Oh my. The night we arrived, black rain was lashing the windows, breaching the lead panes and the chimneys were thundering. Locating our rooms from the cosy hub of arrival required looking at a map. The voices of family faded to chatter and footfall as we intruded further into the empty house, until it began to feel impolite. I could see my children peeking at me for reassurance, unfamiliar with the unconfined space as I fumbled for switch after switch to light our way. I peered out of the gallery's windows into the stormy night and saw a house close by - in the morning I realised it was merely the South Wing.
What a place were were inhabiting. Cutting edge design - medieval simplicity with largesse. Wonderful Arts and Crafts details at every turn easily overlooked due to their parity. For instance, each oak door was slightly different in its furniture. The inglenook fireplace in the lounge has a brick arch to one side, behind an asymmetric portion of which is a recessed window with a curved ceiling that you can only really see if you care to go and look up at it. Now that's an artist enjoying himself.
Lutyens was commissioned to make this for a Mr Merrilees, a man who once owned the Harrods of Russia. Described by Lutyens in a letter to his wife as "a good sort of a small sort"(?), he built it as a philanthropic holiday home for 'ladies of small means' before shooting himself in the garden. That was him knocking at night then...no, no, the central heating, surely all houses talk at night.
I have never, ever had the privilege of experiencing having the run of an historical property which neatly offset the intermittent moments where things got weird. Waking in the night to see a boy child in a sailor suit by the bed, the bedroom door which consistently whipped shut too hard behind me until the time I mentioned it and it closed softly, that kind of thing. Pfff just my imagination. The wind.
It was the best stay and too short. I finally got behind the ropes to sleep.