Friday, May 6, 2011

Sulgrave Manor

I'm home from Hawaii, and hard at work on "E is for", but in the meantime, thought I should add a little something to the blog.  Continuing the Travelogue of our visit to England, we spent a wonderful afternoon at

Sulgrave Manor.  Here's my account.

Friday was a busy travel day for us - we did a lot, but most of it was sitting! We got out to catch our bus to Oxford by 9 a.m. - pretty slick - it stopped to pick us up just a block away. On we went to Oxford, where we found the next stop and had a quick bite before heading out on another bus to Banbury. This bus took us out into the country side and through several very charming small villages of old stone houses and stacked stone walls. An hour later, we were looking for the taxi stand and soon watching the country-side fall away and the manor house looming ahead. It's a less imposing home than some others we've seen, but the history of Washington's family before they moved to America was one we were eager to learn.

Like so many other museums we've been to there were many school children exploring the area. Even though the house is now closed to the public, the school tours continue. I'm sure there are no English schools - all the children report to buses every morning and are taken to a different museum! They are all very orderly, though, and usually not interested in the same things we are, so we usually are seeing them at a distance!  

Sulgrave Manor has a main room which is an excellent example of a Tudor style interior, which is what the English tourists are there to see. Americans, of course, come to see where George Washington's family got its origins. Laurence Washington (whose great grandfather was named William Hartburne before he acquired land in a place called Washington, England, whereupon he was immediately known as William Washington) bought the land and built the house in the early 1500's. His great grandson was John Washington who moved to America. At that point, there were no more Washingtons from that family in England, and another family owned the house and lands.
We were given a wonderful tour and explanation of the Tudor area, as well as the rest of the house, and finally taken upstairs where the bedhangings are normally. I say normally, because, of course, they are away in storage right now. 
A new roof (the first one in 400 years) is being installed and it's shaking so much dust into the upstairs rooms that most of the rooms are shrouded in protective cloths, and not available to be seen. We lifted a plastic tarp to look at "the bed", and then went to another room to see the bedhangings which are stored now. I was allowed to take pictures, and of course, was thrilled to see them. I saw several slips that were like the one I stitched, and of course, no way to tell which was which. 

Quite a few years ago now, I read a note in a magazine saying they were looking for stitchers to stitch "slips" for the bedhangings.  Because they were for George Washington's ancestral home, and because I was a new American who hailed from English parents living in Canada, it seemed like a natural thing for me to do.  I sent away for my test, returned it, and I guess I passed, because, in due time, my slip kit arrived.  I stitched away on it diligently, and sent it off when it was done and hoped someday to see the finished product.  To say I am pleased with how the bedhangings look is an understatement - they are stunning!  And I'm so happy to have participated in this wonderful project.

I took several pictures and will assume I have one of "mine". They are beautifully embellished and the hangings are spectacular!   "Mine" is the strawberry plant and ladybug.

Jenny Overson, who is the house manager and senior guide, gave us a wonderful afternoon - she spent so much time with us and was so patient, taking us into back rooms and up into the attic! (I always love to go into rooms others don't get to see). 

After it was all over, we met one of the trustees (a Baroness, no less) who was also visiting, and then spent a bit of time (and money :D) in the gift shop. Jenny made us a cup of tea, and all too soon, our afternoon was over and our cab had returned to pick us up.

Back on two more buses, and home again to relive our day's adventure!


  1. How exciting to see the bed hangings from Sulgrave. I, too, stitched one of the motifs - don't know if mine is the flute playing woman in your picture or not, but that is the design that I stitched. I had a great time stitching it and want to thank you for the memories of that time. Deb Shanler

  2. Deb, it was so wonderful to see the completed hangings - you should definitely go if you find yourself in that part of the world! I also don't know if the strawberry and ladybug are really "mine", but I've decided they are, hahaha. I think a LOT of people who stitched a slip go to see the hangings, so wouldn't it have been wonderful if they'd kept track and had a little "map" to show you your exact piece? Of course, hindsight is 20-20!


  3. Sound like a great trip and how nice to have been a part of the History!
    One of my tattoos is in the V&A archives which is a nice feeling too but so far my stitching hasn't achieved fame.
    I had to chuckle at your idea of an English Education, I won't mention it at our school as it would probably be cheaper than maintaining school buildings!

  4. Hi! I lived in Oxford for 5 years, so it's always fun to read about the area. One little error, your second bus was to BANbury, not BRANbury. :) [line 4]
    It's fun to read about your trip - and how exciting to have help restore part of the furnishings!

  5. Hi, Grace - thank you for the clarification - my fingers often type faster than my mind can work and add extra letters, hahahahaha. Wouldn't want to send anyone astray.



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