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Sledmere House

Visitor Attraction, Driffield, East Yorkshire

Sledmere House is the grand stately home of the Sykes family, set in an outstanding country estate just west of Driffield in East Yorkshire.

There has been a Manor House at Sledmere since medieval times, but the present Sledmere House was built on the same site in 1751 by Sir Richard Sykes, who had married Mary Kirkby, an heiress to the Sledmere estates.

Extended further in the 1780's to 1790's then completely gutted by fire in 1911, during which much of the renown plaster-work was completely destroyed. It is rumoured that Sir Tatton Sykes, the 5th Baronet was mentally unwell and ignored the raging fire, as he was too busy eating milk pudding, to which it is claimed - he was addicted. Yet villagers and estate workers loyally rescued artwork, furnishings and even doors.

Like much on the estate the house might be considered by some as a bit of a folly, whilst being a Georgian house, due to fire and death in the family, the house never saw the Edwardian life for which it was intended.

The house is now a Grade I listed Georgian country house, containing Chippendale, Sheraton and French furnishings and many fine works of art, set within a park designed by Capability Brown. It is open to visitors and has a gift shop and café, complete with a terrace where guests can take cream tea and scones.

It would be practically impossible to drive through the Sledmere Estate without noticing the large number of monuments dotted all around.

This first monument photo in this selection is said to be a memorial to the men of the Wagoners Special Reserve - for their service during the First World War. It was designed by Lt Col Sir Mark Sykes, the founder of the Wagoners Special Reserve.

Then onto the second monument which was erected in memory of Sir Mark Sykes himself. It is indeed one of the strangest monuments I have ever come across, sculpted with scenes depicting acts of war. The popular propaganda of the day, showing the evil Hun, had somehow spilled into peacetime, with the images of nasty German soldiers bearing their teeth and carrying out acts of murder against the innocent civilian women, while conversely the brave Tommy, heavily outnumbered and with a much more pleasing appeal, adorning the traditional moustache is pictured defending the supplies, to be delivered to the fighting troops.

In reality, Sir Mark had previously bought himself a commission as a Green Howards reservist in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion and had now designed a specialist unit (The Wagoners) that would keep him out of the firing line. Therefore the images of flying bullets and bravery are quite laughable. But most laughable is the date on the monument: 1914-1919. Clearly designed to conjure up thoughts of WWI heroics at every opportunity.

Of course World War One started in 1914 and ended in 1918, as you look at the monument, you could be forgiven for assuming this monument depicting many acts of bravery, would somehow be telling the story of how Lt Col Sykes was mortally wounded in action and died some time later, but that would indeed be very wrong.

Sir Mark Sykes died in 1919, but he was taken by the Spanish Flu. His body was recently exhumed for medical research, scientists looking into a defence against the current swine flu pandemic, have taken samples to see if they can use a culture of the Spanish Flu of 1919 - indeed with this in mind, Lt Col Sykes may become a modern hero many years after his death. Then by complete coincidence, on the day I find myself learning all these new particulars about the Sykes family, the first person dying from swine flu in Britain has been announced too.

From Sir Mark's monument, I headed into the Church yard of St. Mary's where there are graves of the Sykes family, including that of Tatton Sykes.

Then on to the gardens of the grand house where dear roam free through the extensive acres, the stately home itself enjoying impressive views to the north over the well kept gardens, which includes a large circular fountain to the south and a knot garden to the east side, the main entrance of the house being to the west side.

After exploring the gardens, I headed to the outskirts of the village to shoot the final photo in this set, the Sir Tatton Sykes Memorial. A tall monument reaching 120 ft into a rich blue sky on this day. The Sir Tatton Sykes Memorial stands on a hill overlooking the countryside all around and can be seen for miles.

Inscriptions tell us it is the memorial of Sir Tatton Sykes, 4th baronet (1772-1863), by "those who loved him as a friend and honoured him as a landlord".

'Here he is, on his horse.'





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