There has just been an advertising campaign encouraging visitors to Northamptonshire citing amongst other things…
What could be more cheering as an antidote to politicians and General Elections than the merry twinkle of a cascade of diamonds and a sparkling glass of champagne? Along with a stay in a five-star hotel, gastronomy and beautiful country houses replete with lovely objects, there is surely little else which could gladden the heart of the Collector and enthusiast for all things beautiful.
In this case it was to Cheshire and the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester that our party went. Having gathered at the Victorian pile of the Bromley-Davenports at Capesthorne Hall, we explored this magnificent house in brilliant sunshine before repairing to the hotel.
So as not to lose sight of the realities of life we visited on the following day the extraordinary time-warp of Erddig, where initially we concentrated on the domestic aspects of 18th century Country-House life. Saw-mills and middens, laundries and cooking-pots are all on display at this unique estate, contrasted with superb contents, silvered suites of furniture, portraits of the domestics and the bizarre confections of Miss Ratcliffe. Thereafter to Rode Hall, where we were warmly welcomed by Sir Richard Baker-Wilbraham, who personally talked of the astonishing collection of early English porcelain to be found in the house.
A visit to Cheshire is not complete without a call at the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight. Nicholas Merchant the organiser of this event described the setting up of the museum and something of its plethora of objects. Lever had a penchant for buying collections en bloc and this is no more apparent than in the collection of Wedgwood which is surely world-beating.
On the final evening we were invited to Boodles the jewellers, where we were welcomed by Donald Rustage, who told us something of the history and modern developments of the company, including the selection of one of their diamond rings by the Victoria and Albert Museum, as an iconic piece of the early 21st century artistry.
This was our first Short Break at the Grosvenor. A luxurious break in every way, not least the gastronomy of Simon Radley, the chef of the Grosvenor who has held his Michelin star for an unparalleled twenty years. Thanks also to the splendid and wondrous objects we have seen over our short stay, successfully distracting us from the dire headlines!