Thursday, July 2, 2015

Buscot Park and gardens

As you've probably noticed my penpal, Neil, sends me a lot of fabulous photos from his travels. Once in awhile something really strikes a cord though and I fall instantly in love. That happened when he sent me his photos of Buscot Park.
A country house in Oxfordshire, west of London, the strict Georgian house was originally built in 1783. As with many old houses over the years it was changed and added onto but then something interesting happened: in 1934 the owner, the 2nd Lord Faringdon, had the additions demolished and the house restored to it's original neoclassical form.
Faringdon hired the fashionable society architect Geddes Hyslop to not only restore the house to its original form but modernize it with the usual bathrooms and amenities (including a swimming pool) and flank the house with 2 detached Palladian wings.
Hyslop was a very capable architect for he believed that his works were to blend in with their surroundings and not create brash 'statements' or compete with the original (sound familiar to many of todays 'starchitects'?)
 The stone and slate mansion is perfection, pure and simple;  above is the front entrance.
The rear features 2 bowed sections to allow more light into the interiors and connect them to the gardens.
The gardens really are the focus of this estate and I'll be getting to them in a minute, but indulge me with a few more photographs of the house itself.
Unusual to have a 1934 swimming pool meld so seamlessly with an 18th century mansion, but it works.
Here you can see one of the pavilions created by Hyslop which houses pool rooms, a theater, and other amenities.
 From outside of the hedge enclosure one would never know the pool was there.
Now lets get to the gardens which have been developed over the past century by the many owners and continues to change. The current Lord Faringdon lives on the property but has downsized to another structure on the grounds.
These Italianate water gardens down towards the lake were created by the landscape architect Harold Peto in 1904 for the first Lord Faringdon, before the renovation to the house.
 They connect the house to the lake through a series of waterways.
This lovely stone bridge is beautifully set on the other side of the lake.
The Gardens are so successful because they are designed setting up views through structure and allees. You always have something to look at.
 Even on a cloudy day such as here there is a lot to see and enjoy.
I mentioned the gardens continue to change and grow. The artist David Harber completed the skeletal pyramid seen below in the 'Egyptian Avenue'.
The pyramid is mounted over a functioning Italian wellhead and in the summer surrounded by potted citrus trees.
 The gardens closer to the house are more formal in nature.
The 'Parents Walk' seen below was planted in 1986 by renowned landscape architect Peter Coats and provides year round color to the grounds.
 I love the allium lining this allee below.

The current Lord Faringdon has turned the former walled kitchen gardens into a gorgeous walled ornamental garden seen here. I love the way the wisteria frames the view of one of the pavilions.
While not as practical as a kitchen garden, those do still exist elsewhere on the estate and since the house is no longer used as a residence why not have something pretty?
Grand estates such as these are impossible to duplicate but I feel can give us endless inspiration for our own homes and gardens.
Read more about Buscot Park on their website, find information about visiting at the National Trust, and read more about the family on Wikipedia.
Many thanks to Neil as always for the inspiration and his snapshots!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kirby Hall -reborn

Recently while on the English Heritage website I saw intriguing photos of Kirby Hall and remembered it from the 1999 movie of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park". I've always been intrigued by ruins so I asked my penpal if he had ever visited the estate. He responded with these pictures from his 2009 visit.
From a distance in the newly relaid gardens the structure appears as a normal Elizabethan house; as if the owners had just stepped away. However it has laid abandoned since the 18th century when the owners walked away and only in the past few decades have portions of the interior been rebuilt.
Kirby Hall began construction in 1570 for Queen Elizabeth I's Lord Chancellor and close friend, Sir Christopher Hatton. Many claimed he was actually her lover (particularly her enemy Mary, Queen of Scots) as they were very close personal friends and he benefited financially from their relationship (obviously). Some things never change with jealousy and  mud-slinging!
The facades were based on French architectural pattern books of the time and the influence of the Italian Renaissance was obvious, particularly on the interior courtyard facades.
Whenever I see great places like this going to waste I always think "this would make great condos" and that holds true here. I'll take one on the courtyard side please!
Ruins fascinated homeowners in the 18th century and still do to this day.  Kirby Hall may actually be more interesting in this semi-ruinous but stabilized state rather than had it been lovingly cared for over the centuries.
The Great Hall and staircase have been restored and were heavily featured in the aforementioned Mansfield Park movie from 1999 as the home of Sir Thomas Bertram. Read more about its role in the movie with many film shots of the interior and exterior HERE and HERE.
My favorite detail is perhaps the inset railing in the stone wall of the great staircase below. Image is from the Jane Austen Film website here.
Add Kirby Hall on your list of places to visit should you ever be passing through Northamptonshire!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"New" Hardwick Hall tour

Hardwick Hall should really be called "New Hardwick Hall" because as with many great British estates it was built to improve upon one which already existed, Old Hardwick Hall is seen below.
Built for Bess of Hardwick, the Countess of Shrewsbury, in the 1590s by architect Robert Smythson, the house is more glass than wall. This may impress us even today but imagine the effect this would have had on guests 500 years ago; the saying was "Hardwick Hall more glass than wall"!.
It was also built 'upside down' in effect as the main entertaining spaces are on the top level to take advantage of the views. In Elizabethan times it was also popular to dine on the roof - we weren't the first ones to have rooftop decks!
Much of the interior paneling found inside came from Old Hardwick Hall, which was kept as a ruin for scenic effect.  Trees were even planted inside the old house in the 18th century.
 The Hardwick coat of arms is seen above the fireplace in the entry hall.
The drawing room and dining room also feature salvaged paneling and more Hardwick coats of arms on the chimney breast.
 These rooms are fairly cozy and one can imagine using them on a daily basis.
 Not used as often perhaps was the Long Gallery on the top level, measuring 167 feet long!
Generally in these older houses the stairs wouldn't be used very often by guests but here they were a prominent feature. Built of stone, extra-wide, and lined with tapestries, these stairs would have impressed the most notable guest.
Many of these tapestries were restored in the early 20th century by the houses's last inhabitant, Evelyn Cavendish, the Dowager Countess of Devonshire. She was quite the battle-ax and reading about her is really entertaining!
 Notice the poems incised on the stone stairs.
 "Look to her well, she will one day be even as I am" Queen Elizabeth I
 All those stairs...all those tapestries.
The Long Gallery was lined with treasures of the family - everything was built and decorated to impress the visitor with the wealth and importance of the family.
Many of the tapestries were cut to fit the spaces where they are displayed but here in the Gallery they could be displayed to their full size.
Bess of Hardwick was obsessed with textiles and tapestries and household records still list her collections.
The 'Sea Dog Table' is the most important treasure inside the house. Made in 1600 of walnut it is considered one of the wonders of the Elizabethan age.
This marquetry woodwork is also pretty amazing though!
The Great Chamber's notable decorative element is the plaster frieze depicting hunting scenes.
Diana the Huntress is featured throughout the frieze.
 The coloring is really extraordinary.
 Can you imagine anything so beautiful in your own home?

 The Arms of Bess can be seen on the chimney breast above.
 The house is full of amazing plaster, stone, and wood work.
 Of course no great house in Great Britain is complete without a host of bedrooms with canopy beds!
Naturally they are all surrounded with tapestries as well -the blue room seen above. Here they were actually useful in trying to keep out drafts.
 This simpler bedroom above is probably my favorite, with Venus in plaster on the chimney breast.
Imagine being a guest of the last resident in the 1950s and pulling up to stay for the weekend and being put up in one of these (dusty) bedrooms!
 The Green room is seen above.
The Green and Blue rooms were the primary bed chambers located right off the long Gallery and would have also been used for entertaining.
 The muniment room is lined with drawers, each one labeled with a Cavendish property.
My favorite spaces in these houses are always the store rooms. Imagine rooting around in here for treasure! This one started out life for another purpose obviously as it has a grand mantel and chimney breast.
The kitchens are an extraordinary space with tall ceilings to help dissipate the heat. The furnishings were built for the space in the 18th century.
The collection of copper cookware is astounding! The scullery below features a charming sign that I feel is so important and I constantly see people forget during tours of historic buildings "A single act of carelessness leads to the eternal loss of beauty".  PEOPLE, DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING, WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES? (I'm obviously not as subtle as the British)
To read more about Hardwick Hall, particularly the kitchens, visit the LostRememberedPast blog HERE.
Many thanks to penpal Neil as always for providing photographs from his travels!