The History of Casa Valdespino - Holiday Accommodation and Part of Cadiz History!
Casa Valdespino is our home as well as being your holiday rental! We live in the main part of this historic building and so we are there to meet and greet you and make sure you settle in happily. You enjoy the self-contained period flat on the top floor, along with its terrace and unrivalled views.
Casa Valdespino is one of the famous casas senoriales of Grazalema, and it was originally built in the 18th century. Over the main door you will see the symbol of the Order of Carmelites, suggesting that it was originally built by this religious order. Interestingly, one of the houses opposite has the same carving, with a central cross and stars.
The house is now named after the Romero Valdespino family who owned the house for many years - their coat of arms is carved in stone on the fireplace of the principal reception room downstairs. You will also find coats of arms (escudos in Spanish) carved on several of the ancient doors within the house, an indication of the importance of both the building and the people who lived (and worked) in it.
The massive entrance doors, the thick walls of the patio and the large rooms of the house indicate its use through the centuries as a merchant's house as well as its status as the home of wealthy and important families. Sadly, the Grazalema town records were destroyed during the Civil War and many of the historic buildings were damaged and so we have no solid evidence for the history of these beautiful houses. We have to rely on oral evidence, the memories of the families and individuals whose forebears lived in them. It is a race against time to gather information before it is lost.
In the early twentieth century, Casa Valdespino passed into the ownership of the Pomar family, who were active in the economic, social and political life of the village for many years. Residents of this house have been lawyers and academics as well as landowners and politicians. There is even a street in Grazalema named after the family.
We first saw the house around 10 years ago on our first visit to Grazalema and I took photos of the outside. I remember saying how beautiful I thought it was, and remarking that I would love to live in such a historic and lovely home. My husband told me to dismiss the idea, as the casas senoriales de Grazalema have been passed down through many generations and they are simply not for sale! Then one day, he saw a discreet announcement on the internet and we came to see it. The enchantment the house cast over me grew as we walked through the shaded rooms and the old shutters were carefully opened to reveal original carpentry, beautiful clay tile floors, baroque plasterwork and a home that held the history of a way of life. It took months of negotiation and paperwork for us to conclude the sale on a hot September day in Jerez de la Frontera. On receiving the keys we went straight over to Grazalema to see the house and had a very happy surprise as the previous owner had left so much more of the furniture and contents than we had expected. Furniture, ceramics, even the traditional aspidistras in their original old pots! It has taken over two years of planning, construction, cleaning, decoration and more paperwork to create a home and holiday rental.
We hope we have given Casa Valdespino another three hundred years of life, as a home and as a business - part of the life of one of the unique and beautiful pueblos blancos (white villages) of Andalucia.
If you are interested in the history of Grazalema then click on the link to find a regularly updated website with lots of period pictures and information about all aspects of life, the economy and society in Grazalema over many centuries.
Casa Valdespino's Historic Features
The beautiful carved coat of arms above the fireplace in the salon is repeated in the carpentry of the house. Casa Valdespino has many of its original doors, works of art made from a mosaic of wooden shapes fitted into a frame. There are also some panelled doors in the European style, and a pair of pretty bedroom doors with glass panes and fancy net curtains for privacy. The original locks and door handles are intact on many of the doors - and where there's a replacement that was put on many years ago, we've left that! DIY isn't, it seems, a modern idea! The big front doors have a massive lock - the huge iron key hangs over the mantelpiece in the salon. And it works.
We have kept the original windows of the house wherever possible, along with their shutters and ironwork. The iron window bars (rejas in Spanish) and patio 'cancelas' are beautiful wrought iron, with heart shapes and curlicues. They allow us to leave the windows open to ventilate the house whilst keeping trouble out! When the windows are closed, you can enjoy the bubbles in the glass, the unevenness of the old panes and the occasional bit of antique graffiti scratched into them!
Upstairs, Casa Valdespino still has the original clay tile floors, although damp problems downstairs mean that they have been replaced with new ones. The clay tiles (barro cocido in Spanish) are an entirely natural product, and each tile has its own terracotta shades, a swirl of natural earthy beauty bringing life and colour to the rooms which are all painted traditional Andalucian white, with dark timber.
Casa Valdespino's Main Staircase
The main staircase of Casa Valdespino leads off the sitting room. It has a beautiful wooden banister and a very special feature also to be seen in one of the local churches (explore them to find which one!).
The ceiling of the first little landing before the turn in the stairs has an exquisite dome, and beautifully detailed baroque plasterwork. The ceilings in the salon are all original and so are the arches and columns. The ceiling is called 'abovedada' in Spanish, domed - and ours is a very nice example. Where is was damaged by water, damp and time it has been expertly restored by our builders.
The Story of the Lamp
In the salon (drawing room) of the main house, there is an oil lamp. It's a very nice English one, and lots of the casas senoriales boast one of these. But the Casa Valdespino one has a story to tell.
Look closely and you will see that the shade doesn't fit the lamp structure - it doesn't belong. It's not the original. We were told that this lamp once saved a life during the time of trouble and war in Grazalema. During the fighting, a bullet came through the window above the front door and hit the lampshade. A man was standing next to it at the time. This explains both the substitute lampshade AND a little round hole in the window!
Who was Mateos Gago?
Your holiday rental is in Calle Mateos Gago, originally Calle Arcos, and this is one of the principal streets of the village. It is lined with beautiful 18th century houses, many of which have been in the same families for many generations. Some of the buildings have suffered badly, but Grazalema is proud of its heritage and is working hard to maintain and improve its historic homes and churches which are among some of the finest buildings in Andalucia.
Mateos Gago was a nineteenth century scholar born in Grazalema in 1827. He was orphaned very young and brought up by his uncle, a doctor in the village. As well as being a professor of theology at the University of Seville, he was a Canon of Seville Cathedral. He had a lively interest in architecture and the arts of Andalucia, and belonged to a number of cultural and scientific institutions in Seville, among them the Academia Sevillana de Buenas Letras, the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (1875), in Cadiz Province, the Academia de Santo Tomas de Aquino (1879), the Atenea y Sociedad de Excursiones de Sevilla and the Sociedad El Folklore Andaluz. The Sevillapedia has an extensive article about Mateos Gago as well as a lot of other information about Seville and other important places in Andalucia.
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