This is the third post about my trip to the Isle of Wight. The first can be found here.
Regular readers may remember this post about Calke Abbey where I focused on the demise of country houses during the 20th century. While I was on the Isle of Wight I decided to take a trip to Appuldurcrombe, which is in an even more advanced state of decay.
It may seem soppy and sentimental but I’m always saddened to see places of such former glory and grandeur reduced to hollowed-out shells. As I wandered around those empty rooms I couldn’t help but ponder how, over the course of their three centuries, they’ve witnessed every chapter of the human experience played out repeatedly. Within those walls many friendships were forged, and many loves blossomed. Raucous laughter of long forgotten jokes echoed down those hallways. The raised voices of bitter arguments did so too. Joyful singing marked the passing of untold birthdays, Christmases and New Years. Gentle, sweet-nothings were whispered into the ears of lovers in those bedrooms. Other times the lonely and broken-hearted sobbed their bitter tears. Some people’s fondest memories were formed within those walls, others their most painful. New born babies gasped their first breaths from air bounded by those walls. Others, on the final page of their life story, drew their last. Their memories of that place passing with them. All of it now long gone, lost and forgotten.
Instead, wind whistles down chimneys and out of empty fireplaces around which families once gathered for warmth. Pits within bricks betray locations of joists that once supported long departed floors upon which residents walked. What were once smooth, finely plastered surfaces are now coarse, un-cut stones bare, naked and exposed. Moss and lichen now clings to walls where priceless works of art once hung. These are walls which have stood stoically and witnessed the natural world hunker down to survive three hundred winters and welcome three hundred springs. Once much-loved. Now much-neglected. Gutted and ghostly. A vacant husk battered and bruised by wind, rain and storms. Elegantly framed windows that once guarded against the worst of the elements now freely let them pass. And with each passing gust evermore grains of those stones are carried away as they’re slowly worn down and crumble to dust.
Appuldurcrombe originally featured 365 windows, 12 principled room, 52 rooms and 7 staircases. Such houses were known as calendar houses for the way their interiors represent the days, weeks and months of the year.
From these now bare walls once hung one of the country’s greatest art collections, and displayed the most important collection of ancient Greek marbles in England.
The ornamental grounds were shaped by the legendary Capability Brown in 1779.
Some of the 18th century’s most eminent figures were entertained by lavish parties in the Great Hall.
Use of the site can be traced back to 1100 when there was a priory situated on the land.
Like many country houses Appuldurcrombe faced demolition in 1952, but was saved.
The unusual name comes from the Old English ‘appuldur’ which is a place where apples grow and the Old English ‘cumb’ or Celtic ‘cwn’ for valley.
Work began on it in 1702 and took 70 years to complete.
It’s considered a baroque masterpiece and was once the grandest house on the island.
A key factor in the building’s decline occurred in 1943 during the Second World War. A German Dornier bomber plane was badly hit and about to crash land. In hope of surviving the crash the crew dropped the sea mine they were carrying. The mine landed in the grounds of Appuldurcrombe. The explosion blew out the house’s windows and caused the roof to collapse. Despite their desperate attempts, the crew died on impact.
One of its former owners was Richard Worsley. He was embroiled in an infamous scandal when a bitter court case revealed that his wife, Seymour, had 27 lovers. Worsley later died at Appuldurcrombe in 1805.
A photo of one of the rooms when in use as a drawing room in the late 19th C when the house was a school.
A photo of the Great Hall in use as the school dining room between 1867 and 1896.
Appuldurcrombe is currently for sale for almost £5 million, so if you’ve got some spare cash lying around…