Prebendal Manor House, Northants

View of house from streetPrivate
I visited this in Aug 2010, but there was no entry in the blog and I appear to have taken no photographs.
The house does not look interesting from the road, but on the other side one can see the pointed windows of the ancient hall, an old barn (with museum), dovecote, grounds, and an Elizabethan herb garden. Inside the house are some interesting old rooms.
The property was part of a cathedral estate until 1847.

There is a website.

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Lyddington Bede House, Rutland

Bede house from churchyard
English Heritage
The Bede House is the surviving wing of a medieval palace built for the Bishops of Lincoln. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the palace was passed to one of Henry VIII’s supporters. In 1600 the structure was converted to almshouses for pensioners or ‘bedesmen’, and later remodelling produced the current structure with the addition of chimneys, fireplaces, and subdivisions to provide 12 small ground-floor rooms.

The Bede House is next to the church and churchyard, which seem to have been built later. The building, on three floors, is of great interest, and contains on the first floor a very fine Great Chamber, later the common hall of the Bede House. The chamber retains its ornate wooden ceiling and sumptuously carved wooden cornice. The adjoining Presence Chamber has a similar ceiling. A room near the stairs is fitted out as it would have been when last occupied.

On reaching the end of the sat-nav directions, you need to park in the village street and proceed on foot. The EH pay desk is inside on the ground floor. The EH guidebook contains floor plans and much historical information.

General view from north

View from north

North veranda


Attic partition

Attic partition

Attic beams

Attic beams

1st floor room as used

1st floor room

Great Chamber

Great Chamber

Great Chamber cornice

Great Chamber cornice

Presence Chamber

Presence Chamber

South west view

South view

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Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire

North Front
Grimsthorpe Castle is a large country house in rural Lincolnshire, set in a 3000 acre park. Since 1516, Grimsthorpe has been owned by the holders of the Norman title, the Barony of Willoughby de Eresby.
Approaching the house along the drive, one sees the imposing North Front. Closer to, the East and West wings of a large square building are in a different style, while the South front, a Tudor-style jumble of gables, might be a totally different building.
The house was constructed in a number of phases. First there was a small castellated tower, which survives as King John’s Tower in the south-east corner. Then a Tudor house was attached to this, and later hastily extended to a Tudor house of four wings around a central courtyard. The Tudor North front was replaced by a newer one, which did not last long before it disappeared and was replaced by Vanburgh’s imposing North Front, which work extends as a skin about one-third of the way along the east and West sides. The last major change was to raise and re-skin the surviving Tudor East and West wings.
Inside, after entering the base of the left-hand front tower, one passes through a low vaulted hall before reaching one of a pair of staircases flanking the great hall, and getting a glimpse of the hall itself. Upstairs, one is directed into the State Dining Room, at first floor level in the tower, then southwards through the King James Room, State Drawing Room, and Tapestry Room in the east wing. After that, the South Corridor and West Corridor take the visitor around two more sides of an unseen central courtyard. One can look through doorways into various fine rooms.
Finally, one is allowed a limited view of the central courtyard, which contains an old tower at the west side, and a large single-storey service building to the north, adjoining the Great Hall.
Descending the north-east staircase, one is directed at ground level to the Chinese Drawing Room, with its fine wallpaper and oriel (bay) window, and the double-height Chapel in the tower. Vanbrugh’s Great Hall, with its superimposed arcades, is at the end of the visitor route.
There are many fine objects to look at during the tour, so if you think you did not spend enough time looking, you could go round again. If you go on a self-guiding day (Sunday) you will find helpful room guides in the main rooms and corridors.
There are two or three things that may affect your enjoyment of the visit. One is that the lighting in some of the rooms is very dim, reportedly to preserve fabrics and materials that are affected by light. This is common to many great houses, but the lighting in the King James room is so low that it is hard to see some objects clearly. One can not see out of any windows in most rooms.
The other is that no floor plan is included in the guidebook. In fact there seems to be no floor plan available anywhere. This is an irritant, since one cannot judge where one is within the building. Also, one cannot see what sections are excluded from the tour. In particular, one cannot judge from inside why the Tapestry Room is narrower than the State Drawing Room, something that a plan would make clear.
To remedy the plan deficiency, you can look at the Google Satellite view, which clearly shows the square courtyard and the irregular projections of the East wing and St John’s Tower.

House North Front

North Front

Grims East Front & Garden

East Front & Garden

Topiary in South garden


House South Front

South Front

House West Front

West Front

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Chartwell, Kent

Chartwell entrance front National Trust
Chartwell was the country home of British prime minister and war leader Sir Winston Churchill.
The site of Chartwell was built on from the 16th century, but the present house originated in the Victorian period. It was a brick Victorian house of no architectural merit, but Churchill bought it for its position and the views. It was transformed and extended by the architect Philip Tilden in a vernacular style of the kind made popular by Lutyens. In 1938 it had 5 reception rooms, 19 bed and dressing rooms, 8 bathrooms, and was set in 80 acres of grounds.

A tour of the house takes well under an hour, and it has to be said that the main interest is the Churchill connection. Rooms are displayed as they were in Churchill’s time, or contain exhibitions. Various rooms contain some of Churchill’s books. He owned many thousands of books, and made a living as a writer and historian. His histories of Marlborough, and of the English Speaking Peoples, of the Second World War etc. are still worth reading today. Volumes of his work can be seen shelved around the house. Many of Churchill’s own paintings are also on display. His art may not be to all tastes, but he was regarded as a serious artist. Below the principal ground floor is a lower floor that looks out onto the lakes. The kitchen on this level is preserved as it was in the 1930′s.

Chartwell formal garden

Formal garden

The grounds are very extensive, and contain formal gardens, lakes, woods, a swimming pool, a walled garden with a wall part built by Churchill, and some cottages with Churchill’s art studio.

Access is along narrow roads. The car park is of only moderate size, and when I visited on a March afternoon, it was full.

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Ightham Mote, Kent

Ightham, south side with moat National Trust.
Ightham Mote (pronounced I-tam) is a medieval manor house that has survived for over 650 years in a valley in the Weald of Kent. It is entirely surrounded by a moat of running water, fed by a stream that traverses the gardens. The various owners were wealthy but not famed, and made modest changes to the house to adapt it to their needs and tastes. Much of the present outline of the house was in place by the 16th century. The house, with its cream stone and jumble of red-tiled roofs, sitting in a square moat, is very attractive.
If one stands in the central courtyard and looks around, it may look as if the house is of one piece and date, but in fact it is the product of six centuries. The earliest parts of the house date from the 1330s while other parts were built or altered at times from the Tudor to Jacobean to Victorian. The last owner bought the house in the 1950s and some rooms are presented with the decor of this period.
The house suffered sales of its entire contents on more than one occasion, and is presently furnished with furniture appropriate to the periods in which the rooms are presented.
Above the house to the north is a lawn and informal grounds, while to the west are a formal garden and some cottages on the site of the former stable block.
From 1990 to 2004 the house underwent a major programme of conservation during which much of the roof and timber-framed rooms were dismantled, and rotted and infested parts of the timbers cut out and replaced with new wood, before the whole was reassembled, so that the house now looks the same as before, but no longer crumbling. Hence most of the lath and plasterwork in the house is modern. On the other hand, without these repairs and also the repairs carried out in the Victorian period, parts of the house would have eventually fallen down. The conservation programme cost around £11 million.

Ightham Mote is well worth a visit, as it has some fine interiors and is one of the best moated medieval houses in the country.
Note that the approach to the house is along narrow roads.



Ightham Hall int.


Ightham informal gardens


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78 Derngate, Northampton

Street frontage The house at 78 Derngate, Northampton, was transformed by the Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh from a modest Victorian terraced house to a building with unique modern designs. The client was W.J. Bassett-Lowke, founder of a prosperous local model-making and engineering business.
The transformation was carried out in 1916-17. The Bassett-Lowkes moved on nine years later, and the house passed through various hands before the Northampton Borough Council obtained a 999-year lease in 1996. The house was Grade II* listed in 1965. Full restoration was undertaken in 2001.
The adjoining house, no 80, was included in the project and stripped out to provide modern access and exhibition space. (In old photos, no 80 appears to have a 2-storey high bay on the front).
No 82, also now interconnected, contains gallery space and a dining room/cafe.
The house was jointly designed by Mackintosh and his client. Inside, the basement kitchen was very modern for its day. Upstairs at street level the dining room looks modestly modern, while the hall/lounge looks nearly as bizarre as the photo below suggests. Most surfaces are finished in black, with a coloured frieze applied to the walls, and black furniture. The staircase is turned through 90 deg from its original (and more conventional) position, and is divided off by a lattice screen, also painted black at this level.
At first floor level are the principal bedroom and the bathroom. The bedroom is relatively conventional, and has a balcony. The bathroom was modern in its day and is papered with a washable mosaic design.
On the second floor are a study, repainted in the original colours, and the guest bedroom, which has a striking fabric backdrop to the twin beds which continues up the ceiling.

The house has been restored to its 1917 appearance. Some features are original. Some of the lost original features are replaced by near-equivalents which differ slightly from the originals, and the installation of furniture (usually replicas) seems to be a work in progress.

If you are interested in Mackintosh’s work, or modern design, this house is definitely worth a visit.

Nearby: The Museum & Art gallery, the Guildhall, and St Peter’s Church.

Getting there: there are multi-storey car parks for the Derngate theatres etc. Northampton railway station is a 20 min walk away.

Rear of 78,80,82


Basement Kitchen


Dining room

Dining room

Ground floor screen

Ground floor screen

Hall/lounge, front door

Hall, front door

Guest bedroom

Guest bedroom

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The Higgins Gallery and Museum, Bedford

View of ext. front The Bedford museum and art gallery opened in mid-2013 after a major refurbishment and extension, and has been re-branded as the Higgins. The galleries, upstairs and downstairs, are extensive, and a full tour takes several hours. Galleries include art, local archaeology, local industries, ethnographic collections, natural history, Arts and Crafts movement furniture and artefacts, temporary exhibitions and, the prize of the collection, the Burges Room, containing painted furniture by the Victorian designer.
The museum buildings incorporate the original Victorian mansion built for Bedford industrialists the Higgins family, but having had various parts demolished or knocked through over the decades to adapt the buildings for museum use, the mansion has lost much of its original character. Furniture and contents typical of the period have been placed in the principal rooms.
If the purpose of your visit is to see the Burges Room, it is advisable to ask for directions. A number of important pieces of painted furniture, some from Burges’ last residence, the Tower House, are placed around the walls of an artificially lit space. The adjoining spaces and galleries contain the museum’s collections of Arts & Crafts furniture and artefacts from the Victorian and Edwardian period.
A visit is recommended, especially if you are interested in high Victoriana and the Arts & Crafts movement.
If you need a refreshment break during your visit, the Higgins Pantry with waitress service is available next to the entrance.
The Higgins is in the centre of the town, within walking distance of Bedford & Bedford St Johns railway stations. Parking in the area is restricted, and could be difficult on a Saturday, when the weekly Bedford auction is held nearby.

Decorated panels


Burges' painted bed

Burges’ Bed

Painted cabinet


Painted wash-stand


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Foundling Museum, London

Foundling Museum front Museum
The Foundling Hospital was founded by Thomas Coram in the 18th century to care for abandoned children, generally babies whose mothers were too poor to care for them. Early patrons included the painter Hogarth and the musician George Friderik Handel. The Hospital soon acquired an art collection which attracted visits from prospective benefactors.

The Hospital buildings occupied land which is now mostly the open space in front of the Museum building. In 1926 the Hospital moved outside London and within a fairly short time morphed from a residential institution into a charity, the remaining children being placed in foster homes and the Rickmansworth building being sold in 1954. The Hospital became the children’s charity, Coram.

The present building in London was built in 1937 as the London headquarters of the Hospital, but by 1998 became a Museum housing the physical relics and collections of the Hospital.
Today, the building contains an exhibition about the Foundling Hospital, an art collection, and some room interiors salvaged from the old Hospital, as well as the Handel collection.

The general visitor will find the exhibition about the Foundling Hospital of considerable interest. Some of the paintings are portraits of long-dead worthies, but there are also interesting Victorian paintings depicting the workings of the Hospital in a popular sentimental style. The Court Room, with its ornate ceiling and 18th century doorcases and interior, wall-paintings and hung paintings, is a most impressive room salvaged from the old Hospital and recreated in the 1937 building.
The Museum is open most days (except Mondays). There is an admission charge, with a concession for NT members. Nearest Tube station is Russell Square.

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Spencer House, London

Park front, Spencer House Private
Spencer House is one of the few surviving eighteenth-century grand London town houses, and almost the only one to retain its eighteenth-century interiors. Eight state rooms have been restored in the last ten years for RIT Capital Partners plc. Fireplaces, architraves, doors etc have been replaced to restore the full splendour of the house’s late eighteenth-century appearance.
This private palace was built in 1756-66 for the first Earl Spencer, an ancestor of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Money was clearly no object. The exterior, by architect John Vardy, is in a Palladian style, and the interiors were designed by John Vardy and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart.
The ground floor has the entrance hall, Morning Room, Ante-room (with apsidal alcove) the Library, the Dining Room (with scagliola pillars) and the astonishing Palm Room.
Ascending via the Staircase Hall one finds the Music Room, Lady Spencer’s Room, the Great Room (aptly named, with curved, coffered and highly decorated ceiling) and the Roman-styled Painted Room.
The State Rooms have the original ceilings, generally highly ornate, and restored and very ornate fireplaces and woodwork. There is lots of gold-leaf gilding. The Palm Room has an unique palm tree design with gilded trunks.
The interior is really worth seeing. Furniture represents what was originally here, and a few pieces are the originals, returned to their original positions. There are also interesting paintings (some loaned from the Royal Collection) in most of the rooms.
The house is opened on Sundays, by guided tour. The unseen north and east wings of the house (presumably containing former service rooms and bedrooms) have been converted into lettable premium office space. Outside, facing St James’ Park, is a private garden, not opened to the public.
Access to the house is via St James’s Place, off St James’s Street, or via an alleyway from Queen’s Walk. (You may get an external view of the south side of the house from Little St James’s St, but I did not go there)
Interior photography is not permitted, but there is a pictorial tour and house plan on the Spencerhouse website.

Spencer House, St James's Pl front

St James’s Place front

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Brompton Cemetery, West London

ornate tomb with pitched roof Visited as part of “Open House London.”
Though I used to live in South Kensington, I had never set foot in this cemetery before. It was opened in 1840, is about 3/4 mile long, and contains huge numbers of Victorian graves. Towards the southern end is a set of structures representing an open-air cathedral, underlain by catacombs and culminating in a domed chapel. All major structures and 28 of the monuments are listed grade II. It’s unexpectedly fascinating, and contains graves of many eminent people, probably the most famous being Emmeline Pankhurst. It was nationalised in 1852 and for the last 50 years has been in the care of the Royal Parks. Though the cemetery shows signs of neglect, it is still open for burials.
The Friends of Brompton Cemetery organise tours and other events, and helps with conservation and maintenance. Parts of the cemetery are still totally overgrown. One detects a certain tension between the Friends and the Royal Parks.
The cemetery is open daily and used by the locals as a park.

Emmeline Pankhurst tomb

Emmeline Pankhurst

Art Deco monument

Art Deco

WWI Hero monument with airship

WWI Hero

Wisden tombstone


Richard Tauber tombstone

Richard Tauber

Chapel interior

Chapel interior

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