Erddig 40th anniversary

Published : 13 Jun 2017 Last update : 23 Jun 2017

Years of coal mining had undermined the house and it was sinking. The roof was leaking and the destructive forces of nature were setting in. The huge responsibility weighed heavy on Philip’s shoulders; he was to be the last curator of his family’s home, housing a unique collection of servants’ portraits and poems.

To mark 40 years of Erddig being open to the public this June, we’re telling the story of our last squire and his difficult decision to hand over his home and everything in it.

With no heir or family to help him maintain the 70-room house, Philip Yorke III was living among the crumbling remains as it became too much to manage on his own. Large parts of the house were falling into serious disrepair and in need of urgent attention before it was too late to save it and Erddig lost forever.

It took four years for the house and gardens to be rescued from years of decay
Erddig State Bedroom during restoration in the early seventies

Dereliction to distinction

This story has been brought to life for visitors to see and hear the sights and sounds of the scale of the restoration work we faced to take Erddig from Dereliction to Distinction.

Follow Philip’s journey and experience his struggles as he fought a never-ending battle against Erddig’s decline and took the painful decision to give his family home to the National Trust. 

Embark on a journey through the last squire’s decision to hand over his home and everything in it
Visitors enjoying Erddig's 40th anniversary installation, Dereliction to Distinction

Emotional journey

Dereliction to Distinction will be an emotional journey of archive images, artefacts and stories of the eccentric squire, Philip Yorke III and how he came to entrust his home and family’s extensive belongings, which had been collected by his family over generations, to the National Trust.

For seven years, Philip lived out of one room of the house, trying alone to combat the years of decay, but despite his ingenious efforts it became too much. 

Discover Erddig’s 40th anniversary installation, Dereliction to Distinction
Erddig Drawing Room showing Philip Yorke III's bed in the corner

Family’s collection disintegrating

Mining directly under the house after the war had caused the building to drop 5ft at one side; the roof was rotten and leaking, causing damage to handpainted wallpapers, and the family’s collection of 30,000 paintings, furniture, ornaments and trinkets was disintegrating.

In 1973 Philip gifted the 17th-century country house and all its contents to the charity.

Discover Erddig’s 40th anniversary installation, Dereliction to Distinction
Philip Yorke III riding his penny farthing at Erddig

It took a four-year, £1million restoration project to restore the house and gardens back to their former glory (more than £6 million in today's money). Now the National Trust spends £81,046 per month, with 47 staff and 250 volunteers helping to care for Erddig inside and out. 

No heir

With no heir and servants to help, the true cost for Philip was having to give up his home, where his family had been since the 1700s, along with all the memories it held.

Visitors will be able to put themselves in Philip’s shoes in our exhibition that runs until march 2018 as he struggled with his much-loved home crumbling around him and the decision that he could do nothing more to save it.

Jamie Watson, Erddig’s General Manager, said: “It is not just the monetary cost of looking after a home of this size, a lot of time and care goes into making sure the 70 rooms, 30,000-plus ornaments and furnishings and 1,200 acres of parkland and gardens are maintained for future generations. 

“Unfortunately, it came to a point for Philip when he was no longer able to do that, but we are very lucky to have our team and generosity of our volunteers, visitors and supporters to help keep Philip’s memory alive and protect his home and everything in it, just as he wished.”

Mike Snowden Erddig Head Gardener 1973 to 1980 talks gardening and penny farthings with Philip Yorke III
Erddig Head Gardener Mike Snowden meeting Philip Yorke III and his penny farthing

Speaking in 1977, Philip, who died a year later, said: “I rather like the idea of people coming to see [the house]. I always thought they would like to see how people lived hundreds of years ago. People are always asking about coming here.

“[When I was young] it was very well run and we had lots of people staying here in the summer.  They [the National Trust] are going to do it up so people can come and enjoy it as it used to be.”

On Tuesday 27 June, the official 40th anniversary since Erddig opened to the public, visitors will be able to visit Erddig at 1977 prices, just £2.00.

Caring for Erddig inside and out: 1977 vs 2017
•    £0.00 monthly energy bills (Philip lived without electricity) vs £3,333 per month
•    One man vs 47 staff and 250 volunteers
•    A handful of grazing sheep vs 24 gardeners (3 staff and 21 volunteers)
•    12.5 acres of overgrown shrubs and trees vs 11 kept lawns, an orchard of pleached limes and rose garden