunately, however, there won’t be many opportunities to see the House’s magnificent interiors. The stalls set up in the Side Hall, Dining Room, New Hall and Brown Room mean that much of the Seventeenth Century panelling will be hidden and for conservation and security reasons most of the paintings and objects d’art have been put in storage. The good news is that Christmas doesn’t end with Made by Hand. Come back to the House and see the best rooms decorated for the Season and staff and volunteers dressed in a variety of fancy dress costumes. I, for reasons best known to others, will be dressed as Sleeping Beauty’s father. Don’t ask.


Out of Season at Tredegar House

The ‘Season’ at Tredegar House came to an end on the thirtieth of September. Officially. However, we continued with weekend tours (five per day) throughout October, then there were several private group tours, weddings took place in the New Hall, schools came in for Victorian workshops and the month was rounded off with three and a half thousand visitors crossing the threshold (Victorian) for the Halloween event.

The House isn’t opened every day now. It is darker indoors and, as the days get shorter and the weather wetter, gloomier. In a way, that makes it more of an event when we do open up the House for various visitors. November is having its moments too. The BBC came and dressed the Gilt Room to look a little 1930s, they built a mock trench in the stable courtyard and under-dressed a servants’ attic room (remnants of original paper show they would have been bright and cheery) before disappearing with it all just before a wedding ceremony was due to take place.

Last week we had several visits from the National Trust hierarchy. Things seem to have picked up steam again concerning the transfer of Tredegar House to the National Trust. We even had the new Director of National Trust Wales, Justin Albert, down for a brief look around.

Chatting informally to a couple of us in the Office, Justin Albert said that he hoped to increase community involvement in the place and that the more popular events that we hold would continue. Hopefully, that will include the Spooky Tales tours. Most of them have sold out for November and last night (the eleventh) the thirty visitors escorted around by Paul Busby were treated to a selection of stories wild, weird and a little bit worrying.

In other words, the ‘Season’ never really ends at Tredegar House, it just gets a bit different.