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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heritage Video at its Best, 19 Sept. 2009
AlanMusicMan (North Cornwall) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: National Trust - Calke Abbey [DVD] (DVD)
If, like me, you've always been rather disappointed with the quality of National Trust videos on VHS or DVD, then you're in for a treat with this series. Shot in high definition within the last couple of years, breathtaking in quality and content.

This Calke Abbey episode provides the usual comprehensive views of the property from inside and out, and a history of the house and its owners. There are also interviews with National Trust experts and - very importantly - with the NT staff who are, on behalf of us all, the current custodians of the house and estate.

Designed by an unknown architect, Calke Abbey in Derbyshire was built for a wealthy family who - in succeeding generations - became more and more eccentric, stuffing the house with numerous collections of art, stuffed animals and all manner of hunting trophies and general bric-a-brac.

By the 20th century the groaning house was in a very bad state of repair and only partly habitable. It lacked many modern conveniences (for example electricity supply was only installed in the early 1960s!) With the ever present spectre of death duties constantly looming (and the all too famililar tale of a generation lost in WWI) the choice for its last owner was a stark one. Let it fall down and sell off the estate, or give the whole thing to the nation: That's how the National Trust accquired Calke Abbey.

Uniquely, the National Trust decided only to restore the house to a steady state, but not to restore Calke Abbey to its prime. They have stabilised the house so that it will survive, but have not fixed up any decay that was not life threatening. Their thinking was that future generations should have the opportunity, in at least one property, to see how many of Britain's stately homes ended up - in a state of terminal decay. As one contributor puts it, Calke is left to represent the other similar houses that didn't make it.

It's not all decay and dust though, as the DVD shows, some of the rooms at Calke are still truly beautiful and please the eye every bit as much as the best of any National Trust properties. But there is a lot of contrast. The remaining collections of stuffed animals (apparently only a fraction of what was once collected in the house) are at once poigniant and beautiful and the remaining family personal artefacts show what a melancholy place it must have been in its twilight years.

Although this particular episode is not the usual opulence fest, it is still fascinating stuff, with beautiful photography and intelligent presentation.

This is number two of a series of ten DVDs. See them all.
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National Trust - Calke Abbey [DVD]
National Trust - Calke Abbey [DVD] by The National Trust (DVD - 2006)
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