Travels with Victoria: WILTON HOUSE – Part Two

By Victoria Hinshaw

Wilton House, by Rex Whistler

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.

The Crown: (L to R) JFK, Jackie, Elizabeth, Philip – The Kennedys and Windsors meet.

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.

Pride and Prejudice, 2005

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.

Single Cube Room

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.

Single Cube Room

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).

Sir Peter Lely, artist

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.

Double Cube Room

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

Double Cube Room

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.

Van Dyck

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.

Great Ante Room

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.

Rembrandt

Above,  Mother Reading, c. 1629, by  Rembrandt van Rijn  (1606-1669), is one of the most famous paintings in the collection of Wilton House.

Shakespeare

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.”

Smoking Room

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!

Chippendale Bookcase
South Front

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. 

 

Travels with Victoria: WILTON HOUSE – Part One

North Front

On the edge of the city of Salisbury is one of England’s greatest country houses, the home of the Herbert family for almost five centuries. Wilton is one of those fabled British Country Houses which almost defy description. Should one concentrate on the architecture, which includes Tudor, Elizabethan, Palladian, and Regency examples? The interior, of amazing variety and stellar quality? The gardens? The collection of old master artworks?  Or, how about the many stories of the history of the Herbert family, which is currently represented by William Alexander Sidney Herbert, 18th Earl of Pembroke, his Countess and their four children?

South Front

The top photo shows the North Front, dating from the Tudor era, the current public entrance to the house. Immediately above is the South Front, the wing of the house probably designed by Architect Indigo Jones in the Palladian style in the 17th century. This area contains the sumptuous state rooms.

East Front

Above, the East Front, opening into the public lawns and gardens, dating before the 16th century. This was the original entrance to the house. You can see that even today, restoration work is necessary.

West Front

The West Front and its garden are the private areas of the 18th Earl of Pembroke, his wife and four children. Below, the official portrait of William Herbert, the 18th Earl of Pembroke, and his dog painted by artist Adrian Gottlieb. ‘Will’ is the latest of the long line of owners belonging to the Herbert family,

photo: Adrian Gottlieb

I am sorry to report that no photography is allowed in the house so in these posts, I will be mixing ‘borrowed’ photos, of which there are many on the web, with my own pictures. First, let’s look at the exterior and the gardens. Below, an aerial shot of the house with the south façade at the left.

Below, from the central cloisters courtyard, looking east at the inside of the East Front. The original house was built on the site of an 8th-century priory. After Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site was ceded to Sir William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (of the new creation) in 1544. He constructed a house in the quadrangular style which through many remodelings, remains today with a central open courtyard.

Below, peeking out from inside the cloisters, re-built by James Wyatt in 1801.

Inside the Cloisters, you will find a collection of statuary, including rare classical antiques collected by the Earls of Pembroke.

Today, visitors enter through another courtyard facing the North Front, past the fountain and a grove of trees among the patterned plantings.

North Front Visitor Entrance

Behind us was the great gate, often a symbol of Wilton House.

Leaving the interior for another post, let’s look at some of the gardens. I am particularly fond of Palladian Bridges – why I cannot imagine, but I find them charming. Below, the Wilton Palladian Bridge, constructed in 1737 by the 9th Earl of Pembroke, known as the “Architect Earl” and his assistant Roger Morris. It was designed to bridge the River Nadder in the style of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). It has been copied at least three times, at Stowe and at Prior Park near Bath in England and at Tsarskoe Selo near St. Petersburg, Russia.

Wilton House Palladian Bridge

The inspiration for the Palladian Bridge is reputedly an unbuilt design for Venice’s Rialto Bridge, drawn by Andrea Palladio about 1570, pictured below in a Capriccio by Canaletto, 1742.

©Royal Collection Trust

The river Nadder is a chalk stream known for its trout flyfishing.

Below, the charming Japanese Garden, also known as the Water Garden, with its red bridges and reflecting pools, was designed by Henry Herbert, 17th Earl of Pembroke, who died in 2003.

By Herry Lawford from Stockbridge, UK – Wilton, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42551086

In Part Two, we will look at the magnificent interiors of Wilton House.

 

Veni, Vidi., etc. The Romans in Britain

by Victoria Hinshaw

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.

Beneath the Guildhall Art Gallery

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.

Londinium

This artist’s conception of the London of the 1st century AD

Londinium

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.

The Guildhall Art Gallery, 2017

There are even the remains of the contestants.

Remains of the Roman Walls around London can be seen in several locations.

Roman Wall at the Barbican
Statue of Trajan near fragment of the Roman Wall on Tower Hill-The Londonist

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.

Aquae Sulis

The ‘new’ modern complex was a true treat.

Thermae Bath Spa

Some of Britain’s most famous sites are Hadrian’s Wall, almost at the Scottish border, and its several forts.

Hadrian’s Wall
Housestead’s Fort, photograph taken by Mark A. Wilson

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.

Roman Displays in the British Museum
Marble statue of Mithras slaying the bull

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.

Roman Coins

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.

Fishbourne Roman Palace

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!

Fishbourne Palace Mosaics
Fishbourne Palace Mosaic

Boy on a Dolphin is the subject of this intricate floor mosaic.

Bignor Roman Villa

Also in West Sussex is the Bignor Roman Villa, with more complex and stunning mosaics.

Bignor Roman Villa

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.

Chedworth Roman Villa

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???

Chedworth Roman Villa

An artist’s evocation of the estate.

Chedworth Roman Villa

More mosaics…only a few of the many treasures left for us by the Romans.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – APPULDURCOMBE HOUSE

So, the Rye Esplanade is also home to the local bus service, as well as to the trains. Victoria had suggested that we visit Appuldurcombe House, and as that was the only thing on our agenda this day, we decided to take the local bus there, which would allow us to see more of the Isle of Wight along the way. Sitting on the top of the bus, we had great views.

We let the driver know that our destination was Appuldurcombe and he agreed to let us know when our stop was approaching.

“So, what’s at Appuldurcombe, then? Capability Brown, Chippendale and knife boxes?” I asked Vicky.

“You don’t know Appledurcombe?” she asked.

“Never heard of it,” I replied.

“It’s been abandoned. It’s a ruin. A shell of its former self,” Vicky informed me.

“Like Sutton Scarsdale?” We’d visited Sutton Scarsdale the previous year, on Number One London’s Country House Tour.

“Yes, except that there aren’t any plans to restore Appledurcombe. They’ve just shored up the shell and you’re actually allowed to walk around the ruins.”

Now this was a new take on the stately home. I sat back and watched the scenery go by – views from the sea cliffs, a handful of towns and villages and a wide variety of architectural styles of houses and shopfronts.

About an hour later, our bus driver let us know that the next stop would be ours. “See there, that’s your street,” he said, as we passed it. “Bus stop is just here. Walk back and down that lane and you’ll find Appuldurcombe House.”

And so Vicky and I set off, eyes wide at the Midsomer Murders look of the lane and its charming houses. So typically English. So quaint.

After a while, the lane began to go uphill. Still, we trudged.

“I haven’t seen a single sign for Appuldurcombe House,” said Vicky. “Have you?”

“No,” I replied. “But the bus driver said it was just down this lane and walkable.”

“Ha! You know what the English are like. If we’d asked if we could walk from here to Edinburgh, they’d have said yes. Never mind that it would take us a week to get there.”

I knew from experience that she was right. But I didn’t think the nice bus driver would have led us down the garden path, so to speak. The hill grew steeper, though you can’t tell by these photos.

“Can you see anything that looks like a ruined house?” Vicky asked.

“Nope. You sit here on this wall and I’ll go ahead and see if I can spot the house,” I told her.

And so I walked up hill, up the lane and around the turn and this is what I found.

A field full of cows. Friendly cows. As soon as they saw me, they began to make their way over to the fence. A litter of Labrador puppies could not have been more eager to see me.

“Vicky! Come here!”

“What do you see? Is it the house?”

“No. Better. Cows!”

Caution: Many Cow Photos Ahead

Bonus – sheep!

Cows and sheep!

As evidenced by the plethora of photos we took, we spent quite a bit of time with the cows – petting the cows, photographing the cows, talking to the cows, communing with the cows, but at last Vicky said, “Well, should we head back?”

“No! Our aim was to see Appuldurcombe House. We can’t give up now. Stay here and I’ll go ahead and see what I can see.”

I walked ahead about fifteen steps and this is what I saw.

I walked the fifteen steps back, “The house is just there, around the bend.”

Off we set down the path, through the wood and a field of bluebells.

It was all a bit Hansel and Gretel-ish.

 Finally, we had our first, up close glimpse of Appuldurcombe.

And then, there it was before us. In all its ruined glory. We were both gobsmacked.

An honest to goodness ruin. And not another soul about. Not another tourist, not a caretaker, not Vincent Price, not even a wicked witch. We had the place well and truly to ourselves.

“Are you sure we’re allowed to wander around?” I asked.

“That’s what the website said,” replied Vicky. “I don’t see that anything is roped off, do you?”

I did not. And so we wandered.

   

 

I don’t know how long we were there, but we investigated every bit of Appuldurcombe, for the most part in silence. It’s very eerie being alone there, among the ruins. It’s a far cry from my usual stately home visits. You do feel as though the house is waiting. For what, I don’t know, but Appuldurcombe still stands proudly, refusing to completely give way to ruin; recalling grander times, listening to the echoes of long silenced family voices, keeping watch over the nearby Wroxall village.

We never did see another living soul.

 

Would you like to experience travel in England first-hand?
Visit our website for a list of upcoming Number One London Tours.

 

 

SAILING TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT

Having completed our Wellington research at the Hartley Library, University of Southampton, Vicky and I found ourselves faced with a three day holiday weekend before we could move on to begin work at the next archive. Vicky suggested that we take a side trip to the Isle of Wight before moving on to Chichester, and I readily agreed.

From the port of Southampton, we boarded the ferry for the 30 minute trip to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

On arrival, we found ourselves at the Hythe Pier, completed in 1881.

The 1878 Act of Parliament made provision for the construction of a tramway along the pier. The trucks that carried luggage along the pier were found to be damaging the pier decking, and in 1909 a narrow gauge railway was constructed to replace them and in 1922, the railway was reconstructed and electrified.

Vicky and I found ourselves seated within the Royal car.

Taking a taxi to Ryde, we checked into our room at the Castle Hotel.

Naturally, our first priority was to explore the town. Again, it was a glorious Spring day and we spent the afternoon browsing in the shops and enjoying the seafront. Next time, Vicky and I venture out further afield and see the Isle by bus.

Would you like to experience travel in England first-hand?

Visit our website for a list of upcoming Number One London Tours.