My wife and I have visited this attraction several times over a space of almost sixty years. Although considerable improvements have been made to the advantage of National Trust paid-up Members and the general viewing public—notably opening up the Park and the Servants' Quarters—the latter an inspired decision—one today is left with the feeling that there is a decaying presence of the family, who, it seems, simply will not let go. I apologise if this seems a harsh judgement, but the overpowering disadvantage is immediately discernible to the visitor. This is not an attraction for children and young persons, when most certainly it should be. My advice to the resident Egremonts is simple: Thank you for your gift, even if financially you had no other realistic alternative, but please now let we, the Members, show your former home to its best advantage.
At the moment the Servants' Quarters and ancillary offices are a major and interesting attraction. The present Egremonts and their forbears would never have entered that area and could not possibly have appreciated the conditions imposed upon their servants.
The House, sadly, is dead. It was built to show off the paintings and sculptures collected by various members of the family, simply to show off their vanity during arranged entertainments. Today, we of course benefit immeasurably from their prescience, and it is such a satisfaction to see the paintings and sculptures displayed in the situations in which they were first exhibited.
But where is the humanity? There were many shooting and other entertaining parties held at the house. The participants were housed in bedrooms and dressing rooms. During the day they would have congregated in Library, Morning and Drawing Rooms. They would have dined most tastefully upon the best foods available that were created by the resident cooks and chefs in the house, upon the most splendid linen, silver, china, porcelain, crystal and floral ornamentation.
There is no evidence at all in the present displays of the warmth and comfort of those who lived in and visited the house. All we now have is a gallery of the most splendid paintings and sculptures arguably to be found in any English Country House or National or Municipal Gallery, but no evidence at all of anyone actually living in this house. It is devoid of life.
As a very senior National Trust Member, my advice is simple. The time has come to open up the entire ground floor of the house. Furnish it as it was when someone actually lived and entertained in the entire house. Open up the first floor and attics that were formerly occupied by family, visitors and servants.
By all means let the Egremonts have an apartment in the house: it is always good to have the heirs of donor families around. But do they ever come out and greet the public? Do they ever say hello to the children visitors? If not, why not?
Change is needed, and very soon. When will either the Egremonts or the National Trust take notice of twenty-first century developments?
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