There are ten stately homes that have been designated as “The Treasure Houses of England,” and three of them are included on our 2019 Country House Tour – Harewood House, Castle Howard and Chatsworth House.
Castle Howard, above, is not a true castle, but this term is also used for English country houses erected on the site of a former military castle. It may look familiar to you because it was used as the fictional “Brideshead,” both in Granada Television’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and a two-hour 2008 remake for cinema.
Castle Howard is unique as it grew out of an idea begun in 1699 at the legendary Kit Kat Club when the 3rd Earl of Carlisle decided to build his estate to the design of Sir John Vanburgh – who had never before undertaken an architectural design. Working with Nicholas Hawksmoor, Vanburgh designed the house, situated on the site of the ruined Henderskelfe Castle. The project took over 100 years to complete.
The Howard family are descended from Lord William Howard, the youngest son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle, (17 September 1773 – 7 October 1848), styled Viscount Morpeth until 1825, served as Lord Privy Seal between 1827 and 1828 and in 1834 and was a member of Lord Grey’s Whig government as Minister without Portfolio between 1830 and 1834. Lord Carlisle married Lady Georgiana Cavendish (1783–1858), daughter of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Georgiana Spencer, in 1801.
You can take a tour of Castle Howard via the video below –
One of the most iconic buildings in England, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion has come to symbolize the decadence of the Regency Period. Built as George IV’s pleasure palace by the sea, the Pavilion continues to astonish visitors, just as it did in the 19th century. Even the typically unflappable Duke of Wellington was taken aback by the Pavilion’s excesses and the Prince’s flamboyant style of interior decor.
Princess Lieven recorded the Duke’s reaction upon first seeing the Pavilion in a letter to her husband written from Brighton on January 26, 1822:
“I wish you were here to laugh. You cannot imagine how astonished the Duke of Wellington is. He had not been here before, and I thoroughly enjoy noting the kind of remark and the kind of surprise that the whole household evokes in a new-comer. I do not believe that, since the days of Heliogabalus, there have been such magnificence and such luxury. There is something effeminate in it which is disgusting. One spends the evening half-lying on cushions; the lights are dazzling; there are perfumes, music, liquers – “Devil take me, I think I must have got into bad company.” You can guess who said that, and the tone in which it was said. . . . ”
After the death of the Prince Regent, his brother, King William IV, and later Queen Victoria, both visited the Pavilion. However, by Queen Victoria’s time, the town of Brighton had become much more developed and the population increased accordingly. Queen Victoria felt that the property could no longer afford herself and her family the seclusion they required and she sold the building to the Corporation of Brighton in 1850.
Today, the Royal Pavilion has been restored to it’s former Regency glory and is still astonishing the many visitors who arrive daily to experience the grandeur first-hand. Number One London Tours invites you to join us for a tour of the Royal Pavilion as part of the itinerary for our 2019 Queen Victoria Tour or our 2020 Regency Tour.
The video below offers the most comprehensive tour of the Pavilion’s interiors I’ve seen and it also includes a good overview of it’s history, so I’ve chosen to include it despite the interpreter’s very animated delivery. Final bit of trivia – Ironically, all of the kitchen copper-ware you’ll see in the video was once the property of the first Duke of Wellington and bears his ducal crest. It was transferred to the Pavilion in the 1950s, when Apsley House was placed under the control of English Heritage.
It won’t be long now before the start of Number One London’s Scottish Writer’s Retreat. Our group will be staying at Auchinleck House, family seat of James Boswell’s family, above. A fitting setting, really, as he and Dr. Johnson were known to have stayed in the house together several times.
But “retreat” may be a bit of a misnomer, as our group will be doing much more than staying in to write; we’ll be touring the surrounding area, visiting nearby estates, museums and places of historic interest. Perhaps we should rename it “The Tour to Inspire Writers?” One of the most inspiring items on the Retreat itinerary will be our visit across the water to the wildly romantic Isle of Arran, as seen in the video below.
While our September Retreat has been sold out for quite some time, we’ve added another for 2019 – details can be found here.
Number One London Tours loves surprises, whether it’s an impromptu stop at an 18th century village, a surprise run-in with Prince Charles or an unexpected stroll in the rain.
Sometimes, we arrange the surprises, as we did by adding a three hour Land Rover tour of the Drumlanrig estate to our upcoming Scottish Writers Retreat itinerary in September. Of course, a tour of the Castle will follow.
I’m posting this video of a partridge shoot at Drumlanrig because it includes great shots of the stunning landscapes we’ll be driving and walking through with our guides, the estate Rangers.
Our 2019 Scottish Writer’s Retreat at Auchinleck House sold out so quickly, we’ve added another Retreat at Gargunnock House for 2019 – details here.
Warning: This video includes segments of an actual shoot. Nothing graphic, but birds do fall from the sky. You can skip past the shooting segments to see the Castle and landscapes, including hills, river and waterfalls.
Partridge Shoot at Drumlanrig Castle – Part One, Part Two will play afterwards.
This is how I felt for almost the entire 2017 Number One London Country House Tour. I love visiting English Stately Homes and this Tour offered a stellar variety of periods, architectural styles, and decorative arts. Plus, our group was remarkably compatible and full of historical curiosity. We had great food, accommodating drivers, fun hotels, etc. etc. etc. Only thing I wished for was more energy!!!
See how our first hotel’s wall recognized our goals!
Our first stop was one I had been eagerly anticipating for several years. Wentworth Woodhouse has only recently opened to the public. As you can see from the pictures of the south facade, you have to get back a long distance to photograph the entire house, and this is only half of it.
Said to be the largest private residence in Europe, Wentworth-Woodhouse in fact is two houses joined. The earlier west-facing house was begun by the 1st Marquess of Rockingham in the 1720’s in mellow red brick in the baroque style. A few years later, the same Marquess chose to build an even larger house, the east facade, constructed of sober grey stone in the Palladian style.
Recently WW, as I will refer going forward to Wentworth Woodhouse to save my fingers, has been seen in several films and on television. In Episode One of Season Two of Victoria, the scenes of the royal couple reviewing the regiment were staged in front of WW.
I will relate the full story of WW soon, and a long complicated tale it is. For the time being, just know that touring it was fascinating. Recently, the estate has been acquired by a Preservation Trust after many years as a school and then standing empty and abandoned for some time. Fortunately, the Trust will preserve and restore the house and the gardens.
We entered on the ground level, to find a great forest of pillars, cleverly named the Pillared Hall.
And a noble staircase leading to the Piano Nobile, that is, the State Rooms.
It is easy to see why there are so many pillars holding up this vast room, which was used for all sorts of gatherings, as a grand ballroom, as a gymnasium for the women’s college, and it also stands in for Buckingham Palace in the film Darkest Hour.
Most of the rooms are now empty, previous furnishings sold, stored, or lost. WW is a venue for business meetings and weddings, with the facilities able to accommodate either intimate gatherings or a virtual mob.
The gilded walls of this room once held the famous 1762 painting by George Stubbs of Whistlejacket, a champion racehorse owned by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. Sold to partially fulfill death duties, the canvas now hangs in London’s National Gallery, where I had visited at the beginning of my trip. The version at WW is a copy.
I will close with three views of the extensive gardens, which are being restored after wholesale destruction for strip mining of coal. Next time I will cover, more briefly, other houses we visited on Number One London’s 2017 Country House Tour.