Inside Combermere, a 12th century Cistercian abbey that was formerly home to an Austrian empress

Linda J. Dodson

More than that, she will be pleased to have people back on the estate. “It’s been strange having nobody around. We had the most beautiful spring, and people have missed out on that.” With staff furloughed, she has been picking up the slack. “I’ve become very good at weeding and edging – I’ve got no nails; I’m desperate to go to the manicurist.”

Despite Viscount Combermere’s specification that the building should “look large in the landscape”, it is not huge. “It’s a middle-sized country house,” Callander Beckett says. “It’s more functional since my mother took off a couple of wings, and modernised the kitchen.”

Still, parts of it were crumbling, and a project to restore the north wing began in 2014, involving re-roofing and completely redecorating the building. For this, help came from Callander Beckett’s old friend, the interior designer Nina Campbell.

Some reorganisation ensued. “The old drawing room is now the dining room, while my mother’s old bedroom is a study.” By 2016, the scheme was complete.

Combermere sits on the Cheshire-Shropshire border, 13 miles from Crewe, and nine miles from the Welsh border. Cheshire is a “contradictory” county. “It’s very rural, but then you’ve got a whole section which is what most people think of as Cheshire, with footballers’ wives, in places like Alderley Edge.”

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