A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – KNEBWORTH HOUSE

Our next stop was Knebworth House, a Gothic fantasy straight out of a Hammer Studios horror movie. In fact, there was a movie being filmed there during our visit, the grounds covered in booms and trailers, lights and cables. Unfortunately, a confidentiality agreement had been signed and so we weren’t allowed to know which film. Quite a few movies have been shot here over the years, including The Canterville Ghost, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The King’s Speech. 

 

Knebworth House is one of England’s most colourful stately homes. It is remarkable for having been in the same family – the Lyttons – for more than 500 years and for its romantic exterior complete with turrets, domes and gargoyles, which conceals a red brick house dating from Tudor times. Its roots lie with Sir Robert Lytton, a friend of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond.

Lytton fought with Tudor at Bosworth in 1485, when the Tudor dynasty was formed and Henry seized the throne as Henry VII. As his patron efforts were successful, so Lytton prospered. In 1490 he bought the medieval fortified house at Knebworth and over the rest of his life he transformed the castle into a large and comfortable residence, suitable for a man in high standing at court.

The Tudor version of Knebworth was made of brick – then an expensive and fashionable material – and featured large mullioned windows. The mansion stayed essentially unchanged for the next 3 centuries, but by the time Elizabeth Bulwer-Lytton took control in 1810 the old house was in dire condition.

Lady Elizabeth started the transformation of Knebworth into a Gothick fantasy castle. But her son, Edward Bulwer Lytton, distracted her attention from the house. He married against her wishes, so Elizabeth cancelled his allowance. In order to make ends meet and maintain his lifestyle as a society dandy, the young Edward turned his hand to writing novels and plays.

 

Other notable family members included Constance Lytton, the Suffragette and her father, Robert Lytton, the Viceroy of India who proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India at the Great Delhi Durbar of 1877. There is a Jacobean minstrels gallery hovering above the hall, where Charles Dickens liked to hold amateur theatricals when he visited. Of the other ebullient, eccentric rooms, perhaps the most interesting is the study, left as it was when Edward Bulwer-Lytton used it as his writing den. One of the more peculiar objects in the room is a large crystal ball, into which the writer would stare for hours at a time, waiting for inspiration to strike. The House has also been visited by Queen Elizabeth I, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and many more.

Click here to watch a video of our walk to Knebworth House and to meet our guide, Edward Lytton Cobbold.

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – THE AUDLEY END KITCHEN GARDENS

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

When I left you in the last post, our group had made our way to the Audley End Kitchen Garden for a tour with the gardener. The Kitchen Garden offers over 120 varieties of apples, 40 types of pears, 60 kinds of tomatoes plus many more fruits and vegetables. It also has an Orchard House where peaches and figs are grown in pots, in the same way that they were in Victorian times.

Instead of my going on about our tour, I’ll let you experience it for yourself. Click here for Part One (5:57) of our tour. You’ll find the link to Part Two below.

Click here for Part Two (6:54) of the garden tour.

 

WIN A NUMBER ONE LONDON TOUR!

Congratulations to Karen Feder, lucky winner of a place on our English Country House Tour!

Karen entered the raffle at the Barbara Vey Reader’s Weekend in Milwaukee on April 29th and will now be joining the tour group for an eight day tour of country houses in September.

More chances to win a place on one of our tours are coming up. Sign up to our newsletter in order to be the first to know about upcoming tour giveaways! Newsletter link can be found in the right sidebar – good luck!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – AUDLEY END

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Our next stop on the Visit Britain Familiarization Trip was Audley End, where we were able to tour the 1880’s servants wing and the gardens. I was thrilled to be able to see the extensive domestic offices, as Audley End is on the itinerary for Number One London’s 2018 Upstairs/Downstairs Country House Tour.

At Audley End, costumed characters bring the House back to its Victorian heyday and allow visitors to discover what life was like below stairs by meeting the Victorian workers in the stables, service wing, nursery and coal gallery. During our tour, we’ll also come face to face with the cook, Mrs. Crocombe, as she prepares a meal for the family, bump into the stablehands while they’re grooming the horses, and meet Governess Miss Dormer as she organizes the children for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making our way outside, we headed out for a tour of the Kitchen Garden, which is managed according to organic principles. The Kitchen Garden offers over 120 varieties of apples, 40 types of pears, 60 kinds of tomatoes plus many more fruits and vegetables. It also has an Orchard House where peaches and figs are grown in pots, in the same way that they were in Victorian times. The kitchen garden also has pumpkins and squashes still to be harvested as well as herbs and leafy vegetables such as spinach and cabbage.

Videos of our tour of the Kitchen Garden coming next time.

 

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT – LADIES OF LETTERS?

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Two British widows who met at a wedding trade letters in which they attempt to one-up each other with stories and events from their lives. Based on the iconic BBC radio show, this 10-part series stars Maureen Lipman (The Pianist) and Anne Reid (Last Tango In Halifax).

The wedding of Irene’s daughter Leslie was a great success, but Irene later learns that guest Vera is not a relative at all-just helping with the catering-but she’s very nicely written to say thank you, so Irene replies to Vera, thanking her for her thank you letter.

Vera and Irene reveal their exploits and adventures to each other in their letters and e-mails, but sometimes their correspondence becomes fractious when one accuses the other of being an alcoholic or engages in too much one-upmanship. Nevertheless, when the chips are down and the going gets tough, each is instantly there for the other, like a charge of the cavalry but with a more sarcastic bugle call.

As stated above, the series was originally a BBC Radio 4 comedy starring Patricia Routledge and Prunella Scales and there’s very much a “Mapp and Lucia” quality to Vera and Irene’s relationship – with humour, pathos and a soupcon of malice occasionally thrown in for good measure. The series is lots of fun and available on Acorn TV.

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – TOURING LEEDS CASTLE

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Following upon my last post, the video of our walk up to Leeds Castle and the welcome our travel trade group from Visit Britain received, this post contains photos representing just a bit of what we saw at the Castle.

After being served Pimm’s Cups in the library upon our arrival, our group proceeded into the dining room for lunch.

After a fabulous lunch, we were given a tour of the Castle’s bedrooms, all of which are available as guestrooms. Each room is unique and each and every room would lift the heart of even the most finicky guest. To be fair, I’ve heard comments denigrating the Castle over the years, with some people insisting that the Castle is “fake,” a modern day re-invention of what a Castle should be. That’s unfair, in my opinion, as history proves that any alterations or remodeling by subsequent owners was undertaken to save or restore the Castle. Parts of the present structure hark back to when the property was a Royal Castle, others to its time as a Tudor Palace and still others to its incarnation as a Georgian Mansion, when King George III and Queen Charlotte visited.

After the 7th Lord Fairfax’s death in 1793, the Castle was passed onto various distant relatives until in 1821 Fiennes Wykeham Martin inherited and commissioned architect William Baskett to survey the castle, much of which had fallen into disrepair, parts of which could not be salvaged. A new house, in the Tudor style, was erected and finished by 1823.

By the time Lady Baillie took up ownership of the Castle in the 1920’s, more work was required in order to transform Leeds Castle into a stately home. Working with the top architects and interior designers of the day, Lady Baillie oversaw the creation of the Castle as we see it today and I, for one, applaud her efforts. The overall effect is seamless and, after all, Leeds Castle is known as “the loveliest Castle in the world.”

Just an hour from London, a day trip to Leeds Castle is an easy outing and in addition to the Castle itself, there are over 500 acres of formal gardens and parkland to explore. You can download a map of the estate here.

When you visit, do leave yourself time to tour the Castle’s Dog Collar Museum. In 1977 Mrs Gertrude Hunt presented the collection of dog collars to the Leeds Castle Foundation in memory of her husband, the historian John Hunt. Mr and Mrs Hunt were both avid collectors and amassed a large collection of art and antiquities, but the dog collars were Mrs Hunt’s particular passion.

There are over 130 rare and valuable collars including 30 collars, which were discovered in storage and have never been on public display before are now on show.

The earliest in the collection, dates back to the late 15th century and is a Spanish iron herd mastiff’s collar, which would have been worn for protection against wolves and bears roaming Europe at the time.

Other collars range from sixteenth-century German iron collars with fearsome spikes and ornate gilt collars of the Baroque period, through to finely-chased nineteenth century silver collars and twentieth century examples fashioned from tyres, beads and plastic.

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – THE MARCHIONESS OF WORCESTER

Originally published May, 2014

The first quadrille was danced at Almack’s –  pictured are the Marquis of Worcester, Lady Jersey, Claronald Macdonald and Lady Worcester.


The Duke of Wellington’s ties to the Marquis and Lady Worcester were fastened on both sides – Lord Worcester had served as an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, while the Marchioness of Worcester, Georgina Frederica, was the daughter of the Hon. Henry Fitzroy and the Duke’s sister, Lady Anne, and therefore Wellington’s niece. Prior to their marriage, Lady Shelly wrote in her diary, “Georgiana Fitzroy’s marriage was announced. It was to take place on the following Monday, when the Duke was to give her away. I hope that it will turn out well, but I have my doubts! Lord Worcester is only twenty-one, and very wild.”

The marriage proved happy enough but, at the age of 28, Georgina became gravely ill. The following account is from The Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope – ” . . . Lady Worcester was not expected to live thro’ last night. She was at the Birthday and at the ball, danced a great deal, felt unwell, and was fool enough to take a shower bath before she went to bed. She was seized with inflammation in her bowels and in great danger immediately. Lady Worcester’s sufferings were most extreme, her complaint a twisting of the guts. She died sensible but screaming. On one side of the bed sat Lady E. Vernon, on the other, Lady Jersey, also screaming with grief. The Duke of Wellington had to drag them by force out of the room. There were eighty people standing round when she died.”

Apsley House


Mrs. Arbuthnot’s Journal gives us another view of the events leading up to Lady Worcester’s death:
“Lady Worcester died after a week’s illness of inflammation brought on by going into a cold bath after dancing at the ball at Carlton House. She was only 28, one of the handsomest women in England, had made the most brilliant marriage and was flattered, followed and admired by all the world. It is sad to contrast all this brilliancy with the cold and dreary grave that will so soon close over her; and yet she will then have more tranquility, for her prospects were not happy ones. Lord Worcester, overwhelmed with debts, had lately had executions in his house and, if the Duke of Wellington had not given her rooms in his house, she would not have had a hole to put her head into. . . . .

The New Monthly Magazine ran the following report about her death on May 11, 1821 — At Apsley House, the Marchioness of Worcester, of an internal inflammation. Her Ladyship was Georgiana Frederica Fitzroy, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Henry Fitzroy, son of Charles, first Lord Southampton, brother of the Duke of Grafton, by Lady Anne Wellesley, sister of the Duke of Wellington and Marquis Wellesley; and was married to the Marquis of Worcester on the 25th of July, 1814. Her Ladyship was one of the most intimate and favourite friends of the late Princess Charlotte.

And from the Greville Diary – May 12th.—I have suffered the severest pain I ever had in my life by the death of Lady Worcester.1 I loved her like a sister, and I have lost one of the few persons in the world who cared for me, and whose affection and friendship serve to make life valuable to me. She has been cut off in the prime of her life and in the bloom of her beauty, and so suddenly too. Seven days ago she was at a ball at Court, and she is now no more. She died like a heroine, full of cheerfulness and courage to the last. She has been snatched from life at a time when she was becoming every day more fit to live, for her mind, her temper, and her understanding were gradually and rapidly improving; she had faults, but her mind was not vicious, and her defects may be ascribed to her education and to the actual state of the society in which she lived. Her virtues were inherent in her character; every day developed them more and more, and they were such as to make the happiness of all who lived with her and to captivate the affection of all who really knew her. I have never lost anyone I loved before, and though I know the grief I now feel will soon subside (for so the laws of nature have ordained), long, long will it be before I forget her, or before my mind loses the lively impression of her virtues and of our mutual friendship.

“This is one of those melancholy events in life to which the mind cannot for a long time reconcile or accustom itself. I saw her so short a time ago ‘ glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy;’ the accents of her voice still so vibrate in my ear that I cannot believe I shall never see her again. What a subject for contemplation and for moralising! What reflections crowd into the mind!

“Dr. Hume told me once he had witnessed many death beds, but he had never seen anything like the fortitude and resignation displayed by her. She died in his arms, and without pain. As life ebbed away her countenance changed, and when at length she ceased to breathe, a beautiful and tranquil smile settled upon her face.”



Emily, Duchess of Beaufort

As stated above, Lady Worcester died on 11 May 1821, and on 29 June 1822, her husband Lord Worcester married Lady Anne’s other daughter, Emily Frances. This opens up a whole can of worms, as it was against the law for a widow or widower to marry a brother or sister-in-law. How did they get around this? It might have been due to the fact that Emily had been Lady Worcester’s half sister – their mother, Lady Anne’s husband, Henry Fitzroy died on the 19 March 1794, and on 2 August 1799 Lady Anne was remarried to Charles Culling Smith. Their daughter Emily Frances Smith was born on the 3 March 1800.

On 23 November, 1835 Emily became the Duchess of Beaufort.  She died on 2 October 1889 at age 89 and was buried at Badminton. Her mother, Lady Anne Smith, died in 1844.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – THE WALK TO LEEDS CASTLE

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Our next stop on Visit Britain’s Familiarization Trip for members of the travel trade was Leeds Castle, which bills itself as “the loveliest Castle in the world.” There’s no denying that it answers every little girl’s requirements for a fairy tale castle, although on the day we visited Prince Charming was not in evidence. Lunch was, however, as well as a tray of very welcome Pimm’s Cups and as warm a welcome as one could wish for at a fortified castle.

Do click on this link to watch a video of our walk up to the Castle and our arrival within. There’s a bit where the video goes all green – I had to put the camera down in order to remove my coat, but do hang in there, it all gets going again before too long.

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – PENSHURST PLACE

By Kristine Hughes Patrone

The next stately home on our Familiarization Trip hosted by Visit Britain was Penshurst Place, a 14th century manor house owned by Lord and Lady De L’Isle. Penshurst Place has been owned by the Sidney family since 1552; after passing through the hands of two of Henry IV’s sons, followed by Henry VIII who used it as a hunting lodge. Given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII, it was then briefly in the hands of Sir Ralph Fane and was finally gifted by Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI, to his loyal steward and tutor, Sir William Sidney. The Sidney family have been in continuous occupation for more than 460 years since.

 

 

Once inside, visitors find themselves in the Baron’s Hall, used as a set in the film The Princess Bride. Described by the writer John Julius Norwich as ‘one of the grandest rooms in the world’, Baron’s Hall belongs to the original part of the house and was completed in 1341 and features a magnificent chestnut roof, arcaded windows, a 16th century Minstrel’s Gallery and unique octagonal hearth.

What we saw of the house was terribly medieval and thrilling, with the highlight of our visit being the tea and cakes, made by and served to us by Lady De L’Isle. I remember the open fire, which was welcome on a cold day, and the hot tea, equally welcome, but truthfully little else stays in my memory, as we saw three homes/castles/manors all in a single day. I suppose I could fudge things and pull photos and narratives off of the internet, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Or very honest.

We did have time for a quick tour through the grounds, some of which are Grade I listed. You’ll find an interactive map of the gardens on the Penshurst Place website.

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – THE DRIVE TO PENSHURST PLACE

By Kristine Hughes Patrone

Travel with me on the next leg of my journey on the Visit Britain Familiarization Trip – the ten minute drive from Hever Castle to Penshurst Place, above. The narration was provided by our Blue Badge guide, Amanda, who accompanied us throughout the trip.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO