Erdigg House (Part 2)

It’s time for my regular guest blogger, Rambler5319, to take over so sit back and enjoy.

 

This is the second part of our visit to Erdigg House which I began last week (23.10.13).

The original owner Joshua Edisbury had the place built in the 1680s. However it seems, even in his rather exalted position of High Sherriff of the county of Denbighshire, that he overreached himself eventually going bankrupt. Interesting connection here is that Elihu Yale (founder of Yale University) was a neighbour of Edisbury; and it was Yale who called in the mortgages that caused Edisbury to go bankrupt. Nice neighbour? In 1718 the house was bought by John Mellor (Master of the Chancery) who extended it and after he died his nephew Simon Yorke inherited it (1733) after which it remained in the Yorke family until 1973 when the NT took it over.

We finished off with stuff about the lengths these big houses had to go to in filtering their water to make it safe to drink. Also how we take it for granted that if we turn our taps on we can immediately fill a glass and just drink it.

We pick things up this week with a couple of notices which remind us that though this house was very grand, situated in its massive 2,000-acre estate and far from any neighbours, danger still lurked.

Look at this & the crime outlined:

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Yes that’s right, at the end of Aug 1824 someone broke into the garden on a Saturday night or early on a Sunday morning at Erdigg House: (old spelling Erthig). The thief (or thieves) stole some fruit. Now remember this was food for the house; gardeners were employed to tend, cultivate & harvest the fruit often grown in glasshouses. One in particular, for grapevines, was off limits for all but a special few in case the grapes were taken. The notice is dated 31 Aug 1824 which was a Tuesday so he’d had the printing done pretty quick and got them put up around the area. The reward is Ten Guineas. (A guinea is £1.05p so total value then £10.50p: just over £750 in today’s money.) He was definitely keen to catch the robbers.

Next up is this one:

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It says that: “Persons have of late made a practice of passing and re-passing before the front of Erthig House after dark and at all hours of the night without having any business at the house etc…..”

The servants have been ordered to detain whoever they find trespassing on the property so that they can be prosecuted. It is dated 1826 just a few years after the previous notice. Clearly the house seems to have been a target. However you would have thought that whoever was doing the “passing & repassing” might have just had a recce then left and not keep coming back; and especially not get seen. Perhaps they were just trying to intimidate the owner.

Can you guess what this is?

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No? How about if I tell you it’s called a Witch Dust Extractor are you any the wiser?

We came into one of the rooms and there it was just on the floor. Basically you attach the flexible tube to the machine, add a suitable nozzle for whatever you are cleaning and then you stand on the pedals pushing down alternately with your left foot & right foot. Simple eh? Well except it means you need at least two people to do the work. The instruction sheet tells you how to hook it up, get the right nozzle, suck up the dust and when full empty it. Underneath is a section called “NOTE”. I think it’s worth checking this out so have a read of how the manufacturers tried to allay Edwardians’ fears concerning this new technology:

“Do not be dismayed if after a little pedalling you feel tired – everyone experiences that at first. The fact is you are employing a new set of muscles but after a little perseverance they get so accustomed to it that lengthy spells will cause no inconvenient fatigue. In the meantime it affords ease if two persons engage in the work and change places as often as tired.

The moment the machine becomes less easy to operate it is a sign the bag material is clogged. The spare bag should then be used and the other one washed and kept ready.

Neither should you be dismayed if at FIRST you find it takes a considerable time to get a room cleaned but remember that when accumulated dust is once removed a speedy application of the Dust Extractor is sufficient to keep it clean.

It is not suggested that this machine be used DAILY – probably WEEKLY is sufficient……”

It cost 6 guineas (£6.30p) – £564 in today’s money.

So there you have it – not only can you hoover your carpets, curtains or whatever but your partner/colleague can also keep fit! We’ve got wind up radios, wind up torches, so why not a sort of wind up vacuum? Why ever did these things go out of business?? (I must get hold of James Dyson – I’m sure he’ll be able to invent a modern version.) What a great machine. And don’t forget once you’ve persevered there is “no inconvenient fatigue”. Yeah, right!

Now I wonder if you’ve ever thought about all those step/running machines you use in the gym. I’ll bet they’re connected to something – maybe not a vacuum but what if they’re connected to a generator so as you exercise you’re generating electricity for the gym. Now there’s a thought!

Fire was an ever-present hazard in days gone by because of the amount of wood in the buildings and the number of open fires. I was intrigued to see coloured glass bottles hanging up around the house and in the kitchen area in particular. These dark blue glass containers were called Harden Star Grenades.

Here are some in the hall area

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Here’s the notice & instructions on how to use them:

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The idea was that where a fire had started you threw the bottle (container) at the base of the fire and the contents vapourised starving the fire of the oxygen it needed to burn. Many were filled with carbon tetrachloride as it vapourises straight away. However we now know even just inhaling it can have seriously damaging effects on the liver, kidneys & brain. And wait for this – some folks today actually collect these things! Note at the bottom the address, in italics, of the manufacturers – they’re in Peckham. Those of you in the UK will know Del Boy & Rodney lived in Peckham. The whole “Grenade” idea has a feel that a Victorian version of them must have been behind something like this.

If you have just 1 minute watch this vid which shows you what they look like close up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwPsHq1SSA0

We went into the servants’ hall; there was a long 4-plank refectory table with swords mounted up on the ceiling. Apparently the Yorke family raised a troop of Denbighshire Militia and the swords are from them. If you imagine them as a clock face, look at the 5 o’clock position just up and slightly left from the axe on the right hand side underneath. Can you see there is an empty space – no sword?

Here’s a clearer pic on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/spectrefloat/6305628345/

Here’s one of those boards with loads of bells on for the servants to know which room they required to go to.

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And a dining table set a meal. Note the two high columns at the far end.

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This metal bowl is dated – you should be able to see 1663. Wow, 350 years old!

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This next item is a kind of early record player.

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The discs have a series of raised dots and little troughs spaced out so that when the arm travels over them it produces notes that will make a tune. You can probably see the one on the machine is something by Mozart; the one on the table is The Fairy Wedding Waltz by J.W. Turner (not the painter – he was J.M.W. Turner).

If, like me, you don’t know that one have a listen/watch here. Maybe open a new window and let it play while you read.

http://gaslanternrecords.com/our-music

and then click on no.6 for a brief sample of the music. The last few bars of the clip remind me slightly of part of Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz (famously used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey). Both were creations of the 1860s but Fairy Wedding came first in 1863 followed by Blue Danube in 1867.

There was some sheet music rolled up and put in the trumpet’s horn in this carrying case.

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Can you see the title of the music composed by Fred W. Leigh. No comment! I wonder if you knew that Fred Leigh also wrote that famous cockney tune: Don’t Dilly Dally (My Old Man Said Follow The Van…).

Have a watch of this one and tell me you’re not singing along by the end of it. Go on I dare you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfW3TxQhy20

I’ll have to finish there otherwise it’ll just go on for too long. Maybe there’ll be a part three if you’re not fed up with Erdigg House. It’s a great place – there was just so much to see and we didn’t get to explore everywhere as there just wasn’t time.  

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Fantastic! Loved the pics. Will get back and click on those links later. Housework in those places and times sure was a lot of hard work though.

    Reply

    • Yes it certainly was. I guess that’s why they employed so many maids & servants. There were 15 at Erdigg to cover all the different tasks (inside & out) but the maids definitely had a tough life. I can’t imagine how long the dusting took in such a big place!

      Reply

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