Exploring the Narrow Streets and Passageways of Cornwall

Cornwall’s traditional fishing villages are full of narrow streets, passageways, and delightful little nooks and crannies.

If you’ve ever watched the popular TV sitcom “Doc Martin”, you’ll have seen Dr Martin Ellingham struggling to squeeze his Lexus down the narrow streets of Port Isaac, otherwise known as “Portwenn”.

Lined with whitewashed cottages, or pastel shades like yellow ochre, the picturesque village dates back to the time of Henry VIII, although its centre is mostly from the 18th and 19th century when its prosperity depended on the shipping and fishing trades.

Fore Street in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bryan Ledgard
Fore Street in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bryan Ledgard

Meaning “corn port”, Port Isaac initially served the trade in corn grown on the surrounding arable lands.

Later, cargoes of coal, wood, stone, and pottery were hauled along its narrow streets to the harbour, then shipped out to sea for export.

Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

“Fore Street” is a name often used in the south west of England to mean the main street of a town or village.

Derived from the Cornish word “Forth”, meaning “Street”, and corrupted to “Fore” in English, there are over seventy examples in Cornwall alone.

English colonists from Cornwall are thought to have named Fore Street in Portland, Maine, in the United States.

Fore Street, Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street, Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Stroll the meandering narrow streets and you’ll pass traditional family-run butchers shops, tucked-away seafood restaurants, and confectionery shops with Cornwall’s famous fudge made from local cream.

Old cottages in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Manfred Heyde
Old cottages in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Manfred Heyde
The narrow streets of Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow streets of Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pride of Place confectionary shop in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Pride of Place confectionary shop in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Become a stowaway at the Stowaway Tea Shoppe where they also sell delicious Cornish ice cream that some say is the world’s best.

The Stowaway Tea Shoppe in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Stowaway Tea Shoppe in Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

And no trip to Port Isaac is complete without a visit to the Doctor—that’s Doc Martin, naturally.

Famous for the film location of ITV’s Doc Martin comedy-drama series, Port Isaac also played host to the original 1970s version of the BBC’s Poldark series.

Doc Martin's House, Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Doc Martin’s House, Port Isaac, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Another delightful Cornish village lined with narrow streets is Polperro.

Misty day at Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Misty day at Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Meaning “Pyra’s Cove” in the Cornish language, Polperro’s tightly-packed fishermen’s cottages, quaint harbour, and beautiful coastline make it a popular tourist destination in summer months.

Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dating from the 1700s, a typical old fisherman’s cottage featured a fishing net store on the ground floor with steps leading up to the living accommodation above.

Fisherman's cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fisherman’s cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Off-season, when there’s little to no traffic, the locals can have a good old chinwag about the weather in peace.

The narrow streets of Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow streets of Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Don’t forget to buy some postcards and postage stamps at the village Post Office!

Fast disappearing, these icons of the British way of life can still be found in many seaside towns and villages.

Polperro Post Office, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Polperro Post Office, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Lined with holiday cottages, the “Warren” is a narrow street providing perfect walks along the harbour front.

The Warren at Polperro harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Warren at Polperro harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Tucked away in The Warren is a house covered in seashells called “The Shell House”.

The Shell House, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Jarkeld
The Shell House, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Jarkeld

And if you like quirky buildings, why not visit “The House on the Props” restaurant and tearooms which also offers Bed and Breakfast accommodations.

The House on the Props, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The House on the Props, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Wits End Cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Wits End Cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Leading up the hill from the harbour is Lansallos Street which is filled with quaint shops, pubs, and art galleries.

Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Quaintly named, the little fishing village of Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzle”) is laced with a maze of narrow streets.

Narrow street in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Narrow street in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Destroyed by the Spanish raid on Cornwall in the Anglo-Spanish war of 1585-1604, the only building to survive any damage was a pub owned by local resident Jenkyn Keigwin who died from a cannonball shot while defending it.

Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfinion
Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Nilfinion

Ringed by lichened cottages and houses, the picturesque harbour reveals a sandy beach at low tide that’s popular with families.

Mousehole harbour, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion
Mousehole harbour, Cornwall. Credit Nilfanion

Reminding you of its delightful name and giving you another opportunity to practice how it’s pronounced, The Mousehole giftshop joins galleries, pubs, and restaurants along the harbour front.

The Mousehole gift shop in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Otto Domes
The Mousehole gift shop in Mousehole, Cornwall. Credit Otto Domes

Over a thousand years old, the ancient town of Looe in south-east Cornwall straddles the Looe River.

Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Situated on the east side of the river, East Looe has numerous narrow streets and lanes, one of which is Fore Street—the main thoroughfare—teeming with shops, bakeries, pubs, and restaurants.

Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Formerly a 15th-century merchant’s house, the timber-framed and painted-stone “Ye Olde Cottage Restaurant” on the tiny alleyway of Middle Market Street features oak ceiling beams and an old oak fireplace lintel.

The narrow old streets of Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow old streets of Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Only wide enough for single-file traffic, Buller Street joins Fore Street and both are dotted with coffeeshops, pubs, pasty shops, bakeries, and crêperies.

Buller Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Buller Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Originally built in 1420 and featuring salvaged oak timbers from a wrecked galleon of the Spanish Armada, the Smugglers Cott is said to have a tunnel leading to the quayside that was used by smugglers bringing their loot ashore.

Now serving loot of the edible variety, the restaurant offers delicious local seafood, steaks, and rib roast carvery.

Medieval building in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Medieval building in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Just in case anyone is tempted to drive down such a narrow alleyway on Lower Chapel Street, the no-entry sign is a reminder that it’s not a good idea.

Lower Chapel Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lower Chapel Street, East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Upstairs or downstairs? Many former fishermen’s cottages now offer holiday season lettings.

Old Cornish cottages in East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old Cornish cottages in East Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Set in a quiet traffic-free passageway a few yards from the harbour, Sandpipers is a 150-year-old former fisherman’s cottage, refurbished to offer comfortable accommodations.

Former fisherman's cottage in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Former fisherman’s cottage in Looe, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

If Mevagissey‘s narrow streets were as busy as her little harbour, people might be stuck in traffic for hours!

Nestled in a small valley, tourism may have supplanted a once thriving fishing industry but Mevagissey manages to maintain 63 working fishing boats alongside dozens of pleasure vessels.

Mevagissey harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Mevagissey harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Rising up the steep slopes of the surrounding hillsides, the outer areas provide accomodations for local residents while the village centre is filled with eateries and shops aimed at tourists.

The narrow streets of Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The narrow streets of Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Narrow street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Narrow street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Named after two saints —St Mevan and St Issey—in the late 1600s, the village thrived on pilchard fishing and smuggling and there were at least 10 inns, of which the Fountain Inn and Ship Inn remain to this day.

The 15th century Fountain Inn, Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The 15th century Fountain Inn, Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fore Street in Mevagissey, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

We hope you enjoyed a whirlwind tour of some of Cornwall’s narrow streets and feel inspired to visit one day in the not too distant future.

Hyns diogel! (Have a good trip!)

10 of the Best English Country Houses in Britain

English country houses are large mansions set in the English countryside, typically owned by the British nobility or the landed gentry of the upper class.

Country houses were important as places of employment for many rural communities with large numbers of indoor and outdoor staff catering to every need of owners who traveled frequently between homes in the city and the country.

After World War I, increased taxation and the loss of family fortunes led to the demolition of hundreds of houses, with those that remained, struggling to survive.

Here are 10 examples of English Country Houses in beautiful condition that are open to the public.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Built between 1705 and 1733, Blenheim Palace was originally a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough for his victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714).

Before Blenheim Palace was even completed, political intrigue between Marlborough’s wife and Queen Anne forced the Duke and Duchess to leave the country in disgrace.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Returning to England on the day of the queen’s death, the Marlboroughs regained royal favour under King George I and moved into Blenheim Palace in 1719.

Designed in the rare, and short-lived, English Baroque style, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace.

Ceiling of the Great Hall, Blenheim Palace. Credit Gary Ullah
Ceiling of the Great Hall, Blenheim Palace. Credit Gary Ullah

Born at Blenheim Palace on 30 November 1874, Sir Winston Churchill was a direct descendant of the Dukes of Marlborough.

One of England’s largest country houses, Blenheim was saved from ruin in the late 19th century with funding from American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt upon her marriage to the 9th Duke of Marlborough.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Burghley House, Cambridgeshire

Reflecting the prominence of its founder, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, Burghley House is one of the leading examples of 16th-century English Elizabethan architecture.

Featured in several period movies, including Pride and Prejudice and The Da Vinci Code, its virtually unaltered Elizabethan facades and historic interiors make it an ideal location for filming.

Burghley House, Cambridgeshire. Credit Anthony Masi
Burghley House, Cambridgeshire. Credit Anthony Masi

Famed 18th-century English landscape architect Capability Brown laid out the parkland avenues and 26-acre man-made lake.

Created using traditional ideas of water traps, shell grottos, and a mirror maze in a 21st-century style, the “garden of surprises” was added in 2007.

The Garden of Surprise, Burghley House. Credit Greta Georgieva, flickr
The Garden of Surprise, Burghley House. Credit Greta Georgieva, flickr

Known as “prodigy houses”, these extravagant palaces were often built by courtiers and other wealthy families to house Elizabeth I and her retinue as she traveled around her realm.

With 35 major rooms on the ground and first floors, there are over 80 lesser rooms and numerous halls, corridors, bathrooms, and service areas.

The Black & Yellow Bedroom, Burghley House. Credit Greta Georgieva, flickr
The Black & Yellow Bedroom, Burghley House. Credit Greta Georgieva, flickr

Castle Howard, North Yorkshire

Beginning in 1699, Castle Howard would take over 100 years to complete, becoming the home of the Carlisle branch of the noble Howard family.

Descended from the third son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk (executed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1572), the Earls of Carlisle have been seated at Castle Howard for over 300 years.

Castle Howard. Credit Allan Harris, flickr
Castle Howard. Credit Allan Harris, flickr

Although not a true castle, the term is often used to describe English country houses built on sites of former military fortresses.

Dominating the fountain in Castle Howard’s grounds is a large bronze globe supported on the shoulders of the figure of Atlas from Greek mythology.

The Atlas Fountain at Castle Howard. Credit Tilman2007
The Atlas Fountain at Castle Howard. Credit Tilman2007

Added to the design at a late stage, the crowning central dome epitomizes the rich decorative Baroque architecture so beloved by the architect and English playwright Sir John Vanbrugh.

With a total of 145 rooms, Castle Howard is one of the largest country houses in England.

The Great Hall inside Castle Howard. Credit Mdbeckwith
The Great Hall inside Castle Howard. Credit Mdbeckwith

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Often selected as Britain’s favourite country house, Chatsworth House sits on the banks of the River Derwent within the beautiful hills and valleys of the Derbyshire Dales.

Set in expansive parkland and backed by wooded hills, the house contains an important collection of paintings, furniture, and neoclassical sculptures.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. Credit Rob Bendall
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. Credit Rob Bendall

The seat of the Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth House has been home to the Cavendish family, one of the richest British aristocratic families, since the 16th century.

Anticipating a visit from Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, the 6th Duke constructed an eight-acre lake with the world’s highest fountain reaching almost 300ft.

Chatsworth House South Front with Emperor Fountain. Credit Nessy-Pic
Chatsworth House South Front with Emperor Fountain. Credit Nessy-Pic

Decorated with murals from the life of Julius Caesar by French painter Louis Laguerre, the cantilevered Great Stairs lead to a suite of richly appointed staterooms built in anticipation of a royal visit by King William III and Queen Mary that never took place.

Entrance Hall, Chatsworth House
Entrance Hall, Chatsworth House

Harewood House, West Yorkshire

Employing the finest craftsmen of the day—architect John Carr, interior designer Robert Adam, furniture maker Thomas Chippendale, and landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown—Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood wanted nothing but the best for his new home, Harewood House.

Laying the foundations in 1759, the house was largely complete within six years.

Harewood House, West Yorkshire. Credit Diego Sideburns, flickr
Harewood House, West Yorkshire. Credit Diego Sideburns, flickr

Filled with renaissance masterpieces, exquisite portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Lawrence, and Richmond, and a fine collection of Sèvres French porcelain, Harewood House has featured in both television and film.

Used as a filming set for the TV Series “Victoria”, the gallery and other rooms display some of the costumes used in the show.

The Gallery at Harewood House, West Yorkshire
The Gallery at Harewood House, West Yorkshire

Running through the design theme of the Yellow Room is Robert Adam’s meticulous attention to detail.

Echoed in the ceiling, without being a direct copy, he repeats the star and circle motifs of the carpet, and around the frieze and doorways, he repeats the plaques with cupids and seahorses.

The Yellow Drawing Room at Harewood House, West Yorkshire
The Yellow Drawing Room at Harewood House, West Yorkshire

Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Set in extensive parkland and manicured gardens, Hatfield House is a leading example of a Jacobean prodigy house—a large and showy English country house built to accommodate Queen Elizabeth I and her entourage as they toured her realm.

It is here, in 1558, while sitting under an oak tree in the Park of the Old Palace, that Elizabeth first learned of her succession to the throne.

In 1607, King James I gave the original Old Palace to his chief minister Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, in exchange for Cecil’s family estate at Theobalds.

South Front of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. Credit Jason Ballard, flickr
South Front of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. Credit Jason Ballard, flickr

Tearing down three wings and using the bricks to build the present structure, Cecil spared no expense to create an opulent home furnished with fine art and tapestries fit for royal visits.

Hatfield’s showpiece Marble Hall, with its signature black and white marble floor, features the famous Rainbow Portrait, depicting Elizabeth as the “Queen of Love and Beauty”.

Gloriana! The many faces of Queen Elizabeth I.

The Marble Hall at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Credit Matt Brown
The Marble Hall at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Credit Matt Brown

Running 170ft along the width of the south front is the Long Gallery housing some clothing items belonging to Elizabeth, including a hat, some gloves, and silk stockings thought to be the first pair in England.

The Long Gallery at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. Credit Matt Brown
The Long Gallery at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. Credit Matt Brown

Longleat House, Wiltshire

Noted for its Elizabethan country house, landscaped parkland, and more recently, a maze, and safari park, Longleat is another example of a prodigy house built by wealthy families to entertain Elizabeth I and her retinue on their royal visits.

Regarded as one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain, it was built by Sir John Thynne,  steward to the 1st Duke of Somerset, and designed by master stonemason Robert Smythson.

Longleat House, Wiltshire. Credit Saffron Blaze
Longleat House, Wiltshire. Credit Saffron Blaze

Set in 1000 acres of parkland designed by the 18th century’s leading gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown, Longleat was the first English country house to open to the public and the first safari park outside of Africa.

Longleat Aerial View. Credit sleuth@73
Longleat Aerial View. Credit sleuth@73

Inspired by estates in Genoa and Venice, the interior decoration includes superb Flemish tapestries, 16th-century fine art, and period furniture.

Formerly called the Long Gallery, the 90ft Saloon features a huge Carrara marble fireplace and beautiful coffered ceiling.

The Saloon at Longleat House. Credit Ljuba brank
The Saloon at Longleat House. Credit Ljuba brank

Petworth House, West Sussex

Once owned by the Percy family who held the peerage title Earls of Northumberland, Petworth is a 17th-century baroque country house set in a sprawling 700-acre landscaped deer park designed by Capability Brown.

Intended as an occasional second home to their primary seat at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland that borders Scotland, the Percy’s were forced to make Petworth their main residence on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I who suspected the family’s allegiance to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Petworth House, West Sussex. Credit Ben Bender
Petworth House, West Sussex. Credit Ben Bender

Housing an important collection of paintings and sculptures, the Petworth collection includes 19 oil paintings by J. M. W. Turner, who was a regular visitor, and paintings by Anthony van Dyck as well as sculptures and carvings by Grinling Gibbons.

The Carved Room of Petworth House in East Sussex. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Carved Room of Petworth House in East Sussex. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Decorated with a magnificent series of allegorical murals by renowned French painter Louis Laguerre (1663 – 1721), the Grand Staircase also depicts the story of Lady Elizabeth Percy who, as a two-year-old, inherited four vast estates, including Petworth from the 11th Earl of Northumberland when he died without a male heir.

The Grand Staircase of Petworth House, West Sussex. Credit Anguskirk
The Grand Staircase of Petworth House, West Sussex. Credit Anguskirk

Stowe House, Buckinghamshire

Dating back to the 16th century when the Temple family bought the manor and estate of Stowe, the house was completely rebuilt in the 17th century and has subsequently been extended three more times over the years to create the 916-foot facade of today.

Considered one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in Britain, the south face was designed by Robert Adam and Thomas Pitt, both involved at the highest levels of 18th-century architecture.

Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Exquisitely decorated by Italian artist and architect Vincenzo Valdrè, the paintings of the elegant Music Room were inspired by those seen on a visit to Pompeii by the 1st Marquess of Buckingham, owner of Stowe from 1779-1813.

Read more about Stowe House.

The plaster ceiling has gilt molded decoration and seven inset paintings with the central circular painting of The Dance of the Hours after Guido Reni and flanked by rectangular paintings of the four seasons.

State Music Room at Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Daderot
State Music Room at Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Daderot

Created in three main phases, the landscaped gardens of Stowe were worked on by William Kent who, together with Charles Bridgeman, originated the naturalistic landscape style, and Capability Brown, who became known as “England’s greatest gardener”.

Completed in 1738, the Palladian Bridge was copied from the bridge at Wilton House in Wiltshire but was designed with ramps instead of steps to allow horse-drawn carriages to cross.

The Palladian Bridge at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Palladian Bridge at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Built between 1874 and 1889 in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château, Waddesdon Manor was a weekend residence of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild for grand entertaining and to store his art collection.

Embodying an eclectic style based on the châteaux of the Loire Valley, the towers were inspired by those of the Château de Maintenon and the twin staircase towers are based on the staircase tower at the Château de Chambord.

The south facade of Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. Credit GavinJA
The south facade of Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. Credit GavinJA

Laid out by French landscape architect Elie Lainé, the gardens at Waddesdon were an important part of Baron Ferdinand’s many weekend house parties.

Planting nearly 19,000 flowers and bulbs each year, the parterre is the formal garden consisting of beds laid out in symmetrical patterns.

Waddesdon Manor parterre at sunrise. Credit Chris Lacey
Waddesdon Manor parterre at sunrise. Credit Chris Lacey

Waddesdon’s rooms are exquisitely decorated and filled with English 18th-century portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds, as well as French 18th-century carpets, tapestries, furniture, and ceramics.

Designed for after-dinner entertainment, the Grey Drawing Room features fine 18th-century French carved paneling, Sèvres porcelain, and three portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The Grey Drawing Room at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
The Grey Drawing Room at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

The New Forest—once the royal hunting ground of William the Conqueror

Imagine a land where wild horses roam free, where deer forage in ancient woodland and fox cubs play on open fields.

Welcome to the New Forest—a vast region of southern England spanning the counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, and parts of Dorset.

A land of untamed beauty.

Of pastures, heathland, and ancient woodland, dotted with delightful villages, churches, and country houses.

Join us as we explore the New Forest.

A lone wild horse feeding at sunrise. Credit Lies Thru a Lens, flickr
A lone wild horse feeding at sunrise. Credit Lies Thru a Lens, flickr
New Forest Pony by Ceri Jones on 500px.com
New Forest Pony. Credit gailhampshire
Camper Van on a road through the New Forest. Credit Steve Wilson, flickr
Camper Van on a road through the New Forest. Credit Steve Wilson, flickr
New Forest National Park. Credit weesam2010, flickr
New Forest National Park. Credit weesam2010, flickr
The ford over Dockens Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The ford over Dockens Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
An old gate to a field in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
An old gate to a field in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

History

Prior to the Norman Invasion of England, the area was colonised by the Jutes from the Jutland Peninsula of what is now Denmark and Northern Germany.

Following the Norman Conquest, King William I, commonly known as William the Conqueror, designated the land as a royal forest, reserved for the private use of the King and invited aristocracy.

Created at the expense of over 20 small hamlets and farms, it was a “new” area and the only forest described in detail in the ancient Domesday Book’s “Great Survey”.

A well-worn track in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk
A well-worn track in the New Forest near Highwood. Credit Anguskirk

Mysteriously, two of William the Conqueror’s sons died in hunting accidents in the New Forest.

Folklore has it that the deaths were punishment for William evicting locals from his newly acquired lands.

Richard of Normandy, his second son, died in around 1070, while his younger brother, William would suffer a similar fate 30 years later.

King William II was accidentally and fatally shot with an arrow in the New Forest

Struck by an arrow from one of his own men while hunting in August of 1100, King William II of England died in suspicious circumstances, leading to speculation of murder.

Historian Frank Barlow described King William II as:

A rumbustious, devil-may-care soldier, without natural dignity or social graces, with no cultivated tastes and little show of conventional religious piety or morality—indeed, according to his critics, addicted to every kind of vice, particularly lust and especially sodomy.
Rufus Stone near Minstead, New Forest. Credit Avalon20
Rufus Stone near Minstead, New Forest. Credit Avalon20

Marking the spot where the king was shot, the “Rufus Stone” bears the following inscription:

Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100.

William’s brother Henry was among the hunting party that day and succeeded him as King.

Abanding his brother’s body, he rode straight for Winchester—then the capital of England—to seize the treasury and elect himself King.

Rights of Common

Ancient “rights of common” have allowed local inhabitants to turn horses and cattle out into the forest’s common pasture to graze.

A horse walks in a meadow of Oxeye Daisies at Rockford In Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A horse walks in a meadow of Oxeye Daisies at Rockford In Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Between September and November, pigs can roam freely to forage for fallen acorns and beechnuts.

Pigs and piglets roaming free in the New Forest. Credit ian mcwilliams, flickr
Pigs and piglets roaming free in the New Forest. Credit ian mcwilliams, flickr

New Forest ponies are typically not shy and can be bold enough to seek out a treat.

New Forest Pony. Credit Saffron Blaze
New Forest Pony. Credit Saffron Blaze
New Forest Pony Foal. Credit Stuart Webster, flickr
New Forest Pony Foal. Credit Stuart Webster, flickr
Silhouette of an oak tree at Backley Holmes in the New Forest. Credit JimChampion
Silhouette of an oak tree at Backley Holmes in the New Forest. Credit JimChampion

Wildlife

Abundant with diverse species of wildlife thanks to well-preserved lowland habitats—wetlands, heaths, and deciduous woodland—you’re sure to see some beautiful creatures including several deer populations, of which fallow deer is the most common, but also roe deer, red deer, sika deer, and muntjac.

Fallow Deer. Credit Jiří Nedorost
Fallow Deer. Credit Jiří Nedorost

If you’re lucky, you may see this fine bird of prey—the Northern Goshawk—before it sees you.

Northern Goshawk. Credit Andy Morfew
Northern Goshawk. Credit Andy Morfew

And the pretty Dartford Warbler can be spotted flitting around the gorse.

Dartford Warbler. Credit Paul Roberts, flickr
Dartford Warbler. Credit Paul Roberts, flickr

New Forest National Park

Covering about 120 square miles, the New Forest’s National Park and Site of Special Scientific Interest is the largest contiguous area of unsown vegetation in lowland Britain.

Natural Bridge, New Forest National Park. Credit weesam,flickr
Natural Bridge, New Forest National Park. Credit weesam,flickr
New Forest Ponies and Ancient Oak near Brockenhurst, New Forest. Credit JR P
New Forest Ponies and Ancient Oak near Brockenhurst, New Forest. Credit JR P
The ancient woodland of The New Forest National Park in autumn colours. Credit Tommy Clark, flickr
The ancient woodland of The New Forest National Park in autumn colours. Credit Tommy Clark, flickr
A rural track in Brockenhurst, New Forest, during the Autumn. Credit Jack Pease, flickr
A rural track in Brockenhurst, New Forest, during the Autumn. Credit Jack Pease, flickr
Spectacular beds of heather in September at Broomy Lodge in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Spectacular beds of heather in September at Broomy Lodge in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Looking towards Fordingbridge from Milkham Enclosure in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Looking towards Fordingbridge from Milkham Enclosure in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Docken Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Docken Water at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Villages and Historical Buildings

As eclectic as it is beautiful, the New Forest district is filled with pretty villages and historical buildings yearning to be explored.

Founded by King John in 1203, Beaulieu Abbey was occupied by 30 monks sent from the Cîteaux Abbey, the mother house of the Cistercian order.

Granted a rich endowment and lands in the New Forest, Beaulieu Abbey became very wealthy, with a scale and magnificence befitting its royal foundation until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and fell into ruin.

Remains of Outer Wall Around Cloister and Foundations of Beaulieu Abbey Church
Remains of Outer Wall Around Cloister and Foundations of Beaulieu Abbey Church
The interior of the chapter house of Beaulieu Abbey, New Forest
The interior of the chapter house of Beaulieu Abbey, New Forest

Once the gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey, Palace House became the ancestral home of the Mantagu family when it was bought from the Crown following the dissolution of the abbey.

Extended in the 16th and 19th centuries, it is a superb example of a Gothic country house and reputedly one of the most haunted places in Britain.

Beaulieu Palace House, Beaulieu, New Forest. Credit DeFacto
Beaulieu Palace House, Beaulieu, New Forest. Credit DeFacto

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, conducted séances at Palace House and it is claimed he made contact with a ghost.

Reportedly sighted walking through walls and making a lot of noise in the private apartments, a lady in blue is believed to be the ghost of the Countess of Beaulieu, Lady Isabella, who died in 1786.

Beaulieu Palace House. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Beaulieu Palace House. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Dining room at Beaulieu Palace, New Forest. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Dining room at Beaulieu Palace, New Forest. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
Beaulieu Palace House, New Forest. Credit Nigel Brown
Beaulieu Palace House, New Forest. Credit Nigel Brown

Founded in 1952 by Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, as a tribute to his father, who was one of the great British automobile pioneers, the National Motor Museum is hosted in the village of Beaulieu.

1903 De Dion Bouton Model Q at Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe, flickr
1903 De Dion Bouton Model Q at Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe, flickr

Filled with around 250 vehicles from the late 19th century through decades of motoring history, the museum also features an exhibit of James Bond cars and a special Top Gear exhibit.

1912 Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe
1912 Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Credit Karen Roe

Noted for its fine collection of paintings and furniture, Breamore House is an Elizabethan manor house in Fordingbridge in the New Forest District of Hampshire.

Completed in 1583 by the Dodington family, it was purchased in the 18th century by Sir Edward Hulse, physician to Queen Anne and Kings George I and George II.

It was used as one of the locations for the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice.

Breamore House, New Forest. Credit Wulfrunian1
Breamore House, New Forest. Credit Wulfrunian1

Nearby is the parish church of Saint Mary, known for its Anglo-Saxon rood and intriguing historical details such as a Puritan-inspired plaque warning patrons to “Avoid Fornication”.

St Mary's parish church, Breamore, New Forest. Credit Plumbao
St Mary’s parish church, Breamore, New Forest. Credit Plumbao

With its cobbled streets, pretty whitewashed Victorian and Georgian buildings, and proximity to the New Forest, Lymington is a popular tourist destination.

Derived from Old English words “tun” meaning hamlet and “limen” meaning elm tree, Lymington’s history dates back to the Anglo-Saxons.

Lymington also runs a ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

The Small Port of Lymington, New Forest. Credit JR P, flickr
The Small Port of Lymington, New Forest. Credit JR P, flickr

In the countryside north of Lymington, beautiful villages like Boldre and Brockenhurst dot the landscape, once described by author and naturalist William Henry Hudson as “‘a land of secret, green, out-of-the-world places”.

Boldre village church, New Forest. Credit Alan Stewart
Boldre village church, New Forest. Credit Alan Stewart
A pretty thatched cottage at Rockford, New Forest. Credit Anguskirk
A pretty thatched cottage at Rockford, New Forest. Credit Anguskirk
Thatched cottage in Brook Village in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage in Brook Village in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A pretty thatched cottage framed by an old Oak tree at Highwood in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A pretty thatched cottage framed by an old Oak tree at Highwood in Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage and geese in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage and geese in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Held annually at the end of July, the New Forest Agricultural Show has been running since 1921 and promotes the development of agriculture, forestry, equestrianism and horticulture in the region.

Burrell Steam engine 3902 'Elizabeth', built in 1921, powers a Ransomes threshing machine at the New Forest Show. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Burrell Steam engine 3902 ‘Elizabeth’, built in 1921, powers a Ransomes threshing machine at the New Forest Show. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Attending in 2012, Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh honoured the Show as one of the country’s top ten agricultural Shows, attracting almost 100,000 people over three days.

Robey Steam Tractor, 'Our Nipper' at the New Forest Show. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

All that hard work soaking up the gorgeous scenery and atmosphere may make you thirsty and the New Forest doesn’t disappoint, with dozens of old pubs to choose from—as long as you don’t mind the local fauna waltzing by now and then.

The Red Shoot pub in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Red Shoot pub in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 18th century Alice Lisle inn at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 18th century Alice Lisle inn at Rockford in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Families enjoy a Sunday lunch outside the High Corner Inn in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Families enjoy a Sunday lunch outside the High Corner Inn in the New Forest. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

The New Forest is a place to experience a way of life that’s been preserved for centuries.

Or a place to find peace and solitude.

Just you, the wind, and the wilderness.

Sunrise over Rockford Common, New Forest. Credit Ragamuffin Brian, flickr

Dover Castle — the Key to England

Described as the “Key to England”, Dover Castle has guarded the shortest sea crossing between England and continental Europe for nine centuries.

Never conquered, its strategic importance is equaled only by the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

To add atmosphere to our journey into history, play the soundtrack.

The Largest Castle in England

Dominating the town’s skyline, Dover Castle’s mile-long defensive curtain wall marks the boundary of this enormous fortification.

Aerial panorama of Dover Castle. Credit Chensiyuan
Aerial panorama of Dover Castle. Credit Chensiyuan

According to map measurements using tools like Google Maps, Dover Castle covers an area that is almost 50% larger than Windsor Castle, making it England’s largest castle.

Windsor Castle is, however, the largest inhabited castle in the world and the longest-occupied palace in Europe.

Area maps of Windsor Castle and Dover Castle compared
Area maps of Windsor Castle and Dover Castle compared

Steeped in History

A fortification has stood on the same site for nearly 2,000 years.

Beginning with an Iron Age hill fort, the Romans later built two 80-ft stone lighthouses, one of which still survives next to the restored Anglo-Saxon church of St Mary de Castro.

The Roman Lighthouse and Church of St Mary in Castro, Dover Castle. Credit Nessy-Pic
The Roman Lighthouse and Church of St Mary in Castro, Dover Castle. Credit Nessy-Pic

When William the Conqueror and his Norman forces invaded England in 1066, they came upon a castle at Dover made entirely of clay.

Collapsing under its own weight after the Normans set fire to it, the castle was rebuilt, using the clay for flooring.

But it wasn’t until the reign of Henry II, father of Richard the Lionheart, that the present-day castle took shape.

King Henry II of England
King Henry II of England

Henry built the inner and outer baileys (courtyards surrounded by walls) and the great keep (fortified tower).

Colton's Gate Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Colton’s Gate Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe

After passing through Colton’s Gate to enter the outer bailey and then Palace Gate, with its portcullis and drawbridge, you enter the inner bailey with the massive Great Tower at the heart of the medieval fortifications.

Dover Castle Palace Gate to the inner bailey. Credit Nilfanion
Dover Castle Palace Gate to the inner bailey. Credit Nilfanion

Standing over 80 ft high and roughly 100 feet square, Dover Castle’s Great Tower is the largest and most expensive keep ever built in England.

Dover Castle Keep seen from the Barbican. Credit Jim, flickr
Dover Castle Keep seen from the Barbican. Credit Jim, flickr

Incorporating the first internal sanitary and plumbing system ever installed in an English castle, the Great Tower was enormously expensive to build, costing upwards of £70 million ($93,000,000) in today’s equivalent.

Medieval Indoor toilet system in Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Medieval Indoor toilet system in Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
The Keep at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
The Keep at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Staircase in the Great Tower. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Staircase in the Great Tower. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014

Richly furnished with vibrant colours, the Great Tower reflected the importance bestowed upon it by King Henry II.

Medieval Visitor's Bedchamber - Dover Castle. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Medieval Visitor’s Bedchamber – Dover Castle. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe

Wars and Invasions

Invited by a group of rebel English barons, Prince Louis of France invaded England in 1216 in an attempt to seize the English crown from the unpopular King John.

St Mary de Castro and Roman Lighthouse seen through an embrasure of the Dover Castle Keep, Dover, Kent, England. Credit Jim, flickr
St Mary de Castro and Roman Lighthouse seen through an embrasure of the Dover Castle Keep, Dover, Kent, England. Credit Jim, flickr

Setting up huge stone-throwing catapults, the French bombarded Dover Castle but the walls held firm.

Trebuchet at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Trebuchet at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe

So the French tried a different tactic—tunneling to undermine the castle’s foundations.

Dover Castle tunnels. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Dover Castle tunnels. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014

And they succeeded in breaching the North Gate only to be stopped by English soldiers.

Bloody hand-to-hand fighting in front of the Barbican (fortified gatehouse) was all that separated England from defeat.

The English defenders prevailed and Prince Louis called off the siege after another few months.

Dover Castle Barbican with hand-to-hand combat (composite). Credit Jim, flickr, Sander van der Wel
Dover Castle Barbican with hand-to-hand combat (composite). Credit Jim, flickr, Sander van der Wel

Resulting from the near defeat, the man in charge, Hubert de Burgh, built Constable’s Tower—the first fortified residential gatehouse in England.

Constable's Tower in Dover Castle. Credit Nilfanion
Constable’s Tower in Dover Castle. Credit Nilfanion

Dover Castle’s defenses were successively updated in response to every major European conflict involving Britain—including those against Napoleon and Hitler.

Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe

During the Napoleonic Wars, the first 200,000-strong “French Army of England” gathered at Boulogne in France in preparation to invade England.

Inspecting the Troops at Boulogne, 15 August 1804
Inspecting the Troops at Boulogne, 15 August 1804

Frantically carrying out building works to prepare Dover Castle for the invasion, military engineer William Twist designed some ingenious improvements.

He built underground barracks and the “Grand Shaft”—a giant stairwell 180 ft deep to get troops from the castle to the base of the white cliffs of Dover in a matter of minutes.

The Grand Shaft looking up from the bottom. Credit Adam Carter, flickr
The Grand Shaft looking up from the bottom. Credit Adam Carter, flickr
The Grand Shaft. Credit Adam Carter
The Grand Shaft. Credit Adam Carter

Blockaded by the Royal Navy and unable to command the English Channel, Napoleon was forced to cancel the invasion.

British cartoons depicted Napoleon in one of his “invasion barges” trying to cross the channel.

Caricature mocking the fragile landing rafts of the French by Robert Holborn
Caricature mocking the fragile landing rafts of the French by Robert Holborn
Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Positioned at Dover during the First World War, this rare type of 3″ twenty hundredweight anti-aircraft gun was used against Zeppelin airships and aircraft threatening Dover port.

World War II anti-aircraft gun. Credit Karen Roe
World War II anti-aircraft gun. Credit Karen Roe

Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk

It was May 1940.

Facing almost certain annihilation, 400,000 British, French, Polish, and Belgian troops assembled on the beaches of Dunkirk awaiting evacuation.

Dunkirk 26-29 May 1940 British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation
Dunkirk 26-29 May 1940 British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation

With its proximity to Dunkirk and secure underground tunnels, Dover Castle was chosen as the headquarters for Operation Dynamo—the massive rescue of allied troops.

A World War 2 operations room in the tunnel beneath Dover Castle
A World War 2 operations room in the tunnel beneath Dover Castle

Strafed by the German Luftwaffe day in and day out, it would be eight days before 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by over 800 boats and ships.

Not all were lucky enough to make it back to the safety of Dover.

About 40,000 were marched off the beaches and spent the rest of the war in Germany or Poland working as slave labour in mines, fields, and factories.

British prisoners at Dunkirk, France
British prisoners at Dunkirk, France

What a welcoming sight the white cliffs of Dover, with its castle perched proudly above, must have been to those rescued.

Dover Castle atop the white cliffs at Dover Port. Credit Remi Jouan
Dover Castle atop the white cliffs at Dover Port. Credit Remi Jouan
Destroyers filled with evacuated British troops berthing at Dover, 31 May 1940
Destroyers filled with evacuated British troops berthing at Dover, 31 May 1940
St Mary in Castro Chruch and Dover Castle ramparts above the white cliffs of Dover
St Mary in Castro Chruch and Dover Castle ramparts above the white cliffs of Dover
Dover Castle flying the Union Jack. Credit Harvey Barrison
Dover Castle flying the Union Jack. Credit Harvey Barrison

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Winston Churchill.

Dover Castle remained a military site until the end of World War II.

8 of the Best Sherlock Holmes Actors

The Guinness Book of World Records lists Sherlock Holmes as the “most portrayed literary human character in film and TV”.

Claire Burgess, an adjudicator for Guinness World Records, said,

Sherlock Holmes is a literary institution. This Guinness World Records title reflects his enduring appeal and demonstrates that his detective talents are as compelling today as they were 125 years ago.
Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget (1860 - 1908)
Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget (1860 – 1908)

Created in 1887 by Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes has been played by over 75 actors—besting even William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Which begs the question “who was the best?”

If we could ask Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that question, he would have said, Eille Norwood:

“He has that rare quality, which can only be described as glamour, which compels you to watch an actor eagerly even when he is doing nothing. He has the brooding eye which excites expectation and he has also a quite unrivaled power of disguise.”

Sir Arthur said those words in the early 1920’s and there have been some truly remarkable performances since.

You will probably have your favorites in mind already, but just to help, we’ve shortlisted eight of the best Holmes of all time—each actor critically acclaimed as Sherlock for their era.

Eille Norwood (1923)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself admired Norwood’s portrayal, saying: “His wonderful impersonation of Holmes has amazed me.”

Norwood was obsessed with portraying Holmes true to the written stories.

He re-read all the stories published up to that time and even learned to play the violin.

Norwood had a reputation as a very professional actor with an incredible ability with make-up and disguise.

In this 2-minute clip, you get a sense of what it was like to watch a movie without sound.

It may seem ridiculous to us today, but in 1923, moving pictures, even without sound, were still a novelty for most people.

There is a story that asked to do an impromptu screen test, Norwood excused himself to the dressing room and appeared a few minutes later “an entirely new person”.

He had done very little in the way of make-up, and he had no accessories, but the transformation was remarkable – it was Sherlock Holmes who came in that door.

Arthur Wontner (1935)

Allmovie wrote that Leslie S. Hiscott’s 1931 movie “Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour” got the Wontner Holmes series off to a rousing start.”

We’ve moved forward into the era of “talkies”, or “talking pictures”, and it’s easy to see how much more watchable this movie is than the 1923 version.

In the United States, “talkies” helped secure Hollywood’s position as one of the world’s most powerful cultural/commercial centers of influence.

In Europe, they were viewed with some suspicion, where critics feared that a focus on dialogue would subvert the unique aesthetic virtues of soundless cinema.

The New York Times wrote of Wontner in Leslie S. Hiscott’s 1935 film “The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes”, “a mellow, evenly paced British film that renders to Holmes what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have rendered to him: Interest, respect. and affection … Mr. Wontner decorates a calabash pipe with commendable skill, contributing a splendid portrait of fiction’s first detective.”

“The Sign of Four” 1932 Film.
“The Missing Rembrandt” 1932 Film.
“The Sleeping Cardinal” 1931 Film.

Basil Rathbone (1939)

Basil Rathbone is credited with creating the definitive screen interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, his only rival generally conceded to be Jeremy Brett’s interpretation of the fictional detective.

His expert fencing skills earned him a reputation as the greatest swordsman in Hollywood history.

“Sherlock Holmes” by Ouida Rathbone 1953 Stage Play.
“Dressed to Kill” 1946 Film.
“Terror by Night” 1946 Film.
“The House of Fear” 1945 Film.
“Pursuit to Algiers” 1945 Film.
“The Woman in Green” 1945 Film.
“The Pearl of Death” 1944 Film.
“The Scarlet Claw” 1944 Film.
“The Spider Woman” 1944 Film.
“Sherlock Holmes in Washington” 1943 Film.
“Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon” 1943 Film.
“Sherlock Holmes Faces Death” 1943 Film.
“Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror” 1942 Film.
“The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” 1939-1946 Radio (Blue Network & Mutual).
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” 1939 Film.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” 1939 Film.

Peter Cushing (1959)

Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes played alongside long-time fellow Hammer Films actor Sir Christopher Lee in a highly acclaimed production of Hound of the Baskervilles.

Hammer Films was famous in the UK for its gothic horror films from the mid-1950s to the 1970s.

Time Out called it “the best Sherlock Holmes film ever made, and one of Hammer’s finest movies”.

But Peter Cushing’s Holmes received mixed reviews, with Films and Filming calling him an “impish, waspish, Wilde-ian Holmes”, whereas The New York Herald Tribune stated, “Peter Cushing is a forceful and eager Sherlock Holmes”.

Cushing also played Holmes in a BBC TV Series in 1968.

Jeremy Brett (1984)

Inheriting the mantle from the great Basil Rathbone was a tall order indeed, but Jeremy Brett pulls it off with a long-running TV series in the 80’s and again in the 90’s.

Considered to be the definitive Holmes of his era, Brett once said that “Holmes is the hardest part I have ever played — harder than Hamlet or Macbeth.”

“The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” 1994 TV series.
“The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes” 1991–1993 TV series.
“The Secret of Sherlock Holmes 1988–89” Stage (touring, British).
“The Return of Sherlock Holmes 1986–1988” TV series.
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” 1984–1985 TV series.
41 episodes.

Rupert Everett (2004)

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking is a British television film originally broadcast on BBC One in the UK on 26 December 2004 and PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre in 2005.

Holmes used cocaine, which he injected in a seven-percent solution with a syringe and also dabbled in morphine, both of which were legal in late-19th-century England.

This adaptation with music from Johnny Cash highlights Holme’s drug use in the movie.

Reviews of the drama were generally mixed.

I did feel that this peculiar tale was intended to tickle American tootsiesNancy Banks-Smith for The Guardian

Robert Bianco of USA Today remarked,

Everett sticks close enough to the outline created by Arthur Conan Doyle to be recognizably Sherlockian, and yet he deviates enough to create an amusing character all his own.

Brian Lowry of Variety wrote, “The Case of the Silk Stocking is a rather wan addition to the Holmes filmography, yet respectable enough in showcasing the character’s cerebral charms. If push comes to shove, though, when all the revisionism’s done, I prefer my Holmes in black-and-white.”

Robert Downey Jr (2009)

Robert Downey Jr reminded us that in addition to a suave and sophisticated Victorian gentleman, Sherlock Holmes is also, “a brawling, head-butting, fist-in-the-gut, knee-in-the-groin action hero.”

In addition to brawn, Downey brings his “characteristic twitchy wit and haggard insouciance, he has more intelligence than the movie knows what to do with.”

The London scene is given a makeover with “a smoky, greasy, steam-punk rendering of Victorian London, full of soot and guts and bad teeth and period clothes — shows some undeniable flair.”
Ref: NYTimes “Sherlock Holmes” 2009 Review.

“Sherlock Holmes” 2009 Film.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” 2011 Film.

Benedict Cumberbatch (2012)

Danny Bowes, writing for Indiewire thinks the greatest performance as Sherlock Holmes is that of Benedict Cumberbatch.

“Sherlock” 2010–present TV series (BBC).
15 episodes.

… free the character from what they felt was a paralyzing traditionalism in adaptations. By setting the show in present-day London, they’ve found a way of getting at who Holmes is as a character, giving everyone from the writers to the designers to the actor playing the role the opportunity to focus on who Holmes is, rather than who he has been.
As for Cumberbatch’s performance, his physicality is a delight — he alternates between furious activity and catatonic stillness, seeming to be in motion even when still and to exist in a series of meticulously constructed tableaux when in motion.

Several other actors have played Sherlock Holmes to varying degrees of success, including Roger Moore, John Cleese, Tom Baker (of Dr Who fame), Christopher Lee, Peter Cook, Ian Richardson (House of Cards).

Cambridge — the ancient city of colleges and scholars

Breathtaking views, stunning architecture, and lazy summer afternoons punting on the River Cam.

Cambridge is a beautiful city full of beautiful minds, where mankind first split the atom and discovered the secret to life through DNA.

Cambridge University

Founded in 1209 by scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townsfolk, Cambridge University is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world.

31 constituent colleges with over 100 academic departments have educated scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking, philosophers like Francis Bacon and Bertrand Russell, economists like Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes, poets like Lord Byron and John Milton, and no less than 95 Nobel laureates and 15 British prime ministers.

Peterhouse was Cambridge’s first college, founded by the Bishop of Ely in 1284.

Peterhouse, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Peterhouse, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Founded in 1326, Clare College is the second-oldest college

Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Clair College is known for its beautiful gardens on “The Backs”—the back of the colleges that overlook the River Cam.

The Scholars' Garden, Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Ed g2s
The Scholars’ Garden, Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Ed g2s

Among the highest in academic performance, Pembroke is Cambridge’s third-oldest college and one of its largest.

Croquet at Pembroke College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Croquet at Pembroke College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Housing a Victorian neo-gothic clock tower, the college library has an original copy of the first encyclopaedia to contain printed diagrams.

Pembroke College Library and Clocktower, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Pembroke College Library and Clocktower, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Ridley's Walk, Pembroke College, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Ridley’s Walk, Pembroke College, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

No less than ten Nobel Prize winners, seven prime ministers, and twelve archbishops were educated at St John’s College.

English Romantic poet William Wordsworth studied here, as did slavery abolitionists William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson.

St John's College & Bridge of Sighs. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John’s College & Bridge of Sighs. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John's College, Cambridge - First Court. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John’s College, Cambridge – First Court. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge University - Senate House. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge University – Senate House. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Gonville & Caius College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Gonville & Caius College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Queens College, Cambridge - President's Lodge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Queens College, Cambridge – President’s Lodge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Chapels and Churches

Taking almost 100 years to complete, King’s College Chapel is one of the greatest examples of Gothic English architecture.

Side view of Kings College Chapel from inside the college. Credit Dmitry Tonkonog
Side view of Kings College Chapel from inside the college. Credit Dmitry Tonkonog

Seen as a symbol of the city of Cambridge, King’s College Chapel was built in phases during the Wars of the Roses by a succession of English kings.

Cows graze across the river Cam from Kings Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr
Cows graze across the river Cam from Kings Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr

King’s College Chapel houses Peter Paul Rubens 8 ft by 11 ft masterpiece “Adoration of the Magi” from 1617.

Bought in 1959 for a then world-record price, property millionaire Alfred Ernest Allnatt donated it to King’s College Cambridge in 1961.

Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617
Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617

Noted for its splendid acoustics, the world-famous chapel choir sings on most days during term and performs concerts, and makes recordings and broadcasts such as those on Christmas Eve for the BBC.

Interior of King's College Chapel, view of the stained glass windows. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Interior of King’s College Chapel, view of the stained glass windows. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Twenty-four of the twenty-six stained glass windows date from the sixteenth century.

Interior of King's College Chapel, showing the fan ceiling. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Interior of King’s College Chapel, showing the fan ceiling. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Featuring the world’s largest fan vault, this uniquely English design resembles a fan in which the ribs are all of the same curvature and spaced equidistantly.

King's College Chapel Fan Ceiling and Stained Glass. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
King’s College Chapel Fan Ceiling and Stained Glass. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
The Chapel of St John's College from across First Court in Cambridge, England. Credit David Iliff
The Chapel of St John’s College from across First Court in Cambridge, England. Credit David Iliff
St John's Chapel interior. Credit David Iliff
St John’s Chapel interior. Credit David Iliff
Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge, by Wren. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge, by Wren. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Pembroke College Chapel was Sir Christopher Wren’s first architectural project, which his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, asked him to design in 1663.

Wren would become best known for designing St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Pembroke College Chapel. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pembroke College Chapel. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge, England viewed from Parker's Piece. Credit Cmglee
The church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge, England viewed from Parker’s Piece. Credit Cmglee
Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

The Bridges of Cambridge

Designed by English architect Henry Hutchinson in 1831, the Bridge of Sighs of St John’s College is probably Cambridge’s best-known bridge and based on a similarly named bridge in Venice.

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Connecting two courts of S John’s College, the Bridge of Sighs is one of Cambridge’s main tourist attractions and Queen Victoria is said to have loved it more than any other spot in the city.

The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built in 1640, Clair Bridge is the oldest of Cambridge’s current bridges crossing the River Cam.

It is the only remaining bridge from the English Civil War period.

Clare Bridge reflected - Cambridge. Credit bvi4092
Clare Bridge reflected – Cambridge. Credit bvi4092

Crafted from a single block of limestone, carved to give the appearance of masonry, Kitchen or Wren Bridge is the second-oldest bridge and was built to designs by Sir Christopher Wren.

Kitchen or Wren Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Darren Glanville
Kitchen or Wren Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Darren Glanville

Connecting two parts of Queen’s College, Mathematical Bridge is a wooden footbridge built in 1749.

Built entirely of straight timbers, its sophisticated engineering design gives it a curved appearance.

Punting Under Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Punting Under Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Designed by English architect James Essex who built portions of many colleges in Cambridge, Trinity Bridge is a triple-arched stone road bridge completed in 1765.

Cambridge - Trinity College Bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge – Trinity College Bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Punting on the River Cam

For beautiful picture postcard views of elegant bridges, green lawns, and graceful willows, what better way to while away an afternoon than punting along the River Cam as it passes through a stretch known as “the Backs” where several colleges back onto the river.

Punting past Trinity College Wren Library. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr
Punting past Trinity College Wren Library. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr

Designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water, punts are flat-bottomed boats with a square-cut bow propelled by pushing against the river bed with a pole.

The Backs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Backs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalen College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalen College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
Punting Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge

Parks and Gardens

Leafy green spaces abound in Cambridge, ranging from “the Backs”, which is the name given to the gardens by the river behind various colleges, to larger parks like Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.

Jesus Green, Cambridge, England. Credit Ardfren
Jesus Green, Cambridge, England. Credit Ardfren
Claire College Gardens. Credit Ardfern
Claire College Gardens. Credit Ardfern
Stourbridge Common - footpath along the River Cam. Credit mattbuck
Stourbridge Common – footpath along the River Cam. Credit mattbuck

Framed by mature trees and shrubs, the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden comprises diverse, superbly landscaped settings.

University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Shops, Pubs, and Restaurants

Cambridge has the best of both worlds for those who love to shop.

All the popular brand names can be found in the Grand Arcade on St Andrew’s Street, but venture down the older streets and you’ll discover long-established boutiques, bookshops, and jewellers nestled inside grand Georgian townhouses and half-timbered Elizabethan buildings.

Shops in Trinity Street, Cambridge. Credit The Wub
Shops in Trinity Street, Cambridge. Credit The Wub

How about this little gem of an Edwardian-era Art Nouveau fronted shop?

Art Nouveau shop on Green Street, Cambridge. Credit Fæ
Art Nouveau shop on Green Street, Cambridge. Credit Fæ

Restaurants and pubs are equally at home in gorgeous old structures like the La Tasca Spanish tapas restaurant on Bridge Street.

Tudor building on Bridge Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Tudor building on Bridge Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old buildings in Magdalene Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old buildings in Magdalene Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Rose Crescent is one of several pedestrianized streets connecting to Cambridge’s market square.

Rose Crescent, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Rose Crescent, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Operating since Saxon times, the outdoor marketplace has dozens of pretty stalls selling everything from local produce to works from some of the region’s most talented artists, craftsmen, potters, sculptors, and photographers.

Cambridge market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge Market Place by Frederick MacKenzie, 1841
Cambridge Market Place by Frederick MacKenzie, 1841

History and culture are never far away in Cambridge.

Stop for a pint at The Eagle pub where Nobel prize winners Crick and Watson sketched the structure of DNA on a napkin.

The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Credit Andy Oxford
The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Credit Andy Oxford
Fort St George pub, Cambridge. Credit Wheeltapper
Fort St George pub, Cambridge. Credit Wheeltapper
The County Arms, Cambridge. Credit The Wub
The County Arms, Cambridge. Credit The Wub

The Champion of the Thames pub’s name derives from an oarsman who won a sculling race on the Thames before moving to Cambridge in 1860.

Requesting that all his mail be addressed to ‘The Champion of the River Thames, King Street, Cambridge’, the rowing connection continues thanks to the pub’s sponsorship of the “Champion of the Thames” rowing club.

The Champion of the Thames pub, Cambridge. Credit William M. Connolley
The Champion of the Thames pub, Cambridge. Credit William M. Connolley
Café Rouge - Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Café Rouge – Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

The Cycle-friendly City

Cambridge is the most bicycle-friendly city in the UK.

Relatively flat and boasting over 80 miles of cycle lanes and routes, cycling is the easiest and most eco-friendly way to enjoy the beautiful architecture and open spaces of Cambridge.

Bicycle friendly Cambridge. Credit Oscar Arky
Bicycle friendly Cambridge. Credit Oscar Arky

In Cambridge, bicycles vastly outnumber cars.

Bicycles outside Cambridge railway station, England. Credit Rept0n1x
Bicycles outside Cambridge railway station, England. Credit Rept0n1x
Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 Beautiful English Villages

Known throughout the world for their beauty, the quintessential English village is a magical escape for urban city-dwellers.

Quaint cottages nestled around a village green or bordering little rivers and surrounded by rolling countryside, there are dozens to enjoy across the British Isles.

Here are 10 of our favorite English villages.

1. Abbotsbury, Dorset

With nearly a hundred structures listed by English Heritage for their historic or architectural interest, Abbotsbury will surprise and delight.

Surrounded by hills and sat within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Abbotsbury is only a mile inland from the English Channel coast.

Abbotsbury’s 11th-century Benedictine Abbey was founded by one of King Cnut’s nobles from Scandinavia.

Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Abbotsbury comprises a long street called Rodden Row filled with pretty thatched cottages, some dating to the 1500s and built using stone from the ruined 11th-century Abbey.

18th century cottages in Rodden Row at Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
18th-century cottages in Rodden Row at Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Notable for its fine coastal views, the road between Abbotsbury and Burton Bradstock reveals an 18-mile section of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site famous for fossil discoveries in the 19th century.

Chesil Beach, from Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Chesil Beach, from Abbotsbury, Dorset. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

2. Clovelly, Devon

Noted for its steep cobbled main street and stunning views over the Bristol Channel, Clovelly is a privately owned English village with over 800 years of history.

Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Descending 400 feet to the pier, Clovelly’s main street is too steep for wheeled traffic and uses sleds for deliveries of goods and collection of refuse.

Clovelly, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Donkeys used to haul the sleds uphill, but now goods are delivered to the top of the street and the sleds are pulled down the slope by hand, leaving the donkeys free to entertain holidaymakers.

Donkeys on the steep main street, outside the village's post office
Donkeys on the steep main street, outside the village’s post office

Charles Kingsley’s 1855 British historical novel Westward Ho! which celebrates England’s victories over Spain in the Elizabethan era, mentions this part of North Devon and helped make Clovelly a popular tourist destination.

Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Main Street, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Captured by artists for its richness of colour, the scenery along the South West Coast Path National Trail from Clovelly to Hartland Quay is particularly spectacular.

Clovelly Harbour, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Harbour, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

3. Dedham, Essex

Formerly a rich wool town and market town, Dedham is a flourishing commercial village, with good old-fashioned shops like a butcher, grocer, delicatessen, and art shop.

Lovely colourful Georgian and Elizabethan timber-framed houses line the High Street.

Dedham, Essex. Credit JR P, flickr
Dedham, Essex. Credit JR P, flickr

Nestled along the River Stour on the border between Essex and Suffolk counties, Dedham is frequently rated as having some of England’s most beautiful water-meadow landscapes.

River Stour, Dedham in Essex. Credit JR P, flickr
River Stour, Dedham in Essex. Credit JR P, flickr
A buttercup field in Dedham, Essex. Credit Keven Law, flickr
A buttercup field in Dedham, Essex. Credit Keven Law, flickr

Even on a crisp winter morning, a walk along the River Stour is idyllic, with its rows of evenly-spaced pollarded willow trees.

Trees along the River Stour, Dedham, Essex
Trees along the River Stour, Dedham, Essex
Rowing boats near Dedham. Credit Keven Law
Rowing boats near Dedham. Credit Keven Law

Dedham is “Constable Country” where famed English Romantic painter John Constable set up his easel to paint iconic scenes.

I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.John Constable, 1821

Revered as one of the greatest British paintings and currently hanging in the National Gallery, London, “The Hay Wain” of 1821 depicts a rural scene on the River Stour with “Willy Lott’s Cottage” in Suffolk on the left and the Essex meadows on the right.

The Hay Wain by John Constable, 1821
The Hay Wain by John Constable, 1821

You can visit the famous 16th-century cottage today at Flatford in the heart of the Dedham Vale.

4. Hambleden, Buckinghamshire

Meaning “crooked or irregularly-shaped hill” in Anglo Saxon, Hambleden is a beautiful little village just north of the River Thames about 40 miles west of London.

Hambledon was granted a royal charter in 1315 to hold a market in the village and a fair on St Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, every year.

The brick and flint cottages in the centre of the village have dormer windows topped with red tiles.

Cottages, Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Credit Oswald Bertram
Cottages, Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Credit Oswald Bertram

Hambleden served as a base for US soldiers in the build up to D-Day 1944 and was depicted as the training ground for Easy Company in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.

Used as a location for several films including Disney’s 1996 “101 Dalmatians” and Warner Bros. 1998 “The Avengers”, Hambleden also played host to Johnny Depp and Cristina Ricci for a month-long location shoot during filming for Tim Burton’s 1999 gothic horror “Sleepy Hollow”.

Houses at Hambleden village. Credit Peter
Houses at Hambleden village. Credit Peter

Dating from the 14th century, St Mary’s church has an intricately decorated ceiling and a tower with eight bells.

St Mary the Virgin, Hambleden. Credit GameKeeper
St Mary the Virgin, Hambleden. Credit GameKeeper

Hambleden’s village post office also serves as the local shop and cafe.

Post Office at Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Russ Hamer
Post Office at Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. Russ Hamer

5. Hawkshead, Cumbria

An important wool market in medieval times, Hawkshead in the Lake District sits in a valley to the west of Windermere and east of Coniston Water.

Hawkshead, The Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hawkshead, The Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Originally owned by monks of 12th-century Furness Abbey, once the second-wealthiest and most powerful Cistercian monastery in the country, Hawkshead became prominent in the 18th and 19th centuries.

English Romantic poet William Wordsworth was educated at Hawkshead Grammar School and English writer Beatrix Potter lived nearby, marrying a solicitor from Hawkshead.

Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Hawkshead, Lake District. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Hawkshead’s timeless atmosphere encourages visitors to explore its alleyways, overhanging gables, and medieval squares.

Wordsworth's Grammar School, Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Wordsworth’s Grammar School, Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

St Michael and All Angels Church in Hawkshead is considered to be one of the best Lake District churches.

Constructed in rubble stone with a slate roof, the 12th-century chapel was extended in 1300 and the north and south aisles added 200 years later.

Listed as a Grade I building of exceptional interest, the interior is thickly whitewashed with five-bay arcades consisting of segmental arches on round piers.

St Michael and All Angels Church at Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr
St Michael and All Angels Church at Hawkshead, Cumbria. Credit Anne Roberts, flickr

6. Lacock, Wiltshire

Unspoiled and owned almost entirely by the National Trust conservation organization, Lacock’s pristine appearance makes it a popular tourist spot.

Mentioned in the Domesday Book manuscript record of 1086, Lacock was later granted a market and developed a thriving wool industry during the Middle Ages.

Lacock abbey National Trust. Credit Barry Skeates
Lacock abbey National Trust. Credit Barry Skeates
The George Inn, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Robert Powell
The George Inn, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Robert Powell

Lacock village has been used as a film and television location, most notably the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, a series of Downton Abbey, and brief appearances in two Harry Potter films.

Related post: To many, Colin Firth IS Mr Darcy ….

Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Immanuel giel
Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Immanuel giel

St Cyriac’s Church was founded in the 14th century and dedicated to the Norman saint, St Cyriac.

The Church of St Cyriac, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit WJournalist
The Church of St Cyriac, Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit WJournalist

Lacock has two public houses and a number of shops in its High Street including a grocery store, a bakery, gift shops and a National Trust shop.

The picturesque village Bakery at Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk
The picturesque village Bakery at Lacock, Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk

7. Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire

Built on the banks of the River Eye in Gloucestershire, records exist showing that Lower Slaughter has been inhabited for over 1000 years.

A 19th-century water mill sits at the west end of the village, complete with an undershot waterwheel and a chimney for additional steam power.

The Mill at Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr
The Mill at Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. Credit Phil Dolby, flickr

Dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, the 13th-century Anglican parish church was enlarged in 1866, with the spire and peal of six bells benefiting from a recent restoration.

Saint Mary The Virgin Church in Lower Slaughter. Credit Jonathan, flickr
Saint Mary The Virgin Church in Lower Slaughter. Credit Jonathan, flickr

Several small stone footbridges join the two sides of the Lower Slaughter community that is divided by the river.

Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire, Cotswolds. Credit Jonathan, flickr
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire, Cotswolds. Credit Jonathan, flickr

Honey-coloured Cotswold sandstone adorns the beautiful homes in the village, many with mullioned windows and other embellishments such as projecting gables.

Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

8. Nether Wallop, Hampshire

Derived from the Old English words waella and hop, which together mean “the valley of the springing water”, Nether Wallop was once the site of an ancient battle between Britons and the invading Jutes, in which the Britons were victorious.

Nether Wallop is one of three beautiful villages known as The Wallops, with the other two being Over Wallop and Middle Wallop.

With its many old thatched cottages, Nether Wallop has featured in books and TV as one of the prettiest villages in England.

Thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

For over 200 years the village pub, The Five Bells, was the centre of village life and the community social hub, where villagers met to eat and enjoy real ales.

Related post: The History and Tradition of Social Networking in Britain.

The Five Bells pub in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Five Bells pub in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cows come to drink in Wallop Brook at Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cows come to drink in Wallop Brook at Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Related post: 18 Gorgeous English Thatched Cottages.

9. Polperro, Cornwall

Tightly-packed ancient fisherman’s cottages, a quaint little harbour, and pristine coastline combine to make Polperro a well-loved tourist destination.

The name Polperro is derived from old Cornish “Porthpyra” meaning “harbour named after Saint Pyran”, a 5th-century Cornish abbot and patron saint of tin miners.

Polperro inner harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Polperro inner harbour, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Recognised as a fishing settlement as early as the 13th century, smuggling helped local fishermen boost their income from as early as the 1100s.

High taxation of imports caused by Britain’s wars with France and America made it worthwhile for spirits, tobacco, and other goods to be smuggled from Guernsey and elsewhere.

19th-century Coast Guards and the threat of stiff penalties eventually deterred the smugglers.

Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Lansallos Street, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Typical old fisherman’s cottages in Polperro had storage for fishing nets on the ground floor with steps leading to the living accommodation above.

Fisherman's cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Fisherman’s cottage, Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Polperro legends include the ghost of smuggler Willy Wilcox who disappeared whilst hiding in the beaches’ labyrinthine caves.

The Spirit of the Forest is said to come down from the woods above the village and leave sweetmeats at the homes of the poor during times of great economic hardship and foretells of good fortune for the recipients.

Misty day at Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Misty day at Polperro, Cornwall. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10. Staithes, North Yorkshire

Once a thriving fishing village, Staithes is now a center for tourism within the North York Moors National Park.

Derived from Old English, the name Staithes means “Landing Place”.

Staithes has a sheltered harbour, bounded by high cliffs and two long breakwaters.

The Blue Hour in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Vaidotas Mišeikis, flickr
The Blue Hour in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Vaidotas Mišeikis, flickr
Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Philip Edmondson, flickr
Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Philip Edmondson, flickr

More than half of the houses are second homes of outsiders from cities such as Leeds and York.

Villagers still practice local traditions, with many of the local women buying Staithes bonnets and local men singing in the Staithes Fisher Men’s Choir.

The main street in Staithes.. Credit mattbuck
The main street in Staithes.. Credit mattbuck

In the late 19th century, there were 80 full-time fishing boats putting out to sea from Staithes.

Now there are a handful of part-time fishermen still plying their trade in traditional fishing vessels called cobles.

Staithes’s most famous resident, James Cook worked as a grocer’s apprentice in 1745, beginning a lifelong passion for the sea.

Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Richard Walker, flickr
Staithes, North Yorkshire. Credit Richard Walker, flickr

Calke Abbey—An English Country House Frozen in Time

Calke Abbey is an 18th-century country house near Ticknall, Derbyshire, England, in the care of the charitable National Trust.

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty is the largest membership organization in the United Kingdom.

“a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces—for ever, for everyone.”

Join me as we take a tour of an English Country House, frozen in time.

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit PJMarriott
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit PJMarriott
Calke Abbey main building. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey main building. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Chris Hoare
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Chris Hoare
The Drawing Room at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The Drawing Room at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The Dining Room , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
The Dining Room , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
Mantelpiece in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Mantelpiece in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
The Salon at Calke Abbey, Derbeyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The Salon at Calke Abbey, Derbeyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The library at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The library at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine

While we’re in the library, fancy a game of Happy Families? (called “Cheery Families” in the mid 19th century).

Happy Families (Cheery Families) in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Happy Families (Cheery Families) in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Winding Staircase at Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Winding Staircase at Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Family portraits on the stairway. Credit Thomas Quine
Family portraits on the stairway. Credit Thomas Quine

Created in 1626, the Harpur-Crewe Baronetcy, of Calke Abbey, Derbyshire was a title in the Baronetage of England.

Passed down through ten Baronets, the title became extinct in 1924 when the estate went to the female line and then to the grandson of the last Baronet.

Inheritance tax forced the sale after his death in 1981 and in 1985, the National Trust took possession.

Reminiscent of Mr Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sir Henry Crewe the 7th Baronet, became one of the richest land owners in Derbyshire, with an income of, you guessed it, £10,000.

Described as an “unfortunate connection” by his mother Lady Frances because it breached the social conventions of the time, Sir Henry married his mistress, a lady’s maid called Ann or Nany Hawkins.

The Harpur-Crewe Baronets had a fascination with taxidermy, displaying all manner of birds, insects, game, and even prize cattle around the house, some in glass cases and some mounted on walls.

Bird showcases at Callke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Bird showcases at Callke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Taxidermy - the hobby of a gentleman naturalist. Credit Thomas Quine
Taxidermy – the hobby of a gentleman naturalist. Credit Thomas Quine
Boar's Head. The Harpur-Crewe family that owned Calke Abbey had a fascination with taxidermy. Credit Thomas Quine
Boar’s Head. The Harpur-Crewe family that owned Calke Abbey had a fascination with taxidermy. Credit Thomas Quine
The Breakfast Room , Calke Abbey
The Breakfast Room , Calke Abbey

Hinting at the joys of children’s laughter throughout the house at one time are these high chairs for meal times.

Children's chairs, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Children’s chairs, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine

How many hours of happiness did this cheerful rocking horse provide?

Antique Rocking Horse, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique Rocking Horse, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine

And at one time, a child’s imagination would be set alight by the magical miniature world of dollhouses.

Related post: The Magical Miniature World of Antique Dollhouses

Details of a Doll's House in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Details of a Doll’s House in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair

Sitting patiently on a window ledge, a Piggy Bank waits for its stored change to be used to buy more toys for a rainy day.

Piggy Bank at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Piggy Bank at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey Kitchen. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Kitchen. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Antique carriage, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique carriage, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique Wheelchair, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique Wheelchair, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey Gardens, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Gardens, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Orangery , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
The Orangery , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
Walled garden and Gardener's Cottage at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Nancy
Walled garden and Gardener’s Cottage at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Nancy

To keep the grounds looking immaculate, a host of equipment was needed, including manual mowers, lawn rollers, edge trimmers and other garden tools—all stored just how the gardener left them 100 years ago.

The Garden Shed - Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Garden Shed – Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Garden Shed, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Garden Shed, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Like the immovable sundial in the grounds, the clock stopped for Calke Abbey. It is locked in a time capsule.

Inhabited by privilege it was, but it was built and cared for by ordinary working folk like you and me.

We need to preserve our heritage because it is our story too.

Calke Abbey sundial, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey sundial, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine

10 Reasons to Love Winchester—the Ancient City of Kings and Knights

Steeped in history and legend, Winchester is a reminder of Britain’s mythical past.

Soak up the gothic splendor of Winchester Cathedral, stroll along ancient river walks, laugh at street theatre, or relax over wine or a fine ale.

Winchester is an adventure in time.

Here are 10 reasons you’ll fall in love with Winchester.

1. Ancient Capital of England

Honored by a huge statue 17 feet high, Alfred the Great stands watching over the city he built on top of the old Roman settlement of Venta Belgarum.

Today it is known as Winchester—the Anglo-Saxon capital of England before London.

King Alfred's Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea
King Alfred’s Statue, Winchester. Credit Odejea

Venta Belgarum means “Town of the Belgae”—a confederation of tribes mostly living in present day Belgium, but some living in southern England.

Following the Roman invasion of Britain, the Romans founded the settlement in around 70 AD and developed it into a major trading center with city walls, before withdrawing from Britain some 340 years later.

During diggings at the corner of Little Minster Street and Minster Lane in 1878, a beautiful Roman mosaic was discovered.

Depicting a dolphin, you can see the mosaic on display at the Winchester City Museum.

Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr
Roman Mosaic discovered in Winchester. Credit John W. Schulze, flickr

But Winchester’s history goes back much further to the Iron Age (1200 BC – 1 BC), with the remains of three hill forts all in the nearby vicinity—Oram’s Arbour, St. Catherine’s Hill, and Worthy Down.

St. Catherine's Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Catherine’s Hill in Winchester is an Iron age Hill Fort. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

One day in 2000, a retired florist was out in the fields of Winchester hoping to get lucky with his metal detector and perhaps find something interesting.

Striking one of the most important Iron Age gold hoards for fifty years and valued at £350,000 ($457,000), he was a little more than lucky.

Housed in the British Museum, the Winchester Hoard is thought to be a lavish diplomatic gift dating from about 75-25 BCE.

Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr
Winchester Hoard. Credit Portable Antiquities Scheme, flickr

2. Winchester Gothic Cathedral

Having the longest nave and overall length of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe, it comes as little surprise that Winchester Cathedral is the major landmark of the city.

Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral at Sunset. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Originally founded in 642 and known as the “Old Minster”, it was demolished by the Normans in 1093 and a new cathedral built in its place.

Squat and square, the tower is 150 ft tall which pales in comparison with Salisbury Cathedral’s 404 ft spire—just 25 miles to the west of Winchester.

Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com
Winchester Cathedral showing west end, central tower and longest Gothic cathedral nave in Europe. Credit WyrdLight.com

Some speculate that Winchester Cathedral may have later had a spire if funds had been available since spires were highly desirable.

But the current tower is the second after the first collapsed in 1107—an accident blamed on the impious William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s heir) who was buried in the Cathedral.

It’s possible this “bad omen” halted any plans for a spire that would reach to the heavens—which might have looked like the image below.

What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
What Winchester Cathedral might have looked like with its spire intact
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The ceiling of the Choir in the ancient Cathedral of Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
Winchester Cathedral Choir looking west. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Winchester Cathedral as viewed from the west looking towards the choir. Credit David Iliff

Honored as a beautiful statue, Saint Joan of Arc stares in vain at the Chancery Chapel of Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, a man who helped condemn her to death by burning at the stake in 1431.

The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The statue of Joan of Arc is in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff
The High Altar of Winchester Cathedral. Credit David Iliff

Spire or no, Winchester Cathedral is beautiful inside and out, and whether out for a stroll in the grounds or a guided tour, the setting is absolutely magical.

Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
Winchester Cathedral. Credit Neil Howard
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 15th century Cheyney Court and Priory Gate in the Close of Winchester Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

3. Winchester Castle and King Arthur’s Round Table

Arthur increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.

At one time, Winchester had a castle, of which only the Great Hall still stands, but it houses one of the greatest artifacts from Arthurian Legend—The Round Table.

Symbolizing equality since a round table has no head, by the close of the 12th century, it came to represent the chivalric order of King Arthur’s court and the Knights of the Round Table.

Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Hall, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Normal poet Robert Wace said that Arthur created the Round Table to prevent quarrels among his barons, none of whom would accept a lower place than the others.

King Arthur's Round Table at Winchester Castle
King Arthur’s Round Table at Winchester Castle

In Celtic lore, warriors sit in a circle around the king or lead warrior.

British cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth says that after establishing peace throughout Britain, Arthur “increased his personal entourage by inviting very distinguished men from far-distant kingdoms to join it.”

The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d'Espinques, 1475
The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail by Évrard d’Espinques, 1475
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903
King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, 1903

4. Winchester College

Claiming the longest unbroken history of any school in England, Winchester College was established in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and chancelloer to Edward III and Richard II.

Founded in conjunction with New College, Oxford, it was meant to prepare students to attend Oxford University.

Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge would later follow the same model.

The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th century Middle Gate tower and Chamber Court of Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Winchester College. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Be sure to pop into the Wykeham Arms pub for a bite to eat and a pint of delicious local ale.

You can even sit at old school desks from the college, complete with ink wells.

Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr
Inside the Wycham Arms pub with old school desks. Credit Kake, flickr

An independent boarding school for boys in the British public school tradition, according to Tatler Magazine, 35% of leavers in 2015 had places at Oxford or Cambridge; most of the rest attended other universities, including those in North America.

Performance like that doesn’t come cheap, with fees of £38,100 per year (almost $50,000 per year).

The 14th century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The 14th-century cloisters of Winchester College Chapel. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
West Hill with Winchester College Chapel beyond. Credit Herry Lawford, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Chapel of Winchester College in Hampshire was completed in 1395, and the organ in 1403. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

5. Jane Austen’s House

Living in Chawton, Hampshire, about 18 miles north-east of Winchester, Jane Austen started feeling unwell early in the year of 1816.

When her uncle died leaving nothing of his fortune to his relatives, her condition deteriorated and by mid-April she was bed-ridden.

Jane Austen's house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire (The Jane Austen Museum). Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Suffering agonizing pain, her sister Cassandra and brother-in-law Henry brought her to Winchester for treatment in May.

She lived here, at 8 College Street, Winchester for the last few weeks of her life.

Jane Austen's house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen’s house on College Street Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Jane Austen's House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Mike Peel
Jane Austen's House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Jane Austen’s House. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr

On 18 July, at the age of 41, Jane Austen, one of the most prolific writers of the Regency Era, passed to another place free from pain.

She is buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral.

Jane Austen's memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
Jane Austen’s memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

6. Ancient City Walls, Streets, and the River Itchen

When you enter Winchester through one of the medieval arched gateways, you get a buzz—a feeling that this is going to be special, that you are traveling back in time to a land of Anglo-Saxon Kings, Knights, Bishops, and peasants.

In short, Winchester has atmosphere.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk

Parts of the medieval city walls still stand, strong and imposing, forever protecting the city inhabitants.

Sat here, time stands still, allowing your mind to wonder how many travelers passed this way on pilgrimages to the magnificent cathedral.

Winchester's Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester’s Medieval City Wall. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Fortunately, advances in city architecture have left Winchester largely free from blight.

It’s a city with relatively few brutal buildings from the 60’s and 70’s and has remained beautiful for hundreds of years.

High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell
High Street, Winchester c 1890s. Credit Alwyn Ladell

The town clock still reminds you what time it is regardless of how many carry mobile phones.

The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The High Street of Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

There’s time to enjoy the simpler things in life.

Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Shopping in the High Street, Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

The Victorians appreciated aesthetics—their gothic revival architecture blended with the medieval to keep the mythical past alive.

The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Guildhall (Town Hall) in Winchester was built in 1871. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Great Minster Street, Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. Swithun's Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
St. Swithun’s Bridge Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
River Itchen, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

Powered by the River Itchen, the old City Mill is probably the country’s oldest working watermill, with over a thousand years of history.

Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker
Water Mill, Winchester. Credit Johan Bakker

7. Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty

Founded in the 1130s by Henry de Blois—the Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Winchester, and grandson of William the Conqueror—the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Credit barnyz, flickr

Built on the scale of an Oxbridge college, the almshouses are the largest medieval examples in Britain.

St. John's almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
St. John’s almshouses in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Since at least the 14th century, and still available today, a ‘wayfarer’s dole’ of ale and bread has been handed out at the chapel.

The sustenance was supposedly instigated to aid pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.

Handing out Wayfarer's Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
Handing out Wayfarer’s Dole at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. Credit Alwyn Ladell, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
The nave facing east, the late Norman church of the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, Winchester. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

8. Street Theatre, Fairs, and Farmers Market

Just as our medieval forebears enjoyed street entertainments, so too do Winchester residents who gather on the cathedral lawns or the High Street to celebrate street theatre during the summer festival season.

Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Entertainers in the Close of the 11th century Cathedral. Credit Anguskirk, flickr, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Unicycle jugglers entertain the crowd in the Cathedral Close. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Winchester hosts one of the UK’s largest farmers’ markets, with about 100 stalls of fresh locally grown produce.

The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The market at Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

During the Christmas holiday season, hundreds of children holding paper lanterns process along the High Street to the Cathedral Close to mark the opening of the Christmas Market and Ice Rink.

The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Christmas lantern Parade at Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

9. Walking, Cycling, and Surrounding Countryside

Whether you’re working off a big evening meal with a pleasant stroll or engaged in a more active pursuit, Winchester’s walks are a delight for the senses.

From the City centre, there is a lovely 20-minute walk along the riverside footpath to the ancient Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse.

The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
The Water Meadows riverside walk in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

How much more enjoyable does it get to soak up Winchester’s sights than on a bicycle made for two?

A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
A couple cycle past Winchester Cathedral on a bicycle made for two. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire’s countryside, towns, and villages are some of the prettiest in Britain, with fields of green and bright yellow stretching for miles.

An ancient Roman road that is now a footpath will take you on an adventure from Winchester Cathedral to Salisbury Cathedral—this is “Pillars of the Earth” country.

Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
Canola (rapeseed) crop near Winchester. Credit, Neil Howard
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
The Duckpond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

Hampshire is one of the best counties to see gorgeous thatched cottages.

Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Thatched cottage in Easton near Winchester. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cottage by the village pond at Crawley, near Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Road through the Crab Wood, near Winchester, UK. Credit Neil Howard, flickr

10. Cafes, Pubs, and Restaurants

Winchester boasts some of the oldest pubs in Britain.

From debating the best way to grow prize roses to who will win the county cricket championships, there’s not much beats a glass of wine al fresco.

Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Time to talk over a glass of wine at La Place Bistro. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Winchester Pubs
Winchester Pubs

Delightful pubs and restaurants abound in Winchester.

Whether you’re looking for a delicious lunch at the Chesil Rectory—Winchester’s oldest house—or something French for evening upscale dining at the Hotel du Vin, Winchester is sure to be one of your best and favorite memories.

Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Chesil Rectory is the oldest building in Winchester. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin
Hotel du Vin, Winchester. Image credit Hotel du Vin

10 Reasons to Love Oxford—the City of Dreaming Spires

One of the most famous university cities in the world, Oxford is steeped in history, with beautiful honey-coloured college buildings dotted throughout the city.

Wander the cobbled streets and peaceful courtyards and admire the famed spires reaching to the heavens as you contemplate the enormous wealth of human talent Oxford has given the world over the centuries.

Here are 10 of our favorite things to love about Oxford.

1. The “City of Dreaming Spires”

So beautiful were the views of Oxford from nearby Boar’s Hill that 19th-century poet Matthew Arnold was inspired to write a poem called Thyrsis in memory of his close friend and fellow poet Arthur Hugh Clough who lived in the city of dreaming spires.

And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening
Matthew Arnold
The Dreaming Spires of Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
The Dreaming Spires of Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson

At 240 lines, Thyrsis is a long poem. Here are the first six stanzas.

View of Oxford by William Turner of Oxford, 1820
View of Oxford by William Turner of Oxford, 1820

Today, those spires are best appreciated from atop St. Mary’s Church or Carfax Towers in the city center, or from South Park.

Oxford from Carfax Tower. Credit chensiyuan
Oxford from Carfax Tower. Credit chensiyuan
Oxford spires from South Park.. Credit anataman
Oxford spires from South Park.. Credit anataman
View of Oxford spire at night. Credit Meraj Chhaya
View of Oxford spires at night. Credit Meraj Chhaya

2. History

On this spot, where the Folly Bridge crosses the River Thames, basking in the golden glow of the evening sunlight, there was once a ford.

It was no ordinary ford. It was a ford to be crossed with a valuable cargo of oxen—”Oxnaforda” in Anglo-Saxon, from which Oxford derives its name.

Oxen were the haulage lorries (trucks) of the Middle Ages, used for hauling carts and wagons and also for ploughing.

Folly Bridge over the Thames. Credit Scott D. Haddow
Folly Bridge over the Thames. Credit Scott D. Haddow

They were a form of wealth comparable to money, and Oxford might have been a major crossing point on a cattle “drove road”, along which they were driven for long distances.

Another theory about the origins of Oxford’s name is that “Ox” derives from the Celtic word for river.

Either way, for history buffs, Oxford will not disappoint since centuries past remain to explore and enjoy.

High Street, Oxford by Thomas Malton the Younger, 1799
High Street, Oxford by Thomas Malton the Younger, 1799

It’s nice to know that in this world of change, some things don’t change.

The carriages may be different, the people dressed differently, but Oxford High Street looks the same now as it did at the end of the 18th century.

And that’s reassuring—some things are worth preserving.

High Street, Oxford. Old and new
High Street, Oxford. Old and new
High Street, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
High Street, Oxford. Credit David Iliff

3. University of Oxford

Evidence of teaching at Oxford dates as far back as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Banned from attending the University of Paris by King Henry II, students flocked to Oxford instead and the university grew rapidly from 1167.

But in 1209, disputes between students and townspeople led some faculty to move north-east and establish Cambridge University.

The two universities became known as “Oxbridge” and are frequently cited in the top five in world rankings, with Oxford currently rated #1 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017.

Aerial view of Oxford. Credit Chensiyuan
Aerial view of Oxford. Credit Chensiyuan

Oxford University has 38 constituent colleges and has educated many notable alumni, including 28 Nobel laureates, 27 British Prime Ministers, and many other heads of state.

Christ Church alone has produced 13 British Prime Minsters—more than any other Oxbridge college.

Christ Church College, Oxford
Christ Church College, Oxford

Known as the Bridge of Sighs because of its supposed similarity to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Hertford Bridge is, however, closer in appearance to the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

Built as a skyway over New College Lane, the “Bridge of Sighs” joins two parts of Hertford College and has become a city landmark.

The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
Lincoln College, Oxford. Credit Caro Wallis, flickr
Lincoln College, Oxford. Credit Caro Wallis, flickr
St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Credit simononly
St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Credit simononly

All Souls College was founded in 1438 and is unique in having only Fellows as members of the college, and no undergraduates.

All Souls College features a magnificent quadrangle, with striking twin towers designed in the 1720s by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the Gothic style to harmonise with the medieval college chapel.

All Souls College, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson
All Souls College, Oxford. Credit Baz Richardson

There are lots of old doors like this one all over Oxford and one thing is for certain: there’s a lot of scholarly things going on behind each one.

Schola Linguarum. Credit Caro Wallis, flickr

4. Architecture

Demonstrating noteworthy examples of every English architectural period since the late 11th century, the historic buildings in Oxford make it an ideal location for film and TV crews.

Occupied by the Carfax Tobacco Company and a branch of Lloyds Bank since first opening in 1901, the ornate Rennaissance Revival building marks the start of Oxford High Street.

Lloyds TSB Bank Building, Oxford. Credit Ozeye
Lloyds TSB Bank Building, Oxford. Credit Ozeye

Further down the adjacent Cornmarket Street on the corner of Ship Street is a 14th-century timber-framed building originally built as the New Inn and now owned by Jesus College, which restored it in 1983.

Jesus college was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571.

14th-century timber-framed building in Cornmarket Street, Oxford.
14th-century timber-framed building in Cornmarket Street, Oxford.

The Sheldonian Theatre was built for the University of Oxford between 1664 and 1669 after a design by Sir Christopher Wren who also designed and built St Paul’s Cathedral.

A City Sightseeing Oxford tour bus sets down passengers in Broad Street, Oxford, between the Clarendon Building on the left and the Sheldonian Theatre on the right. Credit Martin Addison
A City Sightseeing Oxford tour bus sets down passengers in Broad Street, Oxford, between the Clarendon Building on the left and the Sheldonian Theatre on the right. Credit Martin Addison

Named after Gilbert Sheldon, chancellor of the University from 1667 – 1669 and the project’s main financial backer, it is used for music concerts, lectures and University ceremonies.

But since 2015 has it also been used for drama, with the Christ Church Dramatic Society staging a production of The Crucible.

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford - interior. Credit Baz Richardson
Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford – interior. Credit Baz Richardson

5. Museums

Established in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum was the world’s first university museum and is the oldest museum in the United Kingdom.

Originally housing a “cabinet of curiosities” give to the University of Oxford in 1677, it now holds significant art and archeology works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, and Picasso, as well as treasures such as the Scorpion Macehead, Parian Marble, the Alfred Jewel, and “The Messiah” Stradivarius violin—regarded by many as the world’s finest.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Credit Sarah Casey
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Credit Sarah Casey

Housed in a large neo-Gothic building in Oxford University’s Science Area, the University Museum of Natural History boasts skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, and the most complete remains of a dodo found anywhere in the world.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Credit Geni
Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Credit Geni
Velociraptor at Oxford's Natural History Museum. Credit IntoTh3Rainbow
Velociraptor at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. Credit IntoTh3Rainbow

Founded in 1884, the Pitt Rivers Museum contains over 500,000 items from the University’s archaeological and anthropological collections.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Credit Geni
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Credit Geni

6. Cafes, Pubs, and Restaurants

According to the famous 17th-century politician and diarist Samuel Pepys, the first English coffee house was established on the precise site of the Grand Café on Oxford’s High Street in 1650.

This is where some of the great luminaries of the Enlightenment would meet to exchange ideas, acting as a supplementary sphere to the university.

Grand Café, Oxford
Grand Café, Oxford

The absence of alcohol created an atmosphere more conducive to serious conversation than an alehouse.

Coffeehouses also played an important role in the development of financial markets and newspapers, and political groups frequently used them as meeting places.

The Grand Café. Credit Meraj Chhaya, flickr
The Grand Café. Credit Meraj Chhaya, flickr

Oxford’s pubs overflow with enough character and atmosphere to stimulate the minds of some of the best fiction writers of all time.

Meeting here every Tuesday morning between 1939 and 1962, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and other friends, popularly known as the “Inklings” would drink beer and discuss the books they were writing.

The Eagle and Child pub, Oxford
The Eagle and Child pub, Oxford

The Head of the River Pub is adjacent to Folly Bridge which crosses the River Thames at the point of the ancient ford for which Oxford is named.

The Head of the River Pub and Restaurant. Credit David Iliff
The Head of the River Pub and Restaurant. Credit David Iliff

For light refreshment, why not try Gee’s Restaurant and bar, serving a uniquely rustic, Mediterranean dining experience set in an iconic Glasshouse.

Gee's Restaurant. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Gee’s Restaurant. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

7. Religious Buildings

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin is the centre from which the University of Oxford grew.

With an eccentric baroque porch, designed by Nicholas Stone, its spire is claimed by some church historians to be one of the most beautiful in England.

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin. Credit Diliff
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin. Credit Diliff

Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and constructed in 1854–60, the chapel at Exeter College, Oxford, was heavily inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Exeter College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Exeter College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Keble College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Keble College Chapel, Oxford. Credit David Iliff
The interior of the chapel of Worcester College, Oxford, England. Credit Diliff
The interior of the chapel of Worcester College, Oxford, England. Credit Diliff

8. Footpaths, Waterways, and Cycle Lanes

Oxford has 28 nature reserves within or just outside the city ring road, making it one of Britain greenest cities.

Whether you prefer a leisurely walk along one of Oxford’s many footpaths, a relaxing punt ride down the river, or an invigorating cycle ride, Oxford is a magical place for all.

An evening walk, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
An evening walk, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
Christ Church Meadow Walk, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster
Christ Church Meadow Walk, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster
Punting on the River Cherwell, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
Punting on the River Cherwell, Oxford. Credit Meraj Chhaya
Masters Garden, Christ Church College, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster
Masters Garden, Christ Church College, Oxford. Credit Ed Webster

While away the hours in the peace and tranquility of Oxford’s Botanic Gardens.

Oxford Botanic Garden. Credit JR P, flickr
Oxford Botanic Garden. Credit JR P, flickr

Oxford is second only to Cambridge in the popularity of cycling.

22% of Oxford’s residents ride three or more times per week.

Cycling in Oxford. Credit Tejvan Pettinger, flickr
Cycling in Oxford. Credit Tejvan Pettinger, flickr

9. Books, Books, and more Books

The University of Oxford maintains the largest university library system in the UK.

With over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles (190 km) of shelving, the Bodleian group is the second-largest library in the UK, after the British Library.

Entitled to a free copy of every book published in the UK, the Bodleian is growing its collection at a rate of over three miles (five kilometres) of shelving every year.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the Old Bodleian Library to see inside its historic rooms, including the 15th-century Divinity School, medieval Duke Humfrey’s Library, and the Radcliffe Camera.

Duke Humphrey's Library, the oldest reading room of the Bodleian Library in the University of Oxford. Credit David Iliff
Duke Humphrey’s Library, the oldest reading room of the Bodleian Library in the University of Oxford. Credit David Iliff

Designed by James Gibbs in the neo-classical style and built in 1737–49, the Radcliffe Camera (Camera, meaning “room” in Latin; colloquially, “Rad Cam” or “The Camera”) was built to house the Radcliffe Science Library.

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Christopher Michel
Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Credit Christopher Michel
Radcliffe Camera interior. Credit Stickinho
Radcliffe Camera interior. Credit Stickinho

Book lovers, be warned—you might be here a long time.

Blackwell’s Bookshop has the largest single room devoted to book sales in the whole of Europe—the cavernous 10,000 sq ft Norrington Room.

Norrington Room, Blackwell's Bookshop, Oxford
Norrington Room, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford

10. Literature and Film

Oxford was mentioned in fiction as early as 1400 when Chaucer referred to a “Clerk of Oxenford” in his Canterbury Tales.

Oxford University’s hallowed halls have been a source of inspiration for several authors of classic children’s literature.

It was July of 1862 and a slightly eccentric young man named Charles Dodgson rowed up the river Thames with a colleague and the three daughters of the Dean of Christ Church college where Dodgson taught mathematics.

Better known today as Lewis Carroll, the young man told a story to keep the children amused during the five-mile journey to Godstow.

Star of the adventure was Alice Liddell, the ten-year-old middle sister, who, as Dodgson began, had followed a rabbit down a hole.

Alice in Wonderland illustrations by John Tenniel, 1890
Alice in Wonderland illustrations by John Tenniel, 1890

Much inspiration for Dodgson’s story came from Christ Church.

The long-necked “firedogs” that held the logs in the fireplace gave him the idea for Alice’s neck to stretch.

When Alice Liddell’s father, the dean, descended a narrow spiral staircase, it reminded him of a rabbit disappearing down a hole.

And a cat perched on a mulberry tree outside the library was the inspiration for the Cheshire cat.

Studying English Literature at Oxford University when World War One broke out,  J. R. R. Tolkien finished his degree before enlisting in the Oxford University Officer’s Training Corps.

Stretcher bearers struggle in mud up to their knees to carry a wounded man to safety
Stretcher bearers struggle in mud up to their knees to carry a wounded man to safety

It was the experience at the Battle of the Somme, where one million men were wounded or killed, that helped him describe the evil barren landscape crossed by the hobbits on their way to Mordor.

Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails on the lands about.J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Christ Church college’s dining hall was used in the filming of the movies of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series

Christ Church College Dining Hall, Oxford. Featured in the Harry Potter movies
Christ Church College Dining Hall, Oxford. Featured in the Harry Potter movies

The “Inspector Morse” and “Lewis” TV series were both set in Oxford as were “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh and the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman.

Stowe House, Buckinghamshire

Can you imagine going to school here?

That’s a reality for 770 lucky children aged between 13 and 18.

Once a country home of the landed gentry, Stowe House is now a private school in the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside.

It may not teach witchcraft and wizardry like Hogwarts, but it certainly is a magical place nonetheless.

Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

A New Vision for Education

Founded in 1923, Stowe School’s first Headmaster J.F. Roxburgh said that Stowe focused on the individual, instilling an ethos of liberal learning enthused with beautiful surroundings so that every pupil would know beauty when they saw it throughout their whole lives.

Roxburgh wanted pupils and staff to relate in a civilized and open way, addressing each pupil by their first name, and instilling confidence and respect based on Christian values.

Stowe House with students' artwork on display. Credit Karen Mallonee, flickr
Stowe House with students’ artwork on display. Credit Karen Mallonee, flickr

Did it work?

Well, consider that by 1939, nearly 60% of pupils went on to Oxford or Cambridge Universities—higher than any other private school in Britain.

And what did Stowe’s schooling methods do for pupils’ career prospects you may wonder.

Stowe School Dining Hall. Credit Karen Mallonee, flickr
Stowe School Dining Hall. Credit Karen Mallonee, flickr

Known as Old Stoics, former pupils of Stowe include: multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; Baron John Sainsbury, the President of J Sainsbury’s, Britain’s second largest supermarket; Dalton Philips, CEO of Morrisons, the fourth largest supermarket in Britain; Baron Alistair McAlpine, treasurer for Margaret Thatcher’s government, founder of his own publishing company, and director of the McAlpine construction business at age 21; David Niven, actor and novelist who won an Academy Award for Best Actor; and Baron Michael Grade, TV executive for the BBC and ITV, and life peer in the House of Lords.

Stowe House and Lake, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe House and Lake, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

The Greatest Debtor in the world

Originally owned by Sir George Gifford, Knight and Member of Parliament, Stowe House was later leased to English politician Sir Peter Temple who also served as High Sheriff of Buckingham (1592 – 1653).

Sir Peter’s son, John Temple, bought Stowe House in 1589 and it stayed in the Temple family until it was acquired by the governors of Stowe school in 1922.

Stowe House - Marble Saloon. Credit Karen Mallonee, flickr
Stowe House – Marble Saloon. Credit Karen Mallonee, flickr

The Temple family name became somewhat extended to Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville by a succession of marriages to wealthy heiresses.

And not all Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenvilles were good at managing their finances.

Stowe House interior. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe House interior. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos managed to rack up debts of almost £1.5m—equivalent to about $170m today.

Called the “Greatest Debtor in the world”, the dashing rogue—imagine Jane Austen’s Mr Wickham having Mr Darcy’s fortune and squandering it all—had to flee the country in 1847 to escape his creditors, who were forced to sell the family silver, literally and figuratively.

Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos by John Jackson, 1830
Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos by John Jackson, 1830

Besides the family’s London home of Buckingham House on Pall Mall, the family estates in Ireland, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Cornwall, Oxfordshire, and Northamptonshire were sold.

How many estates does one family need you may wonder?

Then there were paintings and other works of art, 21,000 bottles of wine, and 500 bottles of hard liquor.

Reduced to the bare bones of “just” 10,000 acres, the estate of Stowe House even had to cut gardening staff from 40 to 4.

This was austerity on steroids, and yet the Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenvilles were still wealthier than most people are today.

Stowe House viewed from the Corinthian Arch. Credit Jason Ballard, flickr
Stowe House viewed from the Corinthian Arch. Credit Jason Ballard, flickr

The Medici Lions

Dating from the late 1700s, the Medici lions stand proudly guarding the main entrance of Stowe House.

Commissioned by Ferdinando I de’Medici, they were originally created for the Villa Medici in Rome and purchased by Richard Temple for Stowe House.

Sculpted by John Cheere, an English sculptor specializing in lead statues for gardens, they were originally painted a golden yellow to match the limestone of Stowe’s buildings.

Stowe House Medici Lion sculpture. Credit Baz Richardson
Stowe House Medici Lion sculpture. Credit Baz Richardson
Stowe House Medici Lion sculpture. Credit Baz Richardson
Stowe House Medici Lion sculpture. Credit Baz Richardson

Stowe has one of the largest concentrations of grade I listed buildings in England.

Here are some examples of these beautiful buildings and structures that adorn Stowe Gardens.

Placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, there are three types of listed status in England and Wales:

Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest.
Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them

The Palladian Bridge

Designed to mimic the bridge at Wilton House in Wiltshire, the Palladian Bridge at Stowe is lower, with shallow ramps to allow horse-drawn carriages to cross as they ferried visitors on a tour of the grounds.

Flanked by pedimented pavilions with attached columns framing semi-circular arches, three of the five supporting arches have carved keystones.

Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe House, Buckinghamshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe - view from the Palladian bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe – view from the Palladian bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

The Temple of British Worthies

Built to honour eight of the greatest Britons known for their actions and deeds, and eight for their thoughts and ideas, this curving stone wall has six busts either side of a central pier.

Two further busts are at either end and two more on the rear.

Stowe Gardens - Temple of British Worthies. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe Gardens – Temple of British Worthies. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Influenced by the Whig politics of the Temple family, the 16 “British Worthies” are:

Sir Isaac Newton—English mathematician, astronomer, and physicist widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and a key figure in the scientific revolution.
Sir Walter Raleigh—English landed gentleman, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy and explorer, known for popularising tobacco in England.
John Locke— English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the “Father of Liberalism”.
John Hampden—English politician who was one of the leading parliamentarians involved in challenging the authority of Charles I of England in the run-up to the English Civil War. He became a national figure when he stood trial in 1637 for his refusal to be taxed for ship money.
Sir Francis Drake—English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Drake carried out the second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition.
King William III—widely known as William of Orange (a feudal state in Provence, in the south of modern-day France), he was chief magistrate of several Dutch provinces, and King of England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1689—1702.
Queen Elizabeth I—Queen of England and Ireland from 1558—1603. Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the Elizabethan era was a period of flourishing English playwrights and seafaring adventurers.
The Black Prince—the eldest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, and the father of King Richard II of England. His exceptional military leadership and victories over the French at the Battles of Crécy and Poitiers made him very popular in England during his lifetime.

The British Worthies top row: Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Locke, John Hampden; 2nd row: Sir Francis Drake, King William III, Queen Elizabeth I, The Black Prince; 3rd row: King Alfred, Sir Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare, John Milton; 4th row: Alexander Pope, Sir Thomas Gresham, Inigo Jones, Sir John Barnard
The British Worthies top row: Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Locke, John Hampden; 2nd row: Sir Francis Drake, King William III, Queen Elizabeth I, The Black Prince; 3rd row: King Alfred, Sir Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare, John Milton; 4th row: Alexander Pope, Sir Thomas Gresham, Inigo Jones, Sir John Barnard

King Alfred—King of Wessex, the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 871 to 899.
Sir Francis Bacon—English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author. Called the father of empiricism, his works argued for the possibility of scientific knowledge based only upon inductive reasoning and careful observation of events in nature.
William Shakespeare—English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet, and the “Bard of Avon”.
John Milton—English poet, polemicist, man of letters, and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. Best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost, he wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval.
Alexander Pope—English poet best known for his satirical verse, his translation of Homer, and his use of the heroic couplet—a traditional form for English poetry.
Sir Thomas Gresham—English merchant and financier who founded the Royal Exchange in the City of London and acted on behalf of King Edward VI and queens Mary I and Elizabeth I.
Inigo Jones—English architect and first to employ Vitruvian rules of proportion and symmetry in his buildings, prompting the rebirth of Classical architecture during the Renaissance.
Sir John Barnard— British Whig politician and Lord Mayor of London. Whig politics was central to the beliefs of the Temple family, with its origin lying in opposition to absolute monarchy and support for the constitutional monarchy we still enjoy today.

The Rotondo

Designed by the English architect Sir John Vanbrugh (best known for his work on Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard), the circular temple of ten unfluted Roman columns is raised on a podium of three steps.

The Rotondo in Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson
The Rotondo in Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson

Standing at its centre on a tall decorated plinth is a gilt statue of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory.

Venus in the Rotondo at Stowe House. Credit Martin Pettitt

Landscaped Gardens

Stowe is said to be the first English garden for which a guidebook was written.

Evolving from an English Baroque garden influenced by Versailles into a landscaped park blending with the natural contours of the terrain and allowing nature to dominate manmade structures.

Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Stowe Gardens were the largest and most elaborate example of an “English Garden” in Europe.

Among the outstanding designers and architects who worked on the gardens during the 18th century was Lancelot Brown, remembered as “England’s greatest gardener” and more commonly known as Capability Brown because he would say to clients that their gardens had “capability” for improvement.

In Brown’s hands the house, which before had dominated the estate, became an integral part of a carefully composed landscape intended to be seen through the eye of a painter, and its design could not be divorced from that of the gardenHoward Colvin, British Architectural Historian.
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, by Nathaniel Dance
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, by Nathaniel Dance

Despite celebrating British imperial conquest and artistic achievement, the 18th-century designers of Stowe Gardens sent future generations a cautionary warning.

That although the great nation of Britain liked to emulate the ancients, it was important to remain humble, and to remind ourselves that all manmade monuments eventually succumb to the mighty forces of nature.

Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson
Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson
Seat with a View at Stowe Gardens, Buckingham. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Seat with a View at Stowe Gardens, Buckingham. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The path less traveled on the wilder side of Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The path less traveled on the wilder side of Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe Gardens. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stowe Gardens by Scott Barrett on 500px.com
Stowe Gardens by Scott Barrett on 500px.com

7 Reasons to Fall in Love with Britain’s Beautiful Canals

Everyone deserves a place to escape.

And that’s exactly what Britain’s canals provide with their idyllic tranquility, natural beauty, and over two hundred years of history.

Whether you’re boating, walking, cycling, or fishing, Britain’s canal network will delight and surprise at every turn.

Here are 7 reasons to fall in love with Britain’s canals.

1. The fascinating history

Although the first canals were built by the Romans for irrigation and land drainage, the canal network we know and love today is largely a product of Britain’s industrial heritage.

As the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution, Britain needed a more efficient “mass transit” system to bring raw materials to factories and take finished goods to coastal ports for export.

And so Britain became the first country to build a nationwide canal network.

Horse-drawn narrowboats with a towpath alongside for the horse to walk along were standardized across the British canal network.

A horse drawn narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon canal at Kintbury in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
A horse drawn narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon canal at Kintbury in Wiltshire. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Before the canals, transport of goods was mainly via coastal shipping and horses & carts struggling along mostly unsurfaced mud roads.

A Beached Collier Unloading into Carts by Julius Caesar Ibbetson - circa 1790
A Beached Collier Unloading into Carts by Julius Caesar Ibbetson – circa 1790
Landscape with Cart Crossing a River by Lucas van Uden
Landscape with Cart Crossing a River by Lucas van Uden

What do afternoon tea and canals have in common?

If you were running a pottery factory like Josiah Wedgwood (1730 – 1795), making fine china tea sets for export all over the world, the method you used for transporting such fragile and expensive goods was very important.

Gliding along the water had advantages over the jarring, bumpy ride of packhorses or horse drawn carts, not to mention the sheer weight of goods carried by barge making the economics much more favorable.

Unsurprisingly then, the pottery manufacturers of Staffordshire were amongst the first promoters of canals.

Tea and coffee service. Made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory 1775
Tea and coffee service. Made at Josiah Wedgwood’s factory 1775

Often called the “Golden Age” of British canals, the period from 1770 – 1830 saw rapid industrialisation of the Midlands and the North of England.

But from about 1840, a new type of network was being built—one that threatened the canals and would lead to their eventual demise: the railways.

Fortunately, after a long period of neglect, Britain’s canals were renovated and returned to their former glory—this time as byways for leisure craft on lazy Sunday afternoons or as relaxing canal cruise vacations.

2. The prettiest boats you ever saw

Economic and engineering constraints of the 18th century kept canals narrow, with many locks built to just 7 ft 6 in wide.

This narrow gauge limited the beam (width) of the boats, which became known as narrowboats.

Narrowboats at Huddlesford Canal. Credit donald judge
Narrowboats at Huddlesford Canal. Credit donald judge

Competition from the railways forced boat operators to live on board, converting the rear portion into ingenious tiny living spaces complete with hot stove, steaming kettle, brightly painted decorations, fancy lace, and polished brass.

Brightly coloured historic narrowboats at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett
Brightly coloured historic narrowboats at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett

By the late Victorian era, it was common to paint roses and castles on the narrow boats and their fixtures and fittings.

Traditional boatman's cabin interrior. Credit Keith Lodge
Traditional boatman’s cabin interrior. Credit Keith Lodge
A Buckby Can on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett
A Buckby Can on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit David Merrett

To this day, owners still personalize their narrowboats with their own unique touches.

Narrowboats at the Paddington branch of the Grand Union Canal
Narrowboats at the Paddington branch of the Grand Union Canal
Teapots and chimney pots. Credit donald judge
Teapots and chimney pots. Credit donald judge

3. The freedom to move about the country

Navigable in its entirety in a narrowboat of 7 ft wide by about 56 ft long is a network of some 2,200 miles of inland waterways just beckoning to be explored.

Narrowboating transports us back to a time without road rage when travelling at 4 mph was considered hurried.

Once the highways of the 18th century, the canals are now corridors of green best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

Backwater at Bedford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Backwater at Bedford. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cruising the peaceful waterways
Cruising the peaceful waterways
Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett, Surrey. Credit Zixi
Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett, Surrey. Credit Zixi
Entering the lock at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Entering the lock at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Opening the lock gates at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson
Opening the lock gates at Braunston, Northamptonshire. Credit Baz Richardson

4. The spellbinding Victorian ingenuity

As the Industrial Revolution took hold at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, the technology allowed canals to be improved.

Early canals contoured round hills and valleys, whereas later ones went straighter.

Locks took canals up and down gradients, aqueducts spanned valleys, and tunnels went directly through hills.

Caen Hill Locks, Devizes, Wiltshire. Credit BazViv
Caen Hill Locks, Devizes, Wiltshire. Credit BazViv
Bingley Five Rise Locks. Credit Michael Spiller
Bingley Five Rise Locks. Credit Michael Spiller

At 1000 ft long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal spans the River Dee Valley in Wales and is Britain’s longest aqueduct.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales. Credit Akke Monasso
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales. Credit Akke Monasso

The 18-arch stone and cast iron structure took ten years to build.

Opening in 1805, it is the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest in the world.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales

With its 52-foot span, the Engine Arm Aqueduct near Smethwick in the West Midlands is much smaller, but its ornate cast-iron Gothic arches and columns make a splendid sight nonetheless.

The Engine Arm Aqueduct. Credit Oosoom
The Engine Arm Aqueduct. Credit Oosoom

Over three miles long, the longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain is the Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in Northern England.

Entrance to Standedge Tunnel, Marsden, West Yorkshire. Credit 54north
Entrance to Standedge Tunnel, Marsden, West Yorkshire. Credit 54north

Since March 30th 2009, boats have been allowed to pass through Standedge Tunnel under their own power accompanied by a trained “chaperone” from the Canal & River Trust.

Built without a towpath, before motorized boats the only way to get through the tunnel was by “legging” it.

Lying on a plank across the bows of the boat, and holding the plank with their hands, two people would propel the boat with their feet against the tunnel wall.

It was dangerous work, leading to many deaths for the “leggers” until safety was improved.

The horse would take a well-earned break and be led over the hill.

Inside Standedge canal tunnel. Credit G-13114
Inside Standedge canal tunnel. Credit G-13114
One of Birmingham's myrida canals

5. The countryside and nature surround you

Britain’s canal network passes through not only historic cities and pretty towns and villages, but also the magnificent open countryside.

Caen Hill Locks from 400 feet - Looking down from Bath Road Bridge. Credit Rmckenzi
Caen Hill Locks from 400 feet – Looking down from Bath Road Bridge. Credit Rmckenzi
River Stour, Worcestershire
River Stour, Worcestershire
The Lancaster Canal, Borwick, Lancashire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Lancaster Canal, Borwick, Lancashire. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Tavistock Canal, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Tavistock Canal, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

You’re guaranteed to see some stunning wildlife on a daily basis in and around the canals.

If you don’t spot the brightly coloured Kingfisher perched on the canalside, you’ll almost certainly see one darting across the water as a characteristic “blue streak”.

Kingfisher. Credit Andreas Trepte
Kingfisher. Credit Andreas Trepte

And you’re bound to see one of these guys—a Grey Heron—the patient fisherman, waiting motionless for the right moment to wade in the shallows and show us what a master angler can really do.

Heron. Credit Gunnar Ries
Heron. Credit Gunnar Ries
Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Rodley. Credit Tim Green
Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Rodley. Credit Tim Green

6. The city’s never far away

Passing along the Grand Union and Regent’s canals, to the Docklands and Limehouse Basin, the London Ring lets you travel around London by narrowboat through Little Venice, Regent’s Park, London Zoo, Camden Lock, Kings Cross, Islington and Victoria Park.

Sunset over the Regent's Canal in Camden, London. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Sunset over the Regent’s Canal in Camden, London. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Reading. Credit Yiannis Theologos Michellis, flickr
Reading. Credit Yiannis Theologos Michellis, flickr
Bridgewater Canal basin near Castlefield, Manchester. Credit Smabs Sputzer
Bridgewater Canal basin near Castlefield, Manchester. Credit Smabs Sputzer

Birmingham has more canals than Venice.

Extending to just over 100 miles, the Birmingham Canal Navigations include two long tunnels and several aqueducts.

Narrowboat negotiating the Broad St. Tunnel, Birmingham. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Narrowboat negotiating the Broad St. Tunnel, Birmingham. Credit Neil Howard, flickr
Bridgewater Canal at Worsley, Greater Manchester. Credit Poliphilo
Bridgewater Canal at Worsley, Greater Manchester. Credit Poliphilo

7. There’s a vibrant community of enthusiasts

Escape into the country for some much-needed peace and tranquility or socialize with the big network of canal enthusiasts—it’s up to you.

Britain’s canal community is growing by leaps and bounds.

According to the Residential Boat Owners Association, as many as 15,000 people call Britain’s waterways home.

Citing freedom, economic advantages, a strong sense of community, and a closeness with nature as reasons for making their home on the water, many “liveaboards” can’t imagine returning to a life on land.

Dining al fresco with boating friends. Credit donald judge
Dining al fresco with boating friends. Credit Donald Judge
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr
A Boating Community.. Credit donald judge
A Boating Community.. Credit donald judge
Skipton May Boat Festival. Credit Ronhjones
Skipton May Boat Festival. Credit Ronhjones
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr 2
Huddlesford Canal Gathering, Lichfield. Credit Donald Judge, flickr

York Minster – the Magnificent Medieval Cathedral of Northern England

The Largest Gothic Cathedral in Britain

In 1215, Archbishop of York, Walter de Gray ordered the construction of a Gothic structure for the north of England to rival Canterbury Cathedral in the south.

Gothic style was about soaring to the sky, and therefore Heaven, with pointed arches, lots of light and ornamentation.

Instead of starting from scratch, the new Gothic form was built on and around the existing Norman Minster dating from 1080—the foundations of which can be seen today.

Declared complete and consecrated in 1472, York Minster has survived wars, plague, political upheaval, structural crisis, and local rebellion … and lived to tell the tale.

South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell
South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell

To this day, the most significant building rising above York is the 800-year-old medieval Minster.

York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski

The term “minster” is given to churches established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches. Today, it’s used as an honorific title.

York Minster. Credit Saste
York Minster. Credit Saste

Developed during the Gothic period (12th—16th c.), “flying buttresses” were arched structures used to support the walls of medieval cathedrals.

York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged
York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged

The Largest Expanse of Medieval Stained Glass in the World

When it comes to stained glass, York Minster is in a class of its own, with some of the finest examples of medieval stained glass in the world, dating as far back as the 12th century.

Completed in 1408, the Great East Window in the Lady Chapel is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.

The size of a tennis court, the Great East Window was created between 1405 and 1408 by master glazier John Thornton and shows intricately detailed scenes from the book of Genesis.

The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr
The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr

In the below detail, Saint John (bottom left) is instructed by an angel to write down what he saw in his vision and send it to the seven churches of Asia.

John Thornton’s clever design combines all seven churches into one image, each represented by an archbishop standing in a shrine-like building.

The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott
The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott

Commemorating the union of the royal houses of York and Lancaster following the Wars of the Roses, the Rose Window in the south transept dates from about 1500.

The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett

The Five Sisters Window in York Minster’s North Transept is the only memorial in the country to women of the British Empire who lost their lives during the First World War. Each lancet is over 52 feet (16 m) high.

Dating from the mid-1200s, the window was removed during the First World War to protect it during German Zeppelin raids.

The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12
The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12

The Great West Window contains a heart-shaped design colloquially known as ‘The Heart of Yorkshire’.

Built between 1338 and 1339, it shows the hierarchy of the Church as you look up the window.

At the base level are eight Archbishops of York, with their Apostles above, followed by panels showing the life of Christ and the Virgin—the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, and Ascension. The top panels show Mary sitting beside Christ in Heaven.

The window is known as ‘the heart of Yorkshire’ due to the shape of its upper stonework.

The west window. Credit David Iliff
The west window. Credit David Iliff

The Widest Gothic Nave in England

York Minster’s nave is the widest Gothic nave in England and has a wooden roof (painted so as to appear like stone) and the aisles have vaulted stone roofs.

The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff

The Chapter House

Windows cover almost all of the upper wall space of the highly decorated Chapter House, filling it with light.

Innovative design and a light wooden roof meant that the buttressed walls could support the ceiling without the need for a central column, creating a beautiful open space.

The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff

Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House

Grotesques

Grotesques are fantastical or mythical figures used for decorative purposes. Gargoyles are forms of grotesque that include a drainage spout to help prevent heavy rainwater running down the face of the building.

York Minster is covered with grotesques inside and out.

York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff

Current stonemasons working on the finishing touches of the York Minster restoration have carved sometimes amusing grotesques doing unusual things.

This chap will eventually be baring his derriere to all and sundry from a lofty position above the city, affixed to York Minster.

The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell
The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell

The 11-ton Great Peter Bell

The clock bells ring every quarter of an hour during the daytime and Great Peter strikes the hour.

York Minster. Credit Manuamador
York Minster. Credit Manuamador

Great Peter is the name of the northwest tower’s bell, weighing in at almost 11 tons. The six other bells that ring every quarter of an hour weigh 3 tons each.

Before Evensong each evening, hymn tunes are played on a baton keyboard connected with the bells, but occasionally anything from Beethoven to the Beatles may be heard.

York Minster's 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
York Minster’s 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff

Reformation and Restoration

The English Reformation led to the looting of much of the cathedral’s treasures and the loss of much of the church lands.

Queen Elizabeth I was determined to have all traces of Roman Catholicism removed from the cathedral. Tombs, windows, and altars were destroyed.

York Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson
Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson

During the English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1644, but York Minster was spared damage thanks to the influence of parliamentary general Thomas Fairfax.

In the 1850s services were suspended as the cathedral slumped deeply into debt.

York Minster, late 1800s
York Minster, late 1800s

To date, tens of millions of pounds have been spent on restoration work, but the results speak for themselves. York Minster will continue to reach to the skies for millennia to come.

The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft
The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft

10 Things to Love About Stratford-upon-Avon

To Be or Not to Be in Stratford-upon-Avon?

Without reservation, the answer is To Be, for Stratford-upon-Avon is not only the birthplace of Shakespeare—the greatest playwright of all time—but a beautiful medieval market town with lots to see and do.

Here are 10 of the best.

1. Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Described as “a Mecca for all lovers of literature”, this restored 16th-century half-timbered house on Henley Street is where William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and spent his formative years.

Considered a substantial dwelling for the time, it was divided into two parts: living accommodations and a separate area for Shakespeare’s father to conduct his business as glove maker and wool dealer.

Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

Over the centuries, changes were made to the original façade, and so in 1847, with the aid of luminaries like Charles Dickens, the house was purchased and restored to its original 16th-century appearance.

Shakespeare's birthplace as it appeared in 1847 in the Illustrated London News
Shakespeare’s birthplace as it appeared in 1847 in the Illustrated London News

At the back of the house, the walled garden has been specially planted with flowers and herbs known to be from Shakespeare’s time.

Rearview of Shakespeare's Birthplace. Credit Michele Walz Erikson
Rearview of Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Credit Michele Walz Erikson
Shakespeare's Birthplace (Gardens). Credit Tony Hisgett
Shakespeare’s Birthplace (Gardens). Credit Tony Hisgett
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.William Shakespeare
The view towards Henley Street from the upper floor of William Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Ozeye
The view towards Henley Street from the upper floor of William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Ozeye

2. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

About one mile west of Stratford-upon-Avon sits a beautiful 12-roomed farmhouse where Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare, spend her childhood.

Known as Hewlands Farm in the 16th century, it had more than 90 acres of land and is about three times the size of a typical cottage.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Credit Tony Hisgett
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Credit Tony Hisgett
The kitchen in Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Credit Baz Richardson
The kitchen in Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Credit Baz Richardson

3. Mary Arden’s Farm

Owned by Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Shakespeare, née Arden (c. 1537 – 1608), this working farmhouse in the village of Wilmcote, about three miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, gives visitors a good idea of what 16th-century farm living was really like.

Included in the rare animal breeds kept at the farm are Mangalitza and Tamworth pigs, Cotswold sheep, Long Horn cattle, Baggot and Golden Guernsey goats, geese, and even a Hooded Vulture.

Mary Arden's Farm, Wilmote. Credit Elliott Brown, flickr
Mary Arden’s Farm, Wilmote. Credit Elliott Brown, flickr
Mary Arden's Farm courtyard, Wilmote. Credit Nathan Reading, flickr
Mary Arden’s Farm courtyard, Wilmote. Credit Nathan Reading, flickr

4. Hall’s Croft

Housing a collection of 16th- and 17th-century paintings and furniture, Hall’s Croft was once the home of William Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna Hall, and her husband Dr John Hall.

The impressive walled garden contains plants that Dr Hall may have used in his obscure medical practices—about which there are further exhibits inside the house.

Stratford-upon-Avon. Hall's Croft - Shakespeare's daughter's house. Baz Richardson
Stratford-upon-Avon. Hall’s Croft – Shakespeare’s daughter’s house. Baz Richardson
Hall's Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Michelle Walz Eriksson
Hall’s Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Michelle Walz Eriksson

5. Holy Trinity Church

Known as the place of baptism (1564) and burial (1616) of William Shakespeare, Holy Trinity Church is Stratford-upon-Avon’s oldest building, dating from 1210.

Buried next to him are his wife Anne Hathaway and eldest daughter Susanna.

Just one month before Shakespeare’s death, his son-in-law was found guilty of fathering an illegitimate son by a woman who died in childbirth. The shame of such an incident would have brought great distress to the family and may have hastened William Shakespeare’s demise.

Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap
Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap
Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Poliphilo
Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Poliphilo
William Shakespeare's grave, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon. Credit David Jones
William Shakespeare’s grave, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon. Credit David Jones

In modern English, the inscription reads:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

6. Nash’s House and New Place

Converted into a museum that traces the history of Stratford-upon-Avon from the earliest known records, Nash’s House on Chapel Street sits next to the ruins and gardens of Shakespeare’s last residence, known as New Place.

Shakespeare died at New Place in 1616, leaving the house to his daughter, Susanna, who moved in with her husband Dr John Hall.

Nash's House, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit summonedbyfells
Nash’s House, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit summonedbyfells
Shakespeare's final home, called 'New Place'
Shakespeare’s final home, called ‘New Place’

7. Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Home to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), the recently redeveloped theatre complex sits on the banks of the River Avon and is dedicated to the life and works of William Shakespeare.

Going back to its roots, the “one-room” theatre brings actors and audience closer together, with a stage that reaches out into an audience on three sides—creating a more personal, traditional Shakespearean theatre experience.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit MylesMc
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit MylesMc
Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

The redeveloped theatre takes design inspiration from the first Victorian memorial theatre complex, with the observation tower providing the same commanding views of the River Avon and environs.

The first Shakespeare Memorial theatre complex, pictured in the 1890s
The first Shakespeare Memorial theatre complex, pictured in the 1890s

8. Walking the beautiful Tudor-lined streets

The name Stratford derives from a combination of the Old English strǣt, meaning “street”, and ford, where a road forded the river Avon.

As you walk Stratford-upon-Avon’s streets, you are immersed in the timber-framed Tudor architecture of Shakespeare’s era.

Stratford-upon-Avon High Street. summonedbyfells
Stratford-upon-Avon High Street. summonedbyfells

Until around the late 19th century, sheep from the nearby Cotswold Hills were brought to slaughter in Sheep Street.

Sheep Street, Stratfrd-upon-Avon. Credit Baz Richardson
Sheep Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Baz Richardson

One of the oldest buildings in Stratford-upon-Avon, a resident of Shrieves House on Sheep Street (below) is said to have been the inspiration for the character Sir John Falstaff—appearing in three of Shakespeare’s plays.

Military and political leader Oliver Cromwell, who beheaded King Charles I of England, is thought to have stayed here in 1651.

Shrieves House. Credit Tony Hisgett
Shrieves House. Credit Tony Hisgett
Shrieves House. Credit Elliott Brown
Shrieves House. Credit Elliott Brown

Just off Sheep Street is Shrieves walk, a very quaint walkway with several small independent stores, including a Vintage Clothing shop.

With its many al fresco cafés and street entertainers, Henley Street is a pedestrian tourist and shopping precinct.

Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Gambitek
Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon. Credit Gambitek
The Nutcracker Christmas gift shop, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap
The Nutcracker Christmas gift shop, Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Palickap

9. Sightseeing Tours

From “hop-on hop-off” open top buses, to relaxing canal and river cruises, there are lots of ways to see and experience Stratford-upon-Avon’s many delights.

Open Top Bus Tour. Credit Martin Arrand, flickr
Open Top Bus Tour. Credit Martin Arrand, flickr

Centrally located between the main shopping streets and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is Stratford Canal Basin, a bustling mooring center for Canal and River tours.

Whether you prefer a leisurely 45-minute cruise or lunch, dinner, or cream tea aboard the “Countess of Evesham” luxury restaurant cruiser, you’ll find it here, along with a large selection of snack and ice-cream vendors.

Stratford-upon-Avon canal basin. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stratford-upon-Avon canal basin. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Credit Roger Kidd
Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Credit Roger Kidd
River Cruises, Stratford-upon-Avon
River Cruises, Stratford-upon-Avon

10. Pubs, Restaurants, and Hotels

Whether you prefer cozy pubs with a fireplace or the opulence of a Victorian mansion, Stratford-upon-Avon has a wealth of options for accommodations and dining.

Garrick Inn is reputedly the oldest pub in town. Although the precise date of construction is not known, it is considered to be built in the late 16th century, with parts dating back to the 1300s.

Garrick Inn and Harvard House. Credit Tony Hisgett
Garrick Inn and Harvard House. Credit Tony Hisgett
The Windmill Inn, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Windmill Inn, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon. The Shakespeare Hotel. Credit summonedbyfells
Stratford-upon-Avon. The Shakespeare Hotel. Credit summonedbyfells
Stratford-upon-Avon, Falcon Hotel. Credit Palickap
Stratford-upon-Avon, Falcon Hotel. Credit Palickap
Falcon Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
Falcon Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Heather Cowper
Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon. Credit Heather Cowper
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew Stratford. A place of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. Alas, can it be time to leave already?
Stataue of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Stratford-upon-Avon, by Lord Ronald Gower
Statue of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Stratford-upon-Avon, by Lord Ronald Gower

10 Fascinating Facts about Windsor Castle

Noted for its architecture and long association with the royal family, Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire.
Here are 10 fascinating facts about this magnificent castle, some of which you may find surprising.

1. Windsor Castle was part of William the Conqueror’s plan to subjugate Saxon Britain

The year was 1066. William, Duke of Normandy had just accomplished the unthinkable by defeating the last Saxon king of England, Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings.

Now he could implement his strategy for conquest by building a series of castles to consolidate his power.

He marched inland, first to Dover, securing a strategic position with a motte and bailey castle, then onto London itself.

Blocking the city with three mighty castles, including the Tower of London, he sought to suppress any opposition completely.

It was his ring of nine castles, each about 25 miles apart and a day’s march from London, where our story begins.

The most impressive of these is Windsor Castle—an immense citadel rising from the banks of the River Thames as it passes through the county of Berkshire.

Windsor Castle, Sanford Robinson Gifford, c. 1860
Windsor Castle, Sanford Robinson Gifford, c. 1860
Windsor Castle at Castle Hill. Credit diamond geezer
Windsor Castle at Castle Hill. Credit diamond geezer

2. Inside the castle walls is the Mother Church to English chivalry

Considered by the historian John Martin Robinson to be “one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic”, St George’s Chapel was the creation of Edward III, founder of the Order of the Garter—the highest order of chivalry in the United Kingdom.

St. Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Aurelien Guichard
St. Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Aurelien Guichard
The Choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Josep Renalias
The Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Josep Renalias

Every June, members of the order meet at Windsor Castle for the annual Garter Service. After lunch at the State Apartments of Windsor Castle, the knights don their robes and insignia and proceed on foot down to St George’s Chapel where the service is held.

The Order of the Garter is the oldest and most senior Order of Chivalry in Britain, established by King Edward III nearly 700 years ago.

The first occasion on which all four of Queen Elizabeth's children had attended the Garter Service. Credit Philip Allfrey
Knights Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, in procession to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle for the annual service of the Order of the Garter. Credit Philip Allfrey.

Members of the Royal Family attend the Most Noble Order of the Garter Ceremony at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London on June 13, 2016. From left: Queen Elizabeth II; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

3. Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe

Used as a residence by monarchs since the reign of Henry I, the castle has undergone many changes during its long history, often at colossal expense.

“a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms”

—art historian Hugh Roberts

Born at Windsor Castle, Edward III spent lavishly on an expansion. His military victories in France at Crecy, Poitiers, and Calais helped pay for “the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England”.

Henry VIII enjoyed Windsor as a royal playground for shooting, dancing, wrestling, tennis, and even songwriting. He is purported to have spent the equivalent of £295 million in 2008 terms ($420 million) on work that included hiring Italian architect Benedetto Grazzini to convert the Lady Chapel into an Italian Renaissance design.

St George's Hall, by Charles Wild, 1816
St George’s Hall, by Charles Wild, 1816

Windsor Castle was one of Elizabeth I’s favorite residences and she spent more money on it than any of her other residences.

Charles II liked to imitate Louis XIV of France, creating “the most extravagantly Baroque interiors ever executed in England”.

“the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste”

—art historian Hugh Roberts

Another £100 million ($142 million) in 2008 terms was spent by George III on Gothic restyling work, which paled in comparison to the £817 million ($1.2 billion) in 2008 terms lavished by his son and successor George IV.

The Queen's Drawing Room, by Charles Wild, 1816
The Queen’s Drawing Room, by Charles Wild, 1816

The sumptuous State Apartments were described by the art historian Hugh Roberts as “a superb and unrivaled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste”.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor their primary home and hub for all the diplomatic and state visits of the rapidly expanding British Empire.

4. Prince Albert died at Windsor Castle in 1861

Despite ill health, Albert had taken over most of the royal duties while Victoria grieved the death of her mother.

One pressing concern was that Edward, Prince of Wales had been carrying on an affair with an Irish actress named Nellie Clifden, causing some upset in the royal household over the potential for scandal or even pregnancy.

As if that worry wasn’t enough, Prince Albert had to intervene to prevent war with the United States over the Trent Affair.

Having suffered stomach cramps for two years, Albert’s health finally gave out on the night of 14 December, 1861 in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle.

Albert, Prince Consort, on his deathbed at Windsor Castle, with members of the royal family and the royal household in attendance, 14 December 1861. Credit Wellcome Images
Albert, Prince Consort, on his deathbed at Windsor Castle, with members of the royal family and the royal household in attendance, 14 December 1861. Credit Wellcome Images

Although diagnosed as having typhoid fever, modern scholars believe his stomach cramps may have been due to a chronic disease such as abdominal cancer.

5. Queen Victoria became known as “the Widow of Windsor”

Victoria kept the castle in a state of mourning for many years, becoming known as the “Widow of Windsor”, a phrase popularized in the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling that pays tribute to the “poor beggars in red” who fought around the globe to expand her empire.

‘Ave you ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on ‘er ‘ead?
She ‘as ships on the foam—she ‘as millions at ‘ome,
An’ she pays us poor beggars in red.

Shunning Buckingham Palace after Albert’s death, Queen Victoria used Windsor Castle as her main residence for conducting official duties near London.

Despite major technological advances of the era, like electric lighting, Queen Victoria preferred candles and kept the castle famously cold and drafty.

Queen Victoria and Princess Beatrice in the Queen’s Sitting Room in 1895, photographed by Mary Steen.

Victoria’s later portraits are of a sad, stately old lady, staring into space. What was she thinking?

Perhaps, she was dreaming of a beautiful sunny day at Windsor Castle with Albert and their firstborn, Victoria, Princess Royal.

Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller, 1899
Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller, 1899
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at home at Windsor Castle byE dwin Henry Landseer, 1843
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at home at Windsor Castle by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1843

6. Inspired by Windsor Castle, the Royal Family changed their last name to Windsor in 1917

Believing that their dynastic German name of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was bad for British morale during the First World War, King George V decided to take a new name after the castle.

'A good riddance' A 1917 Punch cartoon depicts King George sweeping away his German titles
‘A good riddance’ A 1917 Punch cartoon depicts King George sweeping away his German titles

On 17 July 1917, the Royal Family lineage changed from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor.

7. Windsor Castle was a royal air-raid shelter during World War 2

While Londoners headed for the Underground railway to escape the horrors of Luftwaffe bombing in World War 2, the royal family used Windsor Castle as a refuge.

In 1939, when war with Germany was announced, Windsor Castle was readied for wartime. Security was tightened, windows were blacked-out, and staff were relocated to Windsor from Buckingham Palace.

The roof above the children’s room, where Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were staying was strengthened, chandeliers were lowered to floor level to prevent damage in a bombing raid, and important works of art were removed for safekeeping.

Driving daily to London and returning to Windsor each night was a closely-guarded secret for the king and queen. It was considered good for morale to report that the king was staying full-time at Buckingham Palace.

The Castle Guard, formed from members of the training battalion, Grenadier Guards, leaving the main entrance of Windsor Castle on the way to Victoria Barracks in Windsor, 30 June 1940.

8. Windsor Castle has seen its fair share of fire, the most recent being in 1992

Windsor Castle endured serious fires in 1296 and 1853, but the most damaging was in 1992.

It was 20 November 1992, and renovations were being carried out on the Private Chapel of the State Apartments. Near the altar, a curtain is thought to have been too close to one of the spotlights used for the work, setting it alight—the fire quickly spreading to the staterooms.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Whilst 200 firefighters battled to control the blaze, castle staff hurriedly rescued precious artworks. Fortunately, many rooms had been emptied as part of the renovation work, so most of the collection was saved.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Lasting for 15 hours, the fire was eventually brought under control with more than 1.5 million gallons of water—causing additional damage to the castle structure.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Exactly who should pay for repairs was a controversial issue at the time. Since George III, profits from the monarch’s estate have been passed to the government in return for a fixed payment. To save money, the castle wasn’t insured and headlines ran in British newspapers calling for the Queen to pay from her private income. In the end, a deal was struck whereby the government paid for repairs in exchange for the opening of Buckingham Palace to the public.

Taking five years to complete at a total cost of £67 million ($95 million) in 2015 terms, the damaged rooms were restored using modern methods to recreate the appearance before the fire.

9. Windsor Castle has a 2.65-mile approach road

For such a spectacular castle, one would expect an equally spectacular approach, would one not?

Windsor Castle Long Walk. Credit Graemev2
Windsor Castle Long Walk. Credit Graemev2

At 2.65 miles long and 240 ft wide, this double-lined avenue of trees called “The Long Walk” runs through The Home Park—an area once set aside for deer hunting and mentioned in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor.

Adjoining the larger Windsor Great Park, The Home Park has some of the oldest broad-leaved woodlands in Europe.

10. Windsor Castle is the largest continually inhabited castle in the world

Today, more than 500 people live and work in Windsor Castle – the largest inhabited castle in the world.

It is the preferred weekend residence of Her Majesty The Queen, whose standard flies from the Round Tower to show when she’s at home.

The Round Tower with the Queen's standard flying. Credit Nick Warner
The Round Tower with the Queen’s standard flying. Credit Nick Warner
Windsor Castle, east side gardens and facade. Credit David Watterson
Windsor Castle, east side gardens and facade. Credit David Watterson
Presentation of Colours by Her Majesty the Queen
Presentation of Colours by Her Majesty the Queen. Coldstream Guardsmen give three cheers to Her Majesty in Windsor Castle. Credit Defence Images

References

Wikipedia
Windsor Revealed by Brindle and Kerr, 1997.

10 of the Best Medieval Abbeys in Britain

Hauntingly beautiful, the ruined abbeys of England, Scotland, and Wales stand majestically defiant against the elements—a reminder of a medieval past governed by work, study, and prayer.

Here’s our list of 10 of the best medieval abbey ruins in Britain.

1. Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Overlooking the North Sea on the East Cliff above Whitby in North Yorkshire, England sits the ruined Whitby Abbey.

Disestablished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, Whitby Abbey is a Grade I (building of exceptional interest) Benedictine abbey in the care of the English Heritage Trust.

Whitby Abbey at sunset. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey at sunset. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey. Credit Chris Kirk
Whitby Abbey. Credit Chris Kirk
Whitby Abbey at sunset with reflections. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey at sunset with reflections. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Whitby Abbey. Credit Mike Peel

2. Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Founded in 1132, Rievaulx Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey in Rievaulx, near Helmsley in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, England.

Once one of the wealthiest abbeys in England, it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and is now owned and maintained by the English Heritage Trust.

 Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Tilman2007
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Tilman2007
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Pee
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit mattbuck
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit mattbuck

3. Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

One of the largest and best preserved Cistercian monastery ruins in England, Fountains Abbey is about 3 miles south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire.

Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Fountains Abbey. Credit Petr Krtochvil
Fountains Abbey. Credit Petr Krtochvil
Fountains Abbey. Credit mattbuck
Fountains Abbey. Credit mattbuc
Fountains Abbey. Credit David Iliff
Fountains Abbey. Credit David Iliff
Fountains Abbey Monks' cellarium. Credit Katie Chan
Fountains Abbey Monks’ cellarium. Credit Katie Chan
Inside Huby's Tower, Fountains Abbey. Credit Juliet220
Inside Huby’s Tower, Fountains Abbey. Credit Juliet220

4. Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, Wales

Founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, in 1131, Tintern Abbey sits on the Welsh bank of the River Wye, between Monmouthshire in Wales and Gloucestershire in England.

Falling into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1548, the abbey has been a favorite haunt of poets and painters from the 18th century onwards.

Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey and Courtyard. Credit Saffron Blaze
Tintern Abbey and Courtyard. Credit Saffron Blaze
Tintern Abbey east end columns. Credit NotFromUtrecht
Tintern Abbey east end columns. Credit NotFromUtrecht
The nave, Tintern Abbey. Credit Poliphilo
The nave, Tintern Abbey. Credit Poliphilo

5. Kirkstall Abbey, West Yorkshire, England

Set in a public park on the north bank of the River Aire, Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery near Leeds in West Yorkshire, England.

Founded in 1152 and dissolved by Henry VIII, the picturesque ruins have been the subject of works by artists J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman.

Kirkstall Abbey in the late afternoon sunlight. Credit Minda
Kirkstall Abbey in the late afternoon sunlight. Credit Minda
Kirkstall Abbey. Credit John Armagh
Kirkstall Abbey. Credit John Armagh
Kirkstall Abbey cloisters. Credit Sireuk
Kirkstall Abbey cloisters. Credit Sireuk
Kirkstall Abbey at sunset. Credit Minda
Kirkstall Abbey at sunset. Credit Minda

6. Buildwas Abbey, Shropshire, England

Buildwas Abbey is located along the banks of the River Severn in Buildwas, Shropshire, England, about two miles west of Ironbridge.

Founded in 1135 by Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Coventry (1129–1148), the Cistercian Buildwas Abbey was originally a Savignac monastery inhabited by a small community of monks from Furness Abbey.

The abbey has a storied history, with intrigue to rival the famous “Name of the Rose”. Frequently raided by Welsh princes who also kidnapped the abbot, there was a case where a monk murdered his abbot and, having evaded arrest, petitioned for reinstatement into the Cistercian order.

Buildwas Abbey. Credit JohnArmagh
Buildwas Abbey. Credit JohnArmagh
Buildwas Abbey. Credit Chris Walsh
Buildwas Abbey. Credit Chris Walsh
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey, looking west. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey, looking west. Credit Tony Grist

7. Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Founded as a Savignac abbey in 1135, Byland Abbey was absorbed into the Cistercian order in 1147.

Described in the late 14th century as “one of the three shining lights of the north”, it wasn’t always so for Byland Abbey. Its early life was marked by disputes with other abbeys and the whole abbey community had to move five times before settling on Byland.

Now in the care of the English Heritage Trust, Byland has some impressive features including the lower half of a huge rose window and a stone lectern which is the only one of its kind in Britain.

Byland Abbey at Sunrise. Credit Chris Combe
Byland Abbey at Sunrise. Credit Chris Combe
Byland Abbey. Credit Antony McCallum
Byland Abbey. Credit Antony McCallum
Byland Abbey. Credit mattbuck
Byland Abbey. Credit mattbuc
Byland Abbey Sunset. Credit Willj
Byland Abbey Sunset. Credit Willj

8. Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Nestled in the rolling landscape of the Yorkshire Dales sits the 12th-century ruins of an Augustinian monastery.

The Bolton Abbey estate includes many miles of public pathways through beautiful countryside.

The Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway terminates at a nearby village.

Aerial view, Bolton Abbey. Credit Dr John Wells
Aerial view, Bolton Abbey. Credit Dr John Wel
Bolton Abbey David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey. Credit Dbenbenn
Bolton Abbey. Credit Dbenben
Bolton Abbey. Credit David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey. Credit David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey Sunset. Credit Matt Smith
Bolton Abbey Sunset. Credit Matt Smith

9. Melrose Abbey, Roxburghshire, Scotland

Founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks on the orders of King David I of Scotland, Melrose Abbey was built in the Gothic style in the form of a St. John’s cross.

In 1921, an amazing discovery was made below the Chapter House of Melrose Abbey.

Held inside a lead container was believed to be the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce.

Confirmed in records of his death, the rest of his body is buried at Dunfermline Abbey.

Alexander II and other Scottish kings and nobles are buried at Melrose.

Maintained by Historic Scotland, the partly ruined monastery is a museum open to the public.

Melrose Abbey, Scotland. Credit Edwinrijkaart
Melrose Abbey, Scotland. Credit Edwinrijkaart
Melrose Abbey. Credit Steve Collis
Melrose Abbey. Credit Steve Collis
Melrose Abbey. Credit Globaltraveller
Melrose Abbey. Credit Globaltravelle
Melrose Abbey. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Melrose Abbey. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Melrose Abbey. Credit The Land
Melrose Abbey. Credit The Land

10. Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland

“Rood” being an old word for the cross of Jesus Christ, the name Holyrood means “Holy Cross.”

Founded in 1128 at the behest of King David I, Holyrood Abbey was home to the Canons Regular in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Lying adjacent to Holyrood Palace at the eastern end of the Royal Mile, the Abbey lost prominence following the Scottish Reformation and has been ruined since the 18th century.

The abbey is protected as a scheduled monument.

Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw
Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw
Ruins of Abbey behind Holyrood Palace. Credit Donna
Ruins of Abbey behind Holyrood Palace. Credit Donna
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw
Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw

10 Fascinating Facts about the History of Tea in Britain

Tea’s rise in popularity in Britain coincided with a flowering of intellectual and creative thought that we call the Enlightenment.

By the middle of the 18th century, tea had replaced ale & gin as the people’s favorite beverage.

Is tea a magical elixir?

You decide as we look at 10 fascinating facts about the history of tea in Britain.

1. Tea was first offered in London coffeehouses in 1657

Chinese green tea was first introduced into the London coffeehouse scene in around 1657.

Blue plaque in Change Alley. Credit Basher Eyre
Blue plaque in Change Alley. Credit Basher Eyre

It was down these narrow alleys that the mercantile class of London would meet to discuss business in coffeehouses.

Opposite the Royal Exchange on Cornhill, there is an entrance to a network of alleyways called Change Alley (formerly known as Exchange Alley).

Nestled beside makers of fine wands, there was something else magical for sale: tea.

Ollivanders Wand Shop, Diagon Alley. Credit Rob Young
Ollivanders Wand Shop, Diagon Alley. Credit Rob Young

The owner of one establishment created a pamphlet and advertisement to explain the new beverage as an early form of health drink:

“That Excellent, and by all Physicians approved, China drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other nations Tay alias Tee, …sold at the Sultaness-head, ye Cophee-house in Sweetings-Rents, by the Royal Exchange, London.”

How did the introduction of tea impact the city of London? It became the most powerful city in the world for 200 years.

Today, London vies with New York as the world’s most influential city.

2. Samuel Pepys wrote about drinking tea in 1660

“I did send for a cup of tee, (a China drink) of which I had never had drunk before.”

Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703) was an English Member of Parliament and naval administrator who is famous for keeping a detailed diary for a decade as a young man.

Trivia: his work as Chief Secretary to the Admiralty would help position Britain’s Royal Navy as the world’s most powerful in years to come.

3. A Portuguese Princess made tea popular in Britain

Catherine of Braganza (1638 – 1705) was Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1662 to 1685, as the wife of King Charles II.

Although Catherine didn’t actually introduce tea into Britain, she was instrumental in making it fashionable. Her use of tea as a court beverage, rather than a medicinal drink, influenced its popularity in literary circles.

Trivia: Queens, a borough of New York City, is thought to be named after Catherine of Braganza since she was queen when Queens County was established in 1683.

4. These could be the earliest British directions for how to make tea

Portrait of Edward Herbert, 3rd Baron Herbert of Chirbury (1633–1678) by Gerard Soest

In 1672, Edward Herbert, 3rd Baron Herbert of Chirbury sent directions for tea making, and warming the delicate cups, to Shropshire;

“The directions for the tea are: a quart of spring water just boiled, to which put a spoonful of tea, and sweeten to the palate with candy sugar. As soon as the tea and sugar are in, the steam must be kept in as much as may be, and let it lie half or quarter of an hour in the heat of the fire but not boil. The little cups must be held over the steam before the liquid be put in.”

5. Tea may have been instrumental to the English Enlightenment

A “eureka” moment for Sir Isaac Newton.

It was a summer afternoon in 1665 and Sir Isaac Newton was taking tea under the apple trees in the family gardens at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, England.

By chance, an apple fell from an overhanging branch, hitting him on the head and sparking the “a-ha” moment for his law of gravitation.

Whether precisely true or not, is it a coincidence that a flowering of intellectual thinking in Britain occurred at around the same time that tea was fast becoming the nation’s favorite drink?

By 1720, black tea had overtaken green tea in popularity and was generally taken with milk and sugar.

Could this magical potion be the brain stimulant of Newton, Locke, and Hobbes?

6. Did tea power the British Industrial Revolution?

Not only was tea powering the massive minds of some of history’s greatest thinkers, but some scholars suggest that tea played a key role in the British Industrial Revolution.

The stimulants in the tea, coupled with the extra energy from sugar and milk would act like today’s energy drinks and give workers a boost—helping them work longer hours.

Even today, “builder’s tea” is a favorite for anyone doing physically strenuous work as part of their job. A colloquial term for strong tea, builder’s tea is typically brewed in a mug, always has milk, and two (or more) teaspoons of sugar.

Furthermore, because water has to be boiled for tea, water-borne diseases like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid were killed.

7. Chelsea porcelain manufactory produced the first British teaware