For 2021, Number One London is offering an up-close look at six of Britain’s finest stately homes, each one showcasing impressive state rooms, private family rooms and perfectly preserved “downstairs” domestic spaces, all presented within a leisurely itinerary. Once we check-in to our hotel in the historic spa town of Buxton, the rest of the tour will be taken as day trips, via luxury coach.
The itinerary includes visits to magnificent properties, some of which have been named as one of England’s 10 Treasure Houses – Castle Howard (above), Harewood House and Chatsworth House – while Shugborough Hall, Tatton Park and Lyme Park have been chosen for their unique history and architectural significance.
Click link in photo for complete Tour itinerary and links to each property!
The view above is a 1935 painting of Wilton House by Rex Whistler (1905-1944). Wilton House, near Salisbury in Wiltshire is renowned for its architecture, interiors, treasured artworks, and all the elegancies associated with the most distinguished of Britain’s stately homes. And, like some of the others, it is frequently the scene of major filming for cinema and television. The South Façade is the location of the State Apartments created by James Wyatt in the early 19th century, replacing the 17th century arrangement of rooms by Architect Inigo Jones (1573-1665) and his assistant Isaac de Caux and later altered by Webb.
Above, Wilton’s Double Cube Room plays Buckingham Palace in episodes of The Crown on Netflix. Below, it doubles for Pemberley in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.
Although there is dispute over how much of the south wing of Wilton House can be attributed to Inigo Jones (1573-1652), we know that the Double Cube Room and the Single Cube Room along with the other state rooms were finished by John Webb (1611-1672) in the mid-17th century. Various changes have been made over the years, but the earls and countesses have maintained most of the magnificence designed by Jones and Webb. Below, two views of The Single Cube Room, 30x30x30 feet in dimension, a perfect cube.
The Double- and Single-Cube Rooms were part of the State Rooms in which the monarch was to visit and mingle with Lord Pembroke, his family, friends, and retainers. The Single Cube Room, below, was the first of the State Rooms and led into the Double Cube. The furniture is by Chippendale, added in the 18th century. Above, the Single Cube Room, 30 x 30 x 30 feet.
The portrait over the fireplace is Henriette de Querouaille, Countess of Pembroke, wife of Philip, 7th Earl, and sister of Louise, mistress of Charles II and mother of the 1st Duke of Richmond. The portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680).
The Double Cube Room, below, is the size of two 30-foot cubes, a technique Inigo Jones used in several buildings. Much of the furniture in the two rooms is by William Kent or Thomas Chippendale.
The Double Cube Room, originally called The King’s Great Room, is sixty feet long by thirty feet wide and thirty feet high. The magnificence of the room defies description! The ceiling decoration is clearly in the baroque style.
The central ceiling panels show three views of the legend of Perseus painted by Emmanuel de Critz. The twelve-foot coving was decorated with swags, urns, and putti by Edward Pierce, a frequent collaborator with Architect Inigo Jones. They are dated c.1653
Below, the painting for which the room was designed, the magnificent family portrait, c. 1635, by Anthony Van Dyck of the 4th Earl of Pembroke and his family which hangs at one end of the Double Cube Rooms. At 17 feet wide, it is the largest portrait by Van Dyck (1599-1641) in England. Numerous other portraits by Van Dyck and his studio adorn the walls.
The State Rooms served as Allied headquarters during World War II; the D-Day landing in Normandy was planned here.
Below, the Great Ante Room, added in the 18th century, is sometimes thought of as James Wyatt’s homage to Inigo Jones.
The King’s Bed Chamber and King’s Closet were redecorated in the 18th c. for the visit of George III and Queen Charlotte in 1778. Many priceless masterworks hang on the walls.
The house is replete with great works of art in multiple media. Many members of the Herbert family, the Earls of Pembroke, were avid collectors.
Above, Mother Reading, c. 1629, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), is one of the most famous paintings in the collection of Wilton House.
At the currently-used entrance on the North Front, visitors arrive in the Front Hall designed by James Wyatt in 1809. Who better to greet us than The Bard himself. According to the Guidebook, the statue “recalls the 2nd Earl’s and his wife Mary Sidney’s patronage of literary men and of Shakespeare above all.”
Numerous other rooms, more than one could count, are worthy of attention. I particularly liked the Large Smoking Room, redecorated by the current Lady Pembroke in 2017. The picture above was taken before the new color scheme was installed. Below is the yellow moiréed silk now on the walls. The huge bookcase, from the workshops of Chippendale, is a temptation I could hardly survive. What is tucked away inside? Imagine how much work you could get done here — once you had examined the art and furniture and gazed out the windows for a month or two!
I have visited Wilton House several times, but I will never get enough of this wonderful house and grounds…on the edge of the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire.
If you’d like to see some of England’s stately homes in person, visit our Number One London Tours site to see all of our upcoming country house tours and their itineraries.
Britain is dotted with Roman sites, often a surprise to visitors. The Romans were here for 400 years….think back from today to 1618. Seems like a very long time ago, but that’s how many centuries the Romans ruled most of Britain.
As any first-year Latin student knows (as if there are any of them around these days), Caesar led his armies all over Europe, writing “Veni, vidi, vici,” meaning ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ This didn’t pertain to Britain but the spirit certainly did.
This artist’s conception of the London of the 1st century AD
Another artist’s idea of London showing a circular arena/amphitheatre in the lower center. The remains of such a structure were discovered in 1988 when excavations for the new Guildhall Art Gallery, replacing one bombed in WWII, uncovered Roman remains. Now below the art, one can visit the outlines of the ancient scene of gladiatorial combat.
There are even the remains of the contestants.
Remains of the Roman Walls around London can be seen in several locations.
Below, the view of the Roman Baths in — where else? — the City of Bath. The warm waters bubbling up from deep in the earth proved soothing to many centuries of visitors, including me.
The ‘new’ modern complex was a true treat.
Some of Britain’s most famous sites are Hadrian’s Wall, almost at the Scottish border, and its several forts.
Fascinating Roman artifact from British sites fill rooms at the British Museum, below, with architecture inspired by Rome’s glory days but constructed in 1823.
Many of the Roman legionaries were followers of the cult of Mithras, a religion popular in ancient Rome. A large Temple of Mithras was found in Londonium.
Thousands of coins not to mention all sorts of jewelry, household items and weapons from Roman days have been found in Britain. And many villas have been fully or partly-excavated in all corners of the land.
In West Sussex, excavations have uncovered the remains of a large Roman complex which housed many and carried out many functions from fishing and shipping to agriculture. As even in today’s U.K., great wealth came from the production of wool. Love those sheep!
Boy on a Dolphin is the subject of this intricate floor mosaic.
Also in West Sussex is the Bignor Roman Villa, with more complex and stunning mosaics.
In Gloucestershire, the Chedworth Roman Villa can be compared to some of the remaining 17th-19th century great country houses of Britain as centers of political and social hegemony as well as repositories of art and culture and centers of communities of agricultural and technological innovation.
In plumbing alone, the Romans had comforts long lost for subsequent populations: running water, hot water, heated houses, sewage disposal — how could people have forgotten???
An artist’s evocation of the estate.
More mosaics…only a few of the many treasures left for us by the Romans.
Cast your eyes along our recently acquired panorama of London, painted around 1815 by Pierre Prévost. As an added twist, we've pointed out where some more modern buildings now stand. On display 15 March.
A very exciting exhibition featuring a Panorama of London begins March 15 at the Museum of London, and will run until September 2019. This extraordinary work was executed as a study for a panorama that was shown in Paris from 1816-1819 by artist Pierre Prévost. The full-sized work, several times larger than these studies, is now lost. One newspaper referred to the work as “London as the Duke of Wellington would have seen it.” Others have noted it is the London Jane Austen knew.
The artist, Pierre Prévost (1764-1823), viewed London from the bell tower of St Margaret’s Church, adjacent to Westminster Abbey.
The first view in the scan above looks west from the edge of Westminster Abbey (at the left edge); the large building in the center, above, is the now-demolished Middlesex Guildhall and in the distance is St. James Park, and in a better reproduction, you can see Buckingham House, the palace, as it was in 1815.
Above, the studies split in half. The top image is west and north; the bottom image is east and south.
The Sotheby’s Auction Catalogue description:
Pierre Prévost – MONTIGNY-LE-GANNELON 1764 – 1823 PARIS
A PANORAMIC VIEW OF LONDON, FROM THE TOWER OF ST. MARGARET’S CHURCH, WESTMINSTER
Watercolour and bodycolour over pencil, squared for transfer in pencil, the squares numbered, on multiple sheets of paper laid onto canvas 850 by 6050 mm.
Looking north up Whitehall, the Banqueting House is seen at the curve; the steeple in the distance is St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields but Trafalgar Square which it faces today, was not yet created. The Sotheby’s Catalogue states, “To the centre of the composition, one can see the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall, the Banqueting House. Designed by the leading English architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), the Banqueting House was commissioned by Charles I; in 1649, just 27 years after its construction, it was the site of his execution. The neoclassical St. Martin-in-the-Fields stands nearby. The site of a church since the medieval period, this had been re-built by James Gibbs in the 1720s. Prévost’s view shows the area prior to the construction of Trafalgar Square in the 1820s, and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields would therefore have appeared considerably different to how it does today. Contemporary accounts of the area describe the church as crowded in by surrounding buildings, which detract from the impressive nature of Gibbs’ edifice.”
Above, looking northeast, beyond Westminster bridge one see the City, mercifully shorn of its tall buildings with the outline of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the horizon slightly left of center.
The view above looks east across the Thames, with the Westminster Bridge on the left and the roof of Westminster Hall parallel to the river in the center. The buildings in the foreground were various elements of the Palace of Westminster which burned in 1834 and were replaced by today’s Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, incorporating the ancient and restored Westminster Hall.
The final sections, above and below, feature Westminster Abbey in its smoke darkened coating.
In the Georgian era, panoramas were popular exhibitions. The first opened in London in 1792 and according to The Guardian, viewers paid three shillings to view the painting which curved around a room “dramatically” lit.
In preparing this post, I was surprised to learn that the Museum of London is planning to move its entire Barbican operation to a new site in the old Smithfield Market, also located in the City of London. No doubt they will construct a fine exhibit space for this painting when they complete their plans and move, sometime in the next decade.
Being from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I have occasionally run across the stories of the German Panorama Painters who came to the city in the mid-19th century and painted many of these works installed in various cities. The only remaining one I know of is in Atlanta, Georgia, and recently reopened as the Cyclorama in the Civil War Museum.
However, the only panorama I have ever seen is the one that still exists in Waterloo, Belgium, picturing the famous battle in 1815 when the Duke of Wellington led the Allied forces to victory over the emperor Napoleon, pictured below.
More details about the London Panorama from the Sotheby’s catalogue:
“Of extraordinary size, detail and topographical accuracy, this view of London is a remarkable preparatory study for a lost panorama of approximately 30 metres in diameter, by Pierre Prévost, which shows the artist at the pinnacle of a highly successful career as a panoramist …. The illusion of depth, height and distance is testament to Prévost’s ability to work on such a large scale, and this complete, circular image, joined at Westminster Abbey, is one of the finest drawings of its type to have survived….
“By 1800 panoramas could be viewed in many European capitals. The works were usually exhibited for a short period of time in a rotunda, before travelling on, and ultimately were replaced or sold. The nature of this process has ensured the rarity of the completed panorama, as excessive handling and transportation in most cases resulted in their ultimate destruction.”
The Sotheby’s catalogue entry states: “While the final canvas created by Prévost would have been very much larger (it was exhibited in a purpose built rotunda on the rue Neuve Saint-Augustin in Paris, measuring 32 metres in diameter, over five times the size of this preparatory drawing), even this preliminary study is of an impressive size, and is highly finished ….
“The street scenes in the foreground bring a sense of life to the panorama, and allow the viewer to engage fully with the daily activity of the city’s inhabitants….Here, shops and professions are indicated in the foreground in remarkable detail. On Great George Street, the road running horizontally across the centre foreground, the shops include a wine and brandy merchant and a solicitor, whilst on Bridge Street, which runs towards Westminster Bridge, an apothecary, a shoe-maker and a children’s clothes store are indicated. ”
I hope many people enjoy seeing the London Panorama of 1815.
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.
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.