The National Trust refers to Calke Abbey as "The Unstately Home" and certainly we visitors found it unusual! When the NT acquired it in 1985, parts of the house had been abandoned for decades and were, in their words, "in a state of rapid decline. We decided not to restore these rooms but rather preserve them as they were found."
On second thought, I should point out that many steps were taken to allow visitors to roam the grounds, as the provision of loos, or, as they once were known, Necessaries.
Founded in the very early 12th century, an Augustinian Priory once occupied the estate. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, it passed through several families before being acquired by the Harpurs in 1622. Twelve subsequent generations of the Harpurs lived at Calke until it was handed over to the NT in 1985 in lieu of taxes and death duties. The house, as it stands above, was completed in 1704, an excellent example of English Baroque.
Above, the Salon. The National Trust was faced with a difficult dilemma, The estate was so dilapidated it could probably never be restored to the elegant and pristine status of most fine NT houses open to the public. A decision was reached to preserve but not to repair the house, by replacing the roof -- a monumental task in itself -- and making the interior and exterior accessible for visitors -- to show a country house in its state of decline. Reader, it's a mess! Crammed with hunting so-called trophies from birds to water buffalo, it gave all of us a definite case of the creeps. Perfectly suitable for Halloween.
How people endured this grisly setting is beyond me. But many families lived here over the years, winding their way among the relics and probably hiding out in nooks unmarred by such horrors.
Sir Henry Harpur 7th Baronet, 1763-1819, was known as the Isolated Baronet, beginning the tradition of secluded families on the estate. He added Crewe to his last name, and married a former ladies maid in 1792. His eldest son, Sir George Crewe (1795-1844), 8th Baronet, inherited and made some improvements in the estate, but mostly lived elsewhere with his wife, Jane Whitaker (1799-1880), painted below by artist Ramsay Richard Reinagle in 1828.
The Caricature Room is an unusual variation on the traditional 18th century print room. Rather than scenes of beautiful landscapes, these pictures portray political and social satire,
The central staircase with children's toys: a rocking horse and a dollhouse. Below, views of the Dining Room. It even looked usable for meals.
Above, the Library. Many equine portraits decorate the walls above the book shelves. More views of the library, below. The picture is "A Group of Ponies in the Park" painted in 1850 by John E. Ferneley Sr. (1782-1860).
Above the Drawing Room, and below, the Breakfast Room.
Upstairs, the State Bed stands, though it was never used, to the best of recollection. Why it is there is unknown, but it is a lovely object, with hangings of Chinese Silk
Below, assorted rooms, many relived of effluvia or otherwise used for storage.
Many rooms were unnamed and their use not noted.
Above, 19th century fire fighting equipment. Soon we will take a look at the outbuildings, pleasure gardens, and park at Calke Abbey.
Recently I have visited a couple of houses which illustrate dramatically the decline and ruination of many English Country Houses. Here is the first of several posts on these spots. For many years, I have wanted to visit this site, a preserved ruin of a lovely country house fallen into the fate of so many of its fellows among stately homes.
Kristine Hughes Patrone and I had come to the Isle of Wight primarily to visit Osborne House, a residence of Queen Victoria and her family. But we decided we must see this famous ruin, so we set off on a bus ride around the Isle, driving through picturesque towns, villages, and the countryside. When the driver told us we had reached the proper stop after an hour or so, we got off and followed the signpost toward English Heritage's site.
Off we trudged up the road, past a farm or two, empty fields and lots of friendly cows. Remember to click on the photos above for full size versions. It was a long hike, in my opinion, but worth it.
Eventually, after several hills and amidst lovely bluebells in the woods, we saw it. There wasn't a soul around. A small carpark was empty and a closed building that apparently held an office stood at the edge of the premises, but no evidence of human company showed.
The silence seemed suitable, correct for the shattered elegance of the noble structure, stripped of almost all its accouterments. It was not spooky, but merely sad, with the world having passed it by. Once, it seemed to say, I was magnificent.
Originally a priory, the property was the home of the Leigh family in the Elizabethan era. In 1702, Sir Robert Worsley began a new building on the site which was extended in the 1770's by his heir, Sir Richard Worsley.
You can see from the photo above that it has been stripped of all furnishings except for one room.
Here a room was enclosed and roofed; these portraits and a text panel told the sad story of the house and its ill-fated occupants. On the left is Sir Richard Worsley, (1751-1805). 7th Baronet of Appuldurcombe, copy of a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1775. On the right is Seymour Dorothy Fleming, his wife Lady Worsley (1758-1818), a reproduction of the painting by Reynolds, now hanging in Harwood House, Yorkshire. They married in 1775.
The very unhappy marriage led to a Crim. Con. case in court, and wild stories resulting in such caricatures as this 1782 Gillray cartoon titled "Sir Richard Worse-than-sly, exposing his wife's bottom, o fye!" Eventually they separated permanently and took up with others.
The beautiful house remained until after World War II during which it was used by the military. A German explosive destroyed the roof and it was never repaired. After the hostilities ended the interiors were removed, leaving only a shell. And so it remains.
Supposedly it is haunted but on the beautiful May day we visited, all we met were blossoms.
If you are in the market for a fixer-upper, English Heritage might be willing to deal!
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art was a treat to visit, a treasure-house full of objects from many centuries worldwide. It has two adjacent buildings. The columned original was opened in 1933; the Bloch Building, housing contemporary art opened in 2007.
For my purpose here on this blog, I will look primarily at British Art from the 19th and 19th centuries. But first....the exterior. Below, left the original building combining neo-classic and art deco styles; at right, the white structure of the Bloch building.
Within there is a wide contrast in styles; in this court, the pillars frame fine Brussels tapestries from the 17th century.
You can see the back of The Thinker by Rodin in the middle overlooking the broad lawn and sculpture park.
The classical urn is a perfecct foil for the shuttlecock by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje von Bruggen, one of four in various positions in the park.
The stairwell in the "old" building, which dates from 1934.
Kim Wilson and I prepared to wear our feet to bluddy stubs as we tried to cover every gallery.
The Courtyard houses a lovely cafe where we refreshed our energy.
Among the N-A's treasures is this marble lion from Greece, 325 B.C.E. And now, as promised to some of the British works.
John Hoppner (1758-1810) painted Portrait of Lady Emily St. Clare as a Bacchante in 1806-07. She was an actress and the mistress of Sir John Flemming Leicester who commissioned many artists to paint her. Hoppner painted many aristocrats including all of George III's daughters.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) painted Mrs. William Lock of Norbury in 1829. Lawrence was the best known portraitist in Europe in the early 19th century. His subject here, Frederica Augusta Lock is obviously prosperous and a credit to her husband, whose portrait hangs int he Boston Museum of Fine Art, also executed by Lawrence. The Locks had numerous children, and most were both amateur painters and collectors of art.
Among the Nelson-Atkins collection of miniatures is this portrait of King George IV in 1821 by Henry Bone (1755-1834), enamel on copper.
Repose, c.1777, by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) shows a rustic landscape. The text panel says,"Thomas Gainsborough evoked the hard labor of the rural poor while also representing the landscape that provided a source of prosperity for the painting's wealthy audience." Gainsborough is probably best known for his elegant portraits of the aristocracy.
Among the many portraits is Henry Raeburn's (1756-1803) image of Master Alexander Mackenzie, 1822.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was a master of the play of light. In Fish Market, 1810, he portrays the beach in Hastings where the fishermen display their wares for shoppers.
John Constable (1776-1837) was moving towards Romanticism with his work, The Dell at Helmingham Park, 1830.
Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) pictures a scene in the Lake District, Outlet of Wyburne Lake, 1796. This is Wright's last known painting.
The Stately Home on the site was formerly the Great Gatehouse of Beaulieu Abbey, founded in 1204 on land gifted to the Cistercian order by King John.
The springtime blooms of the rhododendrons and other flowers were spectacular.
Please click on the pictures for full-size versions.
Above, in the Topiary Garden, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party and the Cheshire Cat.
The Portrait Gallery, below, exhibits portraits of the various dukes and barons whose families owned the estate from the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in the 16th century. In actuality, the estate has been in the hands of one or another branch of the same family since 1538.
Below, Walter Francis Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch (1806-1884), who presented the Beaulieu estate to his second son, Henry John Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (1832-1905), ancestor of the present family in residence.
Below, the Lower Drawing Room, added in the Gothick style the 19th century, reflecting the monastic origins of the building.
Below, the Dining Hall, also a Victorian remodeling.
At one end of the Dining Room, the children's table was visited by someone's favorite mount.
Above. views of the Victorian kitchen, where treats for visitors were in the oven.
The Upper Drawing Room carried on the Gothick origins and style. Formerly it was a chapel for visitors to the Abbey. The piano is an English-made Broadwood.
The family Dining Room.
The Family Library aka The Late Lord Montague's sitting room ...comfortable in all respects.
Miniature stage set and enviable shelves of book. Let me at 'em.
The hallways are often the sites of a familiar scene in stately homes -- trophies of past conquests, which often do not appeal to my tastes in sport. Nevertheless, it was a lovely adaptation of an abbey turned family home.
In May 2018, on our weekend in Southampton when the Archive was closed, Kristine Hughes Patrone and I took a welcome break from our research and traveled on the ferry from Southampton Docks to Hythe, on the edge of the New Forest.
We passed by the big cruise ships as well as all sorts of watercraft on a perfectly sunny warm day. As we found out later in the year it was the glorious spring before the hot and dry summer in England this year.
Above, a Wikipedia picture of the famous Motor Museum at Beaulieu which attracts thousands of visitors. You can tell from the fact I took not even one picture of a car I was much more interested in the ruined Abbey and the stately home.
The remains of the Abbey over large portions of the estate clearly show how large and prosperous the Cistercian Order had grown over the years from its establishment in 1204 in the reign of King John (1167-1216). It grew from thirty monks to hundreds who conducted their sacred duties in its precincts.
A model of the Abbey as it was after the 13th century, showing the large high-roofed church, chapter house, the cloisters and dormitories.
The picturesque ruins give only a hint of their original splendor.
Above, the choir entrance to the church from the cloister.
A collection of architectural remnants from the demolished buildings.
Above, the Domus Conversorum, once the quarters of the lay brothers who performed the practical tasks of maintaining the Abbey, cooking, and farming. Thus the choir brothers could devote their lives to prayer serving God.
Above, the Abbey Church in the former refrectory, which serves the parish of Beaulieu.
Below, horses of the New Forest, roaming freely, but refusing to turn around and greet us.
he refused to turn around and pose for me
The forested areas were lovely, but the horses obviously preferred the grasslands.
Next week, the Beaulieu Palace House.
Hartley Library at the University of Southampton has a large archive of important papers from the Duke of Wellington, Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston, and Earl Mountbatten, among others.
Emily Lamb, Viscountess Palmerston, was the first object of my research at the the Archives several years ago. When Kristine Hughes Patrone and I visited in May 2018, we were checking out the letters of the Duke.
We couldn't take our cell phones into the Special Collections area, but we did take a few pictures in the library, including the pictures below, made up of many little pictures.
The portrait above is Ishbel Grace MacNaughton Campbell (1906-1997), a chemist who taught and researched at the University of Southampton for more than fifty years, a trendsetter among women in science and academia. The collage was created of selfies taken by women faculty members on October 11, Ada Lovelace Day (honoring one of the foremothers of computing), and created by Pascal Matthias. It hangs in the forecourt of Hartley Library.
The library's commons area.
Though we could not take cameras into our workspace, this gives you a tiny taste of the handwriting we strained to decipher. The librarians were most accomodating and the wi-fi efficient!
We traveled around the city a bit now and then, enjoying the lovely waterfront (more later), watching a movie at the mall (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) and taking in The Dolphin, where Jane Austen danced.
Below, the plaque beside the large entryway.
On the weekend, we took a ferry across the bay to the New Forest and Beaulieu, next week on this blog.
The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, known as Dorchester Abbey, is located in the picturesque south Oxfordshire village of Dorchester-on-Thames. Below is my choice for a retirement home, nearby!
Don't I wish!
Dorchester Abbey grew out of a 12th century monastery and is now a parish church, decorated on the day we visited in May 2018 for a wedding later in the day. Note that this is the Oxford village of Dorchester, not the Dorset town.
The lead baptismal font, one of only thirty remaining in England, dates from c. 1170 stands on a limestone base from the Victorian era. In the background are remnants of medieval decoration in the People's Chapel.
Just above the altar table is a painting of the crucifixion, from the 14th century, re-painted by the Victorians. The cross in the arch above was painted over other earlier scenes. The modern cross, of stainless steel, reflects the cross above it. It was created in 2010 by Brian Catling.
The Victorian window in the Requiem Chapel.
Click on the pictures above for full size versions. This effigy is likely to be the knight William de Valance the Younger who died in 1282. He is unsheathing his sword, and his feet are crossed over the head of a lion. He was probably a knight on one of the Crusades; the sculpture originally would have been brightly colored.
The Victorians stained glass East Window in the main sanctuary was made from glass collected from other windows in the church about 1814 added to designs and glass from later in the 19th century.
Nearby, we stopped for a drop of refreshment at the George. Thanks, Beth Elliot for showing us around 'your world.' Below, Beth's gorgeous lilac bush.
Last May, 2018, Kristine Hughes Patrone and I arrived in Reading, Berkshire, to consult the archives at the Museum of Rural History and to visit with our pal, author Beth Elliot. Beth was kind enough to drive us around the neighboring countryside whenever we could take a breather from trying to decipher the letters of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, whose handwriting leaves much to be
Above, Kristine Hughes Patrone and Beth Elliott; lower, Kristine and Victoria, all overlooking the picturesque village of Ewelme in Oxfordshire.
Note the cleaning equipment at the door. A group of church volunteers was sprucing up the premises, dusting, vacuuming, polishing and arranging flowers.
The Baptismal Font has an amazing wooden cover, intricately carved. It is raised and lowered by a set of pulleys. Aren't you glad you don't have to dust it?
The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin has foundations dating back to the early 15th century but Christian celebrations were held here long before that.
Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, and his daughter Alice (1404-1475), wife of William de la Pole, the 1st Duke of Suffolk, are buried in the church.
Alice de la Pole is buried in a cadaver tomb, also known as a memento mori tomb. The effigy atop the alabaster bier shows Alice, accompanied by an angel, as she was in life. Below is a representation of her remains. Such tombs, also called 'transi' can be seen in many English churches and cathedrals.
Outside the church, in a more familiar kind of cemetery, are many graves, including that of Jerome K Jerome (1859-1927), author of Three Men in a Boat, a humorous story of a holiday boating on the Thames.
Below, photos of the Almshouses built by the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk in the 15th century.
A charming village on a brilliant spring day with good friends...what could be better?
Kristine and I had to return to our work in the archives, but Beth had more adventures in mind for us soon.
Our introduction to the famous Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, was the famous Henley Bridge so often seen in the annual Royal Regatta races, an important part of the London Season.
At our visit in May, we were a little early for the races July 4-8 this year, but they were already preparing.
Okay, I have to admit, we were pretending to be at the regatta, drinking Pimm's at the Angel on a warm sunny day.
Guess why I loved this vessel.
The swan, looking for a handout.
Church of St. Mary has a 16th Century tower.
The Red Lion...do you ever wonder how many of these exist in Britain. Or the White Horse Inn....
Today we were content with luncheon and swans, but perhaps someday we'll be there to watch the competition.
Above, the North Facade of Sudbury Hall; below, the South or Garden Facade. On July 7, 2018, this blog visited Lyme Park, the setting for exterior scenes of Pemberley in the 1995 BBC miniseries of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (the version starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy). The interior scenes of the series were shot here at Sudbury Hall, though of course there are many other excellent features of the estate we can visit.
George Vernon (1635-1702) designed and oversaw the creation of this house beginning in 1660, after Charles II took the restored throne, and continuing into the 1690's. Vernon, descended from the Vernon family of Haddon Hall, married an heiress and inherited this estate, to which he devoted his life. Below the magnificent plasterwork ceiling of the Long Gallery on the top floor.
The Long Gallery is more than 165 feet long, topped by the work of Robert Bradbury and James Pettifer in the 1670's.
In this scene from Pride & Prejudice, the BBC 1995 version, the housekeeper shows family portraits to the visiting Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners.
Obviously the gallery serves as an excellent exhibition space for the family's art collection as well as other treasures.
The ceiling designs are intricate indeed. All sorts of flora and fauna are included, such as the shells above, and even grasshoppers elsewhere.
A brilliant Oriental Laquered Cabinet.
The Red Room is also known as the Queen's Room. After her husband's death, Queen Adelaide lived here for portion of the 1840's.
The alabaster chimneypiece was carved by William Wilson in 1670.
Above and below, scenes from Pride & Prejudice, where Darcy changes his coat.
The elaborately decorated staircase
The elaborate Staircase is a work of art in itself.
The Gardiners and Elizabeth follow the housekeeper upstairs.
Above, part of our tour group admires the staircase and ceiling.
Even in the film, everyone admires the staircase. Below, under the stairs is a painting by Laguerre of Juno and the Peacock, c. 1692. Louis Laguerre (1663-1721). a French artist, painted numerous ceilings in British houses such as Chatsworth, Blenheim and Burghley, as well as here at Sudbury.
A great deal to admire.
As we have seen, the ceilings throughout the house are amazing. The painting above, on the Drawing Room ceiling, is entitled Venus petitioning Jupiter, though the artist's name is unknown.
Among the best known of the many artists whose work is on view in Sudbury Hall, is the sculptor Grinling Gibbons (1678-1721) whose exquisite wood carvings can be found in the Drawing Room. His work was accomplished in 1678 and records book show a payment to him of £40.
In addition to touring the house and gardens, the NT hosts the Museum of Childhood on the premises.
Victoria Hinshaw, Author