Knowle and Totterdown Local History Society
Recently our history group enjoyed a day out at Tredegar House just outside Newport. We assembled in the Knowle Cricket Club car park and were later greeted by our friendly coach driver John who whisked us away to our destination whilst having to navigate the coach around a myriad of road works just outside the Tredegar House grounds.
The day started out as fine but some folks brought umbrellas and mackintoshes as not to be caught out in the vagaries of our changing weather patterns. Although the sun was out there was still an icy breeze so quite a few of us dived into the cafe for a steaming cup of coffee and homemade cake, share a table with other members-a great start to the day!
After our repast we made our way through the garden into the imposing house itself and learned about the Morgan family and how they played an important part in the Newport community for more than 500 years. We stepped back into history and noted grand statements of wealth throughout all the rooms we visited .This 17th Century country house was built in the Charles the second era and reflected one of the most powerful and influential families in the area who later became the Lords Tredegar.
We passed through the Brown dining room with its wonderful oak carvings amongst them a Green Man, into the 17th century Gilt Room with wooden pillars painted in such a way to look like marble, and pine was treated to look like walnut. It was here that money must have played a factor as the Morgans wanted to have the best of everything but went through leaner times. This room was for post prandial dancing with artwork inspired by Dutch and Italian artists.
We wandered through the 17th century New Parlour which was used as the main dining room with a hatch leading to the kitchen which has become a games room, into a Side Hall with red flock wallpaper displaying family portraits. Opulence abounded with leather chairs, and a large table showing the 1901 elevation plans of the Transporter Bridge; this was a room for discussion and debate. The rooms changed and became modernised by the Morgans over their time at Tredegar House changing entrances and adding rooms and doorways.
There was so much to see in the house but we couldn't leave without a visit to the ground floor to see where food was delivered and prepared by the servants who seemed to have quite a hard life except for the Housekeeper and the Butler who lorded over the minions. We saw the 200 year old chimney with a rotary spit, large cooking range, jelly moulds, black saucepans and 100 year old copper pans.
This was where the real hard work took place and all the activities of the day began with the poor kitchen maid wearing a piece of hessian tied around her waist as an apron-a far cry from the ladies dresses from Upstairs. The Housekeeper's Room was well appointed with a table displaying pretty china on a lace tablecloth, a polished silver tea-set and a large dresser showing expensive ornaments.
Now it was time to get out into the fresh air again and enjoy a wander around the lake and gardens before wending our way back home.
From here we wandered out into the sunshine and had a quick look at the stables with its high wooden roof which contained photographs of how the National Trust were conserving Tredegar House and how much has yet to be repaired . In 2016 the Conservation team emptied 590 litres of rainwater from the house which equals 4 bath tubs and 60 bucketfuls-quite a feat! Part of the stable area was used for Halloween monsters and Christmas Trees: obviously the National Trust needs fund raising events to support this valuable restoration work.
Many thanks must go to Peter Read for making the day possible and so enjoyable.
Thanks again go to K&TLHS member, Hilary, for another great review. If you'd be happy to write up a brief review of a future visit that would be brillaint. Contact Jan or any other committee member.
The house was described as " The grandest and most exuberant country house" in Monmouthshire. John Morgan was a great supporter of Henry Tudor so received rewards through land and title and through the centuries became a great influence and over the years the family built up the area.