Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton is a National Trust property famous for its collections of Victorian art with decorations and furnishings by C.E. Kempe, William Morris and William de Morgan.
The house was given to the Trust by the Mander family. Samuel Theodore Mander was a paint and varnish manufacturer,who had the mock Tudor house built in 1887. He was a philanthropic Congregationalist with a fervent interest in the arts and education. He married Flora St Clair Paint – a rather appropriate name!
The Mander family were vocal supporters of woman’s suffrage, held Suffragist meetings at Wightwick Manor and fought in parliament for women’s rights – especially for female domestic servants. The property contains the biggest collection of work by professional female artists.During 2018 the Trust told the stories of Florence Mander a suffragist supporter; Rosalie Mander a writer, art collector and Liberal candidate; Princess Sophia Mander who agitated for better Anglo-Indian relations; Emma Smith Wightwick’s housekeeper and Lizzie Siddal Pre-Raphaelite artist.
(Incidentally, Wolverhampton was the first place in the UK where a woman voted. In 1908 a woman called Louise Dawson’s name appeared on the electoral register with her name incorrectly printed as Louis with an “e” missing. The women involved in the suffrage society spotted this and encouraged Miss Dawson to go and vote, which she did! It was not until 1918 that suffrage extended to women)
In recent years, the Trust has made many improvements to make visits more accessible and enjoyable. There is separate mobility parking, an adapted toilet, a wheelchair accessible transfer golf buggy, accessible tea room, shop and garden routes. Although it is a peaceful spot to visit, it is actually only a short walk to the main road. So, another advantage being it is on a bus route from Wolverhampton.
Over the years, the Mander family have added to the house’s contents with a remarkable collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Rossetti and Burne-Jones. The house still feels homely despite being an art gallery.