Calke Abbey was never an abbey. It was an Augustinian priory founded in 1131, before being converted into a stately home in the rolling hills of southern Derbyshire 500 years later. The Harpur-Crewe family owned it until 1985 when it was sold to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. The family died out shortly afterwards, with no living heirs. The stately pile was also on the decline. Rather than spending millions on renovating the place, the National Trust decided to stop the rot by fixing the roof, but allowed “time to stand still”. The wallpaper is peeling off some of the walls. Dozens of glass cases full of stuffed animals and geological specimens are crammed into spare rooms. The heated Orangery which once supplied fruit and vegetables in winter is now dilapidated.
But there are plenty of interesting doors.
The estate bought 350,000 bricks to make outbuildings and walled gardens. These cost less than the lady of house’s annual dress allowance.
Inside the house, some of the doors are covered in red baize, which was supposed to deaden the noise.
Some of the doors were made of mahogany and beautifully carved. Other doors to less important areas of the house have been painted to look like walnut or other exotic wood. Now the paint is chipping off.