For years we’ve driven past a little red door on Park Row and idly wondered, “What’s behind that red door then?” and even when a discreet sign appeared outside a couple of years ago saying “Museum” we still wondered just what was behind the door and never took the time to find out. Shame on us. However, I imagine that rather a lot of Bristolians have had the same idle curiosity…
The Red Lodge was originally the lodge for the Great House in St Augustines, sadly knocked down by the Victorians to make way for progress, but it was located just down the hill where the Colston Hall is now. Sadly none of the original furnishings remain for the house, so items from the Bristol Museums collection have been displayed to great effect. The house feels very cosy and lived in despite being a museum!
The Great Oak Room was absolutely breathtaking. We entered through a carved oak porch The aged oak panelling gleamed in the sunlight which streamed in through the windows, revealing rich carvings all over the room.
It took two years for the craftsmen to complete the Great Oak Room, which surprised me given the lavish and complex carvings, particularly on the stone fireplace. (I’d expected to hear it was the labour of a decade or so!) It strikes me that carving stone is far more difficult than wood, and indeed more specialised, so to complete such a piece within two years must have taken a lot of exceedingly skilled stone-cutters. I couldn’t help but think that we’ve lost some beautiful skills over the years…
We peeked through the wibbly-wobbly Georgian windows–the Georgian owners ripped out the old Tudor windows and upgraded, just as I did when I moved into my house–for a fantastic view of the Elizabethan inspired knot garden and a reminder that we were still in modern Bristol. It was all-too-easy to think that we’d time-travelled!
In the bedroom we found what must surely be the world’s creepiest painting? I don’t think I could sleep with that on the wall. Luckily the four-poster bed and it’s lavishly embroidered bedspread distracted me. The bunches of grapes adorning the bed’s canopy made me wonder if its original owner was a wine merchant, perhaps? It was lovely to see the little crib by the bed, a nice reminder that the Lodge was once a family home.
Living in Bristol it is often a very good thing to look up when outside–hot air balloons drift by all summer long, and there’s always new street art to spy–but it is also a very good thing to look up when indoors! All the ceilings in the original Tudor rooms were festooned with the most intricate mouldings which inspired the restoration of the knot garden in the 1980s. Such attention to detail in all of the room.
A room was devoted to chronicling the time when the Red Lodge was a reform school established by Mary Carpenter for young women as an alternative to the workhouse or prison . The exercise book in the picture above was found beneath the floorboards when carrying out repairs; I can just imagine the scolding that its owner must have received for her carelessness!
We loved the portrait prints on display in the Print Room. One rather severely dressed gentleman in particular looked as though he was holding back a fit of the giggles. I couldn’t help but wonder if all the pictures gossiped together at the end of the day–like wizarding portraits–about all the visitors they’d seen! (And if he was laughing at my crazy hair!!)
Downstairs we entered the renovated Georgian part of the house. I was intrigued to hear that the Lodge had been extended in the Georgian era, and most of the Tudor oak stripped away from the reception rooms to accommodate the lighter fashion of the times. It somehow makes the owners of a historical property more real when you can easily imagine them complaining about their builders taking yet another break or knocking off early!
As the weather was fine the garden was open, and Lucas and I enjoyed pottering around it. Me, trying my fledgling knowledge of flowers, and him looking for secret passageways and places to play hide and seek. The box hedge in the Elizabethan knot garden was a little leggy and in need of a trim, but the garden was a-buzz with several varieties of bees and lots of other insects. Judging from the amount of poppy-heads drying in the sun the garden must have been a blaze of scarlet a few weeks ago. I’m planning to pop back in May next year and see the poppies in all their glory.
If you’re looking for a new-to-you museum, or simply fancy a trip back in time for a morning, I can thoroughly recommend the Red Lodge Museum as a delightful way to pass the time. After passing it over for many a year we will now definitely be back!!
The Red Lodge Museum