The building that Sir Christopher Sykes extended and redecorated in the 1780’s and 1790’s was gutted by a fire in 1911, but through careful restoration most people still think of Sledmere House as an eighteenth-century house. The work on the house continued throughout most of the First World War, but with the death of Sir Mark Sykes in 1919, the house unfortunately never saw the Edwardian life for which it was intended. The house came into its own once Sir Richard Sykes came of age in 1926. Sir Richard belonged to a generation that rediscovered the eighteenth century and particularly Georgian Houses, and it was that aspect of Sledmere he strove to enhance. Today its Edwardian aspect is seen to have its merits too, and we hope visitors will enjoy it as a reflection of the ages both George III and George V.
The Wagoners’ Museum
This little museum, which is in the entrance area to Sledmere House, tells the story of the Wagoners’ Special Reserve with photographs, papers, memorabilia and a fine medal collection. Sir Mark Sykes’ uniform is also on display. The Wagoners’ Special Reserve was the brainchild of Sir Mark Sykes 6th Baronet and these men became some of the first to go abroad in the First World War, driving the horse-drawn wagons that supplied the frontline. The museum is of interest to all. As far as we know this is the only museum devoted to a Special Reserve and is now a Charitable Trust that relies on donations.
When we visited Sledmere House, members of the ‘Home Guard’ were guarding the main gate and directing vehicles to a suitable parking area. On alighting from the mini bus we were transported back to the 1940 with hundreds of re-enactors dressed as soldiers, sailors, airmen, mothers, grandparents, spivs, German and Russian soldiers strolled the grounds of this lovely stately pile. Jive and Swing music wafted up to us from various parts of the gardens where a tented village of vendors were selling all types of memorabilia from the era and where encampments of various contingents of soldiers displayed and demonstrated their weaponry. ‘Monty’s Double’ also gave a short talk in the house. It was also the same day the Austin Owners Club was having their rally at the house, which added greatly to the nostalgic feel of our visit.