Have you got a National Trust card? I wasn’t convinced at first, but since having a card I have made the effort to visit many places I would not otherwise go to! The card itself is useful as it makes for very economical sightseeing. The pennies then can be preserved for transport costs. On that thought, I was incredibly impressed with how well we did with our oyster card. We used the card to board the bus for a trip into the city (zone 1) to run some errands. We then used the same card to go all the way from the city out to Eastbury Manor in Barking, London. Now barking took us well over two hours to reach by catching the number 25 bus from St Pauls and then the number EL2 bus from Illford Hill. To return to the city it took longer as we were then caught by peak traffic. And all this travel for just £4. Excellent economy.
On arriving to Eastbury Manor we were instantly impressed by the high level of service and professionalism from the staff/volunteers. After an initial rest inside the cafe we were then treated to a tour around the estate. The tour was complimentary which was music to our ears! The tour guide was very knowledgeable on the history of the estate. What I always adore about tours is that the guide brings the house alive for you! Listening to the stories of the people who lived there and how the property was used, makes learning history exciting and fun! The history of the place we are in, the rooms we are walking through, being retold by a person with enthusiasm and detail makes a most memorable visit. It is so much better than walking around by ourselves and trying to make ourselves read the description posters (or not) and getting lost.
The house was some what on an innovation. It was one of the very first properties to be built using brick, and was definitely a trend setter! It was also leading the way with it’s brick fireplace and chimneys.
Now the master suite had an ensuite and the guest rooms too. The ensuite was built as a sort of attachment to the side of the house and it was contained within a turret that operated like a “long drop”. The servants of the house would be responsible for cleaning out the long drop that they would enter from a door at ground floor. The bedrooms were higher up, on the third floor.
To each side of the house there were also a set of stairs. The original stairs are still there today, made from solid wood. The staircase for the landowners were wide and contained a handrail built into the brick. The other staircase was used by the servants but did not contain a handrail. It was also steeper and would certainly not meet today’s health and safety requirements for workers! How the world changes! One thing that occurred to me was that you could not afford to be scared of heights in those days! Going up the stairs was one thing, but I was not very keen to go back down them! I could not help but feel a bit dizzy!
The house was quite remote, it was on the edge of the marshland that separated it from the river Thames. It was an operating farm and has it’s fame from the barn which preceded the house. In fact the barn is reportedly recorded in the Doomsday book!
The land itself belonged to the local monastery before being closed and sold off by King Henry VIII. It was only after the property was taken out of monastery control, that the house at Eastbury Manor was built.
The first purchaser later sold the estate to a family. But after the death of the subsequent owner the family moved to London. The estate became what was described as a “ruination”. Farming families moved into the property, living upstairs and using the ground floor hall and parlour rooms to stable the horses.
The estate was eventually rescued. It is now owned by the National Trust and, in addition it is managed by the local authority. We discovered during our visit the reason why the house is open to the public just two days a week, Monday and Tuesday. We naturally assumed that the house was therefore closed for the rest of the week. But no! The house is in fact open, but for internal use. We learnt that the house is used for room bookings, meetings, and for training. It is also booked out for weddings. It is very encouraging to learn that historic places are still being used and enjoyed today and particularly by the local communities. The local children also attend workshops and period costume dress up and role plays in the house as they learn their local history.
For more details see www.lbbd.gov.uk/eastbury