We do lots of different kinds of events at Thrumpton. The one I’m most directly involved in is taking tours around the house because – well, because I take the tours around myself.
My favorite part of the tour is when we get everybody gathered in the beautiful, golden-walled library at the start while I tell our guests a bit about the history of a house that goes all the way back 1560, when a Roman Catholic family lived at Thrumpton and there was always a priest in residence.
The library came a lot later. It was created in 1830 by a handsome, charming ancestor of mine called John Emerton who evidently adored reading. The library has 5,000 books in it and although I can’t claim to have read them all, I do use the library all the time, when I’m doing research for my books. It still really excites me if I’m writing about, say, Mary Shelley, that I can pull down a book that shows me exactly what she was reading when she dreamed up Frankenstein. (Lots of news articles about electrical shocks that could cause a dead man’s limbs to move, as if he’d come back to life. A coincidence? I doubt it.)
Every time I come into the room, I have to glance at the big, beautifully bound set of Charles Dickens that my dad used to read aloud to me when I was a little girl, sitting in this same room. Now, when we have children staying (a lot!), my grand-daughters always take them to the same corner of the library. There, they drag down a huge book, almost as tall as themselves, and spread it out on the floor. It’s a book filled with amazing hand-painted pictures of flowers and birds and butterflies from all over the world. They’ve made me promise never, ever to sell it. How could I? It’s their favourite book!
The library has something for everybody. Almost. Once, when my dad was showing people around the house, a lady complimented him on his great love of music. ‘Opera!’ she said, pointing to the shelves. ‘You have so many operas!’
My dad wasn’t sure whether to explain. We have a lot of books by authors who wrote their works in Latin. And…guess what the word for Latin works is? Exactly. OPERA!
Wedding-guests love the library because it’s the room that leads out to the formal garden, where they can listen to music, have a drink and enjoy being surrounded by ornamental beds of the most beautiful, old-fashioned scented roses. But one of the loveliest things about the library is that it has a huge mirror set into the wall over the fireplace. If you walk into the garden and look back down the path, you can see the library glowing back at you, a topaz-coloured jewel at the heart of all those pink and white roses.
Written by Miranda Seymour