On our trip to England, we visited Croxteth Hall, the former country estate of the Earl of Sefton. We went there because, after some intensive research, Michael had discovered that this is one of the locations where the CBBC show Young Dracula is filmed. This show has helped the Dafter get through many a long afternoon in the past few months, so we went to see what we could see.
The staff there couldn’t have been kinder, and they let the Dafter and us in to the courtyard where some of the scenes are filmed. The weather was absolutely Baltic, with a biting wind and some flakes of snow blowing around. The lady who allowed us in to the courtyard area was very interested in me, of all things, because she just loves the USA and can’t wait to go back. She showed us one of the bricks in the wall where the fingerprints of the child who helped make the brick were imprinted. (Apparently, brick-making was a family business rather than a sweatshop factory scenario.)
We went for a warming snack in their cafe before touring the house itself. I love this photo of the Dafter, who was so happy to be there:
The tour of the house was very interesting. We began with the “Downstairs” part. There were several kitchens, including a “confectionery kitchen” and a “pastry kitchen”. Apparently the Earl of Sefton often entertained royalty, so his staff would have been kept very busy producing food to show off his taste and wealth. Here’s a photo of part of one of the kitchens:
And some of the ovens:
I was interested to see the “knife room”. This is where all the cleaning equipment and the knives were kept in pristine condition:
You could easily imagine the hive of activity that must have been going on as the many servants prepared meals, made fires and hauled water for their aristocratic employers. Then we went Upstairs. Here is the Dining Room, which the Dafter was thrilled to recognise from Young Dracula:
We meandered through rooms that made us feel that we were inside a game of Cluedo: “the Breakfast Room,” “The Card Room,” “The Smoking Room,” “The Billiard Room,” and so forth. We learned about the Earls of Sefton (of whom we had never heard until this visit, I must say). The family name was Molyneux, and they had come over to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. Croxteth Hall was their country estate, where they did a lot of hunting and horse-racing (when not playing cards or billiards). The second Earl was known as “Lord Dashalong”. He gave the land at Aintree for the famous steeplechase course. I was a little surprised, being an ignorant peasant, to see that the Earls of Sefton had their own sceptres and crowns. Below is some of their aristrocratic gear, including ermine:
There are 210 rooms in Croxteth Hall, and we saw only a fraction of them on our tour. Here is a long corridor:
At the end of this corridor you come back to where you started your tour of “Upstairs,” to what the brochure calls an “anteroom”:
I was interested to see that the set of china in the cabinets was French (Sèvres porcelain). It was a gift from – if I am remembering correctly – Louis XVIII, younger brother of the ill-fated Louis XVI. He was given hospitality by the Earl of Sefton after the French Revolution, and sent the china in thanks. I was interested to read that the Molyneux family left the Catholic faith in 1768. It was an astute political move: once Charles William Molyneux – at the time a mere viscount – had “conformed to the church of England” he was created the first Earl of Sefton.
The seventh and last Earl, Hugh William Molyneux, served in both World Wars and died in 1972. In the 1930s he had been Equerry to the Prince of Wales, the very same Prince who later became Edward VIII and who abdicated the English throne in 1936 in order to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Hugh Molyneux seems to have had a hand in leading England nearly to constitutional crisis, because it was through him and his wife – the American model Josephine Gwynne – that the Prince met Wallis Simpson. She and Josephine Gwynne were lifelong friends.
As Hugh and Josephine had no children, the Molyneux line died out. This is how Croxteth Hall became the property of Liverpool City Council, so that ordinary people like ourselves could go have a look. Oh and so that they could make tv shows about teenage vampires there. (I wonder what the Earls would have thought?!)