Places to Visit Before You Are 99½

Places to Visit Before You Are 99½

Places to Visit Before You Are 99½

We’ve been talking in the Hudson’s Heritage office about all the wonderful heritage sites and attractions in the UK. We have come to the conclusion that we are very lucky in the UK to have so many beautiful, historic places waiting for us to discover them, but there are loads we haven’t had the chance to see yet.

That got us thinking about the places that would be on our own ‘love to see’ lists. We’ve put the results together to create our ‘Places to Visit before You Are 99½’ list which we thought we would share with you. This list is the personal opinion of some of the Hudson’s Heritage staff, in no particular order and is not, by any means, exhaustive – we would have been writing it for days if it was!

Burghley House, Lincolnshire

    • What – Elizabethan prodigy house with baroque Verrio murals.
    • Comment – Burghley House embodies how world-beating Elizabethans felt and how powerful the Cecil family had become. The lusciousness of the Verrio murals are surely the most confident expression of interior design ever. The Hell staircase at Burghley is also on the list. Fiercely menacing, a real work of art. The detail is quite something and a stark contrast to the Heaven room next door.

West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire

    • What – Elegant Palladian house with Hellfire Caves where Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hellfire Club met in the 1760s for partying and practical jokes.
    • Comment – The contrast between the cool elegance of the house and the eccentricity of the caves just sums up that the 18th century was just the best century for fun!

Warkworth Castle and Hermitage, Northumberland

    • What – A ruined fortress that has a Hermitage hewn out of the cliff which housed a series of hermits.
    • Comment – Just such a romantic concept to keep a hermit in a chapel on a cliff that can only be reached by boat.

A la Ronde, Devon

    • What – Bijou cottage decorated by the Misses Parminter with shells and silhouettes in the early 1800s.
    • Comment – Thoroughly girly and charming. There is nothing else quite like it!

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire

      • What – Central to Scottish history and home to the Earl Marischal of Scotland
      • Comment – Arguably the most spectacular site of any castle in Britain; leaks history from every stone and a great picnic spot!

Manderston, Scottish Borders

        • What – Edwardian elegance and a staircase made of silver!
        • Comment – Shows how wonderful life was for the privileged in the decades before World War I.

Eltham Palace, London

        • What – 1930s style at its most luxurious.
        • Comment – We love the Art Deco and Courtaulds interiors – makes us want to slip into something glamorous and satiny!

Newby Hall, North Yorkshire

        • What – The complete Grand Tour house with sculpture gallery and Robert Adam’s classical elegance.
        • Comment – The home of a Grand Tourist complete with classical references, sculpture gallery and portraits by Pompeo Batoni.

Parham Park, West Sussex

        • What – Elizabethan perfection in the lee of the Sussex Downs.
        • Comment – A house with an atmosphere like no other and a testament to good taste and sensitive restoration in the 20th century. A good example of how society changed as the wealth of the monasteries created a new landed class.

Traquair House, Scottish Borders

        • What – All the misplaced romance of the Jacobite world but now the gates will never be open.
        • Comment – One of our staff was taken there by her Jacobite mother and she lapped up all the romance of a lost cause. The gates which will only be opened for the return of a Stuart king are the stuff of legend.

Lindisfarne Priory, Northumberland

        • What – Original home of the Lindisfarne Gospels, beautiful, remote but also a reminder of the Border wars.
        • Comment – The place to go for a sense of the early Christian Church in Britain. Beautiful and remote and fortified not against Viking raids which no one expected but against the Scots after Edward I’s incursions into Scotland.

Arbury Hall, Warwickshire

        • What – The fan vaulted ceilings are the best of Strawberry Hill gothick.
        • Comment – Horace Walpole, bitchy, gossipy and vivid, is a bit of a hero of one of the staff here. The style he invented at Strawberry Hill survives in a house that is still full of class and atmosphere. Strawberry Hill itself is also one for the list.

Brighton Pavilion, West Sussex

        • What – Wild extravagance of the Prince Regent, like a stage set for weekend parties.
        • Comment – Nothing quite like it anywhere for vitality, originality and gilding. Reminds us how many global influences came into Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Rousham House, Oxfordshire

        • What – Gardens by William Kent, one of the geniuses of the country house scene.
        • Comment – Follow the rill for an idea of what a mystery full of surprises an 18th century garden can be. There are grander gardens, but none so unexpected.

Castell Coch, South Wales

        • What – William Burges interiors
        • Comment – Another mad imagination at work on the interiors and worth it for the flush of exotic birds and stars on the ceiling.

Beaumaris Castle, Isle of Anglesey

        • What – Edward I castle on Anglesey
        • Comment – The ultimate castle design from the greatest age of castle building and one for the purists.

Hadrian’s Wall, North of England

        • Comment – Really feels like a frontier of the civilised world with an amazing range of Roman forts, baths, temples, towns and artefacts, both military and domestic. Every Briton should visit!

Holkham Beach, Norfolk

        • What – Part of the Holkham Estate.
        • Comment – One of the most unspoilt and beautiful stretches of sand in the country on the doorstep of one of the country’s grandest homes.

The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

        • What – The Poison Gardens
        • Comment – Especially licensed to grow some dangerous and intriguing plants. Things that you wouldn’t see elsewhere in the UK.

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

        • What – Natural land formation
        • Comment – Magnificent and nowhere else quite like it in the UK and Ireland, it has inspired artists and captures the imagination of all that see it.

National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire

        • What – Botanic garden
        • Comment – Themed gardens with something for everyone. Also has the largest single-spanned glasshouse in the world which houses the best display of Mediterranean climate zone plants in the Northern hemisphere.

Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland

        • What – Most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, dating back to 1300s.
        • Comment – Simply a perfect castle – exactly what we imagined a fairytale castle to look like as children!

Leeds Castle, Kent

        • What – Started its life as a Norman castle and has stood the test of time, refurbished over the years.
        • Comment – Dubbed as the ‘loveliest castle in the world’ this castle has the moat, black swans and the style of a proper castle and is one of the few that is still in one piece.

Dumfries House, Ayrshire

        • What – Palladian country house described as an 18th century time capsule.
        • Comment – The unique, refurbished collection of Chippendale furniture is a ‘must-see’.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

        • What – Stately home dating back 500 years, and through 16 generations of the Cavendish family.
        • Comment – So much to see, from the water jet at the front of the house and the amazing trompe-l’oeil, to the amazing art collection and magnificent interiors.

Pendennis Castle, Cornwall

        • What – Fortress built by Henry VIII.
        • Comment – Brings the coastal defence of Britain and English Civil War to life in a breath-taking cliff top setting.

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

        • What – A medieval fortification said to be the birthplace of King Arthur.
        • Comment – Evocative ruins of a legend in a dramatic coastal landscape. Lets your imagination run riot!

We have a rich tapestry of heritage in the UK, where would you add to this list and why?

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Red Carpet Time

Thank goodness it’s only the Oscars that are mostly about frocks. In the heritage world we take a more sedate approach to the giving and receiving of awards. But I should warn you that the season is about to begin.

Two important prizes are about to be announced with apparently different purposes. The Art Fund Museum of the Year award has real money attached – £100,000 for the winning institution. It recognises, of course, what is in the judges’ view the best museum of 2013, usually because of an investment made in the previous year. So the brand spanking new Hepworth Museum in Wakefield was bound to be on the shortlist, but so are several museums housed in historic houses.

art fund finalists

The Art Fund has announced the finalists for Museum of the Year

Notable among them is the William Morris Gallery in East London, a collection of the extraordinarily influential works of Morris, his friend the artist Edward Burne-Jones and other key figures in the Arts and Crafts movement. Its home is the elegant Georgian house where the Morris family lived and where the young William spent his formative years. The refurbishment over the last few years at the gallery has created a fine space for the display of a remarkable collection of objects and paintings and while it is quite definitely presented as a gallery not a house, the interiors have provided an opportunity to recreate the interiors of William Morris’ workshop and of the original Morris & Co shop. As a display space, as an educational experience and as a continuation of the life of an important historic house, the William Morris Gallery is exemplary, and gives its visitors a truly up to date museum experience.

William Morris Guidebook

William Morris Guidebook

Dedicated to another dimension, are the Visit England Awards for Excellence. These pick up on the best in what England can offer tourists coming to the country or any of us, when we step outside our front doors to go on a visit. All of the finalists in the Large Visitor Attraction and most in the Small Visitor Attraction categories are heritage sites. Great, for example, to see Blenheim Palace, Beaulieu and the Roman Baths in Bath all up for a gong; it is a list of England’s longest standing and most important tourist attractions. Other categories cover accommodation and business, sustainability and open access, so these awards are good at celebrating the business side of tourism.

Visit England Awards for Excellence

Visit England Awards for Excellence

Sitting comfortably between these two awards schemes are the Hudson’s Heritage Awards. Here we are trying to recognise every part of what heritage sites have to offer for visitors in whatever guise they come: for a day out, as shoppers, as diners and takers of tea, as brides, as adventurers and as picnickers. But they also recognise the how well run heritage sites are for the future: the contribution of staff and volunteers, new commissions and commercial investments. Nominations for these awards are open now and run until September (or August if you want to nominate your favourite picnic spot).

Hudsons Awards 2013 Nominations Now Open

Hudsons Awards 2013 Nominations Now Open

Just like the Oscars, underneath the hype that surrounds each of these award schemes is a determination to maintain and improve standards at museums, in tourism and at all heritage places. We may not indulge in quite the same lengths of red carpet in heritage tourism but pay attention to the winners – they will each introduce you to what we do best.

Celebrating Women – International Women’s Day

Written by Sarah Greenwood

I join the global sisterhood on Friday 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day, which features in my personal calendar largely because it is big in ex-Communist countries and I once lived in Romania. Apparently the concept has been around since 1909 but few Brits would have registered it more than a couple of decades ago. That set me thinking about influential women from historic houses & gardens through the centuries and I came up with rather an interesting list.

International Women's Day 8th March 2013

International Women’s Day 8th March 2013

So here are my personal suggestions for the top 8 Historic Houses & Gardens Women:

First off, it has to be Celia Fiennes. Her tireless journeys through Britain from the Kentish Weald to southern Scotland in the 1680s to the 1700s can still be used as the basis for any trip through today’s Britain. So many of the houses she visited are still there for us to see – some remarkably unchanged; Chatsworth, Uppark or Wilton to name a few. An example to all country house visitors – endlessly curious, meticulous in her descriptions, brave and opinionated– she still makes a great model for the adventurous. Shame she didn’t have a camera as well as a pen and a good eye.

17th Century explorer Celia Fiennes

17th Century explorer Celia Fiennes

Jane Austen makes it in at number 2. The surge in her popularity in my lifetime means that more and more people are captivated by country house life and the past. Of course, Pemberley has to be Chatsworth but for her other fictional houses, your imagination can get to work. I for one, never quite agree with the film makers, though Groombridge Place did make an atmospheric Longbourn for the Bennets when Keira Knightley was Lizzie.

English novelist Jane Austen

English novelist Jane Austen

I asked a couple of other people for their ideas about country house women and both came up with Bess of Hardwick. Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury managed to leave us one of the most delightful Tudor houses in Britain – “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall “- which survived little changed mostly because it was usually a dower house for a succession of Cavendish women and never the main residence after Bess’ death in 1608. It still feels very personal; her initials top the walls and her tapestries still hang in her chambers; it’s not hard to picture her swishing slowly down the length of the Long Gallery.

Bess of Hardwick

Bess of Hardwick

Another long lived matriarch makes it in at number 4; Lady Anne Clifford. She is still revered in Cumbria for her energy in rebuilding houses damaged in the Civil War including Appleby Castle, Brougham Castle and Brough Castle. But what gets her on this list is not her building exploits so much as her tenacity in sticking up for her rights. Her father willed her inheritance to his brother. Ann stood out against her uncle, two husbands and even King James I and pursued her claim through the courts until she finally achieved her independence in her late 50s. Luckily she still had plenty of time to enjoy her wealth and freedom and retired to her Northern estates to enjoy it for the next 30 years.

Lady Anne Clifford

Lady Anne Clifford

My number 5 is Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. Her husband John’s extraordinary military exploits against the French may have been the justification for Queen Anne’s gift of Blenheim Palace, but it was Sarah who devoted herself to the task of completing this monument to greatness. It took her 22 years and an endless round of squabbles with the architect John Vanbrugh. What they left us is one of the most extraordinary palaces anywhere in the world of a grandiose magnificence unusual for understated Britain.

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

Queen Victoria, another long lived woman, proved herself a great leader of fashion. In building Balmoral in the Highlands she encouraged a nationwide mania for all things Scottish and had a permanent impact on the style of the Scottish nobility and the houses they built and decorated. At the extreme far end of the country she built another influential house at Osborne on the Isle of Wight.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

My next candidate is Gertrude Jekyll. This modest woman created a modern style of gardening which is still with us. She had a talent for painting with plants, mixing colours and drifting bulbs to add softness and lyricism to the hard landscape designs of her partner Sir Edwin Lutyens. Many Jekyll gardens survive all over the country. Try Lindisfarne Castle or Whalton Manor in Northumberland or Miss Jekyll’s own garden at Munstead Wood, open for the National Gardens Scheme.

The walled garden at Lindisfarne, designed by Gertrude Jekyll

The walled garden at Lindisfarne, designed by Gertrude Jekyll

And now to bring my list up to date with a woman for today. I nominate Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. Yes, I know we are back to Chatsworth again, but the fact that you can go there and see its treasures is largely thanks to her and her husband. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable tax bill after the war, they moved back into Chatsworth, rationalised their landholdings and embarked on a lifetime of opening the house to the public. It is still a leader in this regard and the Duchess has been consistently at the forefront of its innovation.

Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

And these are my 8 heritage women for 8 March. Who would you pick?