Mr Straw’s House is my favourite National Trust property. I was going to list it as one of the highlights when the National Trust gave everyone free entry recently, but it’s one of those places where visits have to be booked in advance, and it does get booked up.
So I’m giving it a post of its own. It’s brilliant – and if you are into old school thrift and Make Do And Mend, I think you will love it as much as I do.
Mr Straw’s House is in Worksop, 16 miles south of Robin Hood Airport. From the outside, it is an ordinary semi-detached property on a quiet, leafy street lined with red-brick Edwardian homes. Those who venture inside are transported back in time. In fact it is an uncanny experience, like walking into an Ealing film or an Agatha Christie novel.
The three-storey house, open to the public, is just as it was in the 1930s – right down to the brown leatherette wallpaper on the stairs, bowler hats hanging in the hallway and dusty letters with old stamps and faded postmarks, piled high on the sitting room piano.
The property is as perfectly preserved as the bottled fruit and jars of ancient pickles in its scrubbed pantry. Other features, such as a heavy stovetop iron, a chilly WC and a Baby Daisy vacuum cleaner, which had to be operated by two people, remind us just how far we have come…
The house’s former owners, brothers William and Walter Straw, were splendidly eccentric. Following the deaths of their parents in the 1930s, they spurned modern conveniences such as the telephone and rarely threw anything away. Over the decades, their home became a shrine to the disappearing past.
Walter, the town’s grocer, died in 1976, but William lived on into his nineties. He left the contents of the house to the National Trust, which decided to open the property to the public.
Every winter, the house is temporarily closed so that every item, down to a set of false teeth kept in one of the bedrooms, can be cleaned and returned to its proper place.
In keeping with a bygone era, visitors are politely requested to book their admission in advance, by telephone, letter or e-mail. If you aren’t a National Trust member, admission is £6.50 for an adult, and £15.50 for a family.
If you live nearby or are visiting the area, it is also worth noting that Mr Straw’s House is participating in the nationwide Museums at Night initiative: hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, and heritage sites are opening for special evening events over the coming weekend of 18 to 20 May 2012. Mr Straw’s House will be open on Friday night, when you can see it in a different light – quite literally. Booking is essential though.