As part of the itinerary for the Georgian Tour this past April, our group spent a day at Bowood House, home to the Marquesses of Lansdowne since 1754. Actually, that’s a bit of a misnomer – the original Bowood House was demolished and the Grade I listed Orangery converted to a family home. Compare the photo above to those below:

Bowood House from Morris’s County Seats (1880), as found on Wikipedia

The Bowood estate was originally part of the forest of Chippenham and belonged to the Crown until the early 18th century, when construction of a house was begun on the ancient site of a hunting lodge. The first Earl of Shelburne purchased the unfinished property in 1754 and enlarged the house. His son, the 2nd Earl and first Marquess of Lansdowne, hired famed Scottish architect Robert Adam (who had designed Lansdowne House in London) to further enhance the house and build an adjacent orangery and a menagerie. Adam also built a mausoleum for the 1st Earl in the extensive parklands surrounding the house. In the 1770s, the two parts of the house at Bowood (the “Big House” and the “Little House”) were joined together by the construction of an enormous drawing room.

From Wikipedia: “In World War I, the 5th Marchioness set up an auxiliary Red Cross hospital in the Orangery. During World War II, the Big House was first occupied by a school, then by the Royal Air Force. Afterwards it was left empty, and by 1955 it was so dilapidated that the 8th Marquess demolished it, employing architect F. Sortain Samuels to convert the Little House into a more comfortable home. But before it was demolished, the Adam dining room was auctioned and bought by the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, which dismantled it and re-installed it as the Committee Room in its 1958 building. The room was subsequently moved in 1986 to the 11th floor of its current building, also on Lime Street in the City of London.”

The visitor’s approach to the House is through a portion of the Capability Brown designed landscape and once again, we had glorious weather –

The Italianate terrace gardens on the south front of the house were commissioned by the 3rd Marquess. The Upper Terrace, by Sir Robert Smirke, was completed in 1818, and the Lower, by George Kennedy, was added in 1851. Originally planted with hundreds of thousands of annuals in intricate designs, the parterres are now more simply planted.

Nearly 300 years worth of amazing artifacts and antiques from the family history are on display in the house, but of course, my favourite room was the library.

Above, the family Chapel, located in what was once the laboratory where Joseph Priestley discovered Oxygen in 1774.

Note the decorative door knob and keyhole covers above.

One of the most recognizable items on display at Bowood is Lord Byron’s Albanian costume. Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, daughter of Admiral Lord Keith, was a close confidant and correspondent of Princess Charlotte of Wales (daughter of the Prince Regent, later George IV). After the Princess died in 1817, Meg married the Comte de Flahault, who served as an Aide-de-camp to Napoleon. Meg, an heiress both from her father and her late mother, was well known in Regency-era society. Another good friend was the poet Lord Byron, who gifted Meg with the Albanian costume in which he was famously painted about 1813. Meg was also portrayed in the outfit, that engraving also being on display at Bowood. So how did the original costume come to be at Bowood? Emily de Flahault, daughter of the Comte and Meg, married the 4th Marquess of Lansdowne and was mother to the 5th Marquess.

Byron in Albanian Dress, by Thomas Phillips, c. 1813
Meg in Byron’s Albanian costume, photo by Victoria Hinshaw

Several more examples of historic costume are also on display.

Family items in the Bowood collection included jewelry, swords, china and more, but personally, I found this portrait miniature fascinating, as I’d never seen another like it before. I’ve since learned that this type of portrait miniature (above and below) was known as a transformation miniature and featured multiple mica discs that in effect allowed one to change the costume worn by the sitter. From The Royal Collection Trust website: “The mid-seventeenth century saw a vogue for an unusual type of miniature which could be dressed in a variety of different outfits by placing painted transparent overlays on top of the master image. Constructed from very thin slices of the mineral mica, these overlays included male and female outfits with appropriate accessories. When placed on top of the portrait, these semi-transparent discs transformed the costume and hairstyle of the sitter, creating a new composite picture, much like outfitting a modern paper doll. It seems likely that the purpose of such a set was to provide entertainment.”

Once again, a fabulous time was had by all at Bowood, but the day wasn’t over yet –


As part of Number One London’s Georgian Tour, our group made a day trip to Longleat, family seat of the Marquesses of Bath. The house was built by Sir John Thynne and was designed mainly by Robert Smythson, after Longleat Priory was destroyed by fire in 1567. It took 12 years to complete and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain. Surrounded by 4,000 acres, the gardens were designed by Capability Brown. Today, Longleat is occupied by Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, a direct descendant of the builder; however, management of the estate and all business passed to his son Viscount Weymouth early in 2010. This article may go some way towards explaining why. And of course Emma, Viscountess Weymouth, wife of the current heir, is Britain’s first black  member of the aristocracy.

But we weren’t there for family matters, we wanted to see the house. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside, so here are a few photos I swiped off the internet –

c Tripadvisor
c Longleat
c kidsandcompass.com

So, by the time we were through seeing the house, the skies looked like this –

Kind of half cloudy, half sunny. We’d been told there was a quaint country pub that did good food just about a mile away, at the end of one of the drives leading from Longleat, and we’d planned to walk there through the park.

“What do you think?” I asked the others.

“It’s definitely going to rain,” answered Andrea.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because I’m a charter boat captain,” she said, scanning the skies. “Gonna rain. Not that I mind, my jacket has a hood.”

In the end, the consensus was to risk it, and we started off. All was well until this happened –

Louisa and I were bringing up the rear and were also the only two without a hood or a hat. Well, I was wearing this cap, but it did no good.

“Why don’t you take that cap off? The rain is pouring down off the bill in a sheet. It looks like you’ve got a hose attached to your head,” Louisa said at last.

“I was ignoring it. And hoping you would, too.”

“Pretty hard to ignore,” Louisa said.

At last, the Bath Arms hove into view.

Louisa and I shouldered through the door together and found the others already ensconced at a fireside table. They looked at us askance. And well they should. We were both dripping water onto the floor.

“Told you it was going to rain,” said Andrea, as she perused the menu.

After pots of hot tea, generous portions of wine and a hot meal, the sun returned and we went outside to take in the scenery in Horningsham, the tiny village surrounding the pub.

I’m glad to be able to report that sun continued to shine from then on and that a good, if damp, time was had by all.


Our Georgian Tour this year was a bit of a departure, as it was the first tour on which I opted for a period property as our lodging, rather than a hotel. Though I knew that the townhouse in Great Pulteney Street was well appointed, I was anxious to see how it would be received by my guests. As it happened, it turned out to be the perfect blend of period detail and modern luxury.

Bath is extremely walk-able and this was the route we strolled each day – past Laura Place and over the historic Pulteney Bridge with its period shops and into the centre of the City.

Our first stop was at the Roman Baths Museum –

Afterwards, we visited the Abbey and Abbey Square.

Walking up Milsom Street, we headed for the Fashion Museum, where I was captivated by Princess Margaret’s truly tiny dresses.

Another short stroll brought us to the Royal Crescent and the No. 1 Royal Crescent Museum for some hands-on research regarding 19th century life.

Afterwards, we walked the back lanes . . . .

And arrived at the Jane Austen Centre for a tour.

By this time, we’d worked up an appetite, so we back tracked to the Pump Room for a proper Afternoon Tea.

Later that evening, we relaxed in our drawing room –

and indulged in some wine and cheese –

while I modeled the mask I’d purchased earlier in the day.


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This time over to England, I was determined to visit Hatfield House, as it has many connections to the Duke of Wellington via the Cecil family, second cousins to the Duke on his mother’s side, via Emily (nee Mary Amelia), Lady Salisbury, the first Marchioness.

Emily, 1st Marchioness of Salisbury by Joshua Reynolds

The Duke and Emily were more than cousins, they were good friends. Wellington went often to Hatfield House to dine, to stay, to see the children and to take part in the annual Hatfield Hunt. In fact, it was the light blue Hatfield Hunt coat, gifted to him by Emily herself, that Wellington took to wearing on his various campaigns.

Emily was a fine horsewoman in her own right, the only female regularly welcomed to join hunts at Hatfield and beyond, due in equal part to her riding skills as to her no-nonsense attitude. She rode daily, right up until the day she died. The Duke’s great good friends, Charles and Harriet Arbuthnot, were also frequent guests at Hatfield. In January, 1827, Mrs. Arbuthnot wrote, “We had a large & very pleasant party at Hatfield. Old Lady Salisbury, who is the most wonderful woman that ever was, 78 years old, but riding out on horse back & having apparently none of the infirmaries of age; she tumbled down the stairs the other day, cut herself in various places, but particularly on her leg, which swelled as big as two but to which she wd only apply a lotion used for horses, & went about as if nothing had happened.” Still later, Lady Salisbury’s eyesight began to fail and a groom would accompany her on her daily rides and, it is said, would warn her when approaching a fence by shouting, “Jump, dammit, My Lady, jump!”

In 1834, Harriet Arbuthnot died suddenly of cholera at a farmhouse near the Arbuthnots’ seat, Woodford House, in Northamptonshire. Immediately after her death, her husband, Charles, sent an express message to the Duke at Apsley House. The messenger, however, had to divert to Hatfield House where Wellington was dining with the Dowager Emily and the 2nd Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury. The following year, Emily died tragically at the age of eighty-five in a fire at Hatfield House. It was thought that feathers in her hat caught alight when she was at her writing-desk and caused the blaze. Her loyal servants frantically attempted to open the door to her room when the fire became evident, but to no avail. The fire destroyed the west wing of the house and only a few bones were found in the rubble.

Emily’s death did nothing to deter the Duke from visiting Hatfield; he remained close to the 2nd Marquess and both of his wives, becoming godfather to several of their children. In addition, Wellington championed the 2nd Marquess’s sister, Emily, Lady Westmeath, during her contentious and much publicized divorce.

So, you see why I wanted to visit Hatfield House. Upon mentioning this to Jacqueline Reiter, she offered to accompany me and Sandra Mettler to Hatfield and to bring her family along. Joy! It turns out that Jacqueline had visited Hatfield House several years ago and informed me that there was a “Wellington Cabinet” in the House, filled with family momentos connected to the Duke. More joy!

On the day, Sandra and I took the train out to Hatfield House from London and met Jacqueline, her husband Miklos and their children, Felix and Julia, at the front gates.

Walking up the drive, we were brought up short by the sight of this contemporary sculpture by Henry Moore in front of the house. Inside, we entered into the Marble Hall.

The embroidered banners hanging from the Gallery feature bees and imperial eagles, symbols of Napoleon. They have recently been copied from originals which were made just before the Battle of Waterloo and meant for Napoleon’s various Departments. After Waterloo, they were instead given to the 2nd Marquess by the Duke of Wellington.

The ceiling’s woodwork and plasterwork are original but colour was added by the 3rd Marquess in 1878, when Jacobean reliefs of the Caesars were replaced with panels featuring classical themes painted by the Italian artist, Giulio Taldini.

The Grand Staircase

The ceiling was decorated for Queen Victoria’s visit to Hatfield in 1846 and has recently been restored so that visitors will be now able to see it in all its glory. At the top, a carving on a newel post shows the figure of a gardener holding a rake. This is said to be John Tradescant, who was sent abroad by Robert Cecil to collect rare and exotic plants for his new garden at Hatfield.


The ceiling of the Long Gallery, originally white, was covered with gold leaf by the 2nd Marquess who had been impressed by a gold ceiling he had seen in Venice.

Nearly at the end of our route through the house, we finally came upon the cabinet containing items related to the Duke of Wellington. I’ve been to several other houses that have Wellington items passed down through the family, including Levens Hall in the Lake District, home to Wellington’s niece, Mary Wellesley, who married Sir Charles Bagot. Impressive. In fact, Levens Hall has a dedicated Wellington Trail, directing visitors to all the items associated with the Duke throughout the house. I’ve seen large Wellington collections and I’ve seen small Wellington collections, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a collection more charming than that at Hatfield House. One can assume that the Cecil family would have some “wow factor” Wellington items, as evidenced by the Napoleonic flags in the Marble Hall, but what they chose to save and display in this cabinet are items of a far more personal nature.

At the end of our house tour, we stopped for a lunch break and my spirits soared upon seeing this –

and they were dashed when we learned that it was a dog grooming salon.

After lunch, we took Felix and Julia to the farm yard, which they seemed to enjoy. In truth, no one enjoyed it more than me. Baby animals!

Bidding a reluctant goodbye to the Reiters, Sandra and I headed to the rail station, where we discovered that we had enough time for a pint before the next train. The perfect ending to a perfect day.


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In my last post, I left off at the point where Sandra Mettler and I stopped by my old stomping ground, the Duke of Wellington pub off Sloane Square. We were supposed to meet Ian Fletcher there the following evening and you can imagine my shock when Sandra and I found the pub deserted – the place was empty, locked up tight and even the signboard, above, was gone.

What the Hell? I thought. “What the Hell?” I asked Sandra. As soon as we got back to the hotel, I got on to the pub website and found that the old Duke of Boots was undergoing a renovation. And that it would be re-opening . . . . tomorrow night. Really, what were the odds?

Everything was falling nicely into place and, as it turned out, the entire next day turned out to be filled with all things Wellington. First, Sandra and I stopped in at Horse Guards



Wellington’s entrance at Horse Guards

We timed our visit perfectly and so were on hand to watch the changing of the Guards in the entrance gates and to also see the Guards muster for the 11 o’clock inspection.

Exhausted by all the military hoopla, Sandra and I crossed over the road to The Clarence for a refreshing pause at a sidewalk table.

Afterwards, we headed up to Trafalgar Square and on to see my antique dealer, who had quite a nice little something for my collection.


Shopping was followed by lunch at Boulestin, in St. James’s Street.

Around the corner, we found the Beau surrounded by construction barriers on our way to Fortnum and Mason and Hatchard’s.

Some time later, we hopped into a cab and headed to the Duke of Wellington pub to meet Ian Fletcher – fingers crossed.

And . . . . it had re-opened! The sign board had been re-hung, the furniture was back in place and the Duke of Boots, as usual, was packed.


It wasn’t long before Ian arrived – introductions were made, drinks were ordered and from that point on, the conversation was pretty much non-stop. A goodly amount of time passed before I realized we’d better go on to dinner, and I suggested that we cab it over to that other Wellington stalwart, the Grenadier Pub, once the officer’s mess for Wellington’s regiment and just a stone’s throw from Apsley House.



The Grenadier was also packed, but thankfully most of the punters here were content to stand outside and enjoy apres work cocktails, while we went inside and were seated for dinner immediately. Sandra quipped that I must feel right at home in these surroundings, and it was nice to have old friends around me, both in print and in person, but to be honest, the Grenadier does a much better cheese plate than I do at home.




I suppose it’s at this point that I should make the obligatory mention of the Grenadier pub ghost. Rumour has it that an officer, caught cheating at cards, was beaten to death outside the pub and that his ghost can be seen standing in the sentry box, above. And it is nothing but rumour. The ghosts never appear anywhere near the sentry box.


After dinner, Sandra, Ian and I took advantage of the balmy evening and strolled the streets of Belgravia. It had been a good day. I’d spent it with good friends and I’d found a really nice Artie-fact to add to my collection. As we parted from Ian, Sandra and I turned into Eaton Square and headed home.

“Mista Hudson!” I called quietly.  “Are you there, Mista Hudson?”

“Aye, I’m here, Mrs. Bridges, but that scamp Sarah is no where to be found. Go and ask our Rose if she’s seen her,” replied Sandra.

A grand day was had by all.