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.
It is impossible to imagine the field at the Battle of Waterloo without calling the senses into play. The sights: soldiers clashing swords, horses rearing, men forming squares, columns of smoke from cannon fire. The smells: wet earth, sweat, wet horse and wet leather, cordite and black powder. The sounds: musket fire, swords singing metal on metal, horses neighing, men shouting and, perhaps most identifiable to us in the present day, bugles and trumpets sounding the calls. Amazingly, a few of the instruments that were played on the field of Battle at Waterloo have been preserved and are occasionally still played, like the trumpet above in the collection of the Household Cavalry Museum, which was played by John Edwards on the battlefield.
This field bugle was blown by 16-year-old John Edwards, who was duty trumpeter of the day. It sounded the charge for the Household Brigade which comprised the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues) and the 1st Dragoon Guards.
The other brigade, the Union Brigade, comprised the 1st (Royal) Dragoons, the Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys) and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons. They charged a few minutes before the Household Brigade.
The Allied cavalry manoeuvred through the ranks of Allied infantry and charged D’Erlon’s Corps, with its supporting cuirassiers, causing immense damage. Then, rather than turn back having successfully completed their task, they charged on over the French gun batteries. They arrived without support and with exhausted horses deep into the French lines, where they in turn suffered heavy casualties.
Of the 2,500 cavalrymen involved, approximately half were killed or wounded. However, Napoleon had lost the initiative and failed to gain control of the battle. Two French Eagles (battalion colours) were taken.
Trumpet or bugle calls were a vital command system in battles at this time. Shouting and screaming men and horses, the explosions of guns, cannon shells and small arms made verbal communication impossible. The smoke from black powder meant visibility was down to that of a thick fog. The incredible danger from musket balls, sabres, cannon balls and kicking horses made full attention vital. Only the sound of the trumpet was able to communicate between cavalry squadrons, each of which had a trumpeter.
There were over 40 different bugle calls used in the field, all to command horses. Formations were controlled by calls known to the cavalrymen and made easier to remember by the addition of words in songbooks.
A far older sound recording of a Waterloo bugle was made in 1890 in London by trumpeter Landfried of the 17th Lancers, who is said to have played the charge at Balaclava using this Waterloo bugle. You can listen to that recording here.
Want more Waterloo? You’ll have the opportunity to walk the key sites connected to the Waterloo Battlefield with guide Ian Fletcher on Number One London’s 1815: London to Waterloo Tour in June, 2017. In addition to the headquarters of both Wellington and Napoleon, we’ll be visiting La Hay Sainte, Quatre Bras, Ligny, Hougoumont, the Lion’s Mound, the newly remodeled Visitor’s Centre and, of course, the Battlefield itself. At every stop, Ian will describe the events that took place there and explain their significance in the Allied victory. This is an opportunity you won’t want to miss.
It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of Number One London Tours. The photo above was taken in May at the legendary restaurant, Simpson’s in the Strand, London, where a few of the people involved in our tours gathered for a working dinner. From left: Diane Perkins/Gaston, Kristine Hughes Patrone, Ian Fletcher, Nicola Cornick and Melanie Hilton/Louise Allen.