Yesterday was Open Day at The Music Room Landmark Trust property in Lancaster. Last weekend a fellow Friend of the Landmark Trust, and friend of mine now, asked if I’d like to join her to visit the newly refurbished and freshly repainted apartment in the centre of the city. There’s a direct train from nearby Shipley, which has plenty of useful parking availability on a Saturday morning, and an early start gave us six and a half hours to inspect the property, chat with organisers and fellow visitors and include an unhurried lunch (Morecambe Bay Shrimp Platter – what else??) and a tour of the major Lancaster landmark – its Castle … and more!
From the station the Music Room is only a few steps away. We were glad to take shelter from the rain and we spent a couple of hours inside and out on the roof top (during a lull in the rain). Coffee was supplied courtesy of the nearby coffee merchant and dispensed by the Housekeeper to which she added information about the before-and-after appearance of the property.
A member of Landmark’s Head Office staff, Kasia, the Education Officer, (above, in the new kitchen) was also on hand to fill us in on news, plans and future events at Landmarks.
The Music Room dates back to about 1730 and was probably originally a garden pavilion; hard as this is to imagine, being now in the busy city centre. I also note from the free history sheet which is available, along with other Landmark Trust free literature and postcards and handbooks for sale, that music never really had anything to do with the building and that Music Room is probably a corruption of Muses Room (nine plasterwork muses adorn the room).
Still, it must be very special to have an elegant grand piano in your bedroom!
Photo : From the Landmark Trust website
When the Landmark Trust took on the property in the early 1970s it “was in an appalling condition” and when it was finally opened for letting it slept 4 in two bedrooms and the Music Room, with its exquisite plasterwork, was the sitting room or grand salon. I now quote from the history sheet :
“In 2013, 35 years after the first restoration, it was time for a thorough refurbishment, including overhaul of the Baroque plasterwork, which needed hairline cracks repairing and a really good clean. The opportunity was taken to reconfigure the attic floor, since few visitors seemed to be occupying the now rather second-class twin bedroom up there. Partitions were moved and a larger bathroom and a larger area for a new kitchen at one end of the opened-up living room, with its fine views out across the roofs of Lancaster. They are even better from the roof terrace.”
The Music Room bed
View from Sitting Room Window (Ashton Memorial on the distant hill)
The Castle from the Music Room Roof Terrace
On the Roof Terrace a most delightful thing happened! We were taking pictures of each other when another visitor offered to take a photo of us both. We thanked her and got talking to her – she’d pointed out her house in the background of the picture she’d just taken – she is also a keen Landmarker, lives in an historic house herself and by the end, as we were saying goodbye, she invited us to call in and have a look round her own home and have a cup of tea with her just before returning to the station! In addition to this she recommended a place for lunch (The NICE cafe inside The Storey) and that we join the 2pm Tour of Lancaster Castle. Both of which we did and even managed a peep inside the Priory Church of St Mary next door to the Castle.
Main Castle entrance
The Tour of the Castle is excellent and well worth doing. No photography is allowed but you are taken into two court rooms, the old cells, the grand jury room and much more. We learnt that it is a Royal Castle as our Queen is also Duke of Lancaster, that it had connections with the Pendle Witches, it housed a Debtors’ Prison in addition to a regular prison and that prison is now closed and due for refurbishment and change of use.
Following the hour long tour we had just time to peep inside the Priory Church and admire the view of Morecambe Bay. The choir were rehearsing for a concert this evening so we were unable to inspect the Choir Stalls which are an important feature of the church. There are some beautiful 17th century chandeliers, a Russian icon and two organs.
One of the organs, the icon and a glimpse of the choir stalls
It was soon time to take up the kind offer of our fellow Landmarker and we enjoyed a house tour and cup of tea before heading back to the station for our trains. Despite the cold winds and rain we came away with a very warm feeling towards the city, the buildings and the inhabitants of Lancaster and we have a lot more ideas for future visits!