April: Barrington & the story of Anglesey Abbey

Remember me saying how packed April was?  Let’s revisit Barrington, as my former post was mostly pictures!  I was just so excited to see my Dad and Grandpa that I couldn’t help myself but one spot in particular deserves more attention. 

I arrived in Barrington on Monday evening so that I could surprise Dad and Grandma at the airport on Tuesday afternoon.  It was a relaxing week.  I stayed with Helen and family; Dad and Grandma stayed with cousins Jean and Keith around the corner.  Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty relaxing; our only outings being the grocery store and a nice walk through the neighbourhood. 

On Thursday, 7 of us piled into 2 cars and went to Anglesey Abbey.  Shenanigans there included wandering the gardens (as you might remember from the first post), sitting on a couch in the library and Toby and I giving each other piggybacks. 

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Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey has a fascinating story.  It was never really an Abbey, first of all.  Story goes that it was founded by Henry I as a hospital: The Hospital of St. Mary. Now, if you’re a history lover (like I am) or a mathematician (which I am not), then the wheels may be spinning.  Henry the I?  Yep, 1135.  More than 880 years ago. Which is why I now find the 1920 “heritage” buildings back home in Vancouver utterly hilarious! I can’t help it!   Then, in the 1200s it became the Priory of Anglesey, a priory of Augustinian Canons.  From what I can gather, Augustinian canons are Roman Catholic priests who lived as a community on shared property.

Anglesey was one of the first monastic houses to be dissolved by Henry VIII following his 1535 Suppression of Religious Houses Act.  Ownership becomes murky for a while, as I found a great deal of conflicting information.

The timeline according to the National Trust:

1596 Fowkes family buys the property
1609 Fowkes family convert living quarters into a house
1848 Abbey is purchased by Reverend John Hailstone, who “demolish[es] surviving  masonry from the monastic buildings to create a stable block, and remov[es] the Jacobean dormer windows from the front of the House”… and is “probably responsible for naming the house ‘Anglesey Abbey’.”
1926 Lord Fairhaven and his brother Henry purchase the house at auction
1932 Lord Fairhaven becomes sole owner after Henry’s marriage, per an agreement   they had made.  Lord Fairhaven replaces dormer windows that were removed by Hailstone, creates the dining room, modernizes the service wing, creates a library

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One corner of the beautiful library.  Note the empty shelf as book cleaning is taking place.

Lord Fairhaven worked tirelessly to collect pieces for the house, and to find out the history of existing pieces, so that there is a beautifully labelled collection now.  His dream of turning his home into a museum has been quite extraordinarily realized.  It is evidenced in unique artwork, such as the metal and ceramic hangings above the radiators in one of the doorways; the Holbein painting hung casually beside a door in a sitting room; the collection of nearly 40 clocks throughout the house, including the meter tall “Pagoda Clock” with moving parts; and most famously, the earliest known likeness of Henry VIII.

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I loved this unique metal hanging above the radiator

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The label reads: “Margaret, Marchioness of Dorset, Mother of Lady Jane Grey. 1497- Hans Holbein – 1543. From the collection of Sir Randolf Baker, Bart.”

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Toby, standing beside the beautifully restored Pagoda Clock, to give a sense of scale

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One of the houses most prized items: the earliest known likeness of Henry VIII

He loved to host dinner parties which included drinks in the library, and when he died in 1966, he left the entire property to the National Trust quite in tact.  By this, I mean that he left things as they were- including clothes, shoes, and luggage in the closets! 

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Clothes and footwear just as they were in 1966

It was like stepping into a time capsule which was so incredible for a history lover like me.  Oh!  And did I mention that it’s the first estate I’ve visited where there was furniture that visitors are allowed to sit on?!  I totally took advantage, sitting on the couch in the library and imagining that I’d been invited up for gin and fancy dinner.

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“Oh yes, I come for dinner often.  Such fun! Pity I forgot my good dress this trip.”

Thanks to 34 years of dedication and hard work, this property will continue to be enjoyed for years to come.   It is a glorious example of why T and I decided to support the National Trust by becoming members.  After exploring the house, we had lunch, and then toured the gardens and mill.  It was such a fantastic experience.

On the weekend, we had a family barbecue at Pete and Helen’s to celebrate Jean’s birthday and our all being together.  T had come up, and Pete’s mom joined us as well.  We were well-fed and enjoyed our time together.  Dad, T and I all had turns playing basketball with Toby, making the most of his new hoop. And I got the treat of trying the first egg lain by one of the new chickens!  It was tiny but still tasted great.

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There was so much more that week- knitting, family meals, great conversations- but overall the best thing I can report is that it was all time spent with family and you all know how I love that!  I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed my Dad, especially, until I saw him in person and was suddenly in tears! Despite regular FaceTime chats and texts, there’s nothing like your dad giving you a proper hug!  And seeing my Grandma in the country where she grew up, surrounded by family, was something I always dreamed I’d get to experience.  I couldn’t have wished for anything more.  Thanks again to the Barrington cousins for accommodating and feeding us!  I’m so lucky to have you all!

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2 thoughts on “April: Barrington & the story of Anglesey Abbey

  1. Great post, love the look of that metal floral wall hanging, it’s so unique! I must have completely missed it when I went the other week, will have to go back and see it haha! And I agree, the library is really special there, my favourite spot at Anglesey.

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