Just before the 2017 Country House Tour began, Kristine Hughes Patrone, Sandra Mettler, Delle Jacobs and I met up at our hotel and made a visit to Lyme Park, which became an icon for lovers of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice when it was used for the exterior shots of Pemberley in the BBC-Colin Firth-Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice produced in 1995.
Below, the film inspired souvenirs in the gift shop — mugs, tea towels, chocolates, and the DVD among other treasures.
The view as we entered did not look like the one above which overlooks the lawns and park. Where were the columns, I wondered?
The north facade looks somewhat like the Elizabethan house it once was, with Georgian additions such as sash windows, etc.
This photo, from Wikipedia, gives a better view of the north facade, which is described in the guidebook as “the exuberant Elizabethan frontispiece executed for Sir Piers Legh VII in about 1570…” There have been about thirteen or fourteen Sir Piers or Sir Peter Leghs in the family’s five-century ownership of the property.
The Courtyard was completed in the early 17th century by Sir Peter IX to the designs of Giacomo Leoni in the Palladian style. On the courtyard sign, we found our instructions.
So we popped into the ticket office and showed our Royal Oak passes before proceeding into the house. Of course we knew that the Pride and Prejudice 1995 interiors were shot at Sudbury Hall, and thus the Lyme Park rooms were entirely new to us. Only exterior shots of Lyme Park were used in that version.
In the Entrance Hall, Leoni remodeled the original Great Hall but retained evidence of the house’s antiquity.
In addition, Mortlake tapestries from the Hero and Leander series, C. 1625, adorn the walls; the room was used as a ballroom from time to time.
The Library, in the two photos below, is one of those places we want to spend a few days perusing the many shelves of books.
Oh to be let loose on those shelves!
The Dining room was added in 1814 by Thomas Legh in an addition designed by architect Lewis Wyatt on the east front.
The table setting is Edwardian, c. 1908.
The Yellow Bedroom was furnished in the early 18th century, with the elegant bed contrasting with the colorful Flemish tapestries on three walls.
In the adjacent dressing room, we found an exquisite grey silk Regency-era pelisse.
The Saloon sits behind the memorable portico on the South Facade. As the principal receiving room, it is paneled in oak and boasts a fine walnut harpsichord by John Hitchcock of London, from the mid 1760’s.
The Grand Staircase was designed by Leoni in the early 18th century. At the top is a portrait of Thomas Legh (1792-1857) an avid traveler in his Nubian (Egyptian) dress, painted c. 1820 by William Bradley.
The typically Elizabethan-era Long Gallery, above, on the first floor, was designed for exercise on inclement days and as an all purpose room for family activities, such as amateur theatricals, as well as being a picture gallery.
In the second decade of the 19th century, architect Lewis Wyatt designed the Orangery and its colorful terrace.
The Dutch garden should be viewed from above, for which it is magnificently designed.
And from the Dutch Garden, you can clearly see that famous Pemberley facade from the film.
Lyme Park was full of surprises. We expected it to be a classic Palladian house, precisely the modern structure Jane Austen described as Pemberley. Instead, we found everything from remnants of its origin as a medieval hunting lodge through myriad design styles to the eclectic combination of today. Yet it all seems of a piece, fittingly so.
Would you like to visit some of England’s finest stately homes? Number One London has another Country House Tour set for May 2019 – complete details here.
The story of Wentworth Woodhouse (WW) is intensely interesting — and convoluted. Since I am a great devotee of all things British, and especially the great country houses and the people who lived in them, I was particularly excited to visit the estate with Number One London Tours 2017 Country House Tour.
WW has been open to the public for only a few years. I was eager to see it, reputedly the largest private house in Europe, if perhaps one of the strangest.
The land has been in the hands of the family since the 13th century. The present structure was begun in the 1720’s by Thoms Watson Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham (1693-1750), on the site of a previous house. The baroque style, in red brick, did not find favor with the Marquess and his friends among the Whig aristocracy.
Almost as soon as it was completed, Rockingham built another house, facing West, this time in the Palladian style favored by his social set and political allies. The two back-to-back wings are joined together in an area perhaps saved from an earlier 17th century house. The estate and political influence both went to his son, Charles Watson Wentworth (1730-1782), 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, eventually Prime Minister and holder of numerous public offices.
The 2nd Marquess and his wife had no sons; therefore in 1782, the estate passed to his nephew, William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, and the marquess’s title, Rockingham, became extinct.
If most of these names have a familiar ring, don’t be surprised. Refer instead to Janine Barchas’ book Matters of Fact in Jane Austen.
I can’t resist posting the following picture which shows Dr. Barchas and me at a Chicago JASNA event.
Dr. Barchas traces the origin of many of the family names used by Jane Austen in her novels. Among relatives of the Fitzwilliams were the D’arcys, as used in Pride and Prejudice. Woodhouse is the family name of Emma. Wentworth is Captain Frederick’s family name in Persuasion. The Watsons is one of Austen’s two unfinished novels. Austen’s contemporary readers would have instantly recognized the names of these leading British families, though 200 years later, they come as a revelation. For the source of many other names used by Jane Austen, check the book by Dr Barchas.
The Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust was established to preserve and restore the estate, after many years of problems and neglect. Restoration will be a huge and expensive job, probably aided by the frequent use of the property for film and television dramas. We saw it in Mr. Turner, the 2014 film about J. M. W. Turner, the celebrated and eccentric artist, where the Marble Hall was staged as the annual exhibition of the Royal of Arts — note that floor.
The film Darkest Hour has been highly praised. WW stands in for Buckingham Palace where Churchill meets with His Majesty George VI.
Many scenes in the television series Victoria were filmed at WW, including the review of the regiment on the front lawn.
An ariel view of the adjacent houses shows how they are joined, and in that area where they meet are remnants of the earlier 17th-century structure. It is estimated that there are five miles of corridors inside.
Very little is left of the 1630 house but this garden gateway. Inigo Jones was probably the architect of this Wellgate. Below, compare it to the garden gate at Chiswick.
The previous house built in 1608, of which only traces remain, was otherwise incorporated into one (or both?) of the present houses.
Improvements were well underway when we visited in the autumn of 2017. Simply fixing the roof–said to be nearly four acres in size–will take up most of the initial grant from the government of 6.6 million pounds.
The Fitzwilliam family was one of the richest and most powerful in Britain in the 19th century. Coal mined on the estate supported them in near-regal style and employed thousands in nearby villages and as tenants on the land.
The 2014 nonfiction book Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey reads like a novel as it relates the dramatic ups and downs of the estate and its residents. Highly recommended.
If you will permit another aside, the story of the last 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, has interesting features.
His romance with Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy was frowned upon by the very Catholic Kennedy family, especially by her parents, who were none too pleased when Kick converted to the Church of England.
Nevertheless, they married in May 1944. Only her older brother Joe attended the wartime wedding. Just four months later, Billy was killed in action in Belgium. Joe, eldest of the Kennedy brothers, died in August 1944. The widowed Kathleen later began a relationship with Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, who was married and the father of a daughter. Kick and Peter died together in a plane crash on their way to the Riviera in 1948.
She is buried near Chatsworth in the churchyard at Edensor, another of the ill-fated Kennedy children whose lives have been so tragic.
Upon the death of Billy, Andrew Cavendish, second son of the 10th Duke, became the Marquess of Huntington and eventually the 11th Duke of Devonshire. His Duchess, Deborah, nee Mitford, was particularly instrumental in making the family estate of Chatsworth in Derbyshire, into one of Britain’s premier stately homes. Deborah, or Debo as she was familiarly known, was the author of many books, died in 2014 at age 94.
The complex story of Wentworth Woodhouse is far from over. At the death of Peter Fitzwilliam, the estate was undergoing extensive strip coal mining, sometimes right up to the door, which weakened the house foundations as well as ruining the gardens. Postwar austerity and crippling death duties required putting the house on the market, and who, pray tell, might want to own such a white elephant? Most of the furnishings were auctioned and eventually the property was leased to Lady Mabel College for the training of female physical education students.
After several decades of changing ownership and sporadic attempts to halt deterioration, in 2017 the WW Preservation Trust acquired the property and a grant for the renovation of the house. They have a daunting task at hand. When we visited, only a few rooms had furniture, and evidence of sinking accompanied general decline.
This forest of pillars on the ground floor supports the Marble Saloon above.
Most of the rooms are without furnishings or temporarily provided with furniture for meetings, parties, and conferences, by which the Trust hopes to help fund restorations.
But the remaining features of the house are stunning, as in the details of this fireplace surround.
The Van Dyck Room boasts a magnificent chandelier.
The Whistlejacket Room continues the white and gilt decor; it is named for the painting above (though it is a copy) by George Stubbs , c. 1762, of a famous racing stallion owned by the family, Whistlejacket, winner of many races. The original Stubbs work was acquired by the National Gallery in London, where the original now hangs, for £11 million in 1997.
Upstairs, most of the attractive decor came to an abrupt halt. One room was preserved as it would have been for a student at Lady Mabel College in the 1950’s, but I am sorry to say I missed taking a shot there. Most of the upper floor was in need of considerable restoration.
After touring the chapel, we went outside to see where and how the two houses were combined with remnants of the original house built a century earlier.
By this time, I believe our tour participants were gob-smacked by the size and condition of the estate. But even more was ahead.
The gateway, reputedly by architect Inigo Jones, remains from the old house.
The Gardens are in need of considerable restoration also, but the land itself is interesting and worth seeing. Some garden decorations remain.
At last we were far enough away to achieve a perspective on the lovely West facade, the baroque house.
If you have managed to stay with us for this long, I will reward you with the other side of the Inigo Jones Gate:
Would you like a first-hand view of some of England’s most beloved stately homes? We’d love to have you along on the 2019 Country House Tour –
What is the fate of the author of eight published Regency Romances? Of the author of numerous short stories, novellas and countless articles and blogposts centering on the Regency era and its people, places, and fashions? Of the avid member of the Jane Austen Society with speaking gigs at many AGMs and regional meetings?
Okay, I admit it. I wrote a contemporary short story, now appearing in From Florida With Love: Moonlight and Steamy Nights, available as an e-book on May 1. 2018, and soon thereafter, in a trade paperback version.
And a further admission — I really enjoyed it. And I might even do it again someday. But the research problems were still there, just not quite so complicated as learning about late 18th Century dancing or the ins and outs of Almack’s. For example, what do young women call their …ah, dates? Boyfriends? Besties? I asked around and got both laughter and shrugs. Nobody could give me a good answer that seemed casual but…promising. So I punted — made the heroine’s best friend a Brit so I could call the guy in question a bloke! Seemed to hit the right tone.
Three images that might interest you in my story,”Playing for Good.” Above, a cello.
An Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.
The story begins with a car breaking down on Alligator Alley. It concludes barefoot on the beach. Please order a copy!! Includes more fun stories centered on Florida.
On Number One London’s 2017 Country House Tour, our group had a few adventures in addition to seeing spectacular houses and gardens. For most of our tour, we stayed at the Old Hall Hotel in the charming spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, once well known for its warm mineral waters.
The healing qualities of the waters have been known since the Romans ruled. Mary, Queen of Scots, came here several times while she was being held prisoner by the Earl of Shrewsbury in the late 16th century. A plaque on the hotel commemorates her visit, as does information etched into windows.
Below, the streets of Buxton, and a former stables later turned into a hospital and which is now a part of the University.
The Crescent, built in 1779 by the Fifth Duke of Devonshire, is being restored as a five-star, 80-room hotel and spa, right around the corner from our Old Hall Hotel.
We covered a lot of the Derbyshire countryside and drove through the Peak District National Park. We stopped at Castleton for a spot of tea, and a bit of jewelry shopping; the renowned semi-precious Blue John gemstones can be found here.
To close our series of adventures, I will tell you about an ancient bridge still in daily use despite its inconveniences. The Swarkstone Bridge and Causeway is almost a mile long, crossing the River Trent and adjacent marches.
This Grade 1 listed structure, an official Ancient Monument, is a bit narrow for today’s traffic, so vehicles sometimes have to take turns driving over some stretches. It gives a good idea of how bridges were once built for traffic consisting of walkers, horses, donkeys, oxen, and assorted wheeled vehicles long before the internal combustion engine. I hope they never replace it!
I have ever so much more to write about this great trip with Number One London Tours – Find details regarding Number One London’s 2019 Country House Tour here.
What is more magnificent than Chatsworth House? How about a fashion exhibition of clothing shown in the very rooms in which they were worn?
The exhibition House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth was on show and we felt really fortunate to see all these wonderful garments long stored away, in most cases.
Many other treasures are permanently on display at Chatsworth, not to mention the art, gardens, restaurants and shops which delighted us.
The Cavendish family and Dukes of Devonshire descended from the marvelous Elizabethan lady known as Bess of Hardwick. At age 70, after surviving four husbands (Cavendish was #2), and assisting her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbery, in holding Mary Queen of Scots under house arrest for many years, Bess built herself one of the finest “prodigy” houses of the age.
Architect Robert Smythson designed Hardwick, one of England’s earliest structures in the Renaissance style. Bess chose the sight on a high hill next to the Old Hall, which is partially in ruins today.
Huge windows bring light into the rooms, astonishing her contemporaries. Despite her age of 70 years, Bess lived here for about ten years, dying in 1608. The property was left to her son William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire. Among the treasures in the house are fine portraits and excellent tapestries, shown under reduced illumination for their protection.
We made a quick stop at the ruins of Sutton Scarsdale, a fine Georgian mansion now roofless and in ruins, in order to appreciate the state in which some houses are in when they are handed over to the National Trust, English Heritage or a civic or government body. Built in 1727, the house contents were auctioned in 1919.
The estate is owned by English Heritage, which is in the process of conserving some of the remaining plasterwork and other features. It is a sad reminder that houses such as these may be lost forever unless they are funded and maintained by governments or heritage organizations.
Though the whereabouts of most of the contents are are unknown, at least one room has been recreated and adapted at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, probably a reception room from the ground floor.
Our final day with Number One London Tours in 2017 was spent at Tatton Hall, another Georgian house, this time carefully cared for. I neglected to get around to the front for a photo, but here is an excellent replacement.
We ended our visit with tea at the Gardener’s Cottage, sad that our visit was almost at an end, but already looking forward to our next Number One London Tour.