Norton Conyers Visit
Norton Conyers is a medieval manor house, the basic structure of the present house being late fourteenth century although there were earlier dwellings on the site. The Graham family has lived there for nearly 400 years, with a brief gap at the time of the 7th Baronet who was the spendthrift “bad penny” essential to any ancient aristocratic family story. The present owners are the 11th Baronet and his wife, Sir James and Lady Graham, and they were a wonderful double act when telling us the history of the house and their trials and tribulations in restoring it after years of neglect and death watch beetle infestation. Sir James’ collections of dead death watch beetles were among the many quirky exhibits and the house conveyed a marvellous feeling of a really ancient family home rather than a cold and formal stately pile. It had of course many wonderful paintings of royalty and family members and had also had its share of famous visitors over the years; Charles I and James II and later Charlotte Bronte were the principle famous guests. Charlotte Bronte is said to have based her description of Thornfield Hall in “Jane Eyre” on Norton Conyers and its history of a “mad woman” in the attics was the prototype for mad Mrs Rochester. A secret door had only recently been re-
16 members thoroughly enjoyed this memorable outing and many took picnics to eat in the extensive walled garden with wonderful herbaceous borders and raspberries for the picking. Some of the garden walls were double where in the past there had been heating to produce early fruit.
Our visit had been booked well in advance and there were very few other people there, so, after the talk by our hosts, we wandered around this marvellous manor house and garden and gazed out at its peaceful parkland feeling that the modern world was a million miles away and would never, ever, intrude.
Wednesday 12th July
Escorted site visit
Sir James and Lady Graham