Below, the Throne Room
Below, Opaeka'a Falls, Kauai
Above, the Iolani Palace, Honolulu Hawaii
Below, the Throne Room
On a recent visit, my first, to Hawaii, I was pleased to visit this palace in the center of Honolulu, built in the 1880's. The palace boasted the latest in indoor flushing sanitary conveniences, electric lighting, and telephones, all installed at the behest of King Kalakaua (1836-1891).
I was very interested in reading about Hawaii’s history. The islands were created by the gradual accumulation of lava from underwater volcanoes deep below the Pacific Ocean. According to the sources I read, over millions of years the islands grew until they broke through the surface, one by one, thousands of miles from other land masses.
Scientists at the Bishop Museum (above) showed us evidence of a new island forming and in only 30,000 years (or was it 300,000?), the will be a new island emerging, already named Lo'ihi. The “new” land was composed of lava, which is sometimes solid rock, other times pulverized by wind and waves. Flora and eventually fauna arrived by wind, ocean currents, birds, and insects. Over millions of years, the islands developed in near isolation. The oldest of the islands is Kauai, which is also the greenest.
Below, Opaeka'a Falls, Kauai
Estimates vary, but human arrivals probably began less than two thousand years ago. People from far away islands in Polynesia came, probably in outrigger canoes (modern versions on the beach, below), an amazing feat. Each island was slowly inhabited but the details can be discovered only in legend and myth. The oral tradition is the only source of history before the 18th century. Some speculate that Spanish and/or Portuguese explorers stopped by before, but if so, the specific evidence is still undiscovered.
Captain James Cook (1728-1779) visited Hawaii two times on his third Pacific voyage in 1776-79. A skilled cartographer, his maps of previously little-known lands were met with great interest by the British. The artists and scientists on board his ships brought back the sketches and stories of distant and exotic lands, as well as many artifacts and plants, some of which were planted at Kew Gardens and elsewhere. Below, Cook, by Nathaniel Dance, 1775-75.
Cook himself was killed in Hawaii in what is commonly thought to be a partially accidental incident. A town on the big island is named Captain Cook (note the shot I snapped as our tour bus passed the post office). The spot he was killed is marked by an obelisk, and a statue of Cook stands on the island of Kauai near his first landing.
It was not long before the Christian missionaries followed the explorers to all the areas visited, including the Hawaiian Islands, which he named Sandwich Islands. For several decades, the quarrels and occasional battles among the tribes living on the various islands continued. The pre-European- arrival culture of the islands is preserved in some locations, such as the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, below.
I've taken up way too much space to give you the interior of the palace this time, so come back next week for more.
I am taking down my Christmas Tree, wee though it is, and I thought I'd write a quick post about Twelfth Night, not a holiday widely celebrated around here, except in church, related to the Feast of the Epiphany. I naturally turned to Wikipedia and some articles from newspapers and discovered little agreement about what Twelfth Night is--or when!
What's a busy blogger to do? I thought it was simple. Twelfth Night marks the arrival of the Three Wise Men at the stable in Bethlehem to bring their gifts (who could turn down Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, whatever the last two are?) to the Christchild.
Well, yes, but...when do you start counting the 12 days? does the term refer to the eve of the twelfth day or its post-twilight? Should it be celebrated on January fifth or sixth?
What did Shakespeare say?
I found only further complications as I tried to sort out the play's cross-dressing characters and rogues such as Sir Toby Belch, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. I learned it was first performed at the end of Christmastide as it was observed about 1602 on February 2. Go figure. Not any help at all. Thanks, Bill.
But I did learn from several sources that some people prone to superstition believe that taking Christmas decorations down after Twelfth Night is bad luck. Why take a chance? I am now returning to my other tasks. I have yet to make those resolutions for next -- whoops -- this year.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, in the familiar view, wearing its summer hues. Someday, perhaps. I will be able to visit at Christmas. Just in case, I have saved a few shots over the years, and will share them with you for a few moments of holiday dreaming as the season winds down.
The Painted Hall from both ends.
The Library, reflecting the various themes through the years.
And to all, a good night!
Though it has been a few years since I visited Holkham Hall, it remains one of my favorite English Country Houses and I have saved pictures from its Christmas festivities over the years. If I could visit during the holidays, I would--just to see what creative things they do with their decorations.
You can join Father Christmas for candlelight tours and other events at their website
Or just come with me to view a selection of photos from this and previous years. Enjoy!
I don't know about you, but I have all I can do to wrestle one tree! So this is really grand!
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.
Just to purge my grimies before the holidays REALLY arrive, I decided to write about a place I did not admire -- and why. Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is one of Britain's most-visited country houses, and you know how I aspire to visit them all. It is extravagantly magnificent and filled with treasures. So why didn't I enjoy my visit to Blenheim?
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the great country houses, at least to me, is the families who lived in them. Blenheim Palace seems to have had more unhappiness than good cheer. I have not yet seen the film The Favourite, but two of the principal characters were concerned with the building of Blenheim: Queen Anne and Sarah Jennings Churchill, the first Duchess of Marlborough, below in a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, dated 1702, National Portrait Gallery, London.
Sarah was a close confidante of Queen Anne, and the wife of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough. When the Duke was victorious over the French in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, Anne proposed to build the Marlboroughs a great national monument as a Palace for their use in the royal manor of Woodstock in Oxfordshire. Thus began the long and often sad saga of the house ad family. Below, John Churchill, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, NPG.
While her husband was away leading British armies Sarah quarreled with everyone, the Queen and the architect John Van Brugh; Sarah wanted a livable home while the others wanted a Palace of Versailles for England. Angry, the Queen reneged on her payments, beginning several centuries of struggle for the Churchill family, later known as the Spencer-Churchills, to support the estate financially. Below, Queen Anne, after John Clostermann, 1702.
The Spencer-Churchills were not a particularly wealthy family and the requirements of court life and maintenance of Blenheim were a severe burden. Charles, the 9th duke (1871-1934) turned to an American alliance to rescue Blenheim from its debts. His marriage to Consuelo Vanderbilt was notoriously unhappy and ended in divorce after she provided bundles of money plus an heir and a spare. The portrait below was painted by John Singer Sargent in 1905.
The 9th duke's cousin was Winston Churchill (1874-1965), grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, and also the son of an American heiress, Jennie Jerome, wife of Randolph Churchill. Below, Sir Winston photographed in 1941 by Yousuf Karsh of Ottawa. If Winston had been responsible for the care of Blenheim, how could he have saved the world in WWII?
So far I have not provided many reasons for disliking Blenheim, beyond the travails of its owners. Which, I believe, counts for a lot. I also found its appearance unwelcoming, harsh, and unfriendly both outside and in. Upon approaching the front entrance, it seems to be frowning at the visitor.
The corner turrets atop the towers are militaristic, supposed to be like bursting battle explosions. Though the front pediment is of Roman sternness, it seems Van Brugh and his associate Hawksmoor, could not stop adding baroque embellishments elsewhere. Or perhaps they had a fire sale at the stone curlicue dealer.
Above, the Green Writing-Room with the Battle of Blenheim tapestry.
The rooms are small, almost claustrophobic with their huge and overwhelming tapestries and little natural light. Rarely did a room look like you could relax with a cuppa and a good book without fearing that some army battalion would come marching upon you.
Obviously these State Rooms are not where the family could hideaway but one can easily see why Sarah wanted a less magisterial home.
The Long Library was altered from its original purpose as a picture gallery and though it is now furnished as a relatively comfortable sitting room, it still seems prickly to me. The family tree, displayed in the foreground of the picture. traces the family back to the 8th century Charlemagne, not (as usually in country houses) merely to 1066.
Though I do not like the house or the interiors, the pleasure park and gardens are brilliant. One of the triumphs of Lancelot "Capability" Brown, the grounds contain a lake, the brilliant bridge by Van Brugh, the Grand Cascade, the Victory Column, and much much more. Below, the Bridge.
I hope you have the opportunity to visit Blenheim, preferably during a season when the lawns are fully green. In the summer I first visited, here is how the grass looked. Maybe you will love it and I welcome the comments of anyone who wants to challenge my opinion of the place!
Though we often forget such ancient history in regard to Country Houses in Britain, the first ones we know of were actually from the period of Roman control beginning with the conquest in 43AD. The first Roman villa I visited was Chedworth, above, a National Trust property since the 1920's.
The Romans built in stone so like the wisest of The Three Pigs, their structures lasted for centuries, however knocked down, covered over or otherwise demolished they were. And they embellished their buildings with mosaics like these.
Above is an artist's rendition of the Chedworth villa in the fourth century from the Wikipedia site. In addition to a luxurious dwelling, it contained farm buildings, and their associated activities. Located in the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire, they probably raised sheep, a cash industry in Britain since time immemorial.
Below, mosaics from the Bignor Roman Villa in West Sussex, another well developed site for studying the Romano-British culture which stretched over four centuries, a very long time.
Medusa, above, and a Dolphin, below.
The Bignor Roman villa has impressive mosaics and some reconstructions of what Roman houses may have looked like nearly two thousand years ago.
The Fishbourne Roman Palace, also in West Sussex, is the largest Roman residence yet discovered in Britain, as well as being among the earliest; it dates from about 75 AD.
It has been extensively examined, and shows all the attributes the Romans developed to create central heating, running water and other conveniences forgotten for centuries thereafter.
Many other Roman sites can be visited throughout Britain. In addition to the villas, many Roman artifacts--statues, tools, jewelry and others--are in museums across the country.
There are Roman remains from the Channel coast north to Hadrian's Wall and its associated forts, erected across Britain east-west to protect from invasion by the fierce Scots.
I just can't leave this topic without a mention of a few of my other favorite Roman remnants in Britain. For example, below, fragments of the Roman Wall in London.
Photo above: By John Winfield, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3186845
Below, the Roman-style columns of the British Museum, a treasure trove of Roman artifacts -- among a few other cultures!!
Below, a Mithraic altar, coins, and a wonderful book, all from the British Museum. Click on the photos for larger versions.
Last year, I visited the remains of the Roman Amphitheater discovered during the rebuilding of the Guildhall Art Museum in the City of London.
And perhaps the most famous of the Roman remains, the bathing facilities in Bath.
Bath's Aqua Sulis was a tourist center many centuries ago, as it is today.
Above, Sulis Minerva, the goddess who united the Celtic goddess Sulis with the Roman deity Minerva, representing the healing powers of the hot springs.
I am here to endorse those healing powers -- I definitely felt better after trying out the Thermae Bath pools in modern-day Bath, A true delight! Those Romans were very clever to take the local springs and use them so wisely!
Haddon Hall near Bakewell in Derbyshire is a fine example of a medieval house which grew into a Tudor estate and has been "virtually unchanged" since the 17th century. Unlike so many country houses, which are remodeled with almost each generation, Haddon has retained it essential early features.
Haddon Hall became the property of the Manners family, Dukes of Rutland, by the marriage of Dorothy Vernon (daughter of Sir George Vernon ) to John Manners in 1563. The Manner family home is Belvoir Castle, and like many families with several estates, they tended to stay there, leaving Haddon uninhabited for the most part
This was a common pattern, leaving a wife's estate in limbo while entering family activities at the husband's properties. The unintended consequence is the fine condition of some early homes which were inherited by women.
Above, my pictures from a recent visit, showing the fine restoration of the rooms carried on by Lord Edward Manners, brother of the current 11th Duke of Rutland.
Cothele sits on the Tamar River, the boundary between Devon and Cornwall. Like Haddon, it is a medieval-cum-Tudor house which retains its early features. The property came into the Edgecumbe faimly -- who owned it until after World War II -- when Richard Edgecumbe married the heiress Hilaria de Cothele in 1353. The National Trust took over in 1947.
Beautiful gardens are terraced down the hillside, essentially a Victorian creation.
Wisteria seems to enhance every building it accompanies. Perhaps it is at its loveliest upon gray stone walls and lead-paned windows. No one has noted the age of this example, but one can assume it is very, very old.
The Great Hall at Cothele is similar to the Great Halls in all ancient country houses, the area where the community dined together, played, worked, even slept in the earliest houses. Traditionally the three doors in the screen wall led to the kitchen, the buttery, and the pantry.
Among the most admired and unique features of Cothele is the collection of tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries. Observers have attributed the fine condition o the hangings to "benign neglect" since the family maintained the house while living elsewhere most of the time.
Like so many ancient estates, Cothele was an agricultural community and home to dozens of families who occupied the tenant farms and businesses such as the mill (above right) and the shipping center on the river (left).
I recently attended a lecture by Jeremy Musson, whose many books are a constant source of delight, if a bit too heavy to carry around. However, I toted one home anyway.
I photographed Mr. Musson in 2012 at the Milwaukee Art Museum where I listened to him talk about one of his previous books (which I also bought of course) English Country House Interiors.
Mr. Musson wrote for many years for Country Life magazine and visited a large percentage of the country houses in Britain. In his new volume he partners with David Cannadine in their volume for Rizzoli and the Royal Oak Society, American affiliate of Britain's National Trust.
Mr. Cannadine's essay opening the volume explains the significance of the 1985-86 exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. As a serendipitous coincidence, we toured this exhibition, and its catalogue has long been one of my prize possessions. I have gone on in the subsequent decades to study and visit as many Stately Homes as I can, not only in Britain but also in the U.S. and on my travels elsewhere.
The photo above, from the National Gallery's website, shows part of the installation of the exhibition featuring the marble statue Three Graces by Canova, which was purchased in 1994 from its then-owner the Duke of Bedford of Woburn Abbey. It has since been shared by its newer owners, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.
As I page through the Treasure Houses catalogue, I am surprised and gratified at how many of the objects--paintings, sculpture, furniture, china, etc.--I have visited in situ since my first forays into the splendors of the country houses and their collections. Above is the magnificent sofa, c 1762-65, from Kedleston Hall's Drawing Room designed by Robert Adam and executed by the firm of John Linnell. Also by Linnell for an Adam-designed house are these chairs from Osterley Park.
Getting back to the The Country House, Past Present and Future, the cover picture shows us Uppark in West Sussex, a house which the National Trust painstakingly restored after a terrible fire in 1989. Below, the fire on August 30, 1989.
Fortunately, most of the furnishings, paintings and decorative arts on the ground floor were saved by brave volunteers, but the roof was destroyed and collapsed. The 17th century house not only had a heritage of fine collections and architectural significance, but it also had a fascinating history of inhabitants before it was turned over to the NT in 1954. The Trust decided to restore the house after the fire and it was re-opened in 1995 after years of careful restoration.
Fire struck again in 2015 when Clandon House, an 18th century architectural gem burned. Again, many of the furnishings were saved and the NT has begun restorations. The picture on the right shows the house as it was when we visited a few years before the fire.
Before I wander off topic a bit again, as I do so often, come with me briefly to Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire. The first time I visited, shortly after the 1995 TV version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was shown in the U.S., the version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, the House was exhibiting a selection of the costumes from the film.
After looking at the costumes, we enjoyed all the attraction of the lovely old house, assisted by the usually voluble and patient volunteers for the NT. However, when we reached the Red Room, a handsome bedchamber, we ran into a curmudgeon. "Ooh," we exclaimed. "This is the room where Mr Darcy changed his coat!" The volunteer guide was downright offended. "Madam!" he huffed. "This was the bedroom of Queen Adelaide!"
We apologized and heard this story. After the death of King William IV in 1837, his widowed queen spent several years traveling among country houses away from the Court. Though Queen Victoria was sincerely fond of her aunt Adelaide, apparently the Duchess of Kent resented her influence. So she politely stayed away.
This little story illustrates two points. First, even when run by the National Trust, they can use the income from films and TV, no matter if it annoys their volunteers.
Secondly, the families and individuals associated with these houses are often more interesting then the estates themselves.
In the volume ostensibly the subject of this blog, Jeremy Musson and his essayists discuss many topics associated with the study and enjoyment of country houses. not the least of them the 'Downton Effect.' As he notes, the country house 'business' has never been better. Building on books and films such as Brideshead Revisited, the Jane Austen phenomenon, and so forth, we are all captivated by the stories, whether real or fictional, of life in stately homes, whether above or below stairs. For further captivation, I highly recommend a comfy chair, a cup of tea, and an afternoon (or several) devoted to reading and gazing at The Country House, Past, Present and Future.
This aerial view of Calke Abbey shows only a portion of the outbuildings and park belonging to the property. The gardens and pleasure grounds would be in the foreground if the picture was extended.
Some of the outbuildings have been converted for the use of National Trust visitors -- the necessary, parking, cafe, gift shop, and so forth. Note the sign above, "Repaired not restored, Calke is the 'Un-stately' home."
An unidentified ruin on the grounds...what was it?
The stables...imagine what fine horses once lived here. Click on the photos below for full size versions.
In the Pleasure Grounds, the Grotto was built in 1809.
There are many lovely walks for visitors.
Fruit and vegetables in abundance...the orchard and kitchen garden.
Adjacent was the flower garden, full of gorgeous dahlias in September.
It is a unique opportunity to visit Calke Abbey and see what happens to stately homes in decline. I am certain that the NT finds this experiment worthwhile, and might even inspire some contributions. More about Country Houses and their Fate coming soon.
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.
Victoria Hinshaw, Author