“There would be hundreds and hundreds of people coming every day just to watch him chop down a tree.”
So he was into the Good Life too? “Yes, but he was incredibly religious, so it was probably more puritanism than anything else.
“The world was different then but he was an enormously energetic man who did a huge amount of good and who saved lots of people from unbelievable oppression.” He muses; “The challenge is how do we keep him relevant in the current world?”
One easy answer is to travel in the great man’s footsteps and experience the Good Life in Hawarden.
Hawarden Old Castle is well worth a visit, standing in the grounds of the Gladstones’ family home, (New) Hawarden Castle, which are open during the Good Life Experience. The walled city of Chester, just a short drive away, is one of the quaintest in Britain.
Eat and drink
Surrounded by fertile farming country, Hawarden is a foodie haven. Rated one of the best 50 gastropubs in the UK, the Glynne Arms has been completely refurbished by the Gladstones. (Look out for the little nook that was once the village post office and the crossed axes over the fireplace, where the head of a heifer that injured Gladstone used to sit before it was stolen by a high-spirited drinker.) The café at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop also does a wide range of delicious locally sourced food and a fine cuppa.
The finest residential and only prime ministerial library in the UK, Gladstone’s Library is something special. Tours take place daily or you can soak up the atmosphere at literary festivals, Gladfest or Hearth. Or even stay in one of the very reasonably priced 26 rooms and write your bestseller. In the pipeline is a development called the Forum, for debates, lectures and events, a new exhibition space and six-bedroom study centre called Writers’ Block.