Wightwick Manor is considered to be the most important Victorian building in the care of the National Trust. It is one of the few surviving examples of a house built, decorated and furnished under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement.
In 1848 seven young men including Holman Hunt, J.E. Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite 'Brotherhood' in a revolt against the artistic establishment.
They sought to return to what they saw as the purity of art before Raphael.
The Brotherhood stayed together for only a few years but its ideals were tremendously influential.
Many people were inspired by the group including Edward Burne-Jones and the young William Morris who went on to found Morris & Co. his famous design and furnishing company.
Wightwick Manor was commissioned by the enlightened industrialist, Samuel Theodore Mander, a paint and varnish manufacturer, who was influenced by the ideas of William Morris.
The half-timbered, pseudo-medieval house was designed by the Liverpool architect Edward Ould and was built in two stages in 1887 and 1893.
The later, eastern half of the house is more ornate and inspired by the Tudor buildings of the Welsh Marches.
The building is set on a plinth of local red sandstone and the patterns of the black and white timbering are reminiscent of Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire.
The gabled roofline is crowned by banks of great, spiral Tudor chimneys. The elaborate bargeboards with a flowing Gothic design demonstrate the medievalizing spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites and the fine standard of craftsmanship shown by the architect, who was a disciple of Morris.
Inside the house there are Morris & Co. wallpapers, textiles and carpets and William de Morgan tiles and Benson metalwork supplied by the company.
These set off Wightwick Manor's collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings which includes works by Holman Hunt, Millais, Burne-Jones, Madox Brown and Ruskin. The are also many publications from William Morris's Kelmscott Press.
The 19th century furnishings set off the Persian rugs, oriental porcelain and Jacobean furniture also found the house.
The drawing room is the epitome of Pre-Raphaelite inspiration.
Morris silk-and -wool tapestry is hung on the walls and the panelling is carved with a motto from Ruskin's 'Modern Painters'.
The stained-glass windows are by Charles Kempe, the Italian Renaissance chimneypiece has a surround of William de Morgan tiles and the candlelabra were designed for Holman Hunt. Paintings include work by Watts, Ruskin, Madox Brown and Rossetti.
The heart of the house is the hall or 'great parlour' that rises two storeys and has an open-work timber roof.
Charles Kempe painted the ceiling and the windows, designed the deeply recessed fireplace alcove and minstrels' gallery and executed the coloured plaster frieze which tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The walls are hung with William Morris's last textile design, the Diagonal Trail, and even the electric light brackets were designed by Morris & Co.
Paintings in the great parlour include works by Millais and Elizabeth Siddal.
The gallery end of the room is dominated by Burne-Jones's romantic 'Love Among the Briar Rose' which is reminiscent of his masterpiece at Buscott Park.
Outside, the 17 acres of garden reflect Pre-Raphaelite taste.
The garden was set out to a design by the painter Alfred Parsons. A formal walk leads to a rose garden overlooked by topiary peacocks. Another walk ends at an informal area set around two ponds linked by a stream.
The broad stone terrace with an oak balustrade was added in 1910.
The wooden bridge, covered in vegetation, over the road to the house is a replica of the bridge across the River Cam at Queens' College Cambridge.
Queen Mary visited Wightwick Manor in 1900 when she was Duchess of York.
The beech tree she planted, now old and gnarled, is one of several trees planted here by royality and political figures.