Built: 1695 (completed)
Location: Great Haywood, Stafford ST17 0XB
History: Shugborough was one of the manors of the bishops of Lichfield in the Middle Ages. The site was purchased in 1624 by William Anson, a lawyer. The current house dates back to 1694.
It was once the home of photographer Lord Lichfield, the 5th Earl of Lichfield, who was a cousin of the Queen, and who died in 2005 (if you want to learn more history then read the full post, as it delves into some of Shugborough’s many secrets)!
Review: This place has such a special place in my heart. I think it’s one of the first places where I started to fall in love with historic buildings.
We always use to come to this place on school trips when I was a kid. I remember me and all my friends would rush to sit at the back of the coach and we would think we were so cool.
Of course, we took part in all the games at this place and dressed up. Now that I’m older though visiting places like this is a bit different.
The last time I visited Shugborough I was 13 years old and I went with my best friend at the time. We were taking part in their nighttime halloween special event that was fun. That was about ten years ago and although I remember going I actually couldn’t picture what the place looked like when me and Luke decided to go visit.
I have no idea what was going on with the weather when me and Luke visited. As soon as we parked the car, the clouds came in and within two minutes of walking up to the house (and it’s a bit of a long walk to the house from the car park), we were soaked.
Luckily we able to hide in the Tower of the Winds, along with a good 10-15 other people.
One of the most prominent of the garden buildings at Shugborough is the Tower of the Winds – this building saved us from the rain (along with several other people).
But I’m glad we came and hide inside this building as it was incredibly stunning.
We later learned that the original Tower of the Winds in Athens was an octagonal tower featuring carvings in relief, each depicting the nature of the wind. On top of the tower was a bronze weathervane.
Shugborough’s version was completed in 1765 by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart. Eighteenth century paintings show this building could also boast copies of the carvings and weathervane, but today there is no trace of these features.
The tower was originally surrounded by water, being situated at the end of an ornamental lake, and was linked to the land by two bridges. The ground floor windows were inserted in 1803 when Samuel Wyatt converted the building into an ornamental dairy for Lady Anson.
Now that would have been cool to see back in the day! Anyway, finally the weather let up and we were able to walk to the front of the house.
Since the weather was looking slightly clearer, we decided to explore the grounds first (we also prayed that the rain wouldn’t return)
We walked round to the north side of the house and came across this ruin. I have to say I loved it.
This was actually erected in the 18th century as a romantic ruin and eye-catcher.
It incorporates some details of Tudor date as well as later material and the earlier fragments may have belonged to the former manor place of the Bishops of Shugborough.
Here’s a close up of the statue so you can get a better idea of what it looks like.
We were told that there was a flood in 1795 and one of the guides (we learned this later on in the house), joked that the Druid possibly had a hand in the flood of 1795, and survived to tell the tale.
But this flood washed away much of Anson’s devotions to European art such as the Pagoda and Orangery, which is why this statue is now a ruin.
There are so many statues at this place though, so there is plenty to be found when you go and explore the grounds.
One of my favourite pieces though is this feature here.
What’s really interesting about this monument is the inscription, that can be found on the 18th-century Shepherd’s Monument, which has baffled scientists and linguists for many years.
An engraving of Nicolas Poussin’s “Arcadian Shepherds” painting lies a seemingly random sequence of letters, “O-U-O-S-V-A-V-V,” etched on the monument between the letters “D” and “M.”
Without an explanation for its meaning, the inscription is considered one of the world’s most perplexing ciphers and remains uncracked to this day.
Who doesn’t love a good mystery!
We spent a good hour and a bit exploring the grounds, but then we saw that the clouds were darker and the safe thing to do was to go and hide inside the main house.
The centerpiece of the estate is obviously the stunning mansion that is packed with works of art. There are so many treasures in the Georgian mansion!
I know I say this about many of the places that I visit – but I can’t wait for the day when I can afford something like this. It’s good to dream big right?
I mean even if I don’t get a place that is exactly like this, at least I can use some of the interior for inspiration for my own place.
I mean just check out the ceiling here in one of the rooms:
That design is just incredible and clearly the person who designed it was very talented.
What was really interesting to learn from one of the guides was that Thomas Anson imported a plasterer from Italy to make this ceiling. But when his friend Josiah Wedgwood came to dinner and saw the ceiling, he stole the idea for the jasper ware that is still made by Wedgwood today.
I wonder how many people knew that little bit of information.
Every house we go to always has the most stunning rooms, and I’m obsessed with all the chandeliers that we come across.
Each are different and yet all are so elegant and just complete the room.
I’m so jealous of all the people who got to live in these places.
Anyway, moving quickly on.
Alongside the mansion are the servants quarters and its huge 18th-century kitchen, complete with copperware and working buildings that supported the house and staff.
All of the contents in all buildings, grounds are extremely well looked after, and in some areas, you can actually get up close and touch old tools and see how people lived.
This is the part that I really remember well from when I was younger. We loved this part. If I remember correctly you could dress up, try a few things (this was a good 10/15 years though so I might be wrong).
But still Shugborough will always hold a dear place in my heart.
One thing I forgot to mention though was the Chinese House
This comes complete with a boathouse, and was erected on an island in an artificial canal to the north of Shugborough estate in 1747.
We couldn’t see the inside of this building unfortunately, but we did get a sneak view through the window. We couldn’t see much though. But we loved the outside anyway.
We learned that from 1795 (after the flood – remember the Druid) and the rerouting of the Sow, the Chinese House no longer stands on an island, but on a small promontory, with a new red iron bridge, built by Charles Heywood in 1813, leading towards the Cat’s Monument.
As a little bit of extra history though (as I know you are all keen to learn more), we found out that the Chinese House seems to have been the first of Thomas Anson’s new garden features constructed after his brother’s return.
It was soon followed by a number of other garden structures of more classical taste: Thomas Wright’s Cat’s Monument (1749); Samuel Wyatt’s Ruin (c. 1750), and the Shepherd’s Monument, started by Wright before 1758 (and the subject of much speculation ever since).
This place has some pretty amazing history surrounding it, and I’m sure that there is still plenty that me and Luke could learn from it if we get to come back (hopefully soon)!
If you made it this far, then thank you for reading! I’ll leave you with a few questions though should you wish to comment:
- Have you ever been to Shugborough and what did you like most about it?
- If you have never been would you plan on coming here when things get back to normal?
- Does anyone know what the inscription on the Shepherds Monument is actually about? It would be great to solve the mystery.
- For anyone who has visited Shugborough – do you not find it odd that the Chinese House – an Eastern house, is on the WEST side of the monuments?
- Do you have any suggestions for other posts that you would like me to write? Not just review posts, but things like travel guides, top 5 castles, castles you need to visit, etc? I would love some feedback!