Mottisfont was originally an Augustinian priory. After the Dissolution the monastic buildings were largely dismantled or incorporated into a large Tudor mansion with two courtyards. Little now remains of the Tudor mansion. In the 18th century most of the Tudor buildings were demolished and a three-storey south front constructed, giving the building much of its present-day appearance. The Stables were rebuilt in 1836.
Successive owners made changes to the interior. in 1934 the house was bought by the Russells who repaired and modernised the house, changing the function and fittings of many of the rooms.
The principal rooms on the ground floor are open to visitors, and some upstairs rooms are open as exhibition spaces, and maids’ rooms can be seen on the attic level. The ground floor contains a collection of paintings, notably the Derek Hill collection. The Russells converted the original entrance hall into a grand saloon with spectacular trompe l’oeil murals by Rex Whistler.
At basement level, vaulted cellars and other features from the old priory can be seen. One cellar contains a poignant sculpture of estate workers disappearing into the wall, a reference to WWI.
Outside the house is a 20th century parterre. Further afield are a walled garden, a winter garden, the river and other features. The Trust manages an estate of over 1600 acres.
Mottisfont is well worth a visit, which could extend to over half a day.
Corsham Court dates from 1582, and was bought by Sir Paul Methuen in the mid 18th century to display his celebrated collection of 16th and 17th century Old Master paintings. A second collection was added through inheritance in the mid 19th century. The house was extended to accommodate the paintings using as architect Capability Brown, who also designed the gardens and park. The interiors retain many original features including plasterwork, wall hangings and furniture by Chippendale, Thomas Johnson, etc. The paintings include works by Van Dyck, Carlo Dolci, Fillipo Lippi, Salvator Rosa, Reynolds and Romney.
Surrounding the park today are the impressive gardens designed by Capability Brown and including a Gothic bath-house, a 13 acre lake and a ha-ha.
Bath Spa University uses parts of the house and grounds.
Free parking is available outside the house next to the church. The house and gardens are opened frequently throughout the year, in the afternoon. A curator and room guides are available to answer questions.
The pretty village of Lacock is managed by the National Trust. On it edge is Lacock Abbey and gardens. The Abbey was the home of pioneering photographer William Henry Fox Talbot, who is jointly credited with the invention of photography. The Abbey was built as a nunnery, housing a community of nuns led by Ela, countess of Shreswbury. After the dissolution, it came into the hands of William Sharington, who demolished the abbey church but retained the cloisters, converting the upper part into a dwelling by adding partitions. Despite later alterations, various medieval vaulted rooms and walkways still survive, notably in the lower parts of the building.
The Hall, built in a Gothick style, dates from the 18th century and contains terracotta statues set in niches on the walls.
The kitchen dates from the medieval period, with later alterations and fittings. Also downstairs can be found original encaustic tiles, and the only manuscript book to have survived from a pre-dissolution English abbey.
The service court houses an interesting Tudor brewhouse.
Beside the reception building is a museum of photography.
Well worth a half-day visit.
The Royal Marines Museum is housed on part of the former Eastney Royal Marines barracks at Southsea. The museum is housed in the former officers’ mess at the eastern end of the complex.
The exhibition is in three parts: the entrance floor has displays about the history of the Royal Marines, the floor below has a series of audio-visual displays about present-day training of RM recruits, and the top floor has more historical material relating to WWII, collections of medals, RM musical bands and also has the ornate function rooms.
The museum is linked to the Historic Dockyards and admission is included in the all-attractions ticket. I found my visit to the RM Museum far more interesting than I expected. Recommended.
Visit time: allow at least 2.5 hours if you want a good look at everything. There is a car park in front of the museum. Sat-nav may deliver you to the back of the former Eastney barracks – the entrance is on the sea front so if you can’t see the sea you are in the wrong place.
Southsea Castle and the D-Day museum are also in Southsea.
Swindon Borough Council
Lydiard Park is a grand house standing in extensive grounds to the west of Swindon. The estate was the home of the St John family for several centuries. The house was remodelleded to its present form in the early 18th century. The house was sold and in 1943 was bought by Swindon Borough Council. By theis time the house was in poor condition. Town Clerk David Murray John lobbied to preserve the house and park. Over the years most parts of the house have been restored and important contents and furnishings bought back.
Visitors today can see a series of ground floor state rooms, freshly decorated and with contents that are either original or typical of the period. There is a Hall, Dining Room, Library, Drawing Room, State Bedroom and Dressing Room.
Outside, the extensive grounds, which have grassland, tree plantings and a large lake, have also been restored. Note the interesting castellated dam wall at one end of the lake. A church lies immediately behind the house and contains interesting monuments and fragments of medieval wall painting. Note the life size gilded cavalier statue, the St John Polyptich and the stained glass.
Also visit the Walled Garden which contains borders filled with attractive perennials. (Access via the café). The Conference Centre is also said to serve coffee and light refreshments.
Lydiard Park is well worth a visit. Nearest junction off the M4 is J16. You may see signs for Lydiard Park or Lydiard Park and House – the latter takes you close to the house (and conference centre).
Pevensey Castle was founded around AD 270 as a Roman fort called Anderida, defending the Bay of Pevensey. After the end of Roman rule in Britain, the walls sheltered a settlement until at least the fifth century.
In 1066, the ruinous Roman defences were refortified by William the Conqueror, and a great Norman castle developed in one corner of the Roman enclosure. By the early sixteenth century, the castle was abandoned.
The site was briefly remanned in Tudor times, and also in World War II, in response to threatened invasions.
The size of the Roman enclosure is impressive, and the walls stand to nearly their full height over much of the perimeter. The walls and towers of the medieval inner bailey mostly stand, but the keep is very ruined and little remains of the upper floors.
The castle was besieged four times in the medieval period and the keep underwent substantial alterations in the 14th century.
The machine-gun nests and the refitting of several towers for accommodation as carried out in WWII can still be seen today.
A basement room near the gate can be entered by descending steps. It was used as a prison. Another can only be accessed by a hole in the roof and may have been an ‘oubliette’.
The castle is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Access to the outer bailey is unrestricted, but entry to the castle inner bailey is chargeable. If you have time, walk or drive around the outside of the outer wall.
The Observatory Science Centre occupies part of the site of the former Greenwich Obeservatory at Herstmonceux. It includes the six domes and other buildings of the ‘Equatorial Group’. The prime purpose of the site is as a science centre for schoolchildren but, with six large historic telescopes in the domes, the site is obviously also of interest to adults with an interest in astronomy.
The empty dome of the 98-inch Isaac Newton telescope is nearby but not open to the public.
As well as the six domes and ancillary buildings, the site has various indoor and open-air science exhibits including the actual original 98″ mirror of the Isaac Newton telescope, a granite ball supported by water pressure, the aluminising tank, sound dishes, water park, and Discovery Park. See also the ‘Domes of Discovery’ exhibition in Dome F.
This is clearly a good place to bring an inquisitive child. It should be of interest to adults too.
It may not be immediately obvious from the publicity what telescopes you can see when. You can visit three of the domes (B,E,F) in the course of a day visit. There may be guided tours on the day of your visit, to two of these.
On an open evening, all six domes are open and (weather permitting) you have a chance to look through three of the historic telescopes including the 10 inch in dome D not exhibited during the day. There are around two open evenings a month. The site will be very dark, so bring a red-light torch with you.
You are advised not to use postcode navigation to find the site. Instead, navigate to Wartling Road, Wartling or to Bradley Road, Herstmonceux. The only public entrance to the site is off the Wartling Road, which runs north from the A27 at Pevensey. Parking for the Centre is at Wartling Road adjacent to the entrance. Herstmonceux Castle is on the same estate (same entrance). If you want to visit the castle grounds and gardens, I suggest parking at the castle which will involve slightly less walking, and purchasing a joint ticket at the castle ticket hut opposite the Science Centre.
Herstmonceux Castle has a chequered history. It was built in the 15th century as a castle-style palatial residence by one Roger Fiennes, Treasurer to the court of Henry VI. By the 18th Century, the castle was in the hands of Robert Hale-Naylor, who had the interior of the castle dismantled in 1777 on the advice of fashionable architect Samual Wyatt. The contents were sold off, and other materials used to build a new mansion, designed by Wyatt, nearby. The outer walls remained as a romantic ruin till the 20th century.
Radical restoration work was started in 1913 by Colonel Lowther and completed for Sir Paul Latham by the architect Walter Godfrey. Despite appearances, everything visible from the inner courtyard is 20th century work.
In 1946 the castle and estate passed into the hands of the Admiralty and by 1957 was the home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, with the castle being used for accommodation and the grounds housing various telescope domes.
By the 1970s the Observatory had moved out and in 1992 the castle was bought by Queens University of Canada with funds provided by Alfred Bader. In 1994 the Queen’s International Study Centre opened.
The most striking thing about the castle is its size – it is one of the biggest brick-built castles in England and one of the largest early brick-built structures.
The grounds and gardens are normally open to the public, and on some days a guided tour of the Castle is available at extra cost. (Pay at reception in the Castle). It is worth taking the tour, as you will see much of the ground and first floors, as well as the courtyard. The interior contains various bits of architectural salvage from older houses.
The gardens and woods are also worth exploring.
If visiting the castle by car, it is recommended that you do not use postcode navigation, but instead navigate to Bradley Road, Herstmonceux or to the Wartling Road running northward from the A27 at Pevensey.
The only public entrance, shared with the Observatory Science Centre, is off the Wartling Road. The ticket hut for the castle grounds is opposite the Science Centre.
Petworth is a vast house with an important collection of paintings. The service block and servants’ quarters are across the courtyard, and there is a large park with lake.
The house was rebuilt in 1688 and altered in the 1870’s.
The artist JMW Turner was a frequent visitor to the house and guest of Lord Egremont, and the collection includes 20 of his paintings. The house features in the movie “Mr Turner” and was used as a location.
Most of the grand rooms on the ground floor are devoted to the display of paintings and sculpture, and the north end incorporates a purpose-built gallery. On some days an extra two rooms at the south end of the ground floor are opened.
The historic kitchen block, built in the 1750’s, is well preserved and the ground floor rooms can be entered. Some rooms are now used for shop, cafe and restaurant facilities.
At the date of visiting, the roof of the main house was undergoing repairs and a Roof Tour (cost £5) was available, which gives a great view of the works and of the surrounding rooftops and countryside.
There is a lot to see and I spent over 4 hours there (not including the park).
If driving through the town, beware the tricky one-way system, especially if following a sat-nav. The Petworth NT carpark is distanced a fitness-inducing walk from the house. There is another carpark at the far end of the great park.
Fort Brockhurst is one of a large number of forts built to defend Portmouth in the Victorian era. It is one of five outward-facing forts positioned to defend Gosport against a land attack by the French. It never fired a shot in anger, and never received its full complement of guns, but remained in use as a barracks till after the Second World War.
Of the four surviving forts of this group of 5, this is the only fort open to the public.
The fort is surrounded by a water-filled moat, and another moat surrounds the circular keep which was intended as a final refuge should the rest of the enclosure be overrun. Visitors can enter spaces including the keep, parade ground, the Institute welfare building for soldiers (now a museum), a barrack room, armourer’s workshop, ablutions room and walk along the ramparts.
Admission is free.
Note that the fort is only open for around 1 day a month and it opens at 11am rather than the usual EH 10am. If you arrive early, you cam walk the perimeter of the moat.
There is free parking for cars in front of the fort. (Width restriction).