Which is how I came to accept James's offer of spending the night in a 16th century manor house in the middle of nowhere.
An empty 16th century manor house in the middle of nowhere that is. Let’s not forget the empty, uninhabited, no one else around, me and him as Lord and Lady of the Elizabethan manor, part.
The manor in question was Wilderhope Manor House in Much Wenlock, Shropshire:
Thrushcross Grange any day.
But then again, I'm a Jane Austenite rather than either a Charlotte or Emily Brontephile and, trust me, the plot of Austen's Northanger Abbey - where the young heroine, carried away after reading gothic novels, ends up sneaking about the old house looking for proof that her host murdered his wife - was never far from my mind while I was packing for the trip.
So much so that I took my copy with me:
|We stayed in a room on this side of the building. We know our place.|
Ah yes, about that horse ...
The story goes that during the English Civil War the owner of the manor at that time, royalist Major Thomas Smallman who was carrying important documents, was fleeing some of Cromwell's troops and, rather than allow himself to be cornered by them, he galloped his horse, and indeed himself, straight off Wenlock Edge and while he survived the 200ft drop by grabbing on to something ... the horse didn't. And frankly, after that, who'd blame the horse for coming back to haunt him?
The place where it all went down (sorry about the pun dear ghost horse) is now known as Major's Leap and it wasn't until we'd chosen a room in which to spend the night that I noticed we'd picked the one next to it's namesake. Which was ... comforting ... :
So, why were we there walking up 430 year old staircases and trying not to think of ghosts in the first place?
Well, like I say, it wasn't because James rented out the entire place in order to satisfy any Jane Austen heroine fantasies I might have. Rather James's company was hired to carry out some repair work in the building (which actually now runs as a Youth Hostel - rather than a fancy manor house hotel) and, after seeing online images of the stunning location ...
... he decided that he'd leave behind the office job for a few days and tackle the work himself rather than delegate to someone else. So, before you get too jealous of the amazing opportunity we had, here are some of the behind-the-scenes realities ...
There was real, unromantic, work to be done (for one of us at least, although I did do my fair share of tidying and assisting):
Our room was called the Wren's Nest and was fittingly small and cosy enough for just the two of us. There was no way I could have slept in any of the larger dormitories ... too much open space tricking my mind into seeing things that weren't there or, worse still, that were there!
If you're feeling brave, how about I give you a tour of the manor?
I'm pretty sure there weren't any ghosts there (but if you spot one in my photos, just keep that information to yourself!) Right then, here we go ...
While James was working, I sat in the dining room:
Where I could admire its original plaster work ceilings:
When I wasn't tidying up or making tea for the worker here's where I sat.
I nestled myself in the corner, on my own, with a novel to read and a notebook to scribble in:
I wonder how they were spending their days while their menfolk went about their business?
... and then we were left alone. Entirely alone.
Once all the work was finally complete we put on some atmospheric lighting and ate tea in the dining room:
And, fortified by food and drink (a strong cuppa ... we weren't drunk in charge of a manor house) we investigated more of the building including the 'bridal suite' at the very top of the house ... and even the basement at the very bottom:
And after all that excitement, and after a long, long, day of driving and working we were ready for bed (note the luminous green bedding James is holding here):
At 7am the next morning the gifts of this location kept on giving:
Some experiences money can't buy and, in this case, it hadn't even tried to. This experience was simply the gift of providence, of good fortune, of being in the right place talking to the right people at the right time. Of being willing to embrace an idea, to go, to do, to stay for under 24 hours and then to turn around and come home again.
But, as brief as our stay may have been, there's no taking away from the fact that for one night in its 431 year history ... James and I were the sole residents of Wilderhope Manor.
If you enjoyed your visit with me and the manor today I'd love to hear from you.
Let's chat all things Austen / Bronte / spooky / over active imagination-related either here in the comments, over on Instagram, my Facebook page or on Twitter.