Walmer Castle, Kent

On Monday, September 8th, 2014, we will journey by private bus from London through the countryside of Kent to the coast of the British Channel at Walmer Castle.

Walmer Castle

Walmer Castle was built by Henry VIII to fortify the Kentish Coast against the invasion. The Duke lived – and died – here, his residence as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, an appointment that dates back to the 12th century. In much more recent times, Winston Churchill was the Lord Warden; and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was Lord Warden from 1978-2002  (We’ll get to see the rose garden she planted at Walmer).  Here is  lovely video of the Castle and Gardens, accompanied by Bach..

In November, 1842, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, with their first two children, Vicky, the Princess Royal, and Bertie, later King Edward VII, visited Walmer Castle.  One of the ladies in waiting,
Lady Lyttleton wrote of the Castle in her Correspondence:

“This is much what I expected. A Big round tower, with odd additions stuck on.  Immense thick walls, and a heap of comical rooms of the odd shapes necessary as parts of a round house built close upon the shingly beach…It seems needless to go out for air, doors and windows all chatter and sing at once, and hardly keep out the dark storm of wind and rain which is howling round. All this outward rudeness mixes very oddly with the numbers of smart servants and courtly whispers and very tolerably got-up imitation of the palace mummeries we have contrived indoors…”

Lady Lyttelton by John Jackson 
Lady Lyttelton (1787-1870) was the daughter of the 2nd Earl Spencer and his Countess, nee Lavinia Bingham; Lady Sarah was thus the niece of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.  In 1813, Lady Sarah married William Henry Lyttelton (1782–1837) who became the 3rd Baron Lyttleton in 1828; they had three sons and two daughters.  Baron Lyttleton died in 1837, and soon afterwards, Lady Lyttleton became a lady in waiting to the new Queen Victoria.
As a brief aside, the Lyttelton family resided at 17 St. James’s Place, now part of the Stafford Hotel, which we’ll be viewing as part of the St. James’s Walking Tour we’ve scheduled during the London portion of the Tour.
Stafford Hotel, St. James’s, London
The Lyttleton, fine dining room in the Stafford
Lady Lyttleton’s further comments on Walmer Castle are included in this video, from the BBC series Royal Upstairs Downstairs.  Antiques expert Tim Wonnacott and chef Rosemary Shrager visit twenty of the houses visited by Queen Victoria to see what she saw and taste what she ate. In this 29-minute episode, they are at Walmer Castle.
You can see three more posts from this blog about Walmer Castle.
Victoria visits in 2011 here.
Wellington’s life at Walmer here.
The Death of Wellington at Walmer here.

You’ll find the complete itinerary and details for 

The Duke of Wellington Tour – Video Highlights – Part Three


After our visit to Horse Guards, we’ll be rounding out the day with a private dinner at The Grenadier Pub, one of London’s historic pubs. This is another stop I try to make whenever I’m in London and I’ve been there with, among others, Victoria, my daughter, Brooke, with authors Diane Gaston,  Sue Ellen Welfonder, and Carrie Bebris and even by myself.

The Grenadier is a tad hard to find first time out, tucked away as it is behind Wilton Crescent on Wilton Row, or Wilton Mews, in Belgravia. You can see how it’s situated on the street at right in the photo of the Row below.
Here’s the Row on a map of London. 
It’s within walking distance of Apsley House and legend has it that the Pub was used as a mess by soldiers in the Duke of Wellington’s regiment, although a pub in some form has stood on the spot since 1720. 
Supposedly, there’s a blocked up entrance to a tunnel in the basement of the Pub that connects it to Apsley House. Keeping in mind that Wellington rarely fraternized with his soldiers – apart from his ADC’s and a very few fellow officers – and that Wellington regularly traveled round London  on horseback, in full view of all and sundry and wasn’t the least concerned about hiding his movements – I put the story of the tunnel on the side of legend, rather than fact. 
The Grenadier’s military connection is not in doubt. Until 1834, Old Barrack Yard, the remnants of which run along the side of the Grenadier Pub, once formed the access road to Knightsbridge Foot Barracks, located on the site now occupied by St. Paul’s Church, Wilton Place. When the Guards moved to their current home at Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk, the land was donated by the owner, the Duke of Westminster, to the Diocese of London. 
Today, the Grenadier is awash in historic military decor and Napoleonic atmosphere, with much of the memorabilia focused upon Guards history.

In addition, the Wellington connection is reinforced at the Grenadier through portraits of the Duke, like the one below over the fireplace, as well as the story that the mounting block outside the side entrance of the Pub (below, left) was placed there for Wellington’s use. Which begs the question – did he use the block in order to mount his horse before riding it down the basement stairs and then home through the tunnel? 
Bringing the history of the Grenadier closer to the present, legend also has it that The Grenadier was a regular haunt for Burt Bacharach in the 60’s and that he wrote the score for What’s New Pussycat when he stayed across the road in 10 Wilton Row. Madonna and Prince William are reputed to frequent the Pub, which is said to serve the best “secret recipe” Bloody Mary’s in London.  
You’ll agree that The Grenadier was a “must do” for the Duke of Wellington Tour and Victoria and I look forward to the private dinner our tour group is slated to enjoy here. Not to mention the cocktails . . . . . 
. . . . . . . And the ghost. The Grenadier is commonly known as one of the most haunted places in London, so I could hardly keep it a secret. The Pub is sup
posedly haunted by the ghost of a soldier who was beaten to death for cheating at cards in the Pub. If you’re interested in learning more about the haunted history of the Pub, here’s a video about it from the television series Great British Ghosts, which also happens to have some great footage of the interior of the Pub, its decor and atmosphere. Not mention the cellars.
Personally, I’ve never seen a ghost inside the Grenadier. Rather, I saw them (yes, plural) around the corner in Old Barrack Yard, above. You can read all about my ghostly encounter in a prior post here. 
Oh, one more thing . . . . . . . I should mention that ghost sightings are most frequent in the month of September.

Why not join us??

The Battle of Waterloo: The Video – Part Three

At the end of the Battle, Michael, a fellow tour mate, helped me down off the Mound and we proceeded to the pub mentioned earlier for a well earned coffee and fortifying brandy. On our way there, we were fortunate enough to get up close to the battlefield and witness some dashing derring-do by men on horseback, which I’ve edited in to the video below.  What the woman beside me was cackling about, I’ve no idea. Anyway, this is what I saw:

The Battle of Waterloo: The Video – Part Two

Though the rain continued to pour down and a Frenchman on a loudspeaker insisted on narrating the entire bloody Battle (and although people persisted in standing up in front of me and blocking the view), I remained in position on the confounded Mound and stayed to finish filming the action. Actually, it was at about this point that my daughter left me to the elements and hightailed it down to the nearby pub. However, in my guise as your intrepid reporter, I manned my post, aimed my camera . . . and this is what I saw: