Thursday, 21 November 2019

Books for National Trust Fans - A Christmas Gift Guide

If you're looking for gift ideas for Christmas, look no further! I've compiled a list of my favourite books that are connected to National Trust properties, thus giving you some inspiration for the readers/history fans in your life.

The recipients of these books don't have to have visited the properties by the way - many are rip-roaring factual historical reads that don't need a setting (Wedlock, Galloper Jack, and The Greatest Traitor in particular).

I've only included books below that are still in print. There are some other corkers that are out of print but you might be able to find them: Not The Whole Truth (autobiography of society photographer Lord Lichfield, one-time resident at Shugborough) and The Man Who Was Frankenstein (about the one-time owner of Fyne Court) are two excellent examples.

The Book of Scones
Obviously I wasn't going to do a list of books without mentioning the official Book of Scones. It's the perfect gift! I am a bit disappointed that the National Trust hasn't asked me to do an annual like the ones I used to get in my stocking every Christmas, whether for Blue Peter or Smash Hits or Wham! But in the breathy words of the great George Michael: "Maybe...next year".



Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore
I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that this is my favourite book of all time. It's a shocking, can't-put-it-down read about Mary Eleanor Bowes, great-great-great-great grandmother to the Queen, who had a lovely dad, a dull first marriage, and then managed to end up with the most awful man in the world as her second husband, at which point it becomes a horror story. Why they haven't made a film/TV adaptation of it is beyond me. Wendy Moore has also written a couple of other excellent books if you've already exhausted this as a gift option. You can also read about the scones at Gibside, Mary Eleanor Bowes' childhood home.


The Greatest Traitor by Ian Mortimer
I read this book thinking it was about the Roger Mortimer who built Chirk Castle. It's actually about his nephew, but the pair of them were a force to be reckoned with in the early 14th century. Nephew Rog went on to have an affair with Queen Isabella and was potentially responsible for the extremely grisly death that is believed to have been meted out to her husband, Edward II. Read more about Chirk and the book.


Galloper Jack by Brough Scott
I loved this book. Jack Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone, and one-time owner of Mottistone Gardens on the Isle of Wight (which makes him a relation of Benedict Cumberbatch by marriage) had more near-death experiences than any other human, as far as I can make out. He also owned a real-life war horse called Warrior. An amazing story.



A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders
It's incredible to think that four sisters from a relatively ordinary family became Alice Kipling (mother of Rudyard), Louisa Baldwin (mother of Stanley), Georgiana Burne-Jones (wife of Edward), and Agnes Poynter (wife of Edward). A very interesting read about their lives and times.

A Scandal at Felbrigg by Trevor Heaton
In these woke times, it's unlikely that a man would be known as 'Mad' Windham but that was the case for the one-time owner of Felbrigg Hall (read about my trip to Felbrigg). He met a woman called Agnes Willoughby at Ascot and fell head-over-heels in love with her, which led to disaster.

A Very British Family - The Trevelyans and Their World by Laura Trevelyan
Laura Trevelyan, BBC correspondent, is the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Edward Trevelyan, who is name-checked in the song The Fields of Athenry (and not in a good way). She wrote this fascinating book about his failure to provide aid to Ireland during the Potato Famine and about the generations that followed him to live at Wallington - read more about my trip to Wallington.


William Armstrong: Magician of the North by Henrietta Heald
Born in 1810, William Armstrong was the inventor of hydraulic cranes that were used in shipyards around the world, as well as cannons, warships, and other weapons. With his vast wealth he built Cragside on "a lunatic site for a house". A fascinating man.  


The Housekeeper's Tale by Tessa Boase
This book covers the stories of several women who worked as housekeepers in stately homes around the country. It's worth reading purely for the engrossing chapter about Ellen Penketh, who worked at Erddig from 1902-1907. It all went horribly wrong and she was prosecuted for stealing - you can read more in my story of Erddig. There's also a section about Sarah Wells, mother of H.G., who worked at Uppark.


Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History by Adam Nicolson
Adam is the grandson of Vita Sackville-West and he tells some fascinating stories in this book. It's also a fascinating insight into what happens when the National Trust takes over a property. Read more about my trip to Sissinghurst.


A Lady of Cotton by David Sekers
If you liked the TV series The Mill then you'll really like this book. It tells the story of Hannah Greg, who married the enlightened mill owner who ran Quarry Bank. All things are relative though - she might have believed in education and healthcare, but the family was still forcing children to work 12 hour days in dangerous conditions. Anyway. You can read more about Hannah and my adventures at Quarry Bank Mill.



Society's Queen by Anne de Courcy
Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, is not the most famous inhabitant of Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland (read more about the notorious Viscount Castlereagh) but she ran the show in 'society' for 50 years from 1899. 



Mistress of Charlecote by Alice Fairfax-Lucy
Mary Elizabeth Lucy wrote her memoirs for her grandchildren, but it didn't stop her from including bits about how she didn't want to marry their grandfather. She's more interesting than you'd expect, put it that way - read about the Charlecote scones.


Moondial by Helen Cresswell
It's a children's book but does that matter? NO. It's still a great read and is set at Belton House - read about the scones at Belton and my encounter with the eponymous moondial.



So there you have it! Inspiration galore for Christmas gifts! You're welcome!

If you can think of any others, tweet us at @nt_scones or stick a picture up on Instagram and tag @nt_scones in it!!

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