A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – APPULDURCOMBE HOUSE

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.

 

 

SAILING TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT

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.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – Arundel Castle

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.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – BEAULIEU

 

When Vicky and I visited Beaulieu in September, we were of course aware that the grounds also housed the National Motor Museum, but we were unprepared for the crowds of people who had turned out for a special, televised event that particular day.

Never having planned on visiting the Motor Museum anyway, Vicky and I hurried through the crowds and headed for the gardens and the Abbey.

And we very quickly found ourselves quite alone in the grounds and able to explore at our leisure.

Beaulieu Abbey was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1203–1204 by King John and populated by 30 monks sent from the abbey of Cîteaux in France, the mother house of the Cistercian order.

As Wikipedia tells us:

In 1535 the abbey’s income was assessed in the Valor EcclesiasticusHenry VIII‘s general survey of church finances prior to the plunder, at £428 gross, £326 net. According to the terms of the first Suppression Act, Henry’s initial move in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, this meant that it escaped immediate confiscation, though the clouds were gathering.

Though Beaulieu managed to survive until April 1538, at that point it was finally forced to surrender to the government. Many of the monks were granted pensions, the abbot receiving 100 marks per year. Abbot Thomas ended his days as treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral. He died in 1550.

At the dissolution of the monastery in 1538, the Commissioners for the Dissolution reported to the government that thirty-two sanctuary-men, who were here for debt, felony, or murder, were living in houses in the monastic precincts with their wives and families. When the abbey was dissolved there was some debate about what to do with them, however, in the end it was decided, after pleading by the former abbot and certain government officials, to allow the debtors to live in their houses on the abbey grounds permanently.

Following the Dissolution, the monk’s refectory was converted to the current church.

The Abbey and its grounds are said to be haunted by the monks. The video below is a portion of a special called The Stately Ghosts of England, with actress Margaret Rutherford, her husband, Stringer Davis and celebrity ghost hunter of that time, Tom Corbett. In it, you will see the grounds of the Abbey and visit Beaulieu house.

Victoria and I, too, visited Beaulieu House, adjacent to the Abbey and reached via a wooded walk.

Beaulieu Palace House, to give it its full title, is a 13th-century house, originally part of the Abbey. It was purchased by Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton in 1538, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and is still owned and occupied by the earl’s descendants, the Barons Montagu of Beaulieu.

Post box

Though a grand house, Beaulieu feels more like a family home, as evidenced by the post box in the hall and the children’s table, above, set up in the dining room.

Above and below, the coronation robes worn by family members at the coronations of George IV (top and bottom right) and those of George VI and Elizabeth II.

The memoires (1906-30) of Lord Montagu’s grandmother Pearl Pleydell-Bouverie have been published and tell the story of her childhood and her time as wife to the motoring pioneer John, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu.

Something was cooking in the kitchen – and it smelled good.

Leaving Beaulieu, we drove through the New Forest and saw many of the famed ponies, who definitely have the right of way. You can read about the breed here.

 

More adventures to follow . . . .

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

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

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – A Tale of Two Churches – Part Two

Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

After our morning in Ewelme, we headed off with Beth behind the wheel, on to our next adventure.

Which turned out to be The Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, more usually called Dorchester Abbey, a Church of England parish church in Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire.

 

 

Formerly a Norman abbey church, Dorchester Abbey was built on the site of a Saxon cathedral.

The church of Dorchester Abbey, as it stands today, was built entirely by the Augustinian Canons, although there are traces on the north side of Saxon masonry, probably part of the ancient cathedral.

Between 1998 and 2006 the Dorchester Abbey Campaign Committee raised £4,000,000, allowing the Church Council and the Dorchester Abbey Preservation Trust to undertake significant works in the abbey. These include the Cloister Gallery managed by the Dorchester Museum Committee and restoration of medieval and Victorian wall paintings. Dorchester Abbey Museum was longlisted for the Gulbenkian Prize in 2006.

Afterwards, we strolled the surrounding historic village of Dorchester-on-Thames.

Eventually, we found ourselves at The George, where we sat and enjoyed lattes in the sunshine. The George has a galleried yard dating back to 1495 and it used to serve coaches on the Gloucester-Oxford-London route. The George was used as a filming location for ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot in the episode Taken at the Flood in 2006.

Visit The George and you’ll truly feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

Several episodes of Midsomer Murders were also filmed in Dorchester, and the photos below will demonstrate why – the bypass road has been diverted so that Dorchester sees little traffic and the village retains it’s historic flavour. It would be hard to find anything as lovely or as quintessentially “oldy worldly” English as Dorchester.

The toll house.

Outside the churchyard is The Toll House, an octagonal brick building erected in 1820. Tolls were collected until 1873, and the building now houses an architectural firm.