A cabinet of wonders – Calke Abbey

Calke Abbey is not your average stately home, it’s more like a long-lost cabinet of wonders crammed with furniture, stuffed birds, mounted animal heads, books, tools and bric-à-brac wherever you turn. Calke Abbey, managed by the National Trust, tells the story of the decline of so many country houses during the 20th century. Having retained its peeling paintwork, slightly chaotic flair and overgrown courtyards it has only been restored to make it safe for visitors and stop further decline. And that’s its charm. Instead of a tidied glamorous country house, you enter the world of an eccentric and reclusive family who lived there for nearly 300 years and liked to collect things.

calke abbey stable block5

Starting at the old stables

calke abbey stable block2

It was amazing what you could find in those rooms. The idea with the ‘holes’ in the doors is brilliant.

calke abbey stable block3

Once a place of hard work now more of a scrap metal heaven

calke abbey stable block

Quite an eclectic mix

From the stables you proceed to the main house.

calke abbey

The mansion

calke abbey detail

Love those little details

There are some glamorous rooms in this building and especially the state bed is magnificent as its colours are still vibrant due to the fact that it was stored away till the 1980s. But I don’t think I have ever seen so many stuffed animals outside a museum.

calke abbey room

Even though the rooms are massive they feel a bit crowded with all those animal displays.

calke abbey ceiling

The room was quite high with an elaborate ceiling.

calke abbey room2

They certainly knew how to live.

calke abbey room3

The intricate details are well preserved.

My favourite parts where those that looked more neglected with the paint peeling off and the rooms just used for  storage.

calke abbey yellow corridor

Not so glamorous anymore.

Well, if you like to collect things you better have a big house.

Well, if you like to collect things you better have a big house.

calke abbey kitchen

The former kitchen

calke abbey downstairs4

Downstairs. There were even ferns growing on the wall as it was so damp.

calke abbey downstairs3

It makes you wonder how all those rooms looked like in their heyday.

calke abbey downstairs2

I wouldn’t use those chairs anymore.

calke abbey downstairs

Interesting mix.

There’s also a long eerie tunnel leading to the private brewery on the estate and a church where family members have been buried. I particularly liked the walled garden as, even though it was maintained, it is not too neatly kept. And the orangery is a little treasure as well.

calke abbey orangery

The orangery

calke abbey orangery sculpture

The sculpture somewhat survived the decades, the wall not so much so.

calke abbey garden shed

Slightly more tools than I have in my garden shed

There is much more to see as the estate is quite substantial and there is even an impressive ice house and a grotto, but I was intrigued by the the story of decline.


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