The Hardmans’ House


A couple of weeks ago, the last Saturday in May, we drove over to Liverpool. One of the things we wanted to do was to visit a National Trust property in Rodney Street, close to the centre of Liverpool. Rodney Street, a street of mainly Georgian period houses, is often referred to as the “Harley Street of Liverpool” as many of the buildings are occupied by private medical services. Gladstone, the Victorian Liberal Prime MInister was born in the street at No. 62, However, we were visiting the house at No. 59 that used to be the home of  E. Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret who were both photographers and ran a successful photography studio and business here.


Hardman was quite eccentric and after his wife died in 1979 from cancer he continued to live and work in the house, living as a virtual recluse until he died in 1988. He hardly left the house and was a hoarder, never throwing anything away, including foodstuffs! When he died he left behind an archive of more than 200,000 images. Realising the importance of the collection of photographs, the property was acquired by the National Trust in 2003. As it’s a small property, the Trust run guided tours of the house which, with the contents accumulated by the Hardmans, is a “timecapsule” of life in mid twentieth century Liverpool.

Chambré Hardman was Irish, and had been a regular soldier in India in the 1920’s where he developed an interest in photography. Returning to Britain, he set up in business with a partner, Kenneth Burrell a fellow officer in India. Although Burrell left the business within five years, but the two remained friends and Hardman continued to include his friend’s name in that of the business


Chambré Hardman first met Margaret when she cam to work with him as an assistant. Although she was much younger than him there was a mutual attraction and they eventually married. She was also a talented photographer in her own right and was very much the commercial brain which helped the business to be successful. 

We’d visited some years ago but decided we’d like to take another look, so I rang and booked a tour for the Saturday afternoon. The visit started with a short talk and a video providing some background information about the Hardmans and their business followed by the guided tour of the studio, waiting rooms, darkrooms, other work rooms (the business employed a number of staff who worked here) and the Hardmans’ private living quarters. There were also examples of the Hardmans’ photographs on display.

The bread and butter of the business was taking studio portraits and clients would visit the house to have their photographs taken. The business also specialised in taking photographs of children and pets. Chambré Hardman was also employed by the Liverpool Playhouse theatre to take portraits of actors, including some relatively well known faces such as Ivor Novello and Patricia Routledge (a local girl!). The Hardmans’ passion, though, was landscape photography and they spent weekends and holidays travelling and taking photographs for their own interest. Hardman also took many photographs around and about Liverpool. There’s plenty of examples of their work on the National Trust Website

Unlike the last time we visited, photographs were allowed, but, as is usually the case, only without flash. I took some snaps, but they are generally a little dark.

The majority of the rooms in the house were devoted to the business and the Hardmans’ hobby. Although it’s clear from the outside that it’s a Georgian building, the Hardmans’ modernised and adapted the house for their business, so few original interior features remain. But the interest is in seeing how they lived and worked

This is the studio where the portraits were taken


the Hardmans’ personal dark room


The room where the commercial photographs were finished and packaged and sent to clients. It also acted as an office


And a few pictures from the Hardmans’ living quarters

Their living room


The kitchen


the kitchen store cupboard with items going back to WW2


Old boxes from his time in India in the cellar


Chambré Hardman died in 1988, and so was living here when I was at Liverpool University in the late 1970’s. I must have walked past more than a few times so it was particularly interesting to see what it was like inside.

On to Anglesey

When I woke up and looked out of the window of the youth Hostel at Idwal Cottage it was chucking it down. The hills were shrouded in cloud and the weather forecast was that it would stay like that for most of the day – not good for getting out on the hills. While I was sorting out and eating breakfast, other residents in the hostel were busy changing their plans. I was spending the weekend on Anglesey and the forecast for there was that the weather would improve late morning, so after I’d packed up and checked out of the hostel I decided to drive straight over there.

I thought I’d go and have a look at the National Trust Property, Plas Newyyd, which is just over the Britannia bridge and near Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.  From the NT website I could see that the property didn’t open until 11 o’clock so, as I had a good hour to kill, I decided to turn right once I’d crossed the bridge and head over to Beaumaris on the south east corner of the island.  I parked up and had a wander round the small town which is dominated by the castle built by Edward I as part of his “iron ring” to keep the newly conquered Welsh under control.

It’s a pleasant little seaside resort


The castle with it’s symmetrical concentric ‘walls within walls’ design was “state of the art” for it’s time with four lines of fortifications. It was, however, never finished as the money ran out and Edward’s attention was diverted to fighting the Scots. It still looks impressive, though!

I spent about an hour in Beaumaris before setting off again and driving to Plas Newyyd.


The house dates from 1470, although there have been substantial modifications since then, and, until it was handed over to the National Trust, it was the seat of the Marquesses of Anglesey. However, they must have made a “sweetheart” deal with the NT as the current Marquess’ son and his wife live there in private apartments.

The house is in a stunning location on the banks of the Menai Straights with, on a clear day, views over to Snowdonia.

The National Trust website tells us that

Plas Newydd belongs to the early 19th century and the ‘cult of styles’, cheerfully mixing Neo-classical and picturesque Gothick……. the interior is mainly Neo-classical with very good examples of late 18th-century Gothick work in the hall and music room

The most interesting room was the dining room where one wall is covered by a large mural created by the artist Rex Whistler in the 1930’s.

The mural is a trompe-l’oeil seascape painting of an imagined scene of Snowdonian mountains, Italianate churches, castles, and a harbour. There are many tricks of perspective which result in various elements of the painting appearing to change when seen from different parts of the room.

It was impossible to get a photograph of the whole of the mural, so here’s one from Wikipedia

Rex Whistler - Dining Room Mural - Capriccio - Plas Newydd.jpg

After looking round the house and having a bite to eat in the cafe, I had a wander round the grounds – a lengthy walk through the woodland of the Rhododendron Gardens which extended along the Menai Straight

and then the formal Italianate Terrace

Finally I had a look along the terrace in front of the house, along the Menai Straights

I spotted some sea kayakers – a reminder of what I’d be doing for the next couple of days


The cloud was beginning to disperse and the sun come out. It was time to move on. I’d planned to drive over tot he south west of the island take a walk on the beach

An evening stroll along Carding Mill Valley


Late morning on the Tuesday the rain started to come in, so we spent the afternoon taking it easy in our comfortable apartment, reading and listening to some music. By about 6 o’clock it had stopped raining so we decided to go for a short walk along Carding Mill Valley and take a look at the reservoir up New Pool Hollow. The small reservoir was constructed in 1902 to supply water to the Carding Mill. It didn’t have to fulfil it’s intended purpose for long; the old mill was demolished in 1912 and the factory turned into an hotel and café. Today the reservoir is an attractive feature at the end of a short steep sided valley and is frequented by “wild swimmers”.


It was only a short walk up Carding MIll Valley and it’s short side shoot, New Pool Hollow (named after the new reservoir – what was it called before 1902?). We stopped for a short while to take in the view.


The sun was starting to break through the cloud and it looked like it might develop into a pleasant evening, so we extended the walk by taking the high level path back along the valley before walking further up the main valley.

This is the view of the reservoir’s dam, looking back from the high level path.


and looking down towards Church Stretton from further along the path.


Rejoining the main valley


One of the locals taking a look at us!


A little before the intersection with Lightspout Hollow we turned round and headed back – it was getting close to tea time.


Passing the old factory building which has been converted into flats,


and then the National Trust shop and café in the Swiss Chalet.



After a short while we arrived back at Arden House


We chose the right time to go out – an hour after we got back it was raining heavily again.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

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A couple of miles to the east of Keswick town centre – all uphill – we came to the Castlerigg Neolithic stone circle..Four and a half thousand years old, with 38 stones (some claim more!) laid in a flattened circle in the middle of a field surrounded by some of England’s highest mountains with Skiddaw and Blencathra to the north and Helvelyn to the south east. The high peaks were shrouded in low cloud, but that only made it more atmospheric

It is not just its location that makes this one of the most important British stone circles; considered to have been constructed about 3000 bc, it is potentially one of the earliest in the country. Taken into guardianship in 1883, it was also one of the first monuments in the country to be recommended for preservation by the state.(English Heritage)

The land is owned by the National Trust and the monument itself is managed by English Heritage.

Being outside the holiday season, and a grey day, there were relatively few visitors, so it was a good opportunity to take a few photos.






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A walk along the Edges


The last day of our short break in the Peak District we decided to go for a walk along the gritstone edges to the east of Baslow. We drove a few miles up to Curbar gap and parked up on the National Trust car park. It isn’t very large, so we were fortunate to find a space.

The plan was to walk along White Edge and then return along Froggat Edge and Curbar Edge. We ended up extending the walk by a few miles through the Longshaw Estate.


Leaving the car park we took the path up to White Edge.


After a short climb we were on top of the ridge where views opened up over desolate moorland – a lonely rugged landscape even though it’s only a few miles to Sheffield.


The path was a bit boggy in places.


Out on the wild and windy moor!


Looking north over Froggat Edge we could see the Hope Valley ridge and Kinder Scout in the distance



White Edge is an undulating ridge with a few gentle ups and downs, but relatively easy walking. On one of the “summits” we spotted this stone. Looking closely we could see that there were words carved into it. Being weathered, it was a little difficult to read at first but we soon worked out that it was a poem.


There was a web address carved on the stone too and as the reception on my phone was quite good I had a quick look to find out more. It transpired that this is one of a series of “companion stones”

“Companion stones are a set of twelve matching stones. Designed by local poets and artists and created by sculptors and masons of the Peak, are a similar stature, volume and material as their compeers. Like the guide stoops, each bears an inscription pointing, not to market towns, but towards the future. In doing so, they draw attention to the moors, an indicator of the trick environmental terrain we have yet to navigate”

The project was inspired by the Guide Stoops which were erected in the early 18th century to help travellers across treacherous moors, each stoop providing directions to the nearest market town.  This stone had a poem by Mark Goodwin and was designed by Jo Dacombe


(Poem by Mark Goodwin)

We carried on along the ridge, deciding to carry on towards Longshaw rather than cutting down to the Grouse Inn. We crossed the main road and set out along the path towards Longshaw Lodge


The Longshaw Estate was once the Duke of Rutland’s shooting estate but was bought by the people of Sheffield in 1928, being passed on to the National Trust in1931. Today it’s a pleasant Country Park which seems to be well used by people from Sheffield and the vicinity as well as visitors like ourselves.


We passed below a gritstone outcrop but couldn’t resist climbing up for the view. A rainbow could be seen to the north east.


After a while the path went through some woodland


before we arrived at Longshaw Lodge where there was a busy little café, so we stopped for a brew.


The lodge was built about 1827 to provide a retreat for the Duke of Rutland’s shooting parties. I believe that it has now been converted into flats.

It was a clear day and there were good views towards  Higger Tor


and Stannage Edge, the other side of Hathersage.


Setting out again we walked through woodland and moorland back towards Froggat Edge. We spotted another Companion Stone, this one designed by Kate Genever


with a poem by Ann Atkinson.


Looking back


we left the Estate and then walked a short distance along the road to the Grouse Inn. It looked quite busy and we didn’t need any refreshments so carried on cutting across the fields and through the NT carpark


crossing the road and joining the path that climbed up to Froggat Edge, initially passing through pleasant woodland


Looking back


There’s a small ancient stone circle just off the footpath. It’s not exactly Stonehenge, but interesting none the less.



Reaching the top of the ridge there were good views over the steep gritstone cliffs on the north side of the Edge


Along with Curbar Edge tot he south, it’s a favourite spot for climbers.



We carried along the ridge heading towards Curbar Edge



Looking east we had a good view of White Edge that we’d walked along a few hours earlier


We carried on along the ridge


and descended down back to the car park. There was a rather upmarket mobile snack bar which was tempting,


but we had decided to call in at the Chatsworth Farm Shop before heading home and it was getting close to closing time, so changed out of our boots and set off.

It had been a good walk. A lot easier than some we have done lately, but interesting nevertheless, with great views and a little culture too!

Eyam Hall


Eyam Hall is a Jacobean manor house built just six years after the plague that had devastated the small Derbyshire village. Thomas Wright, a local landowner, had it built  as a gift to his second son John Wright following his marriage to Elizabeth Kniveton. The house is still owned by descendants of the original owners who have leased it to the National Trust. This means that the Wright family still own the house and its contents, but they are managed and looked after by the Trust. It’s relatively modest in size  and as it was a family home until relatively recently, it isn’t “preserved in aspic” although there are some historic elements and furnishings.


Visitors enter through the front door into the main hall where we given an interesting introductory talk about the history of the building and its owners by an enthusiastic NT volunteer.


The portrait in the corner is of Elizabeth, the wife of John Wright, the original owner. She doesn’t look so happy!


The large bench come cupboard, one of a pair, is a bacon settle, which was used for storing bacon and cured meats. These settles were included in a 1694 inventory of the hall and were probably bought by the original occupants.

Moving upstairs we looked into the “Tapestry Room”. As the name suggests, the walls were covered with tapestries.


The guide who was in the rom pointed out that they hadn’t been made for this room but had been bought by the owners who had then cut up and patched them to cover the walls as decoration but also, no doubt, to provide insulation. 


Moving into the library where, the NT website tells us, there are 1042 books.  The oldest is Thomas Elyot’s “The Boke named the Gouernour” (London, 1546); a treatise on education and being a gentleman.


The main point of interest was the poem carved into one of the windows extolling the virtues of Miss Fanny Holme of Stockport


This four poster bed with its elaborate carvings was the main interest in the principal bedroom


At first glance it looks quite old and impressive, but in fact, as the room volunteer pointed out, it’s actually cobbled together from various bits and pieces.


There was an interesting collection of old toys in the nursery, including an impressive train set


Back downstairs, the kitchen retains some original features



Outside there’s a pleasant garden.


Due to the time of year, it was looking a little bare and depleted, although some attractive flowers were hanging on!


and autumn colours were evident


The former stables and courtyard buildings have been converted to a craft centre


There’s a small number of shops including a jeweller (complete with workshop), an ironmongers, a cheese shop, a shop selling local beers and gift shops. And a secondhand bookshop – which seem to becoming very common at NT properties.

Mount Stewart – A Walk round the Estate and to the Temple of the Winds


Mount Stewart has fairly extensive grounds to the south of the house and gardens. It was a pleasant day so we decided to take a walk around the grounds. The NT have set out three marked trails. We decided to take the red route which is just short of a mile and a half in length.

We passed through some pleasant woodland and then climbing a hill we reached the Temple of the Winds, an octagonal building the 1st Marquess  had constructed and which was inspired by Classical building he’d seen during the Grand Tour he took in his youth, like many wealthy young aristocrats.


The National Trust rent it out as wedding venue and it wasn’t open during our visit. We stopped for a while, though, as there’s a good view over Strangford Lough.


We carried on through woodlands and fields



Diverting off the route slightly to take a look of the ruined folly


Carrying on back on the route we passed sunflowers in the verges. They must have been cultivated in the fields at one time and seeds have drifted and germinated along the side of the paths.


Back into woodland, some woodcarvers have been creating sculptures using chainsaws. They’d finished for the day by the time we arrived, but we saw the evidence of their handywork..



Mount Stewart Gardens


The gardens at Mount Stewart are exceptional. So good that they’ve been included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage tentative list.

The design is largely the work of 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry (although I’m sure she had plenty of help!) The National Trust have some good information on the planning and design of the garden which can be downloaded here.

Here’s a few photos

The Italian Garden

The Spanish Garden


The Shamrock Garden

The Sunken Garden


The Informal Gardens

Mount Stewart


Mount Stewart used to belong to the Anglo-Irish Marquesses of Londonderry. They were fabulously rich, their wealth accumulated largely through astute marriage arrangements, and had several homes including a palatial house in Park Lane, London and estates (and coal mines) in County Durham. They effectively used Mount Stewart as a summer “holiday home”.

It has extensive grounds including magnificent formal and informal gardens and woodland walks.


The house has recently re-opened after a 3 year long restoration project costing £8 million. It’s arranged to represent how it looked when it was home of the 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry, a noted and influential society hostess in the between  the two World Wars, and her family in the early 20th century.

This is the central hall. Although in the middle of the house, it’s brightly lit by the glass dome above.


During the restoration of the house major work was carried out on the balcony above the central hall which was in danger of collapse. It’s been restored removing heavy iron balconies and redecorating in the original style.



The Morning Room


Lady Edith’s Drawing Room, her “personal space”



The NT website tells us

The vast drawing-room, with ionic column screens at each end, remains much as it was after being decorated in the 1930’s by Edith, 7th Marchioness, who like her mother-in-law before her was one of the great political hostesses of the time. The furnishing comprises quite a mixture of pieces from different periods, including Carrara marble urns and vases, tripod candlesticks, carved standard lamps, sofas, armchairs, occasional tables – all grouped informally as if the house guests were expected to return at any moment.

The family Chapel.


Probably the most famous member of the family was the 2nd Marquess , better known as Viscount Castlereagh. His portrait is hung in the house

Robert Stewart (1769–1822), Viscount Castlereagh and 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, KG, GCH, FRS, PC, MP

Robert Stewart (1769–1822), Viscount Castlereagh and 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (Source: National Trust)

As British Foreign Secretary, from 1812 he was central to the management of the coalition that defeated Napoleon and was the principal British diplomat at the Congress of Vienna. Castlereagh was also leader of the British House of Commons in the Liverpool government from 1812 until his suicide in August 1822. Early in his career, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, he was involved in putting down the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and was instrumental in securing the passage of the Irish Act of Union of 1800.(Wikipedia)

He was honoured by many foreign governments as this collection of medals demonstrates



Depending on your point of view, he could be considered as either a hero or a villain. The poet Percy Shelley certainly falls into the latter camp – Castlereagh features prominently at the beginning of his poem, The Masque of Anarchy which was written in response to the Peterloo massacre

I met Murder on the way –
He had a mask like Castlereagh –
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:

All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed the human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Castle Ward – A walk round the Estate


After we’d had a look round the house we donned our boots and set out for a walk around the extensive Castle Ward estate.

A path through the woods led down to the shores of the Lough.


Strangford Lough is a sea lough with a narrow inlet into the Irish Sea. The tide was out revealing extensive sand and mud banks.


We approached a group of old buildings including the old Castle Ward, the original building on the estate – a fortified house.


an old mill




and a saw mill.


This collection of buildings has become well known to fans of the TV series Game of Thrones as it was used as the location for Winterfell. In fact there are a number of sites around the estate that were used as locations for the series and a number of companies run tours out of Belfast and Dublin. 


We had a look inside the old fortified house and then set off along the shore of the Lough. Looking over to the east we could see the village of Portaferry


and looking back we could see the Gothic face of the big house


There were pleasure boats out on the water


Carrying on we could see another old fortified house – Audley’s Tower.



An old stone jetty that used to be used by Maxwell Ward, the last member of the Ward family to live in the house to launch his yacht Bonito.


We followed the path and climbed up to Audley’s Tower, which is named after its late 16th-century owners, the Audleys, an Anglo-Norman family who held land in the area in the 13th century. It was sold, with the surrounding estate, to the Ward family in 1646.


Yes, another Game of Thrones location


A tour group were just leaving


Looking out over the Lough from the tower



We carried on through pleasant wodland


Turning inland we followed the path along Temple Water. It’s a long, narrow lake that was was dug in 1728.


Water from the lake is taken via an underground culvert to the farmyard where it is used to power the corn mill. In the past it also was used to power the sawmill.


Looking down the length of the Temple Water we could see Audley’s Tower.


From the lake we walked backed towards the house through this tunnel of beech trees


returning to the old fortified house and mill complex


and then made our way back up towards the main house where we took a turn around the formal Sunken Garden



We could have spent longer here, wandering around the estate, but time was getting on so it was back to the car to drive to Killyleagh, a few miles away, where we would be staying for another couple of nights.