A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: WHAT I SAW AT THE V&A

On a recent visit to London, I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum with my friend and travel companion, Denise Costello. In particular, we wanted to see “Tippoo’s Tiger,”  made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in South India (1782-1799) and later captured by Wellington’s army.

From the V&A:

The almost life-size wooden semi-automaton consists of a tiger mauling a prostrate figure in European clothes. An organ is concealed inside the tiger’s body, and when a handle at the side is turned, the organ can be played and the man’s arm simultaneously lifts up and down. Intermittent noises are supposed to imitate the wails of the dying man.

The tiger was discovered by the British in the palace at Tipu Sultan’s capital after the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799. The invading army stormed through a breach in the ramparts and, in the ensuing chaos, Tipu and a great many of his soldiers, generals and the citizens of the town were killed. The victorious troops then rampaged through the city, looting valuables from the palace and from private houses, until Colonel Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) gave an order for hanging and flogging which quickly restored order. The contents of the royal treasury were then valued and divided between the British army over the next weeks according to the conventional practice of the period. Some time later, the tiger was discovered in the music room of the palace and was shipped to London, where it arrived in 1800. It was sent to East India House, the headquarters of the East India Company which housed a library and new museum, and soon became one of the most popular exhibits. The Indian Museum, as it became known, moved several times before parts of the collection, including Tipu’s tiger, were transferred to the South Kensington Museum, later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Of course, once we’d seen the Tiger, Denise and I visited the other galleries and these are just a few of the items in the items I found of particular interest –

From the V&A:

The sedan chair was a popular form of non-wheeled transport in Europe until the 19th century. It was fitted with a seat for one person, and was carried by two or four chairmen (depending on the occupant’s weight), who lifted it using two long poles that slotted into brackets on the side of the chair, attached to leather straps that hung round the chairmen’s necks. Sedans were particularly useful for travelling through cities with narrow streets. This sedan chair was probably made in Piedmont / Savoy in Italy. Several similar chairs of about the same date survive in Italy, France and the UK, including one at Westminster Abbey which was bought in Rome in the early 19th century.

The exterior of the sedan chair is covered with black leather. There are three windows, one in the door and one on either side. Brass round-headed studs are arranged in decorative patterns around the windows and follow the outline of each side of the chair, at the same time forming a girdle round the chair about half way up . . . . The front window is made to drop downwards, into the body of the door on a strap punched with several holes that can be hooked onto a tack attached to the inside of the chair door just below the window.The window strap is stamped and gilded and may be an early 19th century replacement. The side windows slide back, and the glass in these two windows is protected by two thin metal horizontal wires (possibly 19th century). The door itself is designed to be completely removeable and can simply be lifted off its hinges.

At each side of the chair near the base are two iron brackets (known as pole lugs), back and front, to accommodate carrying poles (the poles are modern). The rear two of these may not be original. The roof, the shape of a shallow umbrella, has eight radiating struts, which are also decorated with brass studs arranged in rosettes. The four corners of the roof are upturned into a scroll formed of laminated leather, the back right-hand one of which is bent over. Immediately below them are carved wooden female masks, painted. Behind each corner scroll, on the roof, is a brass finial, triangular in section. The central finial is a replacement, of carved wood, made by the Museum in 1968. The whole roof is surrounded by large brass studs, and below is a carved wooden cornice, with gadrooning and scrollwork. On three of the four sides of the chair, just below the roof, is a small iron loop: originally large tassels would have hung from these, but they do not survive.

The interior is, except for the floor, lined with pale olive green (perhaps once saffron yellow) stamped woollen velvet on a linen warp, with a floral design with a very large repeat. The seat has 22 inch width, the standard width for a handloom. There are two small padded arm rests. These and the base of the padded seat, below the windows, and at the base of the roof are trimmed with pale olive-green fringing, of cord with floss tassels, and braiding 1.6 inches wide, in linen woven with a diamond pattern. Originally there would have been a valance hanging from the seat down to the floor, hiding the area under the seat which was often used for storage or for a heater. The stuffing of the seat is probably horsehair. Under the seat the walls appear to be relined at the back and sides.The velvet on the underside of the roof is held in place by nailed tapes and the pattern is not symmetrically placed. The wooden floor has a leather mat, nailed in position with brass-headed nails in a decorative pattern of symmetrical scrolls. This is much worn and the leather outer covering of the sedan chair is torn in places on the door.

Externally, the back of the chair curves inwards at the base to allow space for the rear carrier to walk. This shape is characteristic of sedan chairs made in Piedmont / Savoy. The carved decoration and shape of the roof is reminiscent of French carriages dating from the early 18th century. The style of the carving seems to be that of the 1720s, but is of a style that continued to be used for the decoration of sedan chairs for several decades.

From the V&A:

Elephant table clock, the case and movement signed by different craftsmen. The case proclaims it was ‘made by Caffieri’, while the movement is signed by Jerome Martinot (1671-1724), the enamelled dial has been signed on the back by Antoine-Nicola Martinière and a spring in the movement has the signature of ‘Magny’ (perhaps Alexis Magny). The number of signatures reflects how such clocks were assembled by ‘marchands merciers’ (or ‘luxury goods merchants’) in Paris who commissioned works of art which combined contrasting luxury materials including bronze, horn, porcelain and ormolu. Such elaborate clocks often included an organ in the base, although this does not survive for the V&A example. Other mid-eighteenth-century clocks incorporate elephants in ormolu (gilded bronze) or Meissen porcelain, or lions in Chinese porcelain. Only three clocks cast entirely in bronze like this one have survived, and it has been argued that the V&A clock is the earliest example. Although the surface chasing on the V&A’s example is not of the highest quality, this may be explained by the later regilding which covers the original chased surface. When it entered the Museum in 1882, the clock stood on a later ebony base with gilded bronze mounts and the dial, despite Martinière’s eighteenth-century signature, may well have been re-enamelled in the nineteenth century.

The drum of chased gilded bronze, scroll design, surmounted by the seated figure of a draped monkey holding up a parasol with his right hand and a horn in his left; the drum rests on the back of a bronze elephant standing on a base of gilded bronze rockwork. The quality of the chasing is very high; the central plant on the base has been cast as a separate feature. The slightly reddish patina of the elephant is characteristic of 18th century work. A rectangular ebony stand with gilded bronze mounts that accompanied the clock when it entered the collection is probably a later additon.

 

From the V&A:

After the death of the 1st Duke of Wellington in 1852, the government announced that a competition was to be held for the design for a monument to commemorate him. This was Alfred Stevens’s competitive sketch model, and was among those exhibited at Westminster Hall, London, in 1857. one of the most important sculptors in Britain in the 19th century, and executed a wide variety of work, including designs for silver and maiolica, firedogs and chimney-pieces, as well as sculpture. Although Stevens’s model came fifth in the competition, which was won by William Calder Marshall (1813-1894), it was actually judged more suitable to the monument’s setting, which was to be St Paul’s Cathedral, and he was therefore awarded the commission. The monument, which was not unveiled until 1912, 37 years after the artist’s death, was completed by his pupil Hugh Stannus (1840-1908). Stevens had made some changes to the design, and the finished monument therefore differs in some respects from this model, but the general composition remained. The model is made from plaster and wax, with metal armatures; in form it echoes Italian Renaissance monuments.

Imagine my surprise when I turned a corner to find this, my favourite painting, Landseer’s “The Old Shepard’s Chief Mourner.”

From the V&A website: Artist Edwwin Landseer’s choice of subject illustrates the Victorian obsession with the trappings of death, combined here with his speciality, the accurate and almost anthropomorphic representation of dogs and other animals. Its mixture of pathos and realism appealed to all sections of society, and the critic Ruskin praised the fine technique and the subtle choice of details. This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 and proved a great success, particularly as an engraving after this picture was published and sold widely in the following year.

Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873) was a child prodigy, exhibiting some drawings at the Royal Academy when he was only 13. From an early age he was a frequent visitor to the menagerie in Exeter Change in the Strand, London, where he drew lions, monkeys and other animals. Animals remained the main subjects of his art. Queen Victoria collected his paintings, as did John Sheepshanks. The two biggest collections of his work are in the Royal Collection and here in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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.

 

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.

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 – 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

 

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 3

Another Ploughman’s lunch for both Diane and myself at the Three Crowns, London.
Wanting a quiet night in, Diane and I shopped for meats and wine at Fortnum and Mason, ordered a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and bread for each of us from room service and added the cheese we each had left over from our lunch. 
Glace fruits from Fortnum and Mason for dessert, along with a glass of wine. 
Diane’s editors at Harlequin treated us to a spectacular afternoon tea at the Swan at the Globe, 
with stunning views over the River and St. Paul’s.
Drinks and nibbles at Trader Vic’s on our last night in England.
A glass of port while we packed.
And beef filet and string beans for dinner on my flight home. 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – HEVER CASTLE: PART ONE

As some of you will know, I was recently invited to attend Visit Britain’s travel Expo in Brighton, where tour operators and travel suppliers had the opportunity to meet and network while discussing travel products and sites. Representing Number One London Tours, I was able to discover a host of museums, behind the scenes tours, historic sites and stately homes that I will be including in future tours.

I was also invited to participate in a five day Familiarization Trip immediately following the two day Expo, which took us to Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. Our first stop was stunning Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and mother to Queen Elizabeth I. More recently, Hever Castle was owned by William Waldorf Astor, who spent a considerable sum on the Castle’s restoration.

Today, the Castle is open daily to visitors and features several guest rooms, although these are only available to those who rent the entire Castle for private use. Below, my bedroom for the night, which was both lovely and enormous.

After freshening up from our travels, our group reassembled for cocktails and we were given a private tour of the Castle beginning in the Inner Hall, below, which was the Great Kitchen in the Tudor period. The Italian walnut panelling and columns were designed in 1905 by the sculptor William Silver Frith as part of William Waldorf Astor’s restoration of Hever Castle. The gallery above the hall was inspired by the rood screen at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The ceiling is in the Elizabethan style and incorporates the Tudor rose emblem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The room above contained the domestic offices in the Tudor period and became the Drawing Room in 1905. It was designed and panelled by the architect Frank Loughborough Pearson for William Waldorf Astor. The oak panelling is inlaid with bog oak and holly and was inspired by the Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria.

The Long Gallery, above, was constructed in the sixteenth century and extends across the entire width of the Castle. It was used for entertaining guests, taking exercise, and displaying art collections. The panelling dates from the sixteenth century. The ceiling is an early twentieth-century reconstruction in the Tudor style created by Nathaniel Hitch.

Our tour concluded with our going in for dinner to the dining room, below. In the fifteenth century this room was the Great Hall and was originally open to the roof rafters. The linenfold panelling, the ceiling and the fireplace surmounted by the Boleyn coat of arms were designed by William Silver Frith. The sculptor Nathaniel Hitch carved the Minstrels’ Gallery in 1905.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part Two, the Hever Castle Gardens coming soon!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 2

Dinner at the Devonshire Arms, Baslow.
Lamb burger for Diane Gaston (Perkins), prime rib, chips and onion rings for me.
Fabulous Ploughman’s lunches above for both of us at
The Cavendish Restaurant, Chatsworth House.
Dinner at La Petite Maison in Brighton; duck for Diane and the pork special for me.
Tea, below, at the Hotel du Vin, Brighton.
Dinner at the Hotel du Vin, below
Beef for Diane
and a large pot of mussels, moules, for me. Sorry, Victoria!

TOUR SCOTLAND WITH AUTHOR SUE ELLEN WELFONDER

 Sue Ellen and Kristine at a working slate mine in the Lake District
My special guest today is USA Today bestselling author Sue Ellen Welfonder, who writes historical romances set in medieval Scotland under own name, as well as Scottish-set paranormal romances as Allie Mackay. On a personal level, Sue Ellen and I have been sister/friends for close to thirty years. Yup. Thirty.

Sue Ellen’s heart has always belonged to Scotland – she’s traveled there extensively and has an in-depth knowledge of it’s history. So who else would I have called upon to head up the Scottish Tours division of Number One London Tours? My initial phone call to Sue Ellen went something like this:

SEW: Hello?
KHP: Hey, Bozzy, it’s me.
SEW: Gorgeous!

(Note: I have called Sue Ellen “Bozzy,” after diarist James Boswell, since our first trip to England together. Like Boswell, Sue Ellen documents everything with copious diary entries. She calls me “Gorgeous” because she’s nuts).

KHP: Can you put together a Scottish itinerary for Number One London? Oh, and by the way, you are now Vice President in charge of the Scottish Division.
SEW:What? I am? What does that even mean?
KHP: It means you’ll be coming up with the itineraries for all of our Scotland tours. Oh, and you’ll be coming along on the Scottish tours as the tour guide.
SEW: I will?
KHP: You’ll have to, Bozzy. I don’t know anything about Scotland. Think of a theme for the tour and then build an itinerary around that. Easy peasy.

Naturally, Sue Ellen came up with a pip of a tour theme – Scottish Castles. The 10 day tour includes six castles, plus visits to Edinburgh, a Loch Lomond cruise and a Highland Safari. Full Tour details can be found here.

Of course, we couldn’t possibly plan a tour to Scotland without actually going over there. Just to be certain we’d gotten everything right, you understand. Our visit also included the Lake District, as above at Newby Bridge, Lake Windermere.

 And we did some mudlarking on the River while we were in London.
Eventually, we made our way to the George Hotel in Prince’s Street, Edinburgh, above. In addition to visiting sites we’ll be including on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour, I was able to revisit this sweet cottage in the Prince’s Gardens.

And then we set out for some of the sights included in the upcoming September tour to Scotland, including a cruise on Loch Lomond, below.


Scotland must be the land of rainbows because we saw them on Loch Lomond, above, and at Inveraray, below.

And then it was on to Inveraray Castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of the Clan Campbell, below.

The Castle is a magical place, easily walkable from the Loch Fyne Hotel and what an approach! 
The interiors, as you may imagine, are incredible, with hundreds of years of history oozing from every wall.

 

There’s much to see at the Castle, as the photos show, everything from medieval arms to Georgian furnishings and costume displays.

There’s also a Wellington connection – Henry Paget (Lord Uxbridge, later Marquess of Angelsey, who fought under Wellington at Waterloo) ran off with Wellington’s sister-in-law, Charlotte, wife of his brother Henry. The wife Paget left in order to do so was Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, daughter of the 4th Earl and Countess of Jersey.  By that time, they had eight children together. But it all ended well for Lady Caroline, as she went on to remarry – the Duke of Argyll.

Leaving Inveraray, Sue Ellen and I did a drive by of Loch Ness and the iconic Urquhart Castle, below. No, we didn’t see Nessy, more’s the pity.
From there it was on to Blair Atholl and our atmospheric hotel, the Atholl Arms, located just over the road from Blair Castle.
The Hotel is chock full of Scottish atmosphere, with an abundance of tartan, open fires and grand rooms. Truly the perfect place to stay in the Highlands.
Here’s Sue Ellen at the dinner table at the Atholl Arms, getting warm by the coal fire.
Next day, we visit the House of Bruar, known as “the Harrods of the North”, where fine cashmere and tweeds are on offer for both ladies and gentlemen, in addition to a wide array of leather, hats, food and accessories.
 
Yes – we’ve included it on the itinerary for our Scottish Castles Tour!
Also on the itinerary is a stop at Pitlochry, below, one of the most charming period towns to be found in the Highlands.
A true highlight of our time in the Highlands was our visit to Blair Castle. Again, we walked there from our hotel and the grounds are simply spectacular.
The Blair Estate is huge, with thousands of acres under their control, as well as a whole host of livestock – cattle, sheep, horses, deer and rivers full of salmon.
The absolute highlight of our visit to Blair – or anywhere in Scotland – was the Land Rover Highland Safari Sue Ellen and I were given by our guide, Izzy, one of the Rangers on the estate.
There’s truly something magical about being the only people out for miles around. Izzy took us through streams, up craggy hillsides and into glens where we easily spotted herds of deer.
Truly, our Safari was a once in a lifetime experience, a chance to get down and dirty in the Highlands.
As evidenced by Sue Ellen’s shoes, below.

 

Majestic sights met us round every bend and Sue Ellen and I were blessed to have experienced the adventure together. Yes, we’ve included the same adventure on the Scottish Castles Tour in September.
Our guide, Izzy, below. She will be one of the Rangers who will take our group on the same adventure in September.
Below, ghilly Stewart, who we ran into on our return journey. He and the pony had just taken a stag off the mountain as it was culling season. Sue Ellen and I are convinced that Izzy called Central Casting and ordered a true Scotsman to show up at the most picturesque spot.
Truly, it doesn’t get much more “Highlands” than this!

We hope you’ll consider joining us for a true Scottish adventure including town, castles and the Highlands on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour in September 2017. Full itinerary and details can be found here.