WHITBY ABBEY

 

Who would have thought that a Gothic ruins of an Abbey in Yorkshire would lead me to the earliest named English poet?  Apparently, between 658 and 680, Streaneschalch ( later Whitby) Monastery gave rise to the works of an illiterate cowherd named Caedmon, an Anglo-Saxon. He couldn’t sing and knew no poetry. One night in a dream, a vison commanded him to write the beginning of created things into a poem. From then on he not only sang with the choir and used words unknown to him, but recalled every verse. The Venerable Bede (672 to May 735), renowned historian, wrote of Caedmon in his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, the Ecclesiastical History of the English people. Fragments of Caedmon’s Hymn on Creation survive in Bede’s Latin translation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The remains of Whitby Abbey, a jewel set against sea and sky, has inspired poets  for nearly a thousand years. The stained glass may be missing, and the interior paving-stones have given way to mown grass, but remnants of its Gothic splendour continue to delight.

P6200237 Whitby from the Abbey.JPG

The history of the site is complex. In 867Ad Whitby fell to Viking Invaders. The first Saxon Monastery was destroyed in 1078. A Benedictine Monastery was rebuilt on the site. The current ruins date to around 1220. King Henry Viii confiscated the abbey and its possessions during the dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1500s. An imposing structure remains, a weathered and worn remnant of her former glory, stark, yet beautiful, against the cloud-brushed sky.

P6200238 (2) Whitby Abbey (2).JPG

 

Posted in abandoned, age, archicture, character, derelict, don't give up, grandeur, history, invaders, isolated, medieval, panorama, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AVEBURY MANOR HOUSE AND GARDEN

This 16th C Manor House and garden, near Marlborough, was featured in the 2011 BBC drama, To the Manor Reborn. Empty rooms were furnished in the Tudor, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian and 20th C styles. It was a treat to feel the quality of furnishings, relax back in arm chairs or on a bed. It satisfies some deep, human need to learn and experience the environment by touching. There are period clothes for dressing-up, a delight for kids.

A fourposter bed is much shorter than those we are accustomed to. In days gone by folk slept in a semi-recumbent position which, it was felt, helped prevent respiratory illnesses

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

It brought a chill to hear the sitting room radio replay Neville Chamberlain’s announcement, the outbreak of WW 2,  in 1939. Original cookware of the 1900s, and an Aga cooker added to the authentic atmosphere of a period kitchen. Grooved wooden pats evoked memories of whipping cream and shaping  butter on our farm in the mountains of Northern NSW. Australia, in the 1950s. It tasted better than the bought variety,too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hand-painted Chinese wallpaper in the dining room were one of the few items too precious for touching. A unique exercise chair, with very high seat, can be seen next to the guide with folded arms. Gentlemen used to take advantage of its vigorous spring-driven motion on days unsuitable for galloping their horses. I wondered if cases of ‘ died from falling off a chair’ may have been due to some chap taking advantage of such a device…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

APPLE ORCHARD WILD MEADOW

The gardens have been redesigned to replicate different eras. Formal garden hedges contrast with a ‘wild meadow’ in the apple orchard, designed to encourage the growth of wildflowers. A 16th  Century circular dovecote in the garden had undergone restoration. Inside are many niches or ‘pigeonholes’  for birds to nest. In former times, many Europeans kept doves and pigeons, an important source of both eggs and flesh. Ironically, I felt, these birds also make good pets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

EXTERIOR OF DOVECOTE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
INTERIOR OF DOVECOTE

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AVEBURY STONE CIRCLE

 

On a delightful summer’s day we visited Avebury henge in Wiltshire. It’s one of the principal and best-known ceremonial and sacred meeting places for our ancestors in Britain. Avebury contains the largest stone circle in the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Development of the site is said to have begun about 2850 BCE, continuing to 2200 BCE. We found it awe-inspiring to imagine the construction process. The hours of sweat and toil involved to dig the deep, internal ditch with deer antler picks. They would have used woven baskets to transfer the soil, into  the large, outer circular bank. It’s  the biggest and most complex  existing henge monuments in Britain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
MARKERS INDICATE WHERE STONES WERE DESTROYED – NOTE THE EARTHEN BANK

In the 14th Century, believing the site to be the work of the devil, Avebury villagers pulled down many of the stones. They buried them in ready-made pits. Destruction came to a sudden halt when a huge, two metre stone collapsed. It killed one of the helpers . Superstitious villagers  feared it was retribution. Soon afterwards, in 1349, the Black Death must have confirmed their suspicions. The illness almost halved the population, and left few with the will to continue the project.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

STONES WERE CHOSEN FOR THEIR APPEARANCE – ANGRY OLD MAN OR MONSTER?

In the 17th and 18th Centuries, destruction resumed. Christians of the day desired to remove all trace of the pagans who had erected the monument. Antiquarian and writer, John Aubrey, fascinated by the antiquity and mystery of the site, made extensive notes about Avebury and other prehistoric monuments. He created maps of the area and placement of stones. This proved invaluable for later archaeologists. It detailed many standing stones which were later destroyed by locals. Heated by fire, cracked by water and battered into submission by sledge-hammers, locals carried off their booty to build cottages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

THE  PATH DOWN TO AVEBURY  SEE THE DITCH BELOW – HUMAN CHAIN NEAR STONES

By 1837, many standing stones had become building materials. Ironically, the main survivors were those which had been buried, centuries earlier. However, we owe the Avebury which folk enjoy today, to a wealthy archaeologist, Alexander Keiller. Between 1908 and 1922, he was among those surveying and evacuating earth at Avebury. At the bottom of the 11 metre ditch,  they found 40 red  deer antlers picks, human jaw bones and the skeleton of a woman.  With the site under threat from development, Keiller purchased the entire area. Vacant houses and those belonging to deceased estates were gradually bought and pulled down, especially within the inner circle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DITCH AND STONES

In the 1930s Keiller re-erected remaining stones. Markers were added to indicate lost or destroyed stones. One of the survivors became known as the Barber Stone.Beside it they unearthed the skeleton of a man Keiller identified as a barber-surgeon . 13th C coins were found in his leather purse, along with scissors and a probe-like instrument. Scissors were expensive, so the victim could just as easily have been an itinerant tailor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MASSIVE MONUMENTS TO HUMAN EFFORT

In a geophysical survey, the national trust found 15 more buried megaliths. Keiller continued his vital work. The stone’s surface  are not dressed in any way. Were they chosen for their intrinsic beauty? Are the taller ones considered male, the shorter female? Keiller, their saviour, died at Avebury Manor in 1955.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DWARFED BY THE SIZE

New discoveries are still being made. One stone buried 2.1 metres deep was estimated to weigh over a hundred tons. The University of Leicester has detected a unique square megalithic monument within the Avebury circles. It could be one of the earliest structures on the site.

Modern pagans, especially Druid groups, continue to worship at the henge. Services are staggered, ensuring  conflicting beliefs never clash.

Posted in archicture, celebration, destruction, panorama, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

IFORD MANOR GARDEN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PINK AND MAUVE

At Bradford-on-Avon we climbed uneven steps, and tackled twisting paths of the Garden, a delight for those who enjoy a walk among nature. Situated on the River Frome, the site has been occupied since Roman times, with extensive views of Iford Valley. Iford manor is medieval in origin, and boasts nine centuries of Garden history. The Cloister, decorated with carved stone, and a window looking out over the valley, is presently under renovation. The house is Tudor/ Georgian.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IFORD MANOR

This garden will be enjoyed by anyone who loves Italian design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ITALIANATE GARDEN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MYTHICAL TWINS ROMULUS AND REMUS

It belonged to Harold Peto, arts and crafts designer, from 1899 to his death in 1933. It’s Pompeian splendour brings urns, sarcophagi and terracotta, set beside cypresses and pools. Not only is it a magic place where frogs frolic, for three months in summer the Annual Iford Arts Festival brings jazz concerts and opera, enjoyed in the Italianate garden cloister . The scent of blossoms is a delight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We liked the blend of formal and informal elements, hard  contrasting with soft, the profusion of massed flowers and variety of greens in the foliage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TOPIARY GARDEN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Melissa, Andrew and Miranda

There are many more  treasures to see. And why not follow your explorations with a cake or cream tea?

Posted in archicture, birds, blossoms, butterfly, dragon fly, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GRAND SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE

David outside the entrance dome  to the mosque. A subterranean passage and escalators now take one  right outside – a boon in the heat.

20190616_091444 (2)

20190616_093608_001 (2)

I first visited the Grand Sheikh Zayed  Mosque a couple of years ago. Since then the improvements  have been amazing. Entrance facilities now include this underground shopping complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rich decorative touches prevail

From exterior courtyard to columns, the floral theme predominates.

20190616_100212_000 (2)

 Columns stand beside  water gardens,which  mirror some of the eighty-something domes, glittering in white marble. Designed by Syrian architect, Yousef Abdelky,  one couldn’t fail to be impressed by magnificent building. It covers a dozen hectares and can accommodate 40,000 worshippers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GOLD LEAF PALMATE CAPITALS

 

I loved the floral decorations with morning glory and other flowers created from multi-coloured marble tesserae and even crystal, flowing over floor tiles and  walls. Aligned towards Kaaba in Mecca, it’s design was influenced by Persian, Mughal, and Alexandrian sources. A number of other Mosques have contributed to the design, including some in Pakistan and Lahore. It’s  wonderful library shows the cultural diversity of Islam. The shelves are devoted to the sciences, civilization, calligraphy, and the arts. Books are available  in a variety of languages, including French and English.

20190616_100400 (2)

We loved the peace, cool and calm inside, the huge, wonderful spaces, the exquisite floral and other intricate decorations took my breath away. Some of the chandeliers used millions of Swarovski  crystals, designed in Munich, Germany.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the amazing chandeliers feature delicate floral decorations

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Crystal decorations Below: Large Rose and  another type of column decoration

20190616_095905_000

20190616_093653_000 (2)
This place of  worship can accommodate up to thirty thousand of the Muslim faith! It is  worth several visits for those who appreciate marvellous architecture  and  design,  a cultural treasure which Abu Dhabi shares with the world .

20190616_100529_000 (2)

 

 

 

Posted in archicture, artist, blossoms, celebration, community, country, grandeur, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

CHATSWORTH GARDEN

 

David and I enjoyed our visit to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.It’s  on the banks of the Derwent River in the Wye Valley. Construction of this grand country house began  in 1553, under the auspices of Sir William Cavendish –  politician, courtier and 1st Earl of Devonshire – and his wife, Bess of Hardwicke. The last four hundred years has seen their small Elizabethan garden developed and greatly expanded, into the huge parklands we enjoy today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

LOVELY VISTA OF MATURE TREES

 

Between 1760 and 1754, The 4th Duke employed garden designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, whose skills and fame were on the rise. His nickname arose from a propensity to discuss the capabilities of a  particular site. At Chatsworth, rocky hills give rise to heather moors. Over time, he transformed working farmland into a park. This huge task included land-forming, drainage, levelling and turfing. This produced the rolling green slopes we enjoy today. He planted trees singly, in clumps, and as a perimeter belt to enclose the view. He paid attention to the vista in planning carriage rides.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A QUIRKY NATURAL SCULPTURE/FENCE  ADDS INTEREST TO THE LANDSCAPE

The 6th Duke of Devonshire inherited a garden neglected by his father. In the age of plant-hunting expeditions, he acquired many new  species. In 1827, Joseph Paxton was appointed head gardener. Some say, he was the greatest single influence on Chatsworth’s gardens: but Capability had certainly provided a significant contribution, and left a far from a bare canvas to be tackled by his successors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CHATSWORTH HOUSE AND GATES (BELOW)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Paxton proved to be an innovative gardener. In 1835, he planted a succession of trees in the arboretum, and diverted a trout stream two miles from the East moor for aesthetic effect. In 1842, Paxton laid out a gargantuan rock garden, balancing huge boulders, one atop another, a remarkable feat in days before earth-moving equipment. He also glassed-in The Case, a large Conservatory which protects sensitive plants such as figs, peaches and shrubs from the effects of cold.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PAXTON’S GIGANTIC ROCK GARDEN, taken on the move

Expecting a visit from Tsar Nicholas of Russia, the 6th Duke decided to construct a tall fountain in his honour. Gardeners set to work, digging out an eight acre lake in the moors above the house, to provide sufficient water pressure. It was completed in just six months, working by flares at night. The Emperor Fountain, at the North end of the Canal Pond, reaches 290 feet, the highest in the world, and is surrounded by rocks and statues. It is rarely shown at full height, due to water limitations. It  supplied electricity to the house. The park we enjoy today requires twenty gardeners, two trainees and over twenty volunteers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chatsworth House has been featured in many films, including Pride and Prejudice. This  version of the famous novel, filmed interior and exterior shots –  the supposed  country estate of Fitzwilliam Darcy.

P6250333 (2) Relic Chatsworth.JPG

Famous guests of Chatsworth include Mary, Queen of Scots, held prisoner there at different times from 1568 to 1584. And Princess – later Queen – Victoria, aged 13,  had her first adult formal dinner at Chatsworth.

P6250331 (3) Sculpture Chatsworth.JPG

GARDEN SCULPTURE

A delightful feature of our visit was an exhibition, The Dog. It features the bond between canines and man throughout 400 years. Arranged by the Duchess, it shows the family’s enduring love for these animals. She trains her own dogs for obedience and field trials. A rich canine history is shown in paintings, drawings, sculpture, letters, photographs, tapestries and on china –  it celebrates all breeds. Artists exhibiting include Jeff Koons, Faberge and Anthony Gormly, with one of his Lost Dogs. Pooches are even featured in a State Bedroom frieze. The Duke and Duchess support Hearing Dogs for the Deaf.

shallow focus photography of a golden retriever

ABOVE Unknown Mutt with a friendly smile by Garfield Besa on Pexels.com

P6250336 (2) Waterfall Chatsworth.JPG

WATERFALL CHATSWORTH

Enjoy the antics of Henny, the family Golden Doodle , at www.Instagram.com/chatswoof.

 

 

Posted in Duchess, garden, grandeur, Statues, sculpture dogs, Uncategorized, waterfall | Leave a comment

IMMIGRATION

I was recently inspired by a visit to Chester Cathedral. An exhibition makes clear that  compassion for new immigrants is alive and well in their community .It addresses fear of the unknown, fear of a different language, fear of  an exotic race, colour or culture. Children are being educated to understand that diversity is the sign of a healthy nation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ANYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM

Since the Brexit referendum in Britain, hate and prejudice has proliferated , even against those from Poland. Have citizens  forgotten the crucial role played by  Polish Pilots during WW2? Brave, highly trained and audacious, they flew closer than other pilots and downed many more enemy planes. Without them , the Battle Of Britain may well have had a very different outcome.  Below, kites painted by the children at Chester, show the spirit and image of freedom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
In the US, it’s distressing to watch extremist ideologues like Trump  whipping up hatred against Latinos, and people of colour 
for personal and political gain. His daily  Tweets and racist comments have increased violence in the US. Now his White Supremacist followers think  xenophobia is OK.  It’s outrageous that Potus has the gall  to tell native-born  Americans of colour to go home. It’s no surprise to see him take pleasure in denigrating his opponents  achievements, especially women. Let’s take a step into the past, to see how things were handled back when.

city new york statue of liberty usa

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The US Statue of Liberty proclaims: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door. The country’s greatness and true genius lies in its diversity.  This excerpt from a Petrarchion sonnet, The New Colossus, was written in 1883 by poet Emma Lazarus, herself an immigrant. It was only printed  after her death. These famous  words were inscribed over the Statue entrance in 1945, achieving world-wide fame for the sentiments, and for her poem.

america ancient architecture art

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The  words of Emma Lazarus have inspired millions to seek freedom in the US. It’s hard to believe that in 2019, this same nation , has fallen so far from grace and dignity . Would anyone have believed  that a country which produced Abraham Lincoln and George Washington – who never told a lie – have spawned a man who does nothing else? Indeed, he’s proud of his ability to con. Who could have believed that in the 21st Century, virtual concentration camps would be set up on the Mexican border?

usa flag

Photo by Wayne Penales on Pexels.com

Inmates in Border Force wire cages are lucky to receive a shower every eight or nine days. It’s a shame the arms-crossed unease evident in Pence during his recent visit, couldn’t be translated into positive action on their behalf. Immigrants are constantly demonized, although their crime rates are lower than in the general population.  Potus remains oblivious to the suffering endured within this hell-hole – and, clearly, doesn’t care. Children sicken, are sexually abused and die, separated from their parents. They sleep on the cement floor, have no access to toothbrushes or other measures of hygiene, and are short of essentials such as food and napkins. Teenage detainees are expected to care for separated babies. This disgrace can’t be allowed to continue.  When will Potus  show genuine leadership in regard to this issue, not be content to whip up hate-driven chants? Is he incapable of exhibiting the decency and integrity, of a great nation? Information from Chester, confirms that many immigration  concerns are unfounded.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kids at Chester bring a wonderful contrast to all the negativity. Paintbrush and pen   picture a better world where immigrants feel welcome and:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PAINTED BY SCHOOL STUDENTS AT CHESTER

After WW2, Australia was proudly numbered among those who welcomed millions of migrants . Many had escaped suffering and persecution in Easter Europe. Newcomers made remarkable contributions to our culture and economy. They set up businesses and drove employment.  In recent times,  Governments and opposition have shown a cruel  disregard for human suffering, caused by conflict and poverty. In Places like  Nauru, men, women and children have been incarcerated, some for six years, lacking hope of resettlement due to the Government’s  stubborn refusal to accept New Zealand’s offer of asylum.  In limbo, without hope, they suffer mental illness,  attempt suicide, and die from treatable infections, while Canberra delays evacuation. In Papua New Guinea, one young man was murdered by locals, who mistakenly believe inmates are criminals. Thousands of Australians protest  against this inhumane treatment. Politicians continue to resist calls for compassion. In the darkness of these realities,  many Australians nurse our shame. We deeply desire a better approach. Diversity marks our population, once celebrated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Child migrants fleeing Hitler were welcomed to the UK, and refugees after WW2 widely accepted by the population in general. Why have many forgotten theirr humanity?

Children’s art work at St Martins, helps illuminate the need for change in Britain, the US, Australia – indeed, around the world. Look into the eyes of those who have tackled dangerous journeys in their bid for freedom. Look into their eyes and say you cannot help. The community of caring folk at Chester have taken up the challenge. They welcome Asylum-Seekers.  The facts below will help dissipate other fears . 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To paraphrase the students from St Martins: The world can be looked at another way. A place should belong to those in need and seeking shelter, not just those born there.  It’s not okay to turn the other way and build a wall to keep them out. Let us share our countries. Share our homes. Share our food. Many face death, persecution or poverty in their native lands, torn asunder by war or famine. Make them welcome, celebrate the richness of their culture.They are desperate, not cut throats or thieves with  bombs up their sleeves. Not layabouts and loungers, chancers and scroungers. Many have a great deal to contribute to any society, given a chance. Should life have dealt us a different hand, these haggard faces and haunted eyes could belong to you or me…

VISION OF HOPE

EYES OF REFUGEES



My photos taken at Chester Cathedral. Others are shown grace of  Pexels.com. Sincere thanks to students, teachers and staff of the Cathedral and St Martin’s School for presenting this valuable and insightful exhibition. The information has enlightened me – and underscored the need for compassion and kindness. Society must find the means to manage this human crisis, not increase their suffering. I hope all these comments prove of value to others. Maybe even soften the hearts of Government Ministers around the world, responsible for helping  unfortunate people in need .

 

Posted in abandoned, abuse, anticipation, civil rights, community, compassion, conscience, country, danger, decency, democracy, demonizing, despair, difficulties, don't give up, escape, ethics, healing, help, history, incarcaration, insight, institutions, journey, justice, morals, needs, pain, refugees, rejected, spiritual values, truth, turmoil, victims, voiceless | Leave a comment

HIDCOTE MANOR GARDEN

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DAVID AND DECIMA AT HIDCOTE

Hidecote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire is a must-see. It’s one of the best-known and influential Arts and Crafts Gardens in Britain. A series of outdoor ‘rooms’ show yew and holly hedges, rare shrubs and herbaceous borders. It’s not all about being ablaze with summer: the contrast in texture and colours of green are important, as are harmonies in white of foxgloves against more delicate blossoms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GRAND HOLLYHOCK IN CONTRAST WITH TOPIARY

An American, Lawrence Johnson began the project in the early 1900s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CONTRAST IN TEXTURES

He conceived a plan to transform the fields around his mother’s Manor into a showpiece. By the 1920s, he employed a dozen full-time gardeners.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TOPIARY VISTA

His designs developed and changed over the years, but he left few records of the ‘why, how and when’. Intricately designed rooms lead one into another, named for their elements.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

SUNDIAL GARDEN

The Fuchsia Garden has low box hedges and the burble of a fountain. Hidden birds twitter: David spotted a chaffinch. Below, notice the contrast between foliage, with just a stipple of bright red.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A DELIGHT OF CONTRAST AND COLOUR

The Long Walk brings a spectacular vista of clipped hedges on either side, in contrast with mature trees and softer green shrubs. Topiary avenues and, a stream, add interest. Below, folk enjoy the red and white waterlilies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

WATERLILY GARDEN

The Bathing Pool Garden, is raised with a fountain. Unfortunately, WordPress has omitted access to this picture from their selection of photos. See my FACEBOOK PAGE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

THE MAGIC OF RAINDROPS ON LEAVES

There is a delight for the eye at every turn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

LILIES

No description could do this garden justice.It deserves several visits in different seasons.

 

 

Posted in archicture, garden, magic, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BLENHEIM PALACE

One’s first impression of Blenheim Palace at Oxfordshire is of the monumental size and antiquity. It is arguably most famous for being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Much is made of the ‘small’ room which greeted his early arrival. To those of us accustomed to a modest cottage, the size seems perfectly adequate. Great preparations had been made for a London gynaecologist and obstetrician, with suite of rooms at the ready. Winston had other ideas. The Duchess was attended by the local doctor.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The room where Winston Churchill made his early arrival

The land on which the house is built had been gifted to the 1st Duke after his military triumphs against the French and Bavarians in the Spanish War of Succession in 1704. The story of its design and construction includes a Royal Grant of 240,000 pounds fromQueen Anne, an enormous sum in those days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Battle of Blenheim 1704

The Duchess was less than impressed by her husband’s choice of architect, Sir J Vanbrugh, and seems to have opposed his ideas at every turn. The building opened in 1722, and remains the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough.

GREAT HALL CEILING

The Great Hall ceiling painted by Sir J Vanbrugh

A spendthrift 5th Duke began the decline in family fortunes, selling family estates. Luckily, Blenheim itself was entailed. The sale of valuable paintings by subsequent Dukes failed to stop the decline .By the 19th Century, Blenheim faced ruin. In the noble society of the day, it was unthinkable for a gentleman to work, but a sham marriage was quite acceptable. The 9th   Duke took the only action possible : he carried out negotiations with the parents of an American railway heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt. Consuelo proved  to be an unwilling bride, but her mother fancied seeing her daughter a Duchess. Locked in her room, she eventually agreed to the match. Terms included cash-in-hand and a generous yearly income. The young couple were in a carriage driving away from the ceremony, when the Duke confessed his  love for another woman… They managed to produce an heir, subsequently divorcing. In a gold thimble, Consuelo’s wealth preserved not only the fabric of the building but enabled replacement of paintings and other treasures sold to keep the estate afloat. Ostentatious tapestries, sculptures, paintings books and artifacts match the style of this grand Baroque building. It’s well worth seeing. Some say at least 100,000 visitors enjoy  this palace and garden each year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Visitors enjoy paintings, and family photographs which bring a family dimension to this grand room

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in archicture, artist, Duchess, family, garden, grandeur, history, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

STOURHEAD

STOURHEAD

On a visit to the UK, we’ve been lucky enough to explore a number of attractive gardens. Each brings its own unique charm. Stourhead, as the name suggests, is at the head of the river Stour, in Wiltshire. It’s one of my favourites. Designed in a classical 18th Century design, it surrounds a large lake. Each generation of a family make their unique contribution. A team of gardeners, generous acres of land, and the right designers, work miracles of ‘natural beauty,’ given time.

Mighty oaks stretch out mossy limbs to touch the lake. Elm, chestnuts, copper beech and tees of every green hue, dark and bright, are stippled with light. Admire the rhododendrons, in shades ranging through white to pale pink and red. Step down uneven rocky paths to the grotto and sparkle of a stream. In the half-light admire the statues – I was glad of Andrew’s arm to assist my return to the even-surfaced path.

Throw in a few temples, add a pantheon with statues and tall columns, a folly or two.

As they say each garden path is a metaphor for life itself. It meanders, sometimes allowing us to rest in the shade, others harsh with brassy sun. Old twisted trunks on ancient trees tell of troubles encountered, and survived. Sometimes there’s a hard climb to reach a peak, rewarded by a spectacular vista, showing how far we’ve come.

Fortunately, the pleasant 1 ½ mile walk around a lake affords plenty of seats, spots to take a breather and admire the view. Enjoy the picture of graceful swans, ducks, waterhen and other birds. Pink and white waterlilies drink in the warmth. A formal bridge contrasts with one in the humped-back Venetian style. A Gothic summer cottage would be a perfect spot to contemplate and write poetry.

A pub lunch back at the house completes a perfect visit.

PS This is my first time visiting WordPress for some time and it seems to have changed for the worse. No longer does it give an option to post photos – apart from Google or elsewhere. I have plenty of my own. After I Previewed this article, I could find no way of returning to it – hence yet another version pasted. This is most unsatisfactory and frustrating. I want articles to accompany my own pictures. If anyone can enlighten me on how to navigate all this, I’d be most grateful.And I’ve agreed to the use of cookies so many times, I’ve lost count.

 

Posted in birds, blossoms, fauna, flora, quality | Tagged | 4 Comments