Anglesey Abbey is a Jacobean style manor house built on the site of a 12th century Augustinian priory located just north of Cambridge. What remained of the priory was purchased by Thomas Hobson around 1600 and was converted to a country home for his son-in-law.
Huttleston Broughton, who became the first Lord Fairhaven, purchased the home in 1926. Anglesey had fallen into disrepair, so Lord Fairhaven renovated the home and began to collect furniture, artworks and statuary. He never married, so when he passed in 1966, he left Anglesey to the National Trust.
Touring the home today, you can truly get a sense of Lord Fairhaven’s penchant for collecting works of art. There are tapestries hung throughout the home, and works from artists such as Claude Lorrain, John Constable, and Thomas Gainsborough. There are even some of the original arches from the 12th century priory that can be seen in the dining room of the home. The arches are lovely and give the room such an interesting feeling. (I apologize for the quality of the image. I had a hard time with how dark the dining room was. It either didn’t focus or was a bit blurry.)
At the moment, they are renovating some of the rooms and artwork, so two of the beds are moved into another room, and I am sure there might be a few prominent pieces of art that may be hidden away as they are restored. That was one of my complaints was all of the bedrooms of the were roped off at the door, and you can see that there are a few amazing pieces, but you cannot truly see the works or the plates that give you the artists name. There is a Constable that is immediately inside one of the doors, but the lighting is dim and the painting is dark. It makes it impossible to see it much less take a photo.
There are multiple libraries. There is a small library off the hallway where Lord Fairhaven’s bedroom is located as well as the main library with his desk and the bulk of the books. One National Trust volunteer claimed there were almost 4,500 books and another claimed between 7,000 and 8,000 books. I am not sure which is correct, but given the gentleman who claimed the higher number could tell you the number of animals in the artwork of the parlour to the number, I would imagine he is not mistaken.
My children and I enjoyed the kitchen and the servants areas. They are as they were in the 1930’s and there are even old bottles of food coloring and extracts that are interesting to view.
The exterior of the house is beautiful. I do truly think it is one of the most interesting exteriors I’ve seen. I enjoy the windows and the chimney pieces. It also fits in very well with the surrounding gardens.
The Gardens! The gardens are stunning! Even in the fall! There seem to be gardens for just about every season with statuary scattered throughout the 114 acres of land. There is even a working mill.
The exterior of the mill was under renovation, but the interior was extremely interesting. Beware the steep stairways/ladders to access the upper floors where there is a small threshing machine and the chutes where the grain flows down into the grinding stones. They still mill flour and oats, and even have smaller stones for children to turn and grind flour by hand. There are bags of flour and oatmeal for you to purchase at the mill and in the gift store before you leave.
When you work your way around the front of the house, there is a rose garden. I know I saw a Dahlia garden on the signs, and then there are the avenues and the winter garden. I know my feet and my children’s feet were a bit sore by the time we called it a day!
The photo I have labeled “The Main Tree-lined Avenue” is of a lovely avenue planted to commemorate the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. It is a row of horse chestnuts, which copy a similar garden planted in Windsor Great Park. My children loved grabbing “conkers,” which are the actual horse chestnuts. I still have yet to discover how many made it home in their pockets, but I am sure they will turn up around the house eventually.
We loved exploring all of the trails and “avenues” and studying the sculptures. We began trying to guess who many of the sculptures were based on what they were holding or the implements with which they were depicted. Some were not that difficult if you are familiar with Greek or Roman mythology, others gave us quite a run for our money.
There is even a portion called Hoe Fen Trail. If you remember, I explained a fen in the post about Wicken Fen. This section is different than Wicken Fen, but is still a very natural area of the park and has a lot of activities and areas for children to play. Just beware the stinging nettles! They can be found throughout the park, but they were the most prevalent in this portion of the gardens.
I definitely think Anglesey Abbey is worth a day and based on photos I’ve seen, one day several times a year to see these amazing gardens in every season!