Study Visit: Wallington and Cragside National Trust properties

Why visit these properties?

Mainly to discover artefacts and how others have curated their treasures.  This may open my own mind up to new forms of display.


The house was owned by a family, who gifted it to the National Trust.  Obviously the owner was a character, seen in evidence by his accumulation of curiosities, in the style of Victorian collections.

There was one room I really wanted to visit, called The Curiosity Room….

I loved the idea of a curiosity cabinet.  No, I wouldn’t pull something like this off for my own archive, yet it works in line with the objects in the collection.  Other smaller methods of display were glass cloches,  often housing taxidermy objects.

What I would say about each room, is that labelling was a little sparse, thus I am not qualified to comment on exact object history; but more give an overall view.

Notice the antique style of glass cabinet, used for display.  Plus lots of cubby holes.

Another room I found a favourite was the dolls house room.  Consisting of about ten different houses, as shapes and sizes.  Each had been lovingly designed and the rooms within were easy to view.  These tiny rooms become points of inspiration themselves, tiny lives, a narrative which someone has staged.  They tell a silent story, which is actually ours to give voice to.  We can interpret what is happening, the era and decoration of each..


A few other images of the house interiors:

I have a fondness for rocking horses too, as we see them in the image above too.  The bottom image far right is one of the dolls house interior.  I found it interesting to contrast the literal rooms to the ones in these tiny houses.  I wonder if they modelled the dolls houses on the real rooms in the house?

I loved the large tapestry works around the house too.  One we can see top right horizontally.  I was able to question one of the guides, who explained that most of the wall hangings around the house were made by Lady Trevelyan, the part owner of the house, along with her husband.

Due to time limits on my ticket the day I have visited, I now look back and wish to go again to visit the house inside with the curiosities and dolls houses in particular.  I keep thinking back to the narrative of the dolls houses, as they are really controlled by us, their owners.  I would love to know more about their owners, who curated them etc.  The collection of curiosities was built by the owner, thus there is no question on its design hands.  However I wonder why he chose those objects.  Was it simply a fashion stance of the time?

The concept of a cabinet of curiosities in history, relates to the quality of “wonder”.  Built generally by one person, as in the case of this house, they were made on themes at times, as I discovered here.  I.E. dolls house room and taxidermy animals inside the cloches.


This house is bigger than Wallington, which is reflected in some of the room sizing:


I found that because of this, I was looking more intently for detail, as it was not all “squashed together”.  The fire place here is a point of interest.  The wall art is amazing, all carved:


Outside I found carving reflected once again:


This was a carved piece of wood in the garden, taller than myself.

This again, is I guess seen as a curiosity.

Stained glass windows were also a feature:

I find myself being inspired by these windows for two reasons, one the light coming in at all angles depending on the sunlight and two, the shapes seen within the panels.  Patterns based on florals, which are a lovely contrast to the usual biblical ideas we often see on window panes.

Looking back on the two houses, was there one I would revisit over the other?

I would veer towards Wallington, as I feel that the rooms were filled with more curiosities. Although smaller, more textile based work could be viewed through the rooms too.  This of course is all down to the property inhabitants rather than the house itself.

Really just a few highlights here.  Rather than give chapter and verse on the history of the houses of try and give a blog version of a walking tour, I prefer to be a tad “selfish” as it were, concentrating on the aspects which I want to talk about rather than looking at too much information.  Again this is all part of decision making and the filtering ideas process.

 Please see my physical sketchbook work for any more comments on houses visited like these.




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