Finding the Wow Factor and a Trip Back to India……. Powis Castle, Powys, Wales

Woolly says – It has to be a good start to the day when your carer mutters the immortal words, ‘were going out today Woolly’, before the sentence had been completed, I had grabbed my hat and scarf and was sat ready at the door.  I hadn’t of course factored in how long humans take to get ready with boring things like showers and putting clean clothes on, I mean who needs to be clean!

Having ushered him into the bathroom and insisted that only clean mammoths are allowed on trips he emerged with what seemed to be even more dirt behind his ears than he had started with!

Woolly says – With the ablutions complete and meeting the ridiculously high standards certain people demand I was allowed into the car.  With the sat nav primed I suddenly realised I had no clue as to our destination for the day, time to grill Jo on her intentions.

Set on a narrow ridge over the Severn Valley work started on the construction  of Powis Castle around 1283 as a medieval fortress for the Welsh Prince Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, over it’s four centuries the castle was transformed by the Herbert and Clive family to its current splendour and it still provides a home for the current Earl of Powis.

Woolly says – It sounded like the cast from a Harry Potter book!  And as we pulled into the car park it looked as though it could be a setting for a Potter film! I was delighted as I jumped out of the car to have my first surprise of the day as the estate’s deer seemed to have taken over the grassy bank that the castle sat on, we stood and watched them for a while before climbing the steep pathway to the entrance.

As we passed under an impressive gateway and into a courtyard, I was overjoyed to see turrets and towers in fact everything a castle should have although most that we see don’t tend to have glass in the windows so this could be a lot warmer to look round.  Climbing the steps of the fortress led us into a much smaller courtyard where the guttering alone was well worth a look and a rather small doorway led us into the State Dining Room, remodelled in 1902 it had been kept in its original Jacobean style with two lovely fireplaces to keep the dinners warm.

Lighting was low to preserve the delicate tapestries and furniture and having checked regarding photographs Jo had been told that only general ones could be taken and that she must not take ones of specific items. 

Through a thick wooden door we went passing by the Grand Staircase which was a complete wow factor, very similar to one that we had seen at Chatsworth House but somehow more impressive in a much smaller area.  The stair case had been created in 1687 using the grisaille method to give a three-d concept.  The bannister looked wonderful although I wasn’t sure that Jo was to happy as I slid down it, to be fair the National Trust guide didn’t look impressed when he saw me either!

The Smoking room was snug and cosy and would have been used for the men to retire to after dinner, a rather interesting semi-circular piece of furniture surrounded the fireplace which provided a mini bar, a shield from the heat of the fire as well as a net to catch the empties once consumed, what more could you want from one item.

Retracing our paw steps through the dining room I bounced up a small staircase and found myself inside a book lined library.  The room guide beckoned us over and provided us with a mirror to enable us to appreciate the ceiling which had been painted by Lanscroon in 1705 and depicted the 2nd Marquess’s daughters.  An incredible piece of work.

Next door was even better, as we entered the Blue Drawing room.

Wow was the only way to describe it.

Woolly says – It was incredible from it’s ceiling down to the gilt work that adorned the walls.  Finding ourselves at the top of the grand stair case gave us an opportunity to look more closely at the details of the painting that adorned it, lightening was terrible as Jo tried to get a reasonable picture without lights shining directly on it.

We found ourselves in one of the tower bedrooms which had once been inhabited by Lady Violet the 4th Countess of Powis, as we stood admiring the mahogany bed a large group of children and adults invaded the peace and quiet so we swiftly moved to the Duke’s bedroom next door.  Remodelled in 1902 it had retained its Elizabethan plasterwork which was beautiful.  The noisy group shuffled in behind us with one of the adults informing them that this was another child’s bedroom and that you could tell by the size of the bed.  I glanced up at Jo who was trying to suppress a smile before stating ‘It’s an adults’ bedroom, the beds are smaller because people were smaller at the time’, she smiled winningly at them, once a teacher always a teacher I guess, we left them to look around.

An immensely long gallery led us further on, with fireplaces and inlaid tables it was bigger than the flat we currently live in!  Even better though were the Roman busts that lined the gallery, as I raced from one to another looking for Hadrian Jo engaged the guide in asking how come Roman busts had arrived in a Welsh Castle.  Apparently one of the Clive family had been an ambassador in Rome and the busts had retuned with him, that must have taken his suitcases over the weight limit!

Doorways led off the gallery into smaller bedrooms and bathrooms which were much plainer in design to the rest of the building but the architects had obviously left the best until last, as we entered the State Bedroom a wow escaped from both of us.  The centre piece was a huge red four poster bed from the 1660’s, it was incredible.

A small passageway led us into the Oak Drawing Room which was incredibly light in comparison to every other room we had seen.  A large Joshua Reynolds painting of Henrietta Herbert who married Clive of India hung beside the fireplace with one of Clive himself on the opposite side.

A tiny staircase took us into the attic rooms which had provided dormitories during the second world war for a girl’s school from Middlesex it would have once been the home to the children of the Earls, it felt like the servant’s quarters with no grandiose décor.  A windy staircase led us down into the depths of the castle and provided another bannister to slide down which made Jo’s brows furrow, I smiled happily and jumped back to the ground and set off along a cold dank corridor that seemed to lead underground to what had once been the kitchens, currently set up to show how the girls who had been evacuated would have lived I bounced happily into the bed under the table to try and warm up, it wouldn’t have been a pleasant place to work.  Another passageway led us past the billiard room where the school girls would have once been taught and the servants would once have eaten.

Arriving back into the courtyard I spotted the café and knowing that my small friend would never so no to a snack we headed into it’s warm confines to indulge in hot coffee and welsh cakes, well we are in Wales!

Woolly says – With my tummy satisfied for a short while we climbed up the steps that led into the Ballroom, somehow, I had expected lots of glitz and glamour but the large space was more library looking that partyish in its design.  Huge canvasses lined the top part of the walls and I stopped dead in my tracks as I gazed up at one very memorial portrait.  Jo arrived at my side and gasped, ‘it’s Sultan Tipu from Mysore’ she exclaimed, I frantically nodded, how exciting to see an identical  portrait of the one we had seen in Mysore Palace on our trip to India https://www.travelblog.org/Asia/India/Karnataka/Mysore/blog-1008752.html

Next door took our excitement levels to another level entirely as we entered the Clive Museum.  Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, KB, FRS (29th September 1725 – 22nd November 1774), was the first British Governor of the Bengal Presidency. He began as a British military officer and East India Company (EIC) official who established the military and political supremacy of the EIC by seizing control of Bengal and eventually the whole of the Indian subcontinent including Myanmar. He is credited with seizing control of a large swathe of South Asia (now Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and parts of Southeast Asia and the wealth that followed, for the Company, in the process turning himself into a multi-millionaire. In other words, he stole lots of treasures and brought them back here.  He had stormed the Mysore Palace in 1799 and each display cabinet showed the hoard he had returned with including one of the golden tiger heads that had once adorned Tipu’s throne.  It was thrilling to see the precious items but also a stark reminder of the damage that the British had caused to India and its people.

A lovely room guide joined us as we explained that we had actually been to the place where the bounty had been looted from and Jo happily showed her pictures of the original home of the artefacts, like the Victoria and Albert Museum in London these items would never be returned to their county of origin which is such a shame.

Having taken our fill of Clive and his ill-gotten gains we descended into the gardens passing a group of peacocks who seemed intent on scratching through the undergrowth for tasty delights.  As we walked along terraces and admired the formal gardens as well as the woodland, I felt delighted with our day and the wow factors that we had seen as well as slightly sad at a reminder of India and the richness of the country we had spent time in. My tummy let out a gurgle and I glanced up at my carer who grinned and suggested a late lunch on the drive back from our lovely day.