Not The One In Wales. 28th June

Burwell EA Mooring

Our neighbours were off before we’d even got our cuppas in bed this morning, heading off to make the most of being on a boat for a week. We weren’t tardy either this morning and found ourselves waiting for the No 11 bus towards Cambridge at 10am.

Sitting on the top deck gave us great views, it’s almost hilly round here! There are interesting buildings in many of the villages and plenty of thatched roofs to admire whilst passing at their height. If we had more time it would be interesting to have a look around St Cyriac and St Julitta churches, both share the same church yard. The Maltings in Burwell with it’s quirky roof line. Burwell Museum and Windmill, only open Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Or walk round Lode where numerous thatched cottages require there to be boxes of chocolates on every street corner. Sadly they all passed too quickly for photos, well except the later where the bus has to do a three point turn to continue on its route!

Anglesey Abbey

We alighted and walked round the corner to the entrance of Anglesey Abbey. Not an abbey and not in Wales, but a rather fine house cared for by the National Trust. With huge gardens and access into the house we were to have a busy day. The offer of a garden highlights tour soon to start was not to be missed and we’re glad we went along as we’d have had no idea what we were looking at.

Wild flower meadow

Jean was a very knowledgeable guide who first took us to see the wild flower meadow. The meadow is left alone for much of the year, the paths cut frequently but the main area only getting one cut a year once all the flowers have set their seeds. She pointed out Common Birds-Foot-Trefoil, known as Eggs and bacon due to its colouring, Knotweed in amongst the grasses.

Pyramid orchids and a rare Lizard Orchid that has appeared in the gardens this year.

Mothy webs

We paused at a shrub covered in cobwebs, competing with Miss Haversham’s table covered. This was caused not by spiders but by a moth that weaves it’s silk, the caterpillars eat the shrub beneath before turning into small white moths. Today a few of the adults flitted about, a resting one on someone’s finger. This looked very much like the little things that have been appearing on Oleanna’s cabin sides over the last few weeks. Inside the cratch we’ve had incredible webs, that we’ve been putting down to new very keen spiders, but maybe we’ve got moths in there!

We walked through avenues of trees all given celebratory names, Coronation, Jubilee. Then areas of wood with perfectly positioned statues.

Into the rose garden, just finishing it’s first flush of blooms. Here we heard how the roses were cared for, planting in cardboard boxes is a new method to try to ease the influence of the soil in the beds, far cheaper than replacing all the soil every time new roses are planted. We took in the aromas from the blooms, very reminiscent of childhood making rose petal scent.

Around the exterior of the house we were shown the trained pear tree and then on to the herbaceous border garden where delphiniums towered high at the back of the flower beds. This was the garden currently in it’s prime. I could name loads of the plants but I can’t remember them all so photos will have to do.

The Fairbourne brothers who owned the house from the 1930’s loved gardens and the whole layout would have one garden coming into bloom as another passed it’s best. The next garden over had recently been planted out with Dahlias which would take over as the display garden in a couple of months time.

What amazing flowers

A very worthwhile tour to have done, one that will change through the seasons.

The Oak Room for after dinner drinks influenced by Coe Hall in Long Island

Anglesey Abbey started out as a hospital in 1135 and by the early 13th Century it had been converted into an Augustinian priory. Of course when Henry VIII came along (1536) the priory was dissolved. The ruins of the priory formed the core of the present house, which was built in the early 17th century. The house changed hands many times through the centuries, with not much changing.

Queen Elizabeth II bed

In 1848 the Reverend John Hailstone bought the house and made various changes to it’s fabric, removing Jacobean dormer windows and creating the stable block. It was probably him who changed the name from Anglesey Priory to Abbey, the latter sounding far grander.

Urban Huttlestone Rogers Broughton (Lord Fairhaven) and his brother Henry bought the house in 1926. They had inherited £1million each when their father died, their family were very very wealthy Americans from oil refining. Urban was granted his Fathers Barony and became the 1st Baron of Fairhaven. The brothers agreed that the first to get married would sell their share to the other, so when Henry married in 1932 he sold his share to Urban. The house and estate complimented their horse stud at Barton and being close to Newmarket. Now they could enjoy the races in the summer along with shooting in the winter.

Between 1926 and 1930 the brothers altered the house, adding a new porch, spiral staircase and engine room. They also converted the stables into garages. In 1937 Lord Fairhaven extended the service wing and built the Library and in 1939 he added the Tapestry Hall. Money being no problem meant that anything that took Fairhavens fancy could be bought. This makes for an eclectic collection of objects and works of art.

Numerous paintings line the walls, collections giving rooms a theme. One corridor is filled with paintings by an artist Etty known for his historic nudes.

Numerous tapestries hang in corridors and down staircases. Some are old, others obviously commissioned with images of the house. There were one or two that seemed a little bit familiar as though elements had been included from the Marlborough Tapestries at Blenheim.

The Opening of Waterloo Bridge

But all eyes are encouraged towards the Library. A large high ceilinged room, books line the walls, desks each end and sofas by the fire. Opposite hangs the main feature. A couple of months ago the largest known painting Constable painted returned from being cleaned. The Opening of Waterloo Bridge 1817, now reveals crowds waving from buildings and one figure is thought to be the Price Regent as it is the only figure wearing a wig. The volunteer in the room was obviously very proud as he talked about it.

The Library was made from reclaimed ash from Waterloo Bridge

If you peek through the leaded windows behind the desk you can make out graffiti, etched by Fairhavens guests. Several of the royal family’s names appear here, sadly my photos didn’t come out, Elizabeth R is there.

Down below stairs the kitchens are open for viewing. An old range is accompanied by several electric cookers. Behind the bars in the safe sit shelves of crockery and a bust of Winston Churchill.

When Fairhaven entertained, three guests his preferred number, dinner would be served at 8.03 in the dinning room, giving the guests three minutes to walk from where they’d had pre-dinner drinks. Then every evening just before 9pm a radio was brought through to the dinning table on a sliver tray so that the news could be listened to.

A house that went on and on, room after room filled with such an eclectic collection of alsorts and then a garden that stretches on for what feels like mile after mile and then some more. What a place, what a very rich chap!


After the house we retired to the cafe for a jacket potato each and a pot of tea. Another walk round the grounds, taking in the Mill this time, sadly it’s closed at the moment. Then it was time to walk back to catch the bus back and give Tilly a head nudge or two.


0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 1 huge house, 1 even larger garden, 2 avenues, 56545378 moths, 1 lizard orchid, 8ft Constable, 1 cat up high, 1 parrot, 1 replica ceiling, 2 jackets, 1 mill, 1 very good day out, now it’s time to go boating again.