Clockwise from right: Waddesdon Manor, a French Château in the heart of England PHOTO DEREK PELLING
There are few better opportunities to immerse yourself in British history than a visit to a Stately Home, writes Daniel M Byway
hether your interest is in architecture, horticulture, art and culture, social history (or simply keeping the kids happy), a trip to one of Britain’s many historic houses can be both educational and enjoyable. We’ve selected a few within easy reach of London that you can visit this Summer.
www.waddesdon.org.uk Aylesbury, Bucks HP18 0JH (Rail: London Marylebone to Aylesbury Vale Parkway, 1 hr 6 mins, plus local bus) Located just north of Oxford, Waddesdon Manor was built between 1874 and 1885 by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Inspired by the 16th Century French Château de Chambord, it’s a rare example of a French Château in the middle of the English countryside! Rothschild built the Manor for entertaining, and high profile guests included the future Edward VII and Queen Victoria. Today, the Manor offers a historic portrait of the Rothschild family, a glamorous example of aristocratic living of the age, and an array of gardens to explore. Also until October, the manor is hosting an exhibition on contemporary art, as ceramicist Kate Malone exhibits new works.
www.sal.org.uk/kelmscott-manor Kelmscott, Lechlade, Gloucestershire GL7 3HJ (Car from London: Approx 2 hrs 10 mins, via M40 or M4) Off the beaten track, the 17th Century Kelmscott Manor sits in
an idyllic rural setting alongside the River Thames in the Cotswolds. The former retreat of artist, poet and novelist William Morris is a popular one for American visitors, as it reveals the quintessential English home. Upon first seeing the Manor in 1871, Morris is said to have declared it to be the ‘loveliest haunt of ancient peace’, and a ‘Heaven on Earth’ - perhaps Belinda
Syon Park’s Great Conservatory Historic four-poster bed at Kelmscott House
of parkland. The gardens are open all week long, whilst the house is open this Summer on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Built on the site of the Medieval Syon Abbey, Syon House has over 600 years of history, and spectacular classical interiors. 2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of the landscape artist Lancelot “Capability” Brown, and as one of his first major commissions, the gardens at Syon Park are an ideal way to review Brown’s landscaping skill. Another landmark of the Park is the Great Conservatory, designed by Charles Fowler in the 1820s. Given its proximity to London, a wonderful opportunity to see a Capability Brown garden in all its glory without the travel.
Carlisle was a fan? For art lovers, Kelmscott Manor offers a wonderful insight into how an artist of world fame such as Morris shaped his personal space, and for those who love a good English Afternoon Tea, there’s a Tea Room too!
www.syonpark.co.uk Brent Lea, Brentford TW8 8JF (Rail: Underground or Overground to Gunnersbury, Ealing Broadway or Boston Manor) A perfect retreat for Gardenistas, Syon Park and Syon House, the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland, are set in 200 acres
www.bletchleypark.org.uk The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Dr, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 6EB (Rail: London Euston to Bletchley, approx 36 to 52 mins) An altogether different historical proposition, Bletchley Park’s fame emanates from its role in the Second World War, where it became home to the British and American code breakers who broke the infamous German Enigma code. Although the now famous war time huts are the iconic backdrop of Bletchley, its Mansion dates back to the late 19th Century. Designed in a Victorian / Edwardian style, although it isn’t a quintessential Stately Home, its role in the protection of the State during the Second World War marks it as among Britain’s most historically