Posted by: christinelaennec | April 16, 2012

Upstairs Downstairs with Vampires: Croxteth Hall, Liverpool

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 back of Croxteth Hall, Liverpool

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.)

The Dafter is in the same courtyard as in CBBC's Young Dracula!!! In the footsteps of vampires.

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:

Happy Dafter warming up with a hot chocolate.

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:

One of the kitchens

And some of the ovens:

Part of one of the kitchens - three ovens and a huge fire.

I was interested to see the “knife room”.  This is where all the cleaning equipment and the knives were kept in pristine condition:

Peeking into The Knife Room.

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:

The Dining Room, Croxteth Hall.

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:

Lord and Lady Sefton (being played by mannequins)

There are 210 rooms in Croxteth Hall, and we saw only a fraction of them on our tour.  Here is a long corridor:

Principle Corridor, Croxteth Hall.

At the end of this corridor you come back to where you started your tour of “Upstairs,” to what the brochure calls an “anteroom”:

Where you would make your grand entrance: stairs from the ground floor to the first floor, Croxteth Hall

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?!)

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Responses

  1. what a beautiful building! it seems so vast and even the kitchen has those wonderful high ceilings.

  2. Your post comes right after Hubby and I watched a very interesting PBS documentary on the Manor Houses and Aristocrasy of Britain, just last week! Thank you for the tour of another lovely Manor House. The Dafter looks absolutely thrilled to be on the grounds of one of her favorite television programs. I love the kitchen and the beautiful hallway with all the columns. Such a responsibility to take care of! It makes me very happy and content with my small cottage, but I wouldn’t mind being invited to dine and in such a lovely place (back in the day, but more likely would only have been granted entry as a servant!). A very interesting bit of information on the prince and his American and how they are all linked. xx

    • I worked there as a housemaid & it is a time that still lives with me. I was there when the Queen at that time visited Liverpool & after Lady Sefton was ready to leave we were able to gather around to see her in all her regalia. She complained as to how her tiara gave her a headache!’. Lord Sefton was a person who expected punctuality & I remember the flurry when it was discovered they had set off without their police escort, the police not being there on time!.

      • Mrs. Barrett, apologies for my long delay in replying to your fascinating comment! Thank you so much for giving us a personal insight into the running of Croxteth Hall. It really does sound like Downton Abbey or the like. Another world. I can imagine Lord Sefton driving off because the police were late!

  3. What an interesting story. Thankyou, one family I had never heard of.
    And the Dafter being able to see those bits from the series. Wow.

  4. Thank you for the tour, I felt as if I was there with you! What a magnificent place!

  5. I, too, loved the vicarious tour, Christine! I was especially intrigued by the kitchens. After watching Downton Abbey, I can well imagine the “hive of activity,” as you so aptly termed it. What I can’t imagine is actually *living* in a house like that. Perhaps it’s because I come from mere peasant stock; my people were below-stairs folk. 😉

  6. I’m fascinated by this. I worked for two years at Liverpool University a long time ago, and the names of Croxteth and Sefton are very familiar, but I never actually had time to visit Croxteth Hall. It’s nice to see it at last.

  7. I’m just catching up on your posts and am so interested to read about these grand, historic places. But, my favorite part is seeing you and your daughter’s rosy smiles. I’m so happy you were able to go on a proper excursion.

  8. Dear All,

    Thanks for your comments and I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. It’s always interesting to go back in time into these houses, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed living back then. My own Wild West ancestors might not even have been allowed in the servants’ hall! As well as the difficulty of cleaning such an enormous house, I think heating it would have been very challenging as well. Novels I’ve read about country houses indicate that they were usually glacially cold inside, unless you were singeing yourself right next to the fireplace. So hooray for vacuum cleaners, central heating and reasonably-sized houses.

    And hooray for fun days out and smiling children too!

  9. Lovely to see ‘Croccy Hall’ again . As a child , we used to sneak into the grounds and play !!!!

    • How fun! My daughter will be interested to hear that. And I’m glad that the park and grounds are open to all now. It is a beautiful place.

  10. What a neat tour. Beautiful photo of the Dafter!

    • Glad you enjoyed the tour Kelly! And I’m glad you think it’s a lovely photo as well. I realise I am somewhat biased, but to see a sparkle in her eyes is such a gift these days.

  11. I was a kennel boy then underkeeper on the estate in 1952 .the headkeepers name was colpits ,my name,evans

    • Dear Roy,
      That is so interesting. I’d love to know what that was like – jolly hard work looking after the gentry, I imagine! Perhaps their dogs were easier going than they were?
      Thanks so much for your comment, and all the best, Christine


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