A Couple In England: Day 8 – Part Two

Exiting the train at Royal Windsor Station, one of the first things Hubby saw was a Caffe Nero.

“Caffe Nero, Hon! We can go tomorrow morning.”


We entered the pedestrian only Peascod Street. “No cabs?”

“We don’t need one. We just need to get to the top of the street, make a right and the Castle Hotel is  a block away on the right.”

When we got to the top of the Street, I pointed at the statue. “Queen Victoria. It was erected for her Golden Jubilee in 1887.”

“What’s that? Is that a castle? It looks like that castle in London.”

“It’s Windsor Castle,” I told Hubby. “The castle in London is actually the Tower of London. It’s not a castle at all.”

“They look the same to me.”


A few more steps brought us to the Castle Hotel, which is just lovely. We were given a very large room overlooking the High Street. I’m sorry I didn’t think to take a photo of the room before Hubby and I disgorged our belongings over every flat surface, but you get the idea.

Both the Crooked House and Guildhall were right outside our window.

“Isn’t your friend at the Guildhall?” Hubby asked.

“Yes, Hester told me to come over and meet her there when we got to Windsor.”

“Well go on then, go see her.”

“You sure?” I gave Hubby a quick once over, trying to assess his condition. He looked much better than he had this morning. Not one hundred percent, mind you, but no longer at death’s door.

“Okay. But I’ll be literally right across the street.”

“Go. If I need you, I’ll hang a pair of my boxers out the window.”

Regular readers of this blog will know the name Hester Davenport. Not only has Hester contributed guest posts to this blog, she is also the author of The Prince’s Mistress: A Life of Mary Robinson, among other works, and has graciously acted as our Windsor guide whenever Vicky, Jo Manning or myself are there. In fact, a visit with Hester is typically the high point of our trips across the Pond. In addition, Hester was a driving force in getting the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum, housed in the Guildhall, up and running. In fact, Hester acted as hostess to the Queen, who paid a visit to the Museum. You can see photos and read all about Hester’s meeting with the Queen last year here. On a past visit, Hester arranged for the issues of the Windsor newspaper dealing with the Battle of Waterloo to be pulled from the archives so that Vicky and I could see them up close and personal. Now that’s what you call a pal . . . . .

When I got to the Museum, Hester was busy speaking to a few people, but she saw me, did a double take and then gave me the “be with you in a minute” high sign. I sat on a nearby bench and was shortly joined by Hester, who took a good look at me and said, “Oh, dear. I knew you were sick by your emails but I’d no idea you were this sick.”

“Do I look that bad?”

“Oh, yes.” Good old Hester. She pulls no punches. “And Hubby? Is he as bad as you?”

“Worse. Don’t forget, I’m in the recovery phase now. You should have seen me a few days ago.”

“Oh, you poor thing. I had no idea.”

“Really? The fact that I wrote you that I had cholera and was near death didn’t clue you in?”

“Well, I thought you were exaggerating somewhat,” she said, “but now I see you weren’t. Oh, dear. Are you sure you’re going to want to go to Oatlands and Hampton Court tomorrow?”

“Was Wellington at Waterloo? Yes, I’m sure. I’m going to Oatlands if I have to crawl there. I’ve longed to see Oatlands for ages now, haven’t I? I’m determined to see Freddy’s house and the pet cemetery.”

A co-worker of Hester’s came by then and Hester introduced us. “This is my friend Kristine I was telling you about.”

“Ah, the one who’s been ill?” She took a good look at me and said, “Oh, dear.”

You’ll understand that I’ve developed an aversion to the British `Oh, dear’ during this trip. Oh dear, indeed. Why don’t the English just say what they really mean, which in this case is `Holy crap, should you be out of your sick bed?’ I couldn’t wait to see what Hester would say when she caught sight of Hubby tomorrow. Oh dear would hardly cover it.

Hester and her friend then questioned me about my illness and I gave them every sorry detail, from my not being able to get out of the cab when we arrived at Duke’s Hotel in Bath, to our missing New Year’s Eve entirely, to my not having eaten anything to speak of for a week, to my plight in Milsom Street on the way to the Fashion Museum.

When I was done – and they had both wiped the tears from their eyes and gotten their laughter under control – Hester said, “Oh, I am sorry to laugh, but that’s the funniest story. Isn’t funny?” she asked her f

“Quite,” she agreed.

“And today the pair of you had to take the train here to Windsor, what with you both feeling poorly. Now you go right back to your hotel and get some rest. I’m so glad Hubby felt he was improving and didn’t need the doctor after all, but an early night and rest will do you both a world of good. We’ve got a big day planned for tomorrow, after all.”

What good advice. I could have kissed Hester for suggesting an early night, but restrained myself as I didn’t want to pass on the cholera to her. After all, I needed her healthy and able to drive us to Oatlands and Hampton Court tomorrow. Not to mention that her husband, Tony, would be none too pleased with me if I landed Hester in the hospital.

We stood and gave each other a somewhat sanitized version of an embrace and I headed across the street to the Castle Hotel whilst wondering in what condition I would find Hubby upon my return.

Part Three Coming Soon!

A Couple In England – Day 8

I woke up on our last day in Bath to a truly gruesome sight – Hubby. He was pale, clammy and looking for all the world as though he were on his last legs.
“How do you feel?” I asked in the hopes that I might have misread the signs.
“I need a doctor. Or maybe an undertaker. I need something more than that crappy Bell’s cough stuff you gave me. No kidding, I want a doctor.”
This was serious. As a rule, Hubby runs from medical practitioners.
“Okay,” I said, my mind working. “Let’s go downstairs and see about getting you a doctor then. Can you get dressed?”
Together, we got us both dressed, and packed, and went downstairs to the reception room, where we found Michael on duty. Michael, it should be said, worked for a time as house steward to the premier land owner in the neighborhood. I don’t think I’m at liberty to tell you all I know about it, confidentiality and all, but think a stately home with the word “long” in it’s name and put that together with another word for “tub” and you might figure it out. Clue: the peer Michael worked for has a harem.
Michael took one look at us and said, “Oh, dear.”
“We’re supposed to take the train to Windsor today, to meet my friend Hester, but Hubby wants a doctor. Can you get us a doctor?”
Michael is the epitome of the word “dapper.” Dressed in a suit and tie, his hair and mustache immaculate, he exudes an air of calm and classy competence. Have I mentioned his pocket square? “I could, of course, call a doctor for you. However, if you’re going to be staying in Windsor, perhaps it would be more expedient for you to call your friend and have her arrange for Hubby to see her practitioner, who would be on the spot, so the speak.”
He slid the telephone towards me as Hubby collapsed on the couch by the fireplace. I called Hester, who said she’d call her doctor and see what she could do. She’d ring me back.
“Medicine,” Hubby croaked.
I explained to Michael that the shops had been closed yesterday and so I hadn’t been able to find any 21st century cold medicine for Hubby.
“The chemist down the street is open today,” Michael told me. And so off I went, down Great Pulteney Street to the chemist hard by the bridge.


A. H. Hale, dispensing chemists, have been in business since the 1800’s and the shop looks like something out of a Jane Austen novel.


Their window is filled with glass bottles containing variously coloured liquids and powders and, best of all, modern day cold medicine. I conversed with the clerk, who listened to Hubby’s symptoms and stocked me up with an assortment of remedies. Back at the hotel, I found Hubby on the couch, drinking a bottle of Schwepps ginger ale, provided by Michael. I handed over the cough syrup and decongestant pills and within minutes he proclaimed himself much improved. Hester, it turned out, had gotten Hubby an appointment with her doctor for this afternoon, but Hubby now proclaimed himself fit to travel and no longer in need of dire medical intervention. He swore that it was the Schwepps, rather than the medicines, that had cured him. Ingrate. I called Hester, cancelled the doctor and before much longer we were in a cab headed to the station.

You can tell that I was feeling a bit better  myself, as I actually took these photos myself from the platform. We had a few minutes to wait for the next train, so I got us a couple of coffees and brought them out to Hubby.

“No smoking,” he said, as he took the coffee from me.


“The sign,” he said, pointing in its direction with his chin. “No smoking. We’re outside on the platform and we can’t smoke. You can’t smoke in England.”

“Well, let’s not worry about it until you can’t smoke in France. Or Greece. Or Turkey. Then we’ll worry about it.”

“How long is the train ride to Windsor?”

Uh, oh. Here we go. “It’s about two hours. We, uh, we have to change trains though.”


“At Reading. And Slough.”

Two changes?”

I could feel his pain. It wasn’t that long ago that I was myself close to death on a train. Only we had been traveling in the opposite direction.

“Reading is close to Stratfield Saye,” I sighed. Stratfield Saye, whose opening times never seem to coincide with my trips to England.

“What’s that?”

“Artie’s house.”

“I thought Apsley House was Artie’s house.”

“It is. He bought Apsley House himself. The country bought Stratfield Saye as a sort of thank you gi
ft for his having defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.”


“Yeah. Napoleon was seen as the Hitler of his day. A tyrant. He proclaimed himself as Emperor of France and then turned his eye on the rest of the world. He threatened democracies everywhere. And Wellington and his army and the allies defeated him at Waterloo. Napoleon’s army was notorious for looting and stealing whatever they needed, wherever the went. Napoleon’s troops were the ones who shot the nose off the Sphinx.”

“The Egyptian Sphinx?”

“Yes. Destruction wherever they went. On the other hand, Wellington went out of his way to make sure that people were compensated to some degree for whatever his troops requisitioned. Not that the British didn’t indulge in some looting and pillaging of their own, but still, Artie had a completely different mindset about it. Remember the story about the looted Spanish art I told you about at Apsley House?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“There was this guy called Congreve and he worked at the Royal Arsenal, trying to perfect rockets Wellington had first seen at Seringapatam.”


“In India. Congreve worked to perfect them, but it took several attempts. He demonstrated them to Wellington, hoping he’d use them during his campaigns. It turns out that the rockets were unreliable and their trajectory uncertain. And then they’d set things on fire instead of blowing them up. And the things set afire were not necessarily the things one was aiming at. Wellington said that when he entered a town it was most often in order to liberate it, rather than destroy it. Wellington refused to use them because of the wholesale damage they caused and the destruction they left behind. In his own words, he had a bad opinion of them.”

“So Congreve didn’t get the commission?”

“Not from Wellington, but Congreve had gotten in tight with Prinny, who was pushing for the use of the rockets.”


Sigh. “Prinny, the Prince Regent. King George the fourth. They kept pestering Wellington to use them. When Wellington was in Portugal in 1810, the matter was again raised in a letter from Vice Admiral Berkeley. Wellington said that they wouldn’t answer for his purposes on land, but he allowed that every thing deserved a fair chance. So it was that eventually the Royal Navy used them and fired them from the decks of their ships.”

“How’d that go?”

“You’ve heard of `the rockets red glare’?”

“The bombs bursting in air?”

“Exactly. Those were Congreve’s rockets. They put on a great show, but weren’t very effective.”

Our train arrived and I helped Hubby get ourselves and our luggage onboard. I must say that Hubby was a brick, changes and all, up until the last leg of the journey, when a guy got on the train with a pit bull.

Hubby elbowed me in the side. “He’s got a dog on the train. A pit bull.”

Now, as you know, I pride myself on reporting this trip exactly as it happened. There was a pit bull on the train. Which now allows me to segue neatly into this photo of our granddog, Coco, the pit bull. Who believes with all his heart that he’s a Yorkshire terrier and who is constantly trying to climb onto my lap. But I digress . . . . .

“You’re allowed to bring dogs on the train in England,” I told Hubby.

“You can’t smoke outside on the platform, but you can bring a dog into a crowded train?”

“Look!” I said as I pointed out the window.

“What? What is that? Is that a castle?”

 Part Two Coming Soon!

Paul and Thomas Sandby, Painters of Britain

Victoria here, sorting out bookshelves…yes, that’s sort of like cleaning, but not quite.  And I found a treasure.  Couldn’t remember when I bought it, but I found a copy of a wonderful book: Views of Windsor: Watercolours by Thomas and Paul Sandby.  Of course, I had to quit the sorting and sit down to enjoy it. 

The mystery was solved when I checked the publication page and saw that it is a catalogue which accompanied the exhibition of the same name from 1995-1997, which was shown in Amsterdam; Portland, Oregon; Memphis; Dallas; and Manchester, UK.  I must have seen it in Dallas.  The paintings are from the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. To see more, click here.
Paul Sandby, The Castle from the Long Walk, ca. 1765
Watercolour with pen and ink over graphite within black line
Zoom on Image here.
This is the view of the castle before the Round Tower was “tarted up” as a Gothic Fantasy by George IV and his architect Jeffry Wyattville in the 1820’s. Below, the view since that time, a much taller and more elaborate building.
Windsor Castle, Round Tower, 2010
Thomas Sandby (1721-1798) was the elder of the two brothers, both born in Nottingham. Thomas was an architectural draughtsman, artist and teacher. He joined the staff  of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, for his campaigns in Flanders and Scotland (1743–1748). Later, he became Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park, and also spent part of the year in London where he engaged in numerous architectural and artistic projects. He and his brother were among the 28 persons who were chosen as founding members of  the Royal Academy; Thomas was the RA’s first Professor of Architecture.
Thomas Sandby, RA, by Sir William Beechey, n.d., NPG, London

Paul Sandby, View through the Norman Gateway, looking west towards the Winchester Tower,
 ca. 1770; Watercolour with pen and ink over graphite

Paul Sandby (1731-1809) was chief draughtsman for the Board of Ordnance’s 1747 project of mapping the Scottish Highlands. In the 1750’s, Paul and Thomas Sandby created hundreds of views of Windsor, the castle, the royal grounds, the town and other scenes.  Their work was admired by artists such as Gainsborough, who appreciated the details they captured. More than 500 of their paintings and drawings are held in the Royal Collection.  Paul was chief drawing master to the Royal Military academy and published several volumes of his works over the years. At his death, he was called “the father of modern landscape painting.”

Paul Sandby sketching, by Francis Coates, 1791
Tate Britain
Paul Sandby, The Henry VIII Gateway and the Salisbury Tower from within the Lower Ward, ca. 1770
Watercolour with pen and ink over graphite within black ink line

Though it may be difficult to see without enlarging these views (which can easily be done with the zoom feature of the Royal Collection), one of the major interests of the Sandbys’ work goes beyond the exactitude of the buildings in time.  The figures in the foreground, pedestrians, workers, riders…all provide a perfect picture of what people wore, what they did, even what they ate at the time.  They provide a rich source for those of us who obsess over minute details of the period.

Paul Sandby, The north front of the Castle from Isherwood’s Brewery in Datchet Lane, c. 1765
Watercolour and body colour with pen and ink
Paul Sandby, The Norman Gateway from the gate to the North Terrace, ca. 1770
Watercolour and bodycolour with pen and ink over graphite

Paul Sandby, The Castle from Datchet Lane on a rejoicing night, 1768
Watercolour and bodycolour including gold paint, within black line
The subject matter of the rejoicing night is unknown; from the leaves on the trees, it cannot be Guy Fawkes Night (5 November), but the distant bonfire and/or fireworks suggests a celebration.
Thomas and Paul Sandby The Walk and terrace at Cranbourne Lodge 1752
Watercolour and bodycolour with Pen and ink over graphite
This volume of wonderful views of Windsor is now in a more prominent position in my bookcases — and I am willing to report that I plan to share any more treasures I uncover.  I’ve already got one in mind, Royal London.  Coming one of these days….

Travels with Victoria: The Windsor Museum

I was delighted to spend my last full day in England, June 15, 2011, with Hester Davenport in Windsor.

Here is Hester with members of the Irish guard with their canine mascot at the opening of the museum.

Hester generously planned our day beginning by meeting me at the train station in Slough, pronounced I believe to rhyme with plow (or plough).  Our first stop was a new park, formed from an old one which had fallen into disrepair. 
 The Herschel Park, 2011
The park is named after the famed German-born astronomer and musician-composer Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) who died in Slough after a distinguished career in which he discovered the planet Uranus and its moons, invented a number of telescopes, named the “asteroids”, and composed more than twenty symphonies. His sister Caroline was a significant partner in many of his scientific studies.

In the mid-nineteenth century, this area was part of a housing development which included large open spaces, and was known as Upton Park. It borders the M-4 and most of it was badly in need of renewal when a group, with money partially from the Heritage Lottery Fund, redesigned the park with nature trails and a Victorian band shell, a real asset for the neighborhood.Below, an old view of the Victorian park.

Our next stop was the Windsor Farm Shop where one can buy the Queen’s own beef, poultry and vegetables, straight from the Royal Estates. The goods were very enticing, I must say.

 Outside, there was a wide array of herbs, vegetables and flowers for one’s own gardens.  But I couldn’t quite figure out how I would get them home across the pond!

After a quick sandwich, we walked over to the Windsor Great Park to see the Queen and the royal family pass by on their way to the Ascot Races. I completely failed to get a photo here, but I found one in a newspaper that shows the Queen in what I believe is her loveliest hat. We got a very good glimpse of her and I was so impressed, I forgot my camera altogether.  Isn’t this the prettiest chapeau EVER?


Above, Queen Anne on the Windsor Guildhall,  home of the new museum.

View of the Guildhall from the south, showing the original Wren building completed in 1689 and the extension at the rear, constructed about 1829.

In March of 2011, the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum opened on the ground floor of the Guildhall. The doll above is one of thousands of artifacts to be exhibited, covering prehistoric to recent days.

Hester Davenport blogged here about some of the most fascinating items in the collection, the miniature d
ioramas created in the 1950’s by Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards.  Below, a detail of Windsor during George II’s Golden Jubilee in 1809, showing the princesses dancing at the local celebration.

 Since the town council was not in session, I had the opportunity to go upstairs and view the council chamber, the mayor’s office and  the Ascot Room up close.

 You will be pleased to know that I did not dissolve the town while I sat in the mayor’s chair under the portraits of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

This recent picture of Queen Elizabeth II hangs in the Council Chamber, but I have to admit I preferred the earlier one below, which is not currently hanging but can be seen in the Ascot Room underneath a portrait of Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother.

The Ascot Room, next to the Council Chamber, is often used for wedding ceremonies, most notably the 2005 marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, and later that year, the civil partnership of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.

Hester and I finished with a delicious dinner.  I thank her ever so much for showing my around.   Hester is a very busy lady, with many boards and committees having to do with local history and the 18th /19th C. history. She is currently, for example, the chariman of The Burney Society and is a frequent speaker and writer on literary figures.  Thank you, Hester!!!

The next day I was off to Heathrow for the return trip, already planning for my next visit.

Travels with Victoria for 2011 concludes with this post. I hope you have enjoyed vicariously accompanying me on my jaunts.  And I hope you did not catch my pesky cold — which followed me back home but is now, thankfully, only a memory.