Arlington Court and the National Trust Carriage Museum

Arlington Court and the National Trust Carriage Museum

Well, first things first, thank you so much to all of you who gave feedback on covers! Option A and Option C were neck-and-neck, which I had not expected, so I’m very glad to have had your input. I’m still making final deliberations and you’ll get to see the final cover when I announce that the book is published, sometime in the next few months.

I’m also back from my travels, and I have so many things I want to share! As I’m just back and still organizing thoughts and photos/video, I thought I’d start with Arlington Court, as it’s a bit more straightforward, and yet super relevant. It’s a Regency-era (built 1820-1823) property built by the Chichester family, and also houses the National Trust’s extensive carriage collection. So it has been on my list for many years, now, and I finally managed to get there this time.

One thing that surprised me about the property was the rather Pemberleyishness of the walk on the grounds, particularly given it’s in Devon. Much of the walk is beside a stream, however, and sided by woods, and as I got there early it was nice and peaceful. I think I saw two dogs being walked, two joggers, and one fox in the whole course of my walk.

Arlington Court grounds

The exterior of the house itself is not by any means the most exciting one you’ll ever see in a country house. Symmetry has been abandoned and aside from the bow portico, it doesn’t have much in the line of architectural flourishes. Yet I think it’s likely that country houses like this were more common than the great architectural show houses, and many of Austen’s characters would have lived, dined and danced in such places.

Arlington Court exterior
Arlington Court entrance

Beyond this rather uninteresting exterior, though, the rooms are very well suited for entertaining, and much more impressive. They’re organized around a central staircase hall, which was updated post-Regency (1865) and feels large enough that I wonder if they held balls there.

Staircase Hall
Staircase Hall 360

The main rooms for entertainment consist of one long room divided into three spaces, a dining room, ante room, and drawing room. Screens allowed the rooms to be separated or run together in one long entertaining space, and the decor here felt very Regency.

Dining Room
Dining Room 360

Ante Room
Drawing Room

Boudoir (separate room off the Staircase Hall) 360

Upstairs in the Staircase Hall 360

The house came into the National Trust’s hands rather early on for a house. This is due to the family’s somewhat unique history. Sir Bruce Chichester died at age 38, in 1881, in considerable debt. This left his only child, Rosalie Caroline, in the lurch when it came to being able to marry. An heiress, apparently, is not desirable when she’s heir to an estate with a load of debt. She never married, and left the house to the Trust in 1945, continuing to live there until she died in 1949.

What this means is that furniture and the family’s extensive collections, some of which you can see in the photos, were all intact. And the house very much has a lived-in feel.

Miss Chichester’s childhood day room, filled with her toys and things
Some of the house’s extensive collection of model ships.

The Trust even had one room set up as the 1950s-era estate office, which was a nice touch.

Signs from the 1950s estate office

There is also a formal garden and a kitchen garden, both of which are nicely done, so all in all it’s a nice property to visit AND THEN THERE IS A CARRIAGE MUSEUM.

I took a ridiculous number of photos and video, so it’s tough to choose highlights, so I think I’ll try to show the most Austen-relevant ones.

Barouche
Barouche. This one is postilion-driven, so the box seat is in the back.
Travelling Barouche, or as I’m taking to calling it, a Coffin Barouche. You’ll see why in the next photo. This one has the box seat in the front and could have been coachman- or postillion- driven.
As you can see the lap and legs of the passengers could be covered over with this fitted leather piece, and glass panels let down in the front, so it could be used for traveling even in rough weather. I’m not really claustrophobic and it was making me claustrophobic anyway.
Travelling Chariot interior. You can vaguely see the opening to stretch out one’s legs on the right.
Imperials. This was a new one for me: these are suitcases custom fitted to the chariot. They’re rather different than what I’d generally envision as a “trunk” for traveling during the coaching era.
Here’s another travelling chariot with its imperials fitted on.

Town Coach

Stanhope Gig
Spider Phaeton (left) and Mail Phaeton (right)

As I said, I’ve got much I want to share with you all, beyond today’s post. And of course one of these months (finally) a published book to announce. So watch this space!

15 Responses to Arlington Court and the National Trust Carriage Museum

  1. Just loved the photos and a little bit of the history!!! You certainly get your exercise while touring. The walk reminded me of the road the carriages would travel on, and I could well imagine one being washed out in a bad storm! The tree as well would have proved difficult to remove back then! Loved the interior of Arlington Court and all the pictures and model ships! There was a lovely little side table to display ‘treasures’ in the drawing room! As for the carriages, I would agree about feeling slightly claustrophobic with the ‘semi-enclosed’ one! I remember the pictures from the one post where you got to go in one! Looking forward to all the others you will post and especially when your book will be published!!!

    • I do definitely get my exercise! It was a bit of a rude awakening since I was sick before I left and immediately had to do a lot of walking…by the time I hit Arlington Court though I was back in shape, haha. I do love that they had all of these little collections of various things…model ships, snuffboxes, pill boxes, all sorts of things. It made it feel more like it belonged to a real family. Thank you for your comment, Carole, and I’m also looking forward to whenever I post that the book is finally published! 🙂

  2. I love your pictures!

    And they’re quite useful 🙂 I often reference your pictures when I’m creating a mental image of a setting for a scene.

    One of these days, I’m going to get one of those 360 things. Not that I have anything quite as wonderful to use it on. Maybe I’ll let the dog run in a circle around me and see if I can keep up with him using it 🙂

  3. Wonderful pictures, I can almost smell the surroundings. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us and all the work in categorizing the photos and your comments. Makes me even more determined to visit England.

  4. I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip and look forward to the rest of your photos. I really enjoyed my tour round Arlington Court and the carriage museum. What a lovely house. I’m so pleased I have no need to travel in one of those carriages especially the phaeton as even if I managed to get in I doubt my ability to get out at all let alone gracefully LOL.

    • Thanks for your comment, Glynis! I agree, it must have been tough to get in and out, particularly wearing a long dress. One of the carriages they had on display when I was there was a Victoria, which was lower to the ground and therefore easier to get in and out of (I think that’s why the queen favored it!)

  5. Thank you so much Sophie for these wonderful pictures of these carriage/mode of transpo during the Regency times (very informative). Am not sure if it is just me but I seem to get turned around, trying to imagine where the horse, footman, driver or if there’s maid, where they were. No wonder they need the foot stool (trying to imagine ladies getting in these tall carriages). The travelling barouche looks a little scary.

    • Thanks for your comment, Buturot! I think part of the issue is that some of these carriages are postillion-driven, so they would have been driven by someone actually riding one of the horses. Those are the ones where the box seat is in the back (although presumably any carriage could have been postillion driven, which was usually the case if the horses were hired for a private carriage). The ones that would have been driven by a coachman have the box seat in the front.

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