Monday, 5 August 2019

Dudmaston

If this National Trust Scone Blog project has taught me anything, it is to be less grumpy. This will come as surprising news to my family, and it will be disputed with good reason by the woman who scanned my NT pass in a property recently and let me walk all the way round to the house before I was sent all the way back to her again to get a house tour ticket. But it is true.

Dudmaston, near Bridgnorth in Shropshire, was a perfect example. Six years ago when I started this National Trust Scone Quest I expected the NT to be very formal, very quiet, with everyone focused on porcelain and architecture. 

Dudmaston

When I got to Dudmaston on a Monday afternoon, the first thing I saw were about 15 children sat on spinning wheels, all intently focused on their work. I wondered if I'd walked into the garden of a workhouse in 1893 or discovered a child slavery racket responsible for producing all those car rugs you see in National Trust shops.

But no. It was a wand workshop. Each kid was chiselling a piece of wood to make a wand. I haven't seen such focus in a long time.

And then in the grounds I saw a little boy run up to his big brother. "Kyle, they have goals!" No response was forthcoming. "Goals WITH NETS." That was enough for Kyle - both hightailed it for a game of football.

I know a lot of National Trust members will be unhappy with this but I love it. I love the fact that families can rely on the NT to provide space and activities during the summer holidays and that kids grow up thinking 'yay Dudmaston' rather than 'Dudmaston boring'.

Dudmaston Big Pool

But I wasn't very interested in wands or footie, and thanks to the handy guide book I can share some history:

  • The estate at Dudmaston is very old - a man called Helgor of Holgate was granted a manor at Dodemannestone in 1127
  • In 1403 one of the family married a William Wolryche and people named Wolryche remained at Dudmaston until very recently
  • By the time Sir Francis Wolryche died in 1614, the family were on the up, thanks to his marriage to Margaret who brought many useful connections
  • It was Sir Thomas who started building the house we see today in the late 17th century
  • He died young from tuberculosis and his son was a gambler - he drowned on his way home from the Chelmarsh races in 1723
  • The estate then ended up with the Whitmores, who gave their son William the extra name Wolryche for continuity
  • The Wolryche-Whitmores also died out but when Reverend Francis Henry Laing inherited he adopted the name
  • When Geoffrey Wolryche-Whitmore died in 1962, his niece Rachel inherited with the understanding that the National Trust would take over
  • Rachel was married to George Labouchere, a diplomat. They travelled all over the world and retired to Dudmaston in 1966.
  • George was a big collector of modern art and the impressive gates you see below were installed for the couple's ruby wedding anniversary in 1983
Dudmaston gates

But let's move on to something that I definitely did have in common with all of the younger visitors: an interest in the cafeteria. I had already had a scone at Kinver Edge and I won't lie to you; being hungry can affect my perception of scone quality. If I'm starving, then a scone tends to taste better and I have to carry out a rigorous inspection of myself to ensure that all scones enjoy a level playing field. 

Happily it didn't matter a jot at Dudmaston because the scone was indisputably fantastic. It was light, fresh, and fluffy and a very good size. The entire wasp community of the West Midlands had clearly followed me up the A458 from Kinver and was ready for part two of their jam fest. I didn't disappoint them and the old jam-pot-on-the-adjacent-table trick distracted them from bothering me (the adjacent table was empty by the way, just in case you were worried that I had sent the wasp brigade to bother a group of defenceless toddlers).


So there you have it - a lovely house with an interesting history, a top-notch scone, and goals WITH NETS.

Dudmaston: 4 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Easily distracted wasp community: 5 out of 5


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