Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I'm sitting in the Days Hotel, Wakefield, which turns out to be, after the Christoper North Hotel in Edinburgh, the nicest hotel yet. Great design, great location, great price, good food! And a computer.

Picked up my little Ford Focus at the York train station and whizzed off to Harewood House - with a few interesting wrong turns on the way. But got there and was thrilled to find that since I was last there in 1985 they've completely replanted the terrace, re-organised the rooms, re-hung the pictures, and generally spruced the place up. It's wonderfully beautiful - full of Chippendale (Father and Son) furniture, Robert Adams interiors, a spectacular collection of paintings, and some v. good Sevres. Wonderful.

Then off to Newby Hall - another Robert Adama design full of exquisite things in a serene setting. Then a fast run to Beningbrough House for a trip back a century (17th) and some impressively inspiring Baroque rooms with Grinling-esque carvings. V. Grand. and a beautiful park.

Then the Focus zipped off to Beverly for overnite at the Beverly Royal Arms - supposedly a grand hotel - ah well...... however, St. Mary's Church across the street and the Beverly Minster were v. much worth the drive - spectacular perpendicular Gothic. And a Snetzler organ in the Minster! (much rebuilt but nevertheless)

Up this morning to race up to Sledmere which sets a new standard for English country house presentation. An exquisite house, in an exquisite setting, exquisitely maintained. The Library is paradise. And there's an organ! 3 whole manuals which they wanted me to play but I really wanted to see the house and by the time I was ready to play things had changed. But Robert Adams' rival John Carr built a gorgeous place and Adams' plaster man did some fantastic and elegant things. The Sykes family have done wonders restoring the place after a disastrous fire and their love shows. And, it turns out that one of my favorite authors on all things country house British is a member of the present family (brother) - Christopher Simon Sykes.

Then down to Burton Constable - reputed to be a gem of Elizabethan architecture and housing a splendid collection. I failed to read the part of the sentence that said "faded splendour"...... It truly is beautiful on the outside with a C. Brown park but inside - oh dear.... it needs some love. The plaster is coming off the walls, the silk is shredding from the walls, it's kind of a mess. And, it was redone totally in the 19th c. in a strange and tasteless imitation of Napolean III - truly frightening. Made me shudder. However! they did hang on to all the Chippendale roccoco furniture and restored it so I found something at least to admire.

Then onto Wakefield for overnite to rest up for the last day - Temple Newsam, Nostell Priory - and if I can manage it - Hardwick Hall and Haddon. Or maybe Chatsworth. or just onto Manchester and take a look around there.

Then home on Thursday and uploading a Lot of Pictures.


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