DEN Project

Calke Abbey

Today I visited Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, accompanied by friends Kate and Oli. The property (which stands on the site of a priory) dates from 1704, was home to the Harpur-Crewe family, and was taken on by the National Trust in 1985. It is described by the Trust as an ‘un-stately home’, the desire being to leave it as an example of ‘the decline of the great country house’. The house and extensive grounds are well worth exploring, and we were expertly guided by Nigel and treated to a view from the roof and a peak inside the store rooms as well as a tour around the house which is packed full of taxidermy specimens and the results of a variety of other collecting obsessions!

In terms of house contents with relevance to the theme of climatic change, the natural history specimens include a large collection of lepidoptera, and also an herbarium that have potential to provide a record of which species were previously found at Calke and the surrounding area, although the labelling of Sir Vauncey (the man responsible for the majority of the collection) is patchy at best! Wardens in the park are currently surveying the vegetation and wildlife species found, generating data that could be used alongside the house collections to produce evidence of changing climate. We were also able to spot a weather vane on the stable block, a collection of parasols, a children’s weather house (unfortunately something has gone wrong with my photo of this lovely house!), and a couple of John Whitehurst clocks (although an absence of barometers). The library houses an extensive collection on natural history, including some texts on butterflies that have been annotated with sketches of specimens found at Calke.

The team at Calke have also recently made several alterations, particularly to the drainage system, in an attempt to protect the property from flooding. The house flooded in June 2007 after extremely heavy rain and a hail storm, damaging a number of rooms. However, staff responded quickly and were able to rescue and dry out the majority of the affected contents. A small display on the flood was put on in the house in the months following the flood event. The team also discovered a record of the house flooding back in June 1830 recorded in the diary of Sir George Crewe, “…The first thing which attracted my attention, as I left the Saloon, was the noise of the Buckets, Pattens, Brushes, etc, etc, and numerous voices below. I hastened down and found that the water had penetrated the front lower door, had filled the passage on the ground floor and my Anti-room – and made its escape into a Bed-room… Here was a scene of confusion, the Mats and Carpets saturated with Red Mud – and the boards soaked.”

BBC news article on the 2007 flood at Calke Abbey.

Link to Royal Meteorological Society fact-sheet on weather houses.

Calke Abbey collections archive

Calke Abbey collections archive

Calke Abbey

Calke Abbey

 

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