Director Dustin Hoffman’s movie Quartet is garnering great reviews and stands as another in the “later life” genre of film that’s become all the rage with people of a certain age. The fabulous and star studded cast includes the beloved Dame Maggie Smith, Billy Connelly, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay and Sheridan Smith as residents of stately Beecham House, a retirement home for impoverished singers and musicians.
Not having seen the film yet, I plan on doing so this weekend, if only to see Dame Maggie, Billy Connelly (who, as a stand-up comic, is simply hysterical) and the much missed Pauline Collins. Sarah, where have you been?
What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with the Duke of Welllington? Well, another of the film’s stars is Hedsor House, which acts in Quartet as the fictional Beecham House, visible in the background of the photo below.
Hedsor House stands in the village of Hedsor, in Taplow, Buckinghamshire and dates back to the 12th century. In the 18th century, Hedsor House was occupied by Princess Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, mother of King George III and founder of Kew Gardens.
In 1764, the house was purchased by William Irby, 1st Baron Boston, who also acquired the grounds, consisting of eighty-five acres overlooking the Thames.
The House was badly damaged by fire in 1795 and a new house was completed in 1868, unusually modeled on the Italian villa style but with a domed hall rather than an open courtyard. Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor and Baron Boston built the Hedsor Folly, also called Lord Boston’s Folly, to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo. Or perhaps he built it to commemorate King George III’s brief recovery from madness. Both theories are in circulation.
Please leave a comment if you’ve actually seen either Quartet or the Folly and let us know what you thought of either of them. Or both.