My favourite aspect of Basildon Park is not the architecture or art collection, but the room decorated with an exotic 19th-century shell collection.
I have to admit, this was a rather surreal experience.
The best thing about having friends who work in other country houses is getting to see all the things visitors normally do not. When I visited Saltram the Saloon was closed for conservation, but I was allowed to sneak in and see the beautiful Robert Adam ceiling.
I have something quite terrible to admit: I only visited Chatsworth for the first time two days ago. Yes, me, a student of the country house, did not see one of the most grand and famous houses in the country until Thursday. I don’t really know why it has taken me so long to visit but I’m really glad that I finally have.
Dalquharran Castle was designed by Robert Adam, but not many people have heard of it. Situated in the village of Dailly in Ayrshire, it is now a dramatic ruin, towering over the village and landscape.
I’ve recently started volunteering at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire. I help out every Sunday and it is such a positive experience. I’m getting to do a whole variety of things – helping out with Conservation in Action week and writing interpretation, and last week I learned how to move a grandfather clock (girl power only)!
Joseph Mallord William Turner, The South Wall of the Square Dining-Room, 1827, Gouache on paper, 13.8 x 18.8 cm, Tate, London
I was lucky to attend yesterday a conference at The Paul Mellon Centre entitled ‘Art in the British Country House: Collecting and Display’. I have to admit, it is quite intimidating being surrounded by so many renowned academics and curators, but I left feeling so inspired.
I visited Blenheim Palace for the first time recently and was of course immediately overwhelmed with the immense scale of the building. However, what I love about country houses are the details. When visiting a country house you should always look up; it is definitely worth a sore neck! This beautiful ceiling in the Long Library was designed by Christopher Wren.
So often the history of the country house is told from the male perspective for obvious reasons. However I’ve long thought that is unfair and diminishes the contributions made by women on architectural projects and art collections, and their vital role as wife. I was delighted to discover this work by Rosemary Baird in my local Oxfam shop, entitled Mistress of the House. Baird reveals the challenges faced by these women and the achievements that they accomplished. It is a lovely book to read; very accessible and well-researched, but it is Baird’s passion for the subject which really makes the words flow. So if you are looking for something new to read I definitely recommend it!
Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire makes for some very striking photographs. Unlike many houses which fell into ruin, Lyveden looks like an empty shell because it was never finished. It was constructed for Sir Thomas Tresham of nearby Rushton Hall. He was a staunch Roman Catholic and the building is rampant with Catholic symbolism.