The Soane Foundation sponsored two tours beganing and ending in London with two eight-day travel periods, each joining together on the evening of Saturday, May 19th when Soane Museum Director Tim Knox hosted a candlelight reception at the Museum with a private viewing of its collections, which was followed by dinner The Travellers Club designed by Charles Barry and completed in 1832.
Each trip departed London early morning and by 11am we'd started our daily rush of private tours, luncheons and dinners. Frist stop was in Bedfordshire, on the way to Derbyshire, to see the magnificent Moggerhanger House, designed by Humphry Repton and Sir John Soane. Originally started in 1790, and completed in 1812, the house has just now undergone an $11 million restoration.
Moggerhanger - Bedfordshire
House 1 / Trip 2... Moggerhanger as designed by Sir John Soane
Group 1... we had cool and damp days!
Group 2... had mostly sunny and warm days...
Birch testing out the ease of movement and balance of a restored window sash
Details in the Boudoir or Ladies Upstairs Parlor
Garden facade of Moggerhanger
Once we reached Derbyshire, we met up with David Brown, our tour mentor/shepard/guide, who has been with the British National Trust for over 25 years. Quoting Simon Jenkin’s new book, England’s Thousand Best Houses. “Derbyshire is a prince among counties. ..(It includes) a phalanx of stately houses which, in their day, might have rivaled the châteaux of the Loire.” Derbyshire is the only English county Jenkin’s has assigned 3 five-star houses; Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall and Hardwick Hall. It has first-rate buildings of all periods and includes Bolsover Castle (not really a castle), Kedleston Hall (mostly Robert Adam), Melbourne Hall, Calke Abbey (not an abbey at all but a fascinating time-warp house), Renishaw Hall (home of the Sitwell’s) and Sudbury Hall among its great houses as well as charming manor houses, fascinating ancient ruins, a Georgian spa and Assembly Rooms in Buxton, Arkwright’s Silk Mill, (now restored as an early example of the industrial revolution), spectacular blue john caves (one of Derbyshire’s most distinctive, precious marbles), and much more.
Photos shown here are a combination of both trips...
Locko Park - near Spondon in Derbyshire
House 2 / Trip 1 - view from the front lawn of Locko Park
Stanford Hall - Lutterworth, Leicestershire
House 2 / Trip 2 - Stanford Hall in Leicestershire (coloration and spots on this image and below are because the photo was taken through the bus window)
Stanford is the home of the Cave family since the 15th century, ancestor of the present owner, Nicholas Fothergill
Sudbury Hall - near Uttoxeter
House 3 / Trips 1 and 2 - Sudbury Hall
The magnificent carved staircase at Sudbury
The Grand Gallery of Sudbury
Group 1 - we were told the best way to admire the plasterwork ceiling was to lie on ones back...
Group 2 - they didn't want to miss it either!
Calke Abbey - near Melbourne
Calke Abbey - this image was on a gray rainy evening of Trip 1
Amid a field of wildflowers, Group 2 examines another facade of Calke
Kedleston Hall - near Derby
Radburne Hall - near Derby
Meynell Langley - near Derby
Hardwick Hall - near Mansfield
...needless to say, it is a dark narrow stair passage to the inner roof structure of this great house...
An extraordinary opportunity was offered to us... just off the long gallery in a small passage is a door through which this narrow wooden stair leads you to inside the roof structure... and amazing site of these massive wooden beams and supports, many hundreds of years old. The original construction of the hall was in the 1660's.
In contrast to the great long gallery, a desk in the more intimate study.
At Hardwick, we climbed wide stone steps to arrive into one of the four rooftop pavilions. All the pavilions were used for entertaining, however only the one has the staircase... so it was out on the roof, even in Bess of Hardwick's day. Note the E S on the the roof crowns = Elizabeth Shrewsbury
Foundation President Chippy Irvine and Tour Scholar David Brown
A rare treat to have gained entry to the Duke's private library... Birch Coffey and Terry Gross share a moment of respite during the visit.
Haddon Hall - near Bakewell
I've never seen anything like these windows with the articulated rows of glass to reflect light at various points during the day - totally unique!
Renishaw Hall - near Eckington
"Outside David" as the head gardener is referred to, keeps manicured acres within the great hedge walls.
Lyme Park - near Disley, Cheshire
A beautiful table is set - sadly not for us...
An unique stone facaded conservatory.
Bolsover Castle - Bolsover
a long stable block
part of the complex is in ruin with no roof structure, just the stone walls
Tissington Hall - Tissington, near Ashbourne
While is appears here as one long building, it is actually two separate ones with the former stables to the left and the Hall to the right.
Group 1 gets a rare treat of seeing one of the traditions of spring, a well (as in water) dressing ceremony. Here our group gathers to admire to creation of flowers, flower pedals and yew branches. In total there are seven wells in Tissington, each dressed by a different group of residents and each with it's own style and references. By the next week when Group 2 arrived, all evidence of the well dressings were gone...
Sir Richard FitzHerbert, our host for the visit and dinner, explains the well dressing traditions.
Even in May, fires were a welcome site to take the damp out of the air...
Thrumpton Hall - Nottinghamshire
Our two hotels during our time in Derbyshire...
Our first had a great historic structure which looked incredibly beautiful from the outside and the surrounding grounds and golf course, however the hotel itself was not great inside in the public areas in many ways, particularly whomever designed it as this ultra sprawling modern complex with so many up and down stairways and twists and turns! They did have nice beds though!!
The Cavandish Hotel, on the greater estate property of Chatsworth, was charming and comfortable and a great place to rest and hang out! I would highly recommend this spot when traveling to the area...
The view from the Cavandish to the fields surrounding... there was even a walking path to take one to Chatsworth, sadly we didn't have time for such an walk.
Following the official trip, Birch and I headed off to Oxfordshire for a couple of days at Le Manior Aux Quat' Saisons where he attended a one-day cooking school session which was evidently incredible!
Beautiful courtyards and gardens are hallmark of this property.
Sunset captured in the nearby town of Thame... our final night of great trips and experiences.