Mary Arden’s Farm

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I am hoping that you have read my blogs about my last couple of visits to stratford upon avon and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage over the last few months. As part of the full story ticket we purchased, you can have access to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm, as many times as you like for a full 12 months! If you are visiting Stratford, you must also pay a visit to the Holy Trinity Church which is of course the final resting place for William Shakespeare himself.

Mary Arden’s Farm was the last place on our list to visit and, once again, we chose a beautiful summers day to visit!

The Arden Family farmhouse was the childhood home of William Shakespeare’s mother, Mary. The house was built in around 1514 and was owned by Lord Abergavenny, and tenanted to farmer Robert Arden (Shakespeare’s grandfather) and his family. Mary was born in about 1535 and was the youngest of 8 sisters. All of them grew up in this farmhouse.

At the time, it was not unusual for children to die through illnesses, but Mary and her sisters all lived to become adults and she grew up as part of a busy working household. Mary’s mother died in 1548 and her father then married a widow who also had four children, so the farmhouse would have been fit to bursting, even though some of Mary’s sisters had already left home by this point!

In 1556, Robert Arden died, leaving his second wife, Agnes, the tenancy of the house and farmland. Mary was left with some additional land and a sum of money at this point. In 1567, Agnes Arden handed the property over to her son-in-law John Fulwood (John Fulwood was married to Agnes’ youngest child) and she continued to live in the house until she died in 1581.

By 1623 the Fulwood family continued to hold the tenancy. Avery Fulwood was the tenant and the farm was recorded as being 147 acres in size.

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In 1662, Lord Abergavenny sold off the farm to pay off debts. Mary Arden’s house, along with the147 acres, was bought by Anne Hunt for £300. At the time this happened, Mary Fulwood was listed as the tenant. Later in that year, it was purchased by the Loggin family of Clifford Chambers.

In 1738 the Loggin family sold the property to Edward Kendrick, rector of nearby Billesley. He made the purchase to increase the income of Billesley parish throughout the rent of the property. The property then became known as Glebe Farm (Glebe means land proving income to the clergy).

In 1742 Kendrick acquired a barn and additional land. This was probably land originally left by Robert Arden to Mary in his will of 1556. Glebe Farm now consisted of a house and about 188 acres of land.

By 1769, Glebe Farm was one of the largest farms in Wilmcote. The other was neighbouring Palmers Farm (which was actually mistaken for Mary Arden’s Farm for several years until it became apparent the building next door was actually where Mary Arden had resided).

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Palmer’s Farmhouse is next door to Mary Arden’s Farm and for a long time was believed to be Mary Arden’s Farm!

1925 Glebe farmhouse and land still belonged to the rectory of Billesley parish at this date. In this year the farm was sold by the Church Commissioners and split up.

In 1967 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust purchased the farmhouse with 3 acres of land, tenant George Holmes was living there at the time.

In 1978 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust took possession of Glebe Farmhouse following the death of George Holmes.

In 2000, Glebe Farm was finally identified as the Arden family home after it previously being believed that they lived at neighbouring Palmer’s Farmhouse.

Mary and John Shakespeare had 8 children, 3 of whom died at a young age. William Shakespeare was born in 1564. When William was very young there was an outbreak of plague in Stratford Upon Avon which he was lucky to survive. It is not known for certain, but is thought that Mary brought William to Wilmcote in the hope of protecting him from the outbreak.

Mary lived long enough to see William rich and successful in the 1590’s. It is possible that following John’s death in 1601, she moved into William’s grand home, New Place, before she died in 1608.

When you arrive at the Farm you are greeted by a range of animals including cows, horses, goats, a donkey and some stunning birds of prey!

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You can explore the inside of the farmhouse, which has been set up to look as it would have done back then, with huge open fireplaces and wonky walls and corridors!

The first floor, above the hall, was most likely added sometime in the 1600’s. Originally the room would have been much bigger as the chimney stack was smaller. People lived in the house up until the 1970’s and over the years it has been altered an extended to suit their needs.

The first floor chamber was the only first floor space in the 1500’s and it would have been reached by a ladder until a staircase was added in the 1600’s. It is not known if the room was originally fully floored or if there was only a sleeping shelf.

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On the beam in the doorway you can see some dark brown teardrop shaped marks which were caused by candles held so close to the wood that they burnt it. Marks like this were often found on the timbers of older buildings. It is possible they were made by accident, however they may have been created deliberately, perhaps in the belief they would protect the building from burning down.

Theres also plenty to do outside in the grounds of the farm. A game of giant chess anyone?

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You can also visit Wheelwrights workshop. The workshop was opened to visitors again last year after being used as a storage space for a number of years. It houses a collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century wheelwrights and coppers tools.

Alongside the blacksmith, the wheelwright, carpenter and cooper were essential craftsmen in the village community.

The carpenter met a variety of needs in the home and on the farm in addition to playing an important part in the construction of buildings. he made tools, furniture and domestic fittings, as well as coffins, and acted as undertaker.

The cooper’s speciality was the making of barrels of varying shapes and sizes needed for the storage of beer, cider or wine and of dry goods such as flour, salt-fish, lime and crockery. Great skill was required to judge the number and dimensions of the oak staves required to make a cask.

The wheelwright made and repaired wagons, carts and other farm implements. Seasoned elm, oak, and ash were used to provide the hub, spoke and rim felloes of a wheel. An iron tyre, fitted when hot, held these parts together when assembled.

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And if all of this is not enough for you, you can also go for a lovely long walk in the wild flower meadow, past the pigs and crops and lower dovehouse pasture.

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You can also try your hand at archery, watch some goose herding or a bird of prey display and visit the adventure playground.

So as you can see there is plenty to see and do here and you can easily fill a day seeing everything Mary Arden’s Farm has to offer! And don’t forget, if you buy the full story ticket you can come back as many times as you like for a whole year!

 

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Hopefully you will have read my blog on our last visit to Stratford Upon Avon where we visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place and Hall Croft.

We paid for a “full story” ticket which gets you entry to the five different places – Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place and Hall Croft. We didn’t have time on the day to visit all five places, so we saved Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm for another day.

Well, we chose another beautiful day to visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage! The sun was shining which shows this lovely cottage in its full glory and meant we could explore all the grounds without the threat of rain! A perfect day out!

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is a beautiful cottage in Stratford Upon Avon and belonged to the wife of William Shakespeare. The cottage was built in 1463 until the first Hathaway’s moved in as tenant sheep farmers in 1540.

Anne was born in 1556 and lived here until she married Shakespeare in 1582 and moved into his family home on Henley Street, again in Stratford Upon Avon.

In 1610 Anne’s brother, Bartholomew, purchased the lease to the cottage and began to develop it. The cottage was extended, resulting in it doubling in size. Chimneys and an upper floor were built, providing bedrooms and storage.

In the 1700’s the Hathaway family fortunes begin to decline and by 1838, descendants of the Hathaway’s had sold the cottage but remained as tenants. In 1892 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought the cottage, but kept the family on as custodians.

It is wrong really to refer to it as a “cottage”, as it is far larger than you would imagine a cottage to be, and has huge adjoining grounds! Whilst exploring the Cottage and its grounds you will come across;

Willow Arbour, there are a couple of these you will encounter along the woodland walk.

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The Music Note Willow Sculpture was designed by award winning sculpture artist Tom Hare. It is a giant musical stave with music notes and butterflies woven onto it.

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The sculpture leads the way to a special Butterfly Conservation Border planted with flowers to attract the butterflies, and believe me, it works! The gardens were full of beautiful butterflies of all colours!

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The Woodland Walk is really beautiful and well worth doing! Such peace and quiet as you wander through the wood and encounter beautiful trees, flowers, shrubs and even some little bunny rabbits!

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One of the highlights of the visit is the Willow sculpture, a crescent shaped sculpture also known as the “Moon Seat”. This is another design by Tom Hare and is not only beautiful to look at but also acts as the perfect viewing point for the cottage and the gardens.

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The Cottage Garden’s are really beautiful. Someone asked one of the guides whilst we were there how the garden grows such beautiful shrubs, plants and vegetables, to which the guide replied “over 400 years of practice!” It’s true, if the well established gardens hadn’t got the hang of growing the best quality produce by now then maybe it never would have!

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Miss Willmott’s Garden is named after the Edwardian horticulturist who designed the cottage gardens in the 19th Century style. During the Spring and Summer months the garden is full of beautiful scented flowers.

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and of course the main attraction; Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Isn’t it stunning?! The outside is covered in beautiful roses with brightly coloured flower beds with wonderful scents.

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Inside the cottage you will find all of the rooms set up as they would have been back when Anne used to live here.

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The cottage is beautiful inside with long corridors and wonky walls and is full of original Hathaway furniture including the Hathaway bed!

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Outside, just up past the Traditional Orchard you will find the Sculpture Trail and Arbouretum, with some lovely Shakespearian inspired sculptures, and even more fluffy bunnies playing in the sunshine!

And this is by no means all there is to see! During your visit you can also see the Yew Circle, Shottery Brook Walk, Family Activity Tent (check for seasonal activities), Garden Cafe and Sonnet Arbour, where you can listen to Shakespearian verse being read.

A really lovely day out which is highly recommended and best of all, we bought the tickets using our Tesco Clubcard points so the tickets didn’t cost us a penny!

The “full story” tickets we bought are valid for a full 12 months after purchase, so you can visit any of the five locations as many times as you wish for a full year! So the ticket is excellent value for money!

Full story tickets are £22.50, or you can book online for a 10% reduction in ticket prices (you can book your tickets here.)

 

A trip to Kensington Palace

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I hadn’t ever thought about visiting Kensington Palace but when I told my Mum I wanted to visit London for the day and asked her what she fancied doing she said she had always wanted to visit! Even better, you can get Kensington Palace entry tickets by exchanging your Tesco Clubcard vouchers, bargain!

Kensington Palace is situated in Kensington Gardens and has been the residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th Century. It is currently the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Princess Eugenie.

Kensington Palace was built as a royal home for William III and Mary II at the end of the 17th Century. It has had many roles over the years, including a museum and a barracks for soldiers guarding the Great Exhibition. It used to be a small mansion known as Nottingham house. In 1689 the new monarchs, King William III and Queen Mary II, purchased Nottingham House for £20,000 and only weeks later, Sir Christopher Wren began work on transforming it into a royal palace. The new palace had a chapel, courtier accommodation, kitchens, stables, barracks and many grand rooms and state apartments. Queen Mary died in 1694 of smallpox in her bed chamber in the palace but had spent many years before designing and furnishing the palace.

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William didn’t make many alterations to the Palace, and his successor, Queen Anne, only reigned for a short time and so only added the orangery during her time. Anne left no heir and so the palace passed to her distant relative, George Ludwig.

The new King George liked Kensington Palace but found it to be in very poor condition and so plans were made to rebuild it on a much larger scale. A new set of State Apartments were built to replace the old Jacobean house in 1718 to 1722.

During the reign of King George II between 1727 and 1760, the Palace was used to its full potential as George and Queen Caroline enjoyed entertaining their guests in lavish ceremonies. Unfortunately, after Queen Caroline’s death in 1737, the King closed off half of the palace. King George died in his private apartments at Kensington Palace in October 1760.

George III showed little interest in Kensington Palace throughout his reign (1760-1820), but this did mean that the furnishings and paintings were left untouched in dark rooms for this time. The Palace eventually became home to George III’s two sons, Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. Prince Augustus was a book collector, and amassed over 50,000 volumes in his apartment! Prince Edward was the father of Queen Victoria, who was born in the palace in 1819. In June 1837 she was told of her accession to the throne, and held her first council in the Red Saloon.

Queen Victoria’s daughters, Princess Louise and Princess Beatrice, later lived in the palace. Louise was a really gifted artist and left the legacy of the statue of the young Queen Victoria which sits at the east side of the palace.

A major restoration of the palace took place in 1898 under the orders of Queen Victoria and in 1912 the rooms were filled with display cases when the palace became home to the London Museum. A lot of damage was caused to the Palace by incendiary bombs during the Second World War.

In the 1960’s, Princess Margaret came to live at the Palace, and further members of the Royal Family began to arrive in the 1970’s and 1980’s, one of the most famous of these being Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived at Kensington Palace up to her death in 1997.

There are several tours you can take within Kensington Palace which are:

The Kings State Apartments

The Kings Staircase leads to the King’s State Apartments, and all visitors for the King would have climbed this staircase, (provided that their clothes and jewels were acceptable to the guards!) The staircase paintings were completed around 1726 by an artist called William Kent, who included a portrait of himself on the ceiling in a brown artists cap and holding a palette. Kent’s work was inspired by the work he had seen in Rome, where he trained to be an artist.

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The Presence Chamber was where the King would sit on his throne, under a crimson silk damask throne canopy, and important guests would be ushered in to bow to him.

The Privy Chamber was one of Queen Caroline’s favourite entertaining spaces. It has another amazing ceiling created by William Kent in 1723 and shows Mars, the Roman god of War, and Minerva the goddess of Wisdom, and surrounding them are the emblems representing the arts and sciences.

The Cupola Room was probably my favourite room of the Palace. This room was the first room decorated by William Kent. In this room he re-created in paint a baroque Roman palace but with the Star of the Order of the Garter as the ceiling’s centrepiece. George II and Queen Caroline hosted really lavish parties in this room.

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The strange object in the centre of this room is a clock and a music box as well as a piece of artwork, and was completed in 1743.

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The Kings Drawing Room would have been packed full of courtiers back in the day, who would have all attended the King’s parties seeking power and patronage.

On the ceiling William Kent has shown the powerful god Jupiter, who accidentally killed his lover Semele, and portraits of Venetian doges line the walls. Next door to this room was the King’s bedchamber, and halfway through the evening he would emerge to make his grand appearance.

The Council Chamber is located in one of Christopher Wren’s pavilions, built on the corners of the original Nottingham House and it has served William III, George I and George II as a meeting place for the Privy Council. The sort of court dress that would once have been worn in these state rooms is on display here.

Queen Caroline’s Closet is a small room which originally belonged to William III as his bedchamber. George I used this room to store books but these were removed after Queen Caroline made one of the most important art discoveries of the era. In 1727, she found hidden in a cabinet a portfolio containing many drawings made by Hans Holbein, the younger of Henry VIII and his courtiers. Caroline later made this room a gallery filled with 300 paintings, miniatures and embroideries.

The Kings Gallery was built for William III as an addition to Wren’s design in the new South front and was finished in around 1700. It was in here that William III played soldiers with his little nephew and intended heir, the Duke of Gloucester. After a riding accident at Hampton Court, it was here that the King caught the chill that led to his death on 8th March 1702.

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The gallery was transformed in 1725 by William Kent for George I. Red damask replaced the green velvet walls and the fine oak joinery was painted white and gilded. Kent and his assistants painted the seven large ceiling canvasses that show scenes from the life of Ulysses.

Queen’s State Apartments

The Queen’s State Apartments are deliberately plainer and lower-key than the Kings, both inside and out. Here you can learn more about the lives of Mary II, Queen Anne and the House of Stuart.

The Queen’s Staircase is a sharp contrast to the grand marble King’s staircase. These apartments were built for Queen Mary between 1689 and 1694.

The Queen’s Gallery was painted white and hung with full length portraits of Kings and Queens  of England. Later, Mary developed a passion for collecting treasures from India, China and Japan. She filled the gallery with artefacts such as Turkish carpets, embroidered hangings and lacquer furniture, alongside her collection of 150 pieces of oriental porcelain.

The Queen’s Closet was where a terrible argument took place between Queen Anne and her childhood friend Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.

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The Queen’s Eating Room has beautiful panelling which has survived from the 17th Century. In here, William and Mary would share simple private dinners of fish and beer. Mary would also use this room to make tea with the ladies of her household.

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The Queen’s Drawing Room used to be filled with Mary II’s porcelain. This room is the room which is claimed to have lost most of its original character, as it badly damaged by an incendiary bomb on 14th October 1940. Most of the panelling was destroyed which is why the walls are now wallpapered.

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The Queen’s Bedroom was used by Mary as her State bedroom when she and William first moved into the palace. Just as soon as Christopher Wren had finished work on the Queen’s Apartments, Mary had her rooms extended to provide her with more accommodation. This resulted in the Queen’s Gallery and a new private bedchamber being built.

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Victoria Revealed

We were very disappointed because this exhibition was closed when we visited, and it was one of the main exhibitions we wanted to see! We will definitely have to revisit to see this. In this exhibition you can visit the rooms Queen Victoria grew up in and learn more about her life right through from her childhood to her final years. In this section of the palace we would have been able to see:

The Stone Staircase where Princess Victoria first met her cousin and future husband, Prince Albert, for the first time in 1836.

The Red Saloon where Victoria held her first Privy Council on the morning she became Queen in June 1837.

On this tour you will also learn more about how Victoria and Albert fell in love and Victoria’s lonely family life growing up at Kensington Palace.

There is also a separate exhibition about Price Albert known as the Great Exhibition, which was in 1851 and would later be known as his greatest piece of work. It showcased technological and cultural achievements from over the world and attracted over six million visitors.

Modern Royals

This is a changing display – when we were here it was a beautiful Diana exhibition showcasing some of her most famous outfits. Well worth a visit and it slightly made up for the fact that the Victoria exhibition was closed.

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The first dress below was designed by Bruce Oldfield, who designed many dresses for the Princess. She wore it at the Courtauld institute of Art, Somerset House in 1990 and again at the Buckingham Palace state banquet in 1991.The Princess chose the second dress in the below picture for an official visit to Japan. The colour was chosen to complement the flowering cherry blossoms.

Diana chose to wear the Spencer Tiara, a sparkling family heirloom, on a state visit to India in 1992. This second dress was designed to complement it. The embroidery on the bodice of this dress was based on traditional Indian patterns.

The Princess wore this first dress when she danced with actor John Travolta at the White House. This second dress was embellished with falcons, the national bird of Saudi Arabia, when the Princess visited there. The high neckline and long sleeves also respected local customs.

The second dress below was worn by the Princess when she visited Brazil, shortly after their national football team lost to Argentina in the World Cup. Conscious of her hosts feelings, she instructed the designer, Catherine Walker, to avoid the blue and white colours of the Argentinian team when she designed the gown.

The second dress below was worn to the New York gala event before the Christie’s Auction.

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You can also visit the beautiful Palace Gardens, which were transformed in 2012. During the winter months, Queen Anne’s orange trees were protected from the cold inside her magnificent orangery, which was built for her between 1704 and 1705. In the summer months, they were transferred to the terrace outside. Anne also added fountains and an alcove with a garden seat to the south gardens. This still exists but was moved to nearby Lancaster Gate in the 1860’s. In 1705, 100 acres were added to the east side of the palace to form a paddock for royal deer and antelope.

The majority of the works done to the gardens were down to Queen Caroline. She extended the plantings, laid the Broad Walk and had the Round Pond dug in 1728. The Serpentine was formed as a boating lake by flooding several smaller ponds.

The Sunken Garden was laid out during the reign of Edward VII and opened in 1909, and is the most popular of the Palace gardens.

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The east and the south sides of the palace were laid out in 2012 with a new scheme designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, inspired by the old layouts of lawns, trees, borders and topiary of George II’s time.

Queen Victoria is present at the front of the Palace in the form of a statue, which was designed by her daughter Louise.

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Kensington Palace was a lovely day out in spite of the cold, wet weather! A place I will definitely have to visit again so I can see the gardens properly in the sunshine and hopefully finally get to see the Victoria exhibition when it re-opens, which should be any day now….

Bowood House and Gardens

If anyone is looking for a good family day out, my Mum, my two Sisters and I had a really great day out at Bowood House and Gardens earlier this year.

The only downside was that we had to contend with a torrential downpour whilst we were exploring, but we all still really enjoyed ourselves! We didn’t get to spend as much time exploring the gardens as we had hoped due to the awful weather so I think we will be re-visiting in the future so we can take full advantage! On the plus side it meant the house and gardens were really quiet!

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Bowood House and Gardens is in Wiltshire and is currently home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.

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The house sits inside 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland and has been home to the Lansdowne family since the 1st Earl of Shelburne purchased it in 1754.

Over half of the house is open to visitors, with the family still living in the remainder. The places you can visit within the house include:

The Orangery

Originally designed as a large conservatory, the Orangery is now primarily a picture gallery, containing the remaining parts of the two great Lansdowne Collections of paintings and sculpture.

The Chapel

Opposite the Orangery entrance are the great doors to the Chapel. Created in the early 19th century for the 3rd Marquess by C.R.Cockerell, the Chapel is still used for special services and concerts.

The Laboratory

Through the doors at the east end of the Orangery is a small room known as the Laboratory. Here, scientist Dr Joseph Priestley, tutor to the 1st Marquess’ two sons, discovered oxygen in 1774! In those days the room was full of scientific equipment but unfortunately all were sold when the 1st Marquess died.

The Library

It was in this room that the great Bowood house parties would meet after dinner to read, play chess, sing, and talk about politics and other topics of the day.

The Sculpture Gallery

Through a small entrance hall at the other end of the Orangery is the Sculpture Gallery, created by the present Marquis of Lansdowne in 1980. Designed originally as a menagerie or zoo for wild animals, a leopard and an orangutan were kept here in the 18th century! Nowadays, the gallery houses pieces from the Lansdowne sculpture collections.

The Exhibition Rooms

A staircase at the west end of this gallery leads to the exhibition room which displays examples of 18th-century and 19th-century costumes. The Victorian Room holds (among other memorabilia of the period) Queen Victoria’s wedding chair!

Also on show in the Top Exhibition Room are the Keith Jewellery Collection, family miniatures, and the Napoleonic Collection. The Napoleonic Collection also came into the family via the 4th Marchioness; it includes Napoleon’s death mask, pieces of gilded Imperial Sèvres porcelain and other unusual treasures, such as Napoleon’s handkerchief!

The Gardens

If you can, try and get on one of the scheduled monthly tours of the Private Walled Gardens.

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Bowood’s Gardens have beautiful sloping lawns stretching down to the lake.  The park includes the Cascade, Doric Temple, Terrace Gardens and for children, the fantastic Adventure Playground!

Sorry for the lack of garden pictures, the rain was so bad I was worried about the welfare of my lovely phone!

A separate Woodland Garden, which hosts Rhododendrons and Azaleas, is open to the public between April and early June every year, according to the flowering season.

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There is an on-site cafe called the Treehouse Cafe which serves lovely paninis and delicious homemade cakes! Plus lovely hot chocolates and coffees which were greatly appreciated after being soaked through to the skin! British weather hey???

Adult ticket prices are £12.50 and child prices are £7.50 – £9.50, and family tickets are also available.

Bowood House and Gardens opens again on the 1st April – choose your visiting dates wisely though as it’s not called “April showers” for no reason!

Home Sweet Home

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I don’t even know where to begin explaining to you all how much it means to us to finally have moved into our forever home! If you have read my “On the move” blog you’ll already know the problems we encountered on this long painstaking journey, and to be honest there were several times along the way when we thought we would never get to move!

The relief we feel now we are finally moved in is indescribable – I don’t even care that each room is piled high from floor to ceiling in boxes which need sorting out, the important thing is that we are in and the mortgage is in place and the rest of our lives start now!

Before I start the list of 10,000 errands, address changes, setting up of new utility accounts, wills and life insurance etc, I wanted to blog about this amazing achievement and let you know about our plans for it!

We didn’t move too far away from our previous house, but we have upsized from a three bedroom semi-detached to a four bedroom detached. We wanted to be moved in and settled before we took the big leap to starting a family but we are in no rush to transform it into the house of our dreams – we’ve got the rest of our lives to get it done. The house is beautiful but does need modernising throughout, I’ve got big PLANS for each and every room which will take time and money but I want each room to be perfect and to work for us!

Here’s the rooms of the house and some rough idea of what we are going to do with them-

Lounge

It currently has a gas fire which we are very keen to change for a wood burning stove (hubby and I have both always wanted one!) and other than adding a stove, painting and decorating and replacing the carpet, there isn’t much more to be done to this room.

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When we were looking at houses, I really wanted a house which had a small space I could use as a study. I didn’t want to end up losing an entire bedroom and the separate dining room is too big to lose to study space, so I thought about utilising the bay window space at the front of the house as a small office area perhaps?

Along with the fact that my home office would be next to a huge cupboard under the stairs for storage space, I came across these similar ideas on Pinterest which I thought looked lovely

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Definitely food for thought anyway…

Kitchen

The kitchen is a nice almost square room but I can’t wait to modernise in here! There’s a breakfast bar almost the entire length of one wall which we just wouldn’t use (as there’s a separate dining room next door), so when we re-design it I want to make the best use of the space. I had a free-standing range oven in our old house which we unfortunately had to leave behind so I would love another one which is similar!

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I’ve already spotted some beautifully designed kitchens in Wren kitchens, along with some brilliant space saving ideas and new gadgets! I have always wanted a pantry and I came across this in their showroom the other day, isn’t it amazing? A corner of the room is cut off and a normal kitchen door put on the front and then bespoke shelving/racking inside!

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So it would look something like this….

They also had kickboard heaters which are a great idea as I won’t have to lose a load of wall space to a radiator, and also a kickboard hoover! You basically sweep the floors and then push a button and all the dirt is sucked in through the kickboard and into a container which you empty when full! What a brilliant idea!

I also really, really want granite worktops! They look so beautiful and don’t mark or leave scratches like the normal work surfaces. I really can’t wait to design this room but, due to the work and expense involved, I think this may end up being last on our house to do list!

Utility room

I’m very grateful to have the space for a utility room (we part converted the garage on our last house to a HUGE utility room and it was an absolute god-send) but I think to call this a utility “room” is a bit of a stretch! It’s more of a “corner” where you have just enough space for a cupboard and the washing machine and tumble dryer, but not much else. So this space is going to need some real thought as to how we can get the best out of it. It does already have a sink plumbed in in there though, which will definitely come in use, particularly when we are decorating and washing up dirty paintbrushes!

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Downstairs toilet

Not much to see here and not much to do really – I don’t think we have the space to change things around in here so it will likely be a straight swap for a new toilet and sink and a lick of paint in here – we can probably get this room re-done relatively soon in this case, no doubt places like B&Q will have some brilliant Christmas/New Year sales we can take advantage of!

Dining Room

I really love a separate dining room – several people have said we should knock the kitchen wall out and have an open space kitchen diner but I’m not keen, plus I will lose an entire kitchen wall where I won’t be able to add cabinets, and kitchen space is invaluable to me.

I’m going to keep the dining room furniture minimal – perhaps a table and four chairs and a sideboard for all the posh dining stuff I have…..still a bit undecided on this one!

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Conservatory

This was a bit of an added bonus when we bought this house – we aren’t huge fans of conservatories and probably wouldn’t have ever paid to have one built but it’s nice to have this one already here – it’s a big space and always useful to have an extra reception room!

Hubby isn’t keen but I am currently thinking of using the dining room for everyday use and having a small table and chairs in there and then having a big 6 or 8 seater dining room table and chairs set up in the conservatory.

This sounds strange but we are big entertainers and party hosts, so we often have all the family over at Christmas, Easter, Halloween and for big summer BBQ’s, so this set up would be ideal. I think hubby was leaning towards having some more sofas and a TV in here, but it is joined right on to our large lounge which will have a huge L shaped sofa in there….so I’m not entirely convinced. We will see how we feel once we have been living here for a while.

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One thing I know I do want which you are going to think is really tacky…. I really, really want a home bar! Not a Pat Butcher Eastenders style but more something like one of these –

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I think they look really great! I am undecided whether I am going to add it to the dining room or the conservatory yet (dining room seems the most normal place but would it be better in the conservatory, as this is where we would be seated for sit down dinner parties, and it would be easier to access from the garden during outdoor parties/BBQ’s etc?). Definitely something else to give some thought.

I would like some top shelves for best and unusual glassware and cupboards and fridges below and space for wine and mixers etc – this project is one of the ones I am most looking forward to designing!

I think it will look really effective when it is done and it will also save so much kitchen cupboard/pantry/fridge space having all the drinks/mixers/wines kept separately!

Master Bedroom

When we started looking for a house, one of the most important things on my list was the option to add a walk-in wardrobe. I have always dreamed of having one, but I didn’t want to have to reduce the value of any house we bought by knocking through from the master bedroom and into a smaller bedroom which we would then use as the walk-in wardrobe (basically making a four bedroom house into a three bedroom).

I thought about keeping the access to all four bedrooms the same but still converting one of the rooms into a wardrobe but thought this would be an expensive project and may be problematic over time. What if we had a couple of children and then one day my Mum came to live with me? We would be tearing out a lot of really expensive work to convert it back into a regular bedroom. Even if Mum didn’t come to live with us, I have an older Sister who has autism, and one day, she will be coming to stay with us on a regular basis for long weekends, so we will need a spare bedroom for her when the time comes.

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Anyway, I was upset at first that I had to forgo the walk in wardrobe but our master bedroom is such a good size, I will be able to get a beautiful set of wardrobes fitted around the room which will suit our needs perfectly. Two things I know I definitely want are a “shoe” wall, consisting of a row of shelves where I can show off my beautiful shoe collection, and an amazing dressing table to store all my lovely makeup goodies and Lush collection! I love the “Alex” drawers you can get from Ikea – ideal for dressing tables –

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My friend also introduced me to this amazing creation on Facebook a few months back:

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It’s called a “Slaystation”!! Isn’t it incredible!!!? WANT WANT WANT!

One thing hubby and I have both agreed on for our master bedroom is investing in a much larger bed! After 11 years in a small double bed sharing with two large Shar-Pei dogs on the majority of occasions, having more space in bed will be absolute paradise! I think this purchase is going to be near the top of our “to buy” list!!

En-suite

I actually prefer our en-suite bathroom to the main bathroom! I’ve not seen this in any other houses we looked at but we’ve got a bath in our en-suite which is brilliant! In all other en-suites we looked at, they had a toilet, shower and sink – and some of them only had a toilet and sink! I’m looking forward to re-decorating in here and putting a nice deep whirlpool bath in – an excellent environment for Lush bath bomb testing!!

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Bedroom 2

This is going to be our spare bedroom with double bed in for guests. I don’t think we will need much more furniture than that – it has some built in wardrobes which I would like to replace but apart from that and a lick of paint and new carpet I don’t think we need to do much else.

As this room will be quite straight forward to get how we want, I should think we will end up decorating it quite early on, although I think once we have an older child and they want to move into a bigger bedroom we will have to consider re-designing it for them!

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Bedroom 3

This room joins on to the master bedroom and would have been the bedroom we would use as the walk in wardrobe if we had decided to stick with our original plans. Instead I think we will just use this as another spare bedroom with a single bed in for guests – we will give it some thought and make a decision once we have lived here for a while I think. It is a good size bedroom and is certainly bigger than a box room but I’m not convinced it is quite big enough to use as a walk-in wardrobe once you’ve taken into account the size of the window and the radiator….we shall see.

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Bedroom 4

We have decided we will use this room for the nursery once we welcome baby Evans into the world! It’s just the right size for a nursery and as we hope to get the “starting a family” plan underway as soon as possible, I think we will likely start the decorating in this room.

One thing I will have to do some research on is what to do with the window in this room – it faces the front and the windowsill and window is really low (not sure what style they call this?) – not too much of an issue for a baby but definitely something we need to sort out before said baby becomes an inquisitive toddler! Any advice on how to get round this would be gratefully received – I assume we can put up some sort of protective guard or something??

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Bathroom

We’ve got a good sized family bathroom which has a toilet, sink, bath and a shower over the bath – I am looking forward to re-designing this as it currently really bothers me the way the toilet is positioned facing the bath rather than straight towards you as you walk in the bathroom door…..strange!

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Garden

The garden was (in our opinion) one of the downsides to this house. The first time we saw the house we loved the big conservatory on the back but then were very surprised at how small the garden was when we first stepped outside. We were surprised that someone had put such a big conservatory on the back when there was only a small sized garden, but in all honesty, we aren’t avid gardeners and both work full time so a smaller sized low maintenance garden is just what we need.

In actual fact, the second (and third!) time we saw the garden we were pleasantly surprised, as it was bigger than we had first remembered, and to be fair, by this time we had thought about the idea of a conservatory and decided we would much rather have this additional living space than garden area anyway.

The garden is slightly overlooked by the house behind, but as long as we have the space to add a decking area for a BBQ and a pond eventually, then we are happy!

There’s currently a garden shed at the bottom of the garden (which I doubt we will use as we have a double garage at the front of the house) so a pond placed here out of the way of the sunshine would be ideal.

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Double Garage

Once we had looked at this house with a double garage, my hubby said he didn’t want to consider any other houses that didn’t have one! The space they offer is perfect – hubby is a carpenter by trade and therefore has mounds and mounds of tools he needs to keep safe, and he is also an avid fisherman and so has an array of fishing kit and accessories he needs to keep somewhere! He also has a home gym which he likes to have set up so this, alongside the usual bits and pieces you need to keep in the garage (additional chest freezer, lawn mower and other garden equipment, paints etc.) means you tend to fill up a single garage very quickly! I’ve made him promise me that he won’t fill a double garage with junk though!!!

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Sorry I have waffled on in this blog far longer than I had intended! It’s because I’m excited to get started on making this house our home! As you can imagine there will be a few upcoming blogs about the transformation of this house – if anyone has any interior design knowledge or links to blogs I could have a read of it would be very much appreciated!! All ideas welcome!

Off now to unpack the first of 10,000 boxes filled with god knows what!!!

On the move!!

We knew this would be the year we would be putting our beautiful house on the market – after 11 amazing years here it was time for a new challenge and something bigger so we could start a family. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the whole thing has been the most stressful thing we have ever done in our lives!

The estate agents came over to value the house in the middle of April – although we weren’t planning to move until later this year, I’ve always had an interest in houses and the property market so I had been watching prices on houses similar to the one we have now, to make sure I had some idea of what ours was valued at, and so I had evidence to back up what I was going to ask the estate agent to put it on the market for.

I must have done my research well because the estate agent advised to put it on the market for a mere £50 more than the price I was going to suggest! He suggested putting it on the market for a round figure because websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla have search criteria which utilises round figures, and you don’t want your property details to fall outside the search criteria for the sake of £50!

My request to the estate agent was to have an open house. We have two big and boisterous Shar-Pei dogs who are not very well behaved, and the last thing I wanted was for them to get stressed out having loads of people walking around the house day after day. I also didn’t want the potential buyers getting annoyed and frustrated at the constant barking! If you host an open house then you can frantically clean for a couple of days, then get yourself, the dogs and the hubby out of the house for a day to let as many people view it as possible, and hopefully by the end of the day you will have an offer on the house (or more than one!) An open house always reminds me of America and their attempts to sell real estate – balloons outside, cookies in the oven to give the house a more homely feel, and plastic fruit in bowls for display!

Anyway, a week or so after the valuation, and before they had even been out to take the photos to prepare the marketing material, I had a phonemail from the estate agents saying they had a couple who had been told about our house, they had recently sold theirs and were really keen to come and view ours! They made an offer the next day which we accepted and things started to move forwards!

Unfortunately our lovely buyers had problems trying to sell their house – their first set of buyers withdrew five weeks into the transaction and their second set of buyers withdrew after seven, so they had to put their house back on the market at the worst time of year to sell – the six week school holidays.

We waited for a further few weeks for them to re-sell but to no avail – we desperately wanted to be in our new house by Christmas time so we had no choice but to put ours back on the market and to host an open day as we had originally planned. It was very sad as our buyers had done all the paperwork and the sale was ready to go, but we just couldn’t wait any longer.

The open day took place the first week of September, so still a relatively quiet time of year. We had a few viewings and then two asking price offers so we were really pleased, as things were getting back on track. By this stage we were absolutely desperate to move, and after packing all of our winter clothes a couple of months before, (as I had assumed we would be moving in the summer), I had to begin unpacking things again once the weather started getting cold.

During the time we were selling, I went around the house and had a good think about all the hard work we had put in over the years. One thing I regret doing was not taking more “before” pictures of the house to compare them to after all the work was done!

Bedroom Three

This is our little box room and is pretty much the only room I can keep clean because its not used all that much! Books, photo albums and all our paperwork are stored in here – I would like another small room in the new house to turn into an office – I’ve seen some great ideas on Pinterest for a home office!

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Bedroom Two

This was our spare room – even though this room is almost identical in size to the master bedroom. We had a lot of plastering done because the whole house was COVERED in artexing and we gave up before we got to the two bedroom ceilings but I do wish we had taken the time to do them both. In hindsight I also wish we had added coving to all the rooms – it looks really effective doesn’t it? I’ve added it to the next house “to do” list already. We fitted the wardrobes ourselves – they were from Very and are really good quality and were also in the sale – it will be a shame to leave them behind but they won’t do too well being taken apart and then re-built again.

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Master Bedroom

We choose this one as the master bedroom because it overlooks the back garden instead of the road but the road is so quiet it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. These wardrobes are from AHF – they were more expensive than the Very wardrobes in the other room but still far, far cheaper than the quote we received from Sharps. They’ve lasted well and I even have a specially built shoe wardrobe which I will really, really miss!!

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Bathroom

We put loads of work into this room! The old bathroom was completely stripped out, the hot water tank was removed and a new boiler put in down in the kitchen and then a separate shower unit was put back in the place of the hot water tank to make a four-piece bathroom suite. There’s three aspects of this room which I particularly love – the whirlpool bath, the chandelier and the beautiful black glittery marble tiles. We even put some LED lights into the bath panel for added effect.

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Stairs

What could I possibly have to say about the stairs in my house? Well check out the beautiful bannister and chrome rails we added. The bannister was a set of thick dark wooden planks when we moved in and these made the hallway and stairs look really small and narrow, but the chrome rails really open it up and make it lighter. The only problem with this design? The dogs can fit through the rails and sneak upstairs to the bedrooms when the baby gate is closed….

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Lounge

The lounge is an odd shape – long and thin – so I thought I would struggle to get furniture to fit. When I came across this white leather sofa (again from Very) it was as if it was made for this room! As you can see I am a bit of a minimalist – less things to keep clean and tidy – but this is most definitely the room we spend most time in. Light a few candles, get out a couple of fluffy throws and fill the coffee table with snacks and nibbles and you are set for for the next boxset binge!! I just hope I am able to fit our massive sofa into the lounge of the next house!

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Dining Room

When we started looking for our first home I said one of the absolute musts was to have a separate dining room with enough space for a big table and at least six chairs, so I could host my dinner parties and have enough space at Christmas and Easter when the family came over. The lounge and dining room were once one big room so we put these lovely french doors in to make the spaces separate. Even with these rooms as separate rooms I still managed to get a huge extendable dining table in here which fits eight chairs around it.

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Kitchen

This room is my fait accompli! It is a good sized room but is an unusual L shape so we had to design it in the best possible way to make good use of the space. When we bought the house, the oven and all the cabinets were squashed into the smaller section of the L shape whilst a huge long breakfast bar ran along the entire length of the room where the oven now is. It was such a waste of space – we pulled the entire kitchen out and started again. We fitted as many base and eye cabinets in as possible and had a huge built in American style fridge freezer fitted into the alcove. I even had enough space for a beautiful range oven and a smaller breakfast bar down the other end of the kitchen. I will really, really miss this room. I think it will be hard for anyone to find another three bedroom semi-detached house with a kitchen this huge! Bye beautiful kitchen!

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Utility Room

Another aspect of this house which is hard to come by on a three bedroom semi is a utility room. We have an integral garage which was a tandem garage (normal width but double length) so we sectioned it off and converted the part of the garage which joined onto the kitchen into this brilliant utility space! Room for washing machine, tumble dryer, extra freezer, base and eye units and even space to hang wet clothes to dry – I don’t think I could be without such a space on the next house! Just a place to throw all the dirty clothes so they aren’t taking up room in the kitchen is a god-send!

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Garden

We didn’t design the best looking garden but it had to be practical – we both work full time and don’t have the time to look after a huge garden full of plants and flowers. Having two dogs made it difficult having grass – it was ruined within a few months and during the rainy months (most of the year!!) it turned into a giant muddy puddle which was then run all throughout the house! To make things easier we gravelled everywhere and it really made the difference. We still had a patio area and a decking area and a small flower bed to give the garden different textures but overall it was a very low maintenance space which suited us perfectly!

The only part which took up some of hubby’s time was his pride and joy – the fish pond! He amassed a lovely collection of Koi Carp which we very sadly had to leave behind. Luckily our buyers really wanted them so I’m really pleased they will be well looked after. Hubby is already looking at new pond ideas for the new home though so watch this space….

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I hope the new owners have as many happy and fun-filled years here as we did!! Bye beautiful house, you’ve helped us create some life-long memories!

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