Sunday, 18 September 2016

Loughborough and Althorp

Sorry for the absence this last couple of weeks: I've been exceptionally busy with one thing or another, so haven't had time to post.

After the events of this weekend I feel vindicated for concentrating my recent blog efforts on connections ... but more of that next week. In the meantime ...

Loughborough and Althorp? I mean, really? Really???

So, a couple of weekends ago I was off celebrating my first wedding anniversary, and we decided to go and visit Althorp Hall. I've been meaning to go for a very long time (19 years, to be precise) but for whatever reason have never quite made it. As I said, this weekend we did get there, and we were not disappointed! 

It was the last weekend that the hall was open for the season (apart from the following weekend which would be the Althorp Food Festival in the grounds, but I don't think the hall was open), so we were lucky to catch it. Sadly, it wasn't a beautiful sunny day, in fact it was quite cold and very overcast, but this didn't put us off, and we arrived around midday.

I had thought that visiting Althorp would be a fairy safe thing to do, and even I wouldn't be able to find any connections with Loughborough whatsoever! But, of course, I was wrong! I wasn't looking for connections, so I guess this is probably why they jumped out at me as we walked around the house and gardens! Here's a selection of connections below: some are a bit tenuous, but ...  

We approached the house via a really long drive that reminded me of the approach to Calke Abbey, in South Derbyshire, which followed along the length of the estate wall. Beautiful wall, actually, that once we were very close to the house, dipped down so that the view from and to the hall was uninterrupted (I think it's called a ha-ha).
The wall at its lowest point

The view of the house and from the house over the wall
Once we'd paid our entry fee, we walked along the path to the stableyards, where we had a cup of tea in the most fantastic setting of the horse stables which was adorned with the names of the 100 horses that had lived there!
The stalls with seating for diners
The servery with saddles (there is some significance of the 2 saddles, but I've forgotten what it was)
Also in the tearooms, we learned about Cotherstone, a thoroughbred racehorse, who won 6 consecutive races in 1843, and was sold that year to the 3rd Earl Spencer. Sadly, within a year Cotherstone was injured, so didn't race again. This reminded me of Sunloch, the winner of the Grand National in 1914, who appears not to have been the same after winning that particular race, and like Cotherstone was also once a steeplechaser. 
The story of Cotherstone
One isn't allowed to tour the house alone, so we joined a small party of folk being shown around by a very knowledgeable guide. The house is still lived in, and the guest bedrooms we were shown are still used today when visitors come to stay, as are many other rooms in the house, and actually, it was quite funny to see modern-day reading material, and bottles of water on the bedside tables.

We were not allowed to take photographs, so I hastily scribbled a few things down in my little notebook, which now looks like a spider got hold of my pen!  

Anyway, as we toured around, I couldn't help noticing things that rang a bell with me, but it took me a little while to work out why. In one particular instance, I saw a painting by John Boultbee, and couldn't work out why this rang bells with me until we moved into another room, the walls of which were covered with paintings of horses and other impressive animals, including the famous Durham Ox! So then it dawned on me: Boutlbee was the painter of that lovely likeness of Robert Bakewell on his horse, that I had seen so many times whilst I was blogging about Robert Bakewell of Dishley! Boultbee was born in Osgathorpe around 1753, and was influenced by the works of George Stubbs.

Also in Althorp House there were several portraits relating to the Earls of Leicester, including one of the 2nd and 3rd Earls, and one of the wife of the 1st Earl, as well as many of brothers, sisters and descendants of the various earls. 

Finally, hidden amongst the many portraits of the family, royalty and other persons, was the most beautiful picture of Lady Jane Grey (ok, royalty!), painted by Lucas de Heere. Lady Jane Grey was also known as the Nine Day Queen, and her family home was in the house in Bradgate Park. Here's a link to the painting: it really was quite striking. According to the "Catalogue of the pictures at Althorp House" from 1851, the view through the windows are of "the remarkable [church] spires of that town". There are also some black and white engravings, in the style of de Leere's painting, available to view on the web on the National Portrait Gallery website.

After we'd finished at Althorp, we walked to the village of Great Brington where there were some lovely old buildings, including the village pub, The Fox and Hounds, and the church, St Mary the Virgin with St John, where members of the Althorp family are buried. Next door to the church was the Old Rectory. So completely different from our own Old Rectory on Steeple Row (museum open every Saturday, 11-3, until the end of October)!
The Old Rectory at Great Brington
The Old Rectory in Loughborough
Below are a few pictures of my day at Althorp:
Althorp House

The grand entrance

View of the house from the side!

The secret garden perhaps?
The island memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales

A gate into the deer park

A quiet corner of the estate!

Relics from the Battle of Navarino, 20 October 1827

The inspiration for Dixon of Dock Green, perhaps?
See you next week!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Loughborough and Althorp. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 2 October 2016]

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Heritage Open days

So, this weekend (actually, from Thursday 8 September) is Heritage Open Day weekend! Although there seems to be lots of places to visit in Leicestershire, I haven't spotted much in Loughborough, nevertheless, I do hope you've all managed to get to see something. 

Yesterday I was in Cheltenham, helping daughter to settle in to a new house as she starts work in the town on Monday. Apart from doing the obligatory grocery shop, we also managed to get into the town centre itself, a place which I've never really been to before, apart from a 5 minute stop on the way to a job interview at the place that must remain nameless!

Anyway, I'd forgotten it was Heritage Open Day weekend, and accidentally happened upon the Parish church, actually, Cheltenham Minster St Mary's. It was a short stop that didn't do the church justice, and I missed some of the interesting talks that were being held in there, but I did pick up a leaflet which listed all the 27 buildings of interest in and around the town, which were open for the weekend. Impressive, but I suppose since Cheltenham is famous for being a Regency spa town, I suppose I should have expected such a wide variety of places to visit.

Loughborough, of course, does have some stunning and unusual buildings, and places to visit, which are normally open (for example, the Carillon, the Charnwood Museum, the Old Rectory Museum, the GCR etc.), but I'm sure there are more that could open their doors for this special weekend. 

So, in this respect, Cheltenham and Loughborough have little in common. However, whilst I was trying to locate my daughter's new house, something seemed a little spooky.

A while ago I wrote a blog post about the naming of the roads on the new estate that leads off Epinal Way, and along Allandale, and which is close to Beaumanor Hall, a Y station during WW2. Because of the location, many of the roads are named after people connected with Beaumanor, or Bletchley Park, so, for example, Alan Turing, Peter Laslett etc..  

Back in Cheltenham I became aware that the roads in the vicinity of my daughter's house seem to be named after spies, potential spies, or actors who have played 007! So, surely Coburn Gardens is so named in honour of James Coburn's 007-like character in "Our man Flint"? Niven Courtyard after David Niven from "Casino Royale"? Brosnan Drive after Pierce Brosnan (007 in "Golden Eye" etc.)? Lazenby Court after George Lazenby (007 in "On her Majesty's Secret Service")? And Caine Square after Michael Caine who was considered for the part of 007 in around 1967, but decided against it?

I'm sure there were other roads, with a Bond connection, but I think you get the idea!!

See you soon!   

Sunday, 4 September 2016

From Loughborough to Melbourne and back again via ...

So, I'm not normally one for watching much television, but having recently done a course called "Investigating the Victorians" which started with an introduction to Queen Victoria, I was excited to learn that the life of this long-serving queen was being shown on television, and settled down to watch it last night, instead of writing my usual blog post!

The programme didn't disappoint, and reinforced much of what I'd learned on the course. Coincidentally, only three days before, the youngest child and I had visited nearby Melbourne Hall, in Southern Derbyshire, near Donington Park. Melbourne has been a haunt of ours for very many years, initially a place of tranquillity, then, when the children were young, a place for feeding the ducks, and now a place to start a 12-mile walk!! We've been around the hall a number of times, but this time we were taken around by the Curator, and told some wonderful stories about some of the owners and some of the artefacts. I had learned about William Lamb's role as Prime Minister in my course, so it was great to hear about Lord Melbourne from the Curator, who naturally has access to personal documents that reveal much about him. 

I must admit, I decided to change my t-shirt before we went, for fear of being a bit controversial:

And I'm glad I did for it was Lord Melbourne, when he was Home Secretary in about 1830, who was instrumental in the group of men known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs being transported to Sydney, Australia as punishment for their "crime". Later, in 1835, an area of New South Wales was named Melbourne, after William Lamb, and was declared a city by Queen Victoria in 1847, before becoming the capital of the newly founded colony of Victoria.

So, back in the Derbyshire home of Lord Melbourne, we could of course get back to Loughborough via Leicester, on what is popularly believed to be the first package tour - Leicester to Loughborough - on a train with Thomas Cook. This Thomas Cook (1808-1892) was born in Melbourne, and shouldn't be confused with Thomas Coke (1674-1727) who was the owner of Melbourne Hall, and responsible for the beautiful gardens and the re-modelling of the house. Thomas Coke was a politician and courtier, and sat in the House of Commons. 
Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire
Or, from Melbourne we could return to Loughborough via Dishley. As the crowning glory of the gardens, Thomas Coke commissioned Robert Bakewell (1682-1752) of Uttoxeter to make an arbour-like structure from wrought iron. Today this is known as the "birdcage" and has a direct and beautiful view towards the house. Bakewell went on to produce much ironwork of note, which can still be seen today (for example in Derby Cathedral and Staunton Harold church). Of course, Robert Bakewell, ironsmith, is not to be confused with Robert Bakewell (1725-1795), who was an agriculturist involved in the development of animal husbandry at Dishley!
View from the birdcage

Plaque commemorating the work of Robert Bakewell, ironsmith

Iron railings at Melbourne Hall, by Robert Bakewell 

A view of the birdcage from the Melbourne Hall
The home of Robert Bakewell, livestock breeder, Dishley

Commemorative plaque to Robert Bakewell, livestock breeder
But, let's not go that way, let's go via a slightly more circuitous route! Through William Lamb's wife, Caroline Ponsonby, to Lord Byron and Newstead. I hadn't been to Newstead Abbey for a few years, but last weekend I went along to the food festival. Newstead Abbey was the family seat of the poet, Lord Byron, although he didn't live there for very long, and as well as sampling some great food I also had a chance to look around the extensive house.   
Newstead Abbey
Lady Caroline Lamb (nee Ponsonby)

In one of the glass cabinets was a transcription of Byron's maiden speech in the House of Commons. This was in support of the Luddites, suggesting that actually they were right to revolt as they were simply trying to earn enough money to feed themselves and their family, but were being thwarted by the march of the factory system. 
Concerning Byron's maiden speech in the House of Lords
So, from Newstead we return to Loughborough where, in 1816, Luddites attacked the lacemaking factory of John Heathcoat and John Boden, which was in Market Street, where Iceland is now. Some say that this was no ordinary attack and that Heathcoat was expecting it, hence he wasn't in town at the time, and very quickly moved his factory to Tiverton, in Devon, taking many of his workforce with him (well, actually they followed him down).  

And so from Loughborough back to Victoria via Lady Flora Hastings ...
And on the programme, Victoria, there was Lady Flora Hastings, she being the daughter of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, known as Lord Moira from 1793-1816, he of the famous sales of land around Loughborough and NW Leicestershire in the early 19th century.

So, let's settle down for another episode of Victoria tonight!