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So wrote the novelist, George Eliot, of Cheverel Manor in Mr Gilfil's Love Story, first published in 1857. It was a room like a cathedral, so beautiful that no use could possibly do justice to it.

Sir Roger might have moved into the Tudor house (of three storeys enclosing a courtyard) and might easily have lived in the stables too, which are quite the equal of many stately homes in themselves. But no, he set about modernizing his Elizabethan house by dragging it back into the Middle Ages.

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George Eliot knew personally of a room such as this, and must have peeped into it as a child, when her father was an estate manager in Warwickshire. In those far off days Polos Lacoste

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on was an Elizabethan manor house, 17th century stables, formal garden and extensive parkland. Unsubstantiated rumours attribute the stables, or at least the entrance to them, to Sir Christopher Wren.

Yet for all Sir Roger Newdigate's visionary hard work at Arbury he did not have an heir to leave it to. Though twice married he died without issue in 1806, just after the modernization was complete.

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The baronetcy, therefore, died with him, and the estate passed to a cousin, who changed his name to Newdigate for continuity's sake.

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Let's begin with George Eliot's dining room. Now, I'm not prone to gasps of amazement when I visit stately homes. More often than not, I trudge morosely round in search of the tea room. Georgian furniture makes me think of Victoria sponge.

But on entering the dining room at Arbury, there was an involuntary intake of breath. Had I stumbled unexpectedly into the cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral? Could my sense of direction be this bad? It is the ceiling that makes one gasp, an explosion of white fan vaulting. George Eliot elsewhere described it as looking like "petrified lace".

The room looked less like a place to dine than a piece of space enclosed simply for the sake of the beautiful outline; and the small dining table, with the party around it, seemed an odd and insignificant accident, rather than anything with the original purpose of the apartment.

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30 years before Scenes from Clerical Life George Eliot went by her real name of Lacoste Underwear Mens Mary Anne Evans, and her father Robert Evans was the estate manager, not of Cheverel Manor (which did not exist) but of Arbury.

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Only in the height of the dining room, and in the oak panelling of the long gallery upstairs, is the hidden presence of that earlier house still to be felt. Elsewhere a dark Tudor interior has been replaced by the lightness of swirling gothic tracery. If Horace Walpole had his Strawberry Hill, then here is the cream to go with it.

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Chris Upton reveals the secrets within the walls of one of the Midlands' finest stately homes

Even more lace like is the saloon, with its extraordinary bay window of intricately patterned vaulting. The light flooding in from the garden emphasizes the etherial exuberance of the ceiling. Indeed, this might be the room that George Eliot remembered more vividly.

There is a fine surviving portrait of Sir Roger, the 5th baronet, painted by Arthur Devis. It shows him, smartly attired and at his writing desk, but sitting casually sideways on his chair. He's in the middle of penning a letter, but has turned round to be snapped by the portrait painter.

´╗┐Arbury Hall is a hidden gem in Nuneaton

Sir Roger was only 14 when he inherited Arbury, not yet fully educated and not yet sent on the Grand Tour, which was an essential part of any self respecting house owner's upbringing. He returned from the tour in 1742, bringing with him the obligatory reliefs and classical statuary to install in his home. But Newdigate's head was not classicized. When he began to re build, it was with English gothic, not Roman temples, in his mind.

The man responsible for the look of Arbury was not some medieval mason, but a landed gent of 18th century Warwickshire, with an evident taste for the Gothick. The Newdigates came into possession of Arbury as the result of a 18th century version of a house swap with a lawyer who needed to live nearer to London. They left their Middlesex home and took over Arbury in 1586.

I assume the room Sir Roger is occupying must be in the library, and (if so) it's a room that lies beyond the bounds of visitors. All the same, it's fine enough to remind us of George Eliot's impressions of a house that's grander than its occupants.

of sideways shifts in the family tree since then, but it is still a Newdigate who owns Arbury Hall today.

Whoever the architect was and we do not have an answer to that he had studied long in the gothic churches, and perhaps visited the shrine of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey. Here, in size and style and proportion, was Arbury's inspiration.

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The Newdigates' Tudor ancestors, who hang on the walls of the dining room look puzzled by this shift backwards in time, but it's something they have had to learn to live with.

Sir Roger Newdigate inherited Arbury from his brother, who died unmarried in 1734. What Sir Roger took Fred Perry Polo Shirts Amazon

Later owners have been remarkably modest in their alterations; perhaps the ambition of Sir Roger cowed them into submission.

Arbury Hall is one of the least known, but best preserved of all the Midlands' great houses. It keeps itself to itself, in that it is still a family home and opens its doors to the public only on four weekends a year. But on those days the four bank holiday weekends between Easter and August a great secret is revealed.

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