We have written about Basildon here in the past.  Click here to see our previous post.

Victoria here. This trip in September 2014, my second visit to Basildon, was indeed a delight. Not only was I with a wonderful group on the Duke of Wellington Tour; the National Trust now allows non-flash photographs and I went wild with snapping with both my camera and my phone.

Susan dashed ahead to welcome us from the Piano Nobile Balcony
The East Front
Copper Beech, I assume

Basildon Park was built between 1776 and 1782 by Sir Francis Sykes, created a baronet in 1781. His roots were in Yorkshireand he chose architect John Carr of York (1723–1807) to build his house, a classical Palladian villa with a main block of rooms joined to pavilions on either side. The Sykes fortune was made during his service in India.
Carr had previously worked with Robert Adam, and Adam’s style clearly influenced the Palladian exterior as well as the decor of many rooms in the interior. The house as it stands today is the survivor of multiple owners, periods of abandonment, and occupation by soldiers and war prisoners in World Wars I and II. So it combines dazzling restorations of original features with comfortable furnishings and artwork from the 1950’s when the house was acquired and restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe.

Etruscan panels in the Hall

Above the fireplace


The library opens off the hall, magnificent yet cozy with its scarlet walls and huge book case. Who among us could resist sinking into the sofa with some selections from the shelves?

My corner?

The chimneypiece and other architectural features came from Panton Hall in the 1950’s
 to replace the originals which were lost in a fire in 1946. Panton Hall in Lincolnshire had been remodeled by Carr of York; it was demolished in 1964

Library Mirror

In the center of the house is the grand staircase, and Donna is shown admiring the piano and pianist who entertained us as we roamed the rooms.

Marilyn and others admire the furnishings

Dining Room

In the dining room, more influences of the Adam Brothers are found in the wall decoration.  

The ceiling lunettes and medallions show Roman scenes.
A screen of scagliola columns at one end of the dining room.

At the center back of the house is the Octagon Drawing Room. Venetian windows overlook the park and beyond to the Thames.  

Pier Glass and table
Display of shots from filming of Downton Abbey which used the Octagon Drawing Room to serve as the drawing room of the Grantham House, the family’s London residence. The dining room was also used in DA for ballroom scenes.
Perfect for the center, and quite clearly 20th century.
Kristine and Nancy have been peeking out the windows.

So I had to have a peek too!

Pier glass and table

Adjacent to the Octagon Room is the Green Drawing Room, originally the breakfast room. 

Ceiling medallion in the Green Drawing Room.

A serpentine marquetry commode with marble top shows photos from the Iliffe days.

One of the collection of landscapes in the room

The chimneypiece is original to the house and
 may be the work of sculptor Richard Westmacott the elder

Dried thistles reminded us not to sit on the damask sofa

Cupids play on the panels of this commode

Diagram of the Piano Nobile (1st floor) from Wikipedia

The first floor. 1: The four service courts; 2: Portico and West front; 3: North Pavilion; 4: South Pavilion; 5: Entrance Hall; 6: Staircase Hall; 7: Octagon Drawing Room; 8: Dining Room; 9: Study; 10: Library; 11: Sutherland Room (formerly lady Iliffe’s sitting room); 12: Kitchen (since 1952); 13: larder (?); 14: Green Drawing Room (formerly Breakfast or Small Dining Room).

The balcony above the staircase

The Crimson Bedroom
Lord and Lady Iliffe acquired this state bed form the sale at Ashburnham Place in 1953.
The Spode service on the washstand also comes from Ashburnham

Mahogany Cheval Glass

The Shell Room was probably an upstairs sitting room, now the home of a collection of shells collected by Lord Iliffe’s mother.

Ki admires another tempting bookcase

As befits a grand house of the 1950’s Basildon was equipped with luxurious bathrooms,
 definitely not in the 18th century style.

Wonderful 1950’s kitchen…added by the Iliffes and bringing back childhood memories for many of us;

Susan lags behind as we say farewell to Basildon…but wait! There’s more!

Outside the shop, we found this display of garden ornaments and we all wanted one!  or two!

Not even Susan could figure out a way to get a magical mushroom home for her garden.
This was our bus with out esteemed driver Graham.
Though we were all tired, we had to agree that our day at two excellent houses — Highclere Castle and Basildon — had been worth every ounce of energy!
Onward to Windsor!


Across the crazy traffic circle in front of Apsley House, the Wellington Arch stands in isolated magnificence.  With some exceptions we will note further along.

To read what Victoria wrote about the history of the Wellington Arch last year, click here.

Looking through the arch toward Buckingham Palace
Our Guide Clive points out the Wellington statue nearby.
The doors bear the royal crest.
Decimus Burton, architect of the arch and the Hyde Park Screen across the street, also 
designed the iron doors, cast by Joseph Bramah & Sons of Pimlico. They are painted to resemble a bronze patina.

For information on the exhibitions at the Arch, go their website, click here.

We elevated to the top of the arch for the daily parade of guards and were excited at the view.  Took many  many pictures!

Through the screen and into the park beside Apsley House.

The Quadriga by Adrian Jones, finished 1912, replaced the monumental statue atop the Arch. The equestrian statue of the Duke had provoked considerable controversy, even ridicule, before it was dismantled and moved to its present location in Aldershot.
The monumental equestrian statue (8.5 metres high, aka 28 feet) overwhelmed the arch.
Completed in 1846, the statue was cast from 40 tons of bronze, mostly from melted down French cannons, at a cost of  £30,000. Though everyone was unhappy, it was raised on the arch, where it stood until the necessity for moving the location of the arch itself in the late 1880’s.
Gigantic size!
In its present position atop a hill in Aldershot, Hampshire, near the Military Museum, the statue has found a suitable home. The responsible artist was Matthew Coates Wyatt (1777-1862). It was restored in recent years.
Today on the grounds of the Arch.

Wellington Statue near the Arch, by Joseph Boehm, 1888

Apsley House from atop the Arch

Close up of the capital of the Corinthian Columns

Apsley House from the traffic circle

The Wellington Arch, illuminated during the celebration
 of the Battle of Waterloo Centenary, 2015

After a fond farewell to the Wellington Arch and its nearby statue of the Duke of Wellington, our tour group proceeded to the bus and our drive across London to the Tower.


I am gasping for a cuppa. A cuppa coffee at Caffe Nero, that is. I can’t get enough of it and now that London is once again in my sights, I’m lusting for one. Turns out that Denise Costello, who is coming along on The Duke of Wellington Tour with us in September, is also a devotee. We’ve struck a bargain to see who will be the first to reach the eleventh free coffee Caffe Nero awards on their loyalty card.

I have a sneaking idea we’ll be reaching the target together.

Dreaming of my next cup of coffee in London got me thinking about the other London foods I usually indulge in – old favourites that never disappoint. Like bangers and mash.

As Victoria well knows, bangers and mash are my “go to” food, my comfort food and what I can be counted upon to order, at least once a day. Add grilled onions and a side of green peas and it’s heaven. Of course, one can’t eat bangers and mash without washing it down with a pint and, oddly enough, my brew of choice in England is Kronenbourg 1664, which sounds German, but is brewed in France. And since I drink it in England, that’s most of the Waterloo nations covered.

I always try to visit London’s Chinatown when I’m in London, specifically for the roasted Peking duck that hangs tantalizingly in most windows there.

I was introduced to Chinatown many years ago by Dr. David Parker, who was then the curator of the Dickens House Museum. I’ve been returning ever since and will no doubt be popping in again in September. You can read about the history of the area here.

No trip to London would be complete without indulging in afternoon tea and my place of choice are the Richoux Tea Rooms on Piccadilly. There are fancier places, and trendier places, for tea, but Richoux is the grand old lady of tea shop chains, dependably good, always cozy. Rather like a visit to granny’s.

Regency author Diane Gaston, who also blogs at Risky Regencies, has signed up for the Tour and, along with Victoria, we’re looking forward to returning to Richoux during our Sunday walking tour of the St. James’s area of London.

Finally, because I’m such a cheese lover, I’m going to make a point of stopping in to Paxton and Whitfield in Jermyn Street.

It’s one of those places I’ve always meant to spend time in and that I never seem to get around to visiting. You can read about the history of the shop – since 1797 – here.

Honourable mention goes out to the American Steak House, the Angus Steak House and the Aberdeen Steak House, three chains with outlets throughout London. They’re literally everywhere.

Priced right, these places are nothing fancy, but the steaks can be depended upon and they’re convenient.

Honourable mention also to Burger and Lobster, which I discovered on my last trip to London – you can read about it here. 

Burger and Lobster has a rather limited menu – lobster, burger or lobster roll. Twenty pounds each. The lobsters are cooked perfectly, the drinks ditto, so be prepared to wait for a table. They don’t take reservations, but definitely worth the visit.

Do you have a favourite “foodie” destination in London? If so, please leave a comment and let us know about it!


In light of the upcoming Duke of Wellington Tour, I’ve been wandering down Memory Lane in anticipation of the fun ahead. No matter how many times I return to England, I’m always excited to be returning. Each visit creates new memories and each tour establishes new friendships. Here are just a few of my fondest memories:

New Year’s Eve in London with my daughter, Brooke

Crossing Millenium Bridge
Riverside at the Tower
Catching a glimpse of the Queen at Windsor Castle with Victoria and Hester

In the back of an Edinburgh cab – we couldn’t understand a word the cabbie said!
Viewing the Art and Love Exhibition with Victoria at the Queen’s Gallery
Bucolic splendour in the English countryside
Touring the English countryside

Victoria and I being treated to a view of the annual Naked Bike Ride whilst 
minding our own business at Apsley House
Dinner with our tour group on the Coaching Tour
Finding this Staffordshire figurine of the Duke at a shop in Cecil Court
Mudlarking on the River Thames
Unexpectedly coming face to face with Prince Charles wearing full dress uniform 
in the Mall. Really. He was wearing the uniform, not me. 
And what is one of my most treasured memories, highwaymen holding up author Diane Gaston at Belvoir Castle during the Coaching Tour. Diane has signed up for The Duke of Wellington Tour in September – we can’t wait to start the journey and make new memories. Won’t you join us and be a part of it all?