So, the Rye Esplanade is also home to the local bus service, as well as to the trains. Victoria had suggested that we visit Appuldurcombe House, and as that was the only thing on our agenda this day, we decided to take the local bus there, which would allow us to see more of the Isle of Wight along the way. Sitting on the top of the bus, we had great views.

We let the driver know that our destination was Appuldurcombe and he agreed to let us know when our stop was approaching.

“So, what’s at Appuldurcombe, then? Capability Brown, Chippendale and knife boxes?” I asked Vicky.

“You don’t know Appledurcombe?” she asked.

“Never heard of it,” I replied.

“It’s been abandoned. It’s a ruin. A shell of its former self,” Vicky informed me.

“Like Sutton Scarsdale?” We’d visited Sutton Scarsdale the previous year, on Number One London’s Country House Tour.

“Yes, except that there aren’t any plans to restore Appledurcombe. They’ve just shored up the shell and you’re actually allowed to walk around the ruins.”

Now this was a new take on the stately home. I sat back and watched the scenery go by – views from the sea cliffs, a handful of towns and villages and a wide variety of architectural styles of houses and shopfronts.

About an hour later, our bus driver let us know that the next stop would be ours. “See there, that’s your street,” he said, as we passed it. “Bus stop is just here. Walk back and down that lane and you’ll find Appuldurcombe House.”

And so Vicky and I set off, eyes wide at the Midsomer Murders look of the lane and its charming houses. So typically English. So quaint.

After a while, the lane began to go uphill. Still, we trudged.

“I haven’t seen a single sign for Appuldurcombe House,” said Vicky. “Have you?”

“No,” I replied. “But the bus driver said it was just down this lane and walkable.”

“Ha! You know what the English are like. If we’d asked if we could walk from here to Edinburgh, they’d have said yes. Never mind that it would take us a week to get there.”

I knew from experience that she was right. But I didn’t think the nice bus driver would have led us down the garden path, so to speak. The hill grew steeper, though you can’t tell by these photos.

“Can you see anything that looks like a ruined house?” Vicky asked.

“Nope. You sit here on this wall and I’ll go ahead and see if I can spot the house,” I told her.

And so I walked up hill, up the lane and around the turn and this is what I found.

A field full of cows. Friendly cows. As soon as they saw me, they began to make their way over to the fence. A litter of Labrador puppies could not have been more eager to see me.

“Vicky! Come here!”

“What do you see? Is it the house?”

“No. Better. Cows!”

Caution: Many Cow Photos Ahead

Bonus – sheep!

Cows and sheep!

As evidenced by the plethora of photos we took, we spent quite a bit of time with the cows – petting the cows, photographing the cows, talking to the cows, communing with the cows, but at last Vicky said, “Well, should we head back?”

“No! Our aim was to see Appuldurcombe House. We can’t give up now. Stay here and I’ll go ahead and see what I can see.”

I walked ahead about fifteen steps and this is what I saw.

I walked the fifteen steps back, “The house is just there, around the bend.”

Off we set down the path, through the wood and a field of bluebells.

It was all a bit Hansel and Gretel-ish.

 Finally, we had our first, up close glimpse of Appuldurcombe.

And then, there it was before us. In all its ruined glory. We were both gobsmacked.

An honest to goodness ruin. And not another soul about. Not another tourist, not a caretaker, not Vincent Price, not even a wicked witch. We had the place well and truly to ourselves.

“Are you sure we’re allowed to wander around?” I asked.

“That’s what the website said,” replied Vicky. “I don’t see that anything is roped off, do you?”

I did not. And so we wandered.



I don’t know how long we were there, but we investigated every bit of Appuldurcombe, for the most part in silence. It’s very eerie being alone there, among the ruins. It’s a far cry from my usual stately home visits. You do feel as though the house is waiting. For what, I don’t know, but Appuldurcombe still stands proudly, refusing to completely give way to ruin; recalling grander times, listening to the echoes of long silenced family voices, keeping watch over the nearby Wroxall village.

We never did see another living soul.


Would you like to experience travel in England first-hand?
Visit our website for a list of upcoming Number One London Tours.




I browsed recently through a biography I picked up at the public library, Joshua Kendall’s The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008).

Happily having used Roget’s Thesaurus – that incomparable list of synonyms and antonyms — throughout my writing career, I realized I didn’t know anything at all about its compiler, Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869). I’d never even wondered why someone with a French surname had written a book on the English language. Neither did I know when it was first published. Roget’s was simply a book of synonyms that was always there, that people knew, and used – especially when solving crossword puzzles or writing essays — and that was that. Right? I was also grateful to him, very grateful, because he so alleviated (whew!) my monologophobia (the fear of using the same word twice in a piece of writing).

But, seriously, who was this lexicographer who’d produced such a seminal work?

Author Joshua Kendall, a journalist who describes himself as a “word nerd”, tells a fascinating and dramatic story, one well worth reading. (His current project is the biography of another word nerd, America’s Noah Webster.)

Roget began his career as a medical doctor, but went on to many accomplishments, among them his invention of the slide rule, his role in nitrous oxide/laughing gas experiments with Thomas Beddoes, developing filtration systems for London’s sewers, posing the first chess problems for newspapers, his work on optics (that led some to link his name in a later century with moving pictures), his popular lectures on anatomy and other scientific subjects, and his wealth of writings on physiology and health. In 1834 he became the first Fullerian Professor of Physiology at the Royal Institution and he was a founder of the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge.

My curiosity having been aroused, I began to read the book, especially interested in the tantalizing promise of the love and madness part, as a writer of romantic fiction and as the biographer of a famous courtesan.

First, his ethnicity. The Rogets were French-speaking Swiss from Geneva. Jean Roget, his father, was the minister of a Protestant church in the Soho neighborhood of London, which had a large Huguenot (French Protestant) population in the 18th century. His mother was from a wealthy middle-class Huguenot family; her mother Margaret Garnault, was an heiress, and her father Peter Romilly was a well-off jeweler. His mother’s brother, the highly respected Sir Samuel Romilly, had a distinguished career in government.

Sir Thomas Lawrence painted that great man circa 1806-1810:

Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818)

But there were serious health problems – mental as well as physical – in the Roget and Romilly families. The mental illness was in the Romilly family; Roget’s maternal grandmother, Margaret, was an unstable personality who needed constant supervision. Roget’s father’s problem fell into the physical realm: he developed tuberculosis. This necessitated a move back to Switzerland, where treatments for the condition were considered better. The infant Peter was left with his maternal grandparents, and when just a toddler he was taken to Switzerland by his uncle Samuel to be with his parents and new baby sister Annette. But all was not well with his parents. His mother may have been suffering from post-partum depression after Annette’s birth, and when his father finally succumbed to TB after four years, she fell into a sharp mental decline.As Kendall observes, “Madness ran in the immediate family. [His maternal grandmother] … suffered from an unidentified mental disorder – probably severe depression or schizophrenia – that left her in an almost vegetative state for most of her life.”

Roget’s mother, who was described as “temperamental and emotionally demanding,” lapsed into paranoia in her old age.Alas, it didn’t end there. Roget’s sister Annette – and, later, his daughter Kate – also suffered from severe bouts of depression. And his kind uncle Sir Samuel Romilly, longtime Member of Parliament and internationally renowned reformer of the system of British criminal law, among many other legal triumphs, fell into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1818.

By this time, Peter Mark Roget, almost 40 years of age and unmarried, had a thriving medical practice and had become a member of the Royal Society; he was the one called to his uncle’s bedside. Sir Samuel had slashed his throat with a razor, inconsolable after the death of his wife, whom Roget had attended in her last, fatal, illness. (This incident is described in tragic detail in the opening pages of the Kendall biography.Sir Samuel’s demise was a great loss to his family and to the nation. A good part of the blame for his suicide, alas, was attributed later to the insensitivity of the medical treatment of his nephew, Peter Mark Roget. This blame, unfortunately, may well have been warranted.Kendall states “no one questioned Roget’s concern for his uncle” but “a consensus emerged that he had failed to grasp the full extent of Romilly’s emotional agony” upon the loss of his wife. But, again, severe depression ran in the Romilly family, and perhaps no physician could – at that time – have done anything to alleviate Roget’s uncle’s grief and deterred him from suicide.

Samuel Romilly’s suicide unhinged Peter Mark Roget for a good long while.
According to Kendall, the tragedy – and the guilt — caused Roget to undergo what Kendall dubs “a midlife crisis.” He left the medical profession and pursued a second – and hugely more successful — career as a lecturer at the Royal Institution.

Roget’s Royal Institution Medal, 1819


Part Two Coming Soon!


Having completed our Wellington research at the Hartley Library, University of Southampton, Vicky and I found ourselves faced with a three day holiday weekend before we could move on to begin work at the next archive. Vicky suggested that we take a side trip to the Isle of Wight before moving on to Chichester, and I readily agreed.

From the port of Southampton, we boarded the ferry for the 30 minute trip to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

On arrival, we found ourselves at the Hythe Pier, completed in 1881.

The 1878 Act of Parliament made provision for the construction of a tramway along the pier. The trucks that carried luggage along the pier were found to be damaging the pier decking, and in 1909 a narrow gauge railway was constructed to replace them and in 1922, the railway was reconstructed and electrified.

Vicky and I found ourselves seated within the Royal car.

Taking a taxi to Ryde, we checked into our room at the Castle Hotel.

Naturally, our first priority was to explore the town. Again, it was a glorious Spring day and we spent the afternoon browsing in the shops and enjoying the seafront. Next time, Vicky and I venture out further afield and see the Isle by bus.

Would you like to experience travel in England first-hand?

Visit our website for a list of upcoming Number One London Tours.


This post, by guest blogger Jo Manning, originally ran in 2014. Since the newly restored Pitzhanger Manor has just been re-opened to the public, we thought you might like to follow the progress of the work from then till now.

Pitzhanger Manor, front view and gallery from Ealing High Street, today (the art gallery is off to the right side)


Proposed restoration to front and to art gallery
In the opening years of the 19th century, Sir John Soane (1769-1830) decided to build a country house for his family just outside of London proper. In 1800 he located a site in Acton, but soon abandoned it for an existing property in Ealing. His friend, mentor, and former teacher, the architect George Dance the Younger, assisted him in the demolition of part of the property and in redesigning what was the largest part of what was an existing house to Soane’s exacting taste. The collaboration produced a charming home and lovely gardens in Ealing, an area of West London now completely different from the open fields that existed when the home was completed in 1804 and this area was very much more rural and accessible only by walking, stagecoach routes and private horse-and-carriage transportation from London.
Pitzhanger Manor circa 1804
Pitzhanger Manor is just south of the busy shopping area on the Ealing High Street. The location is accessible by bus, tube, and rail.
Relatively few people will have heard of Pitzhanger (sometimes spelled Pitshanger) Manor, and fewer still would connect it with the great Georgian architect. Sir John Soane (1753-1837), is more widely known to most of us for the museum in his name in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, comprising his original family home(s) Numbers 12-13 (built in 1792), and the adjoining Number 14, also designed by Soane It was purchased  in 1996 by the British government to house more of his voluminous private art collection.
Sir John Soane by artist Sir Thomas Lawrence

 Sir John Soane could not have been more prominent in his time. He was the Architect to the Bank of England; Surveyor to the Royal Hospital at Chelsea; Grand Superintendent of Works for the Freemasons; and responsible for the interiors of Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street as well as the Law Courts at Westminster.

Soane designed a number of new buildings adjacent to Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital at Chelsea. One of them, the Infirmary, was destroyed in WWII; the Stables (which are private but can be seen from Royal Hospital Road) is also his work and has been called “the most quintessentially Soanic” of all Soane’s exteriors; he also designed the Secretary’s Office of the Royal Hospital complex, which now houses the Museum (open to the public).

Sir John Soane’s Museum at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Soane’s residence in Lincoln’s Inn Fields was more than a private home; it was built to hold much of his art collection, which included architectural drawings, paintings, sculpture, architectural models, and his many and diverse artifacts (including the sarcophagus of Pharoah Seti I, excavated in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in 1817; the British Library passed on buying it, so Soane bought it!)

As the architect for the Bank of England and its offices, an undertaking that occupied him for at least 45 years, of particular note was the Bank Stock Office, considered, in 1793, to be “daringly unconventional.”  He also designed the Dulwich Picture Gallery, recently described by The Sunday Telegraph as “the most beautiful art gallery in the world”.  It was the first public picture gallery in England and is said to have influenced a number of galleries that came after. It is often remarked that the museum’s collection stands a far distant second to the magnificent design of the gallery itself.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery
  St John’s Church, Bethnal Green; St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington; St Nicholas’ Church, Chiswick; Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone; and St Peter’s Church, Walworth, are all fine examples of his church design. Of them all, the latter, St Peter’s, is the best preserved. The fine interior of the church, however, can be viewed only by attending church services; grounds are open during daylight hours.


Soane Family Tomb
Soane also designed his own tomb.  Ostensibly designed for his wife, who passed away in 1815, he shares her eternal rest along with their son John. It is in the churchyard of Old Saint Pancras Gardens, Pancras Road, Somers Town (not to be confused with Saint Pancras New Church, in nearby Euston, designed by the Inwood brothers).  Trivia check #1: Old Saint Pancras is the church where my biographical subject, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, was married.  Trivia check #2: The tomb is one of only two Grade I listed tombs in London (Karl Marx’s is the other one), and many think it inspired Giles Gilbert Scott’s red telephone box of the 1920s.
There are three tombstones: one for Soane’s wife, another for Soane, and the last for his son John (seen above), who predeceased him at the age of 37
Proposed view from the inner park to the rear of the manor house, showing new landscaping  and the glass conservatory.
View of the new fish pond, looking out of the rear windows of the house
Following the completion of the manor house, Sir John Soane was only to use it as a weekend retreat and a place of entertainment/dinner parties until he sold it only five years later in 1810.  Five years…such a short time for such an outpouring of energy and talent in the design of this building.

In 1843 it became home to the daughters of Britain’s only assassinated Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. In 1901, the building was sold to Ealing District Council and extended to become a public library; in 1985 it was converted into a museum.

Proposed view of Belvedere in the new plan
Julian Harrap rendering of Pitzhanger Manor

In April 2012, Pitzhanger Manor was awarded a first-round development grant of £275,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Ealing Council agreed to allow the Pitzhanger Manor Trust (PMT)- a registered charity- to take over management and operation of the house and gallery.  Furthermore, £425,000 was been awarded from several charitable trusts and foundations which  fund heritage and arts projects, which are subject to the success of the second round bid from HLF. At the time, the Chair of PMT, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, said: “We are looking forward to the time when we take responsibility for Pitzhanger Manor Gallery, the new café and community facilities, all within the wonderfully restored Walpole Park.  I have no doubt that once completed it will be the jewel in the crown of the queen of the suburbs.”

Here are photos of the gorgeous interiors –

Above, one of the four caryatids atop the columns of the east front of Pitzhanger Manor. Made of  Coade stone, they are thought to be modeled on the caryatids that enclose the sanctuary of Pandrosus in Athens.


In early May 2014, my husband and I went to an exhibit at the Pitzhanger Art Gallery. The speaker was an expert on Le Corbusier and his massive photographs of Corbu’s work adorned the walls of the gallery space. It was an excellent, well-publicized exhibit that drew many participants.  The renovated house and grounds of Pitzhanger Manor will bring in many more tourists and visitors, who will, finally, honor the great architect and designer Sir John Soane in the way he should be honored. It will also be a tremendous resource for young people studying the arts. What a coup for Ealing! Bravo to the Ealing Council and the people of Ealing for their successful efforts in bringing this about.

Pitzhanger Manor re-opened on March 16, 2019 and you can visit their website here to learn more about the restoration work and for  information on planning your visit.




After touring the extensive – and absolutely gorgeous – gardens, Vicky and I headed inside for a tour of the Castle, which is one of the longest inhabited country houses in England. Apart from the occasional reversion to the Crown, Arundel Castle has descended directly from 1138 to the present day, carried by female heiresses from the d’Albinis to the Fitzalans in the 13th century and then from the Fitzalans to the Howards in the 16th century and it has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years. The 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554), was uncle to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom became wives of King Henry VIII (1491-1547) and only escaped the death penalty because King Henry VIII died the night before the execution was due and the 4th Duke (1536-72) was beheaded for plotting to marry Mary Queen of Scots.

Many of the original features such as the crenellated Norman keep, gatehouse and barbican and the lower part of Bevis Tower survive. During the Civil War (1642-45), the Castle was badly damaged when it was twice besieged, first by Royalists who took control, then by Cromwell’s Parliamentarian force led by William Waller. Nothing was done to rectify the damage until about 1718 when Thomas, the 8th Duke of Norfolk (1683-1732) carried out some repairs. Charles Howard, the 11th Duke (1746-1815), known to posterity as the ‘Drunken Duke’ and friend of the Prince Regent subsequently carried out further restoration. Between the 1870s and 1890s the house was almost completely rebuilt and the magnificent architecture in Gothic style is considered to be one of the great works of Victorian England.

The private chapel was built between 1890 and 1903 – its design was inspired by Salisbury Cathedral.

Gothic elements continue throughout the Castle and are shown to advantage in the dining room.

Continuing on, Vicky and I were able to appreciate how high design and comfortable spaces were frequently combined to give Arundel Castle the feel of a true family home.

Throughout the Castle, artwork and items of interest can be found at every turn.






Elizabeth Leveson Gower by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Charlotte, Duchess of Norfolk by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Lord Bernard Howard

Shovels used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to plant an oak in the garden during their stay, 3 December 1846.

It will come as no surprise that Victoria and I both spent quite a bit of time examining the magnificent library and its contents.

Containing about 10,000 books, the double height library is 112 feet long and occupies what was once the Elizabethan Long Gallery. It was constructed in 1815, its design influenced by St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Would you like to see Arundel Castle for yourself? We’ll be returning to the Castle on Number One London’s 2020 Regency Tour – complete itinerary and details can be found here.