Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020073

I think that Northumberland is one of the loveliest parts of the United Kingdom, with the Cheviot Hills and in particular the beautiful golden sands along the coast of the North Sea. It also has a large share of castles. Since we moved here we’ve visited all of the coastal castles, except that is the ruins of the castle at Dunstanburgh. It’s a spectacular ruin standing alone on the coast on an isolated headland between Embleton and Craster, looking out over the North Sea.

Last Tuesday we decided it was time for us to go there. It was a lovely hot, sunny day and we walked from the car park down the road to the little village and harbour at Craster, well known for its kippers.

Craster P1020067

From there it’s about a mile and a half walk northwards along the coast to the castle, which is owned by the National Trust (NH) and managed by English Heritage(EH). But we never actually got to the castle, because the heat defeated us and my knee, which has been a problem for a few months now, became painful so we only walked about halfway there, then turned back. I took a few photos zooming in as close as I could:

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020072

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster began building Dunstanburgh Castle in 1313. He was the wealthiest nobleman in England at the time and later took part in the barons’ rebellion against Edward II, resulting in his execution in 1322. John of Gaunt modernised it in the 1380s and later during the Wars of the Roses it became a Lancastrian stronghold, finally falling into ruin in the 16th century.

We will go there again to see more. At least we enjoyed the coastal walk and the view of the castle, despite the heat. And as always I was trying to visualise what it must have been like when it was new and how it had changed over the centuries, thinking of the battles that it had seen, of all the people who had lived and died there.

The Lake District: Aira Force

Last Saturday I wrote about our trip on Ullswater on a grey, overcast morning, a couple of weeks ago. That same day the the sky cleared, and the sun shone as we went to see Aira Force, below Gowbarrow Fell above the shores of Ullswater.  You wouldn’t have thought it was the same day, as the extra layers of clothing had to come off!

Aira Force (from ‘fors’ the Viking word for waterfall) is a beautiful, wonderful place – a series of waterfalls, cascading down a fracture in the ancient volcanic rocks in a deep gorge. People have been visiting Aira Force for about 250 years. This is the plan of Aira Force on the National Trust board at the entrance to the Glade (with my added notation):

Aira Force plan P1010130

 From the Glade you start to ascend the waterfall walking through the Pinetum, which includes firs, pines, spruces, cedars and yews planted in the 19th century. The photo below shows the trunk of a Monkey Puzzle tree, the top way above me:

Pinetum P1010133The paths are circular, most of them dating back to the early 19th century when visitors were escorted by tour guides. There are three bridges across the Aira Beck – the first reference to a bridge was by Wordsworth in 1787. Below is a view of one of the bridges:

Bridge P1010140There are also several sets of steps:

Steps P1010144and of course, the cascades, falling 66 feet from the top to the bottom:

Waterfall P1010149I managed to snap a rainbow:

Rainbow P1010148

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Cragside: The Turkish Baths

I haven’t done a Saturday Snapshot for months!

Turkish Bath P1090264

Here are some photos of the Turkish Baths at Cragside, in Northumberland that I’ve been meaning to post since our last visit. There’s a lot to see at Cragside. It’s now owned by the National Trust and was formerly the home of William George Armstrong (1810 – 1900). We didn’t manage to see this suite of rooms the first time we visited as there was quite a queue.  But on our second visit there weren’t as many people. You go down stairs from the Library lobby to go into the rooms below the Library. The guide book describes them as:

The suite of rooms includes a steam bath, a cold plunge, a hot bath and a shower, as well as water closets and a changing room. They are the lowest and the first completed part of Norman Shaw’s first addition to the original house. His plan, which shows that modifications were still being made, is dated 5 May 1870, and Armstrong’s friend, Thomas Sopwith, recorded in his diary that ‘the Turkish Bath at Cragside was used for the first time on November 4th 1870′.
The baths were part of Lord Armstrong’s innovative provision of central heating for the whole house. The space occupied by the baths is cleverly situated between chambers with huge water-pipe coils, which, heated from the boiler to the north, were the source of hot air that was ducted up into the main house. (NT guide book for Cragside)

Turkish Bath P1090265

Turkish Bath P1090266Apparently, Lord Armstrong was keen to build up foreign business and thought that:

Chinese or Burmese, or Japanese arms ministers would be more likely to agree to handsome contracts, if they were both well entertained and comfortable – even in a Northumbrian winter. (NT guide book for Cragside)

I think it’s an excellent idea and wish we had space for something similar!

Saturday Snapshots: Wallington

Griffins' heads, Wallington

Wallington is now owned by the National Trust but was for generations the home of the Blackett and Trevelyan families. It’s in the village of Cambo, Northumberland, to the west of Morpeth, approached down a series of country lanes. We visited it just over a week ago, never having heard of it or of Cambo until I looked in the NT handbook. There’s a lot to see, including these strange objects on the front lawn – they’re griffin heads that were originally on Bishopsgate in London (according to wikipedia this was the gate where the heads of criminals were displayed on spikes).

I took lots of photos, mainly inside the house, which was built in the late 17th century. We didn’t have time to see everything and spent most of the time looking round the house. I’ve just posted a few of my photos today (click on them to enlarge):

First the entrance to the property is under a Clock Tower topped by a cupola on nine Doric columns:

Clock Tower, Wallington

This opens into a grassed courtyard where people were sitting having picnics and children were playing ball games. Crossing the grass takes you to the entrance to the house:

Wallington entranceI think the Central Hall is impressive, but one of the house stewards told me not all visitors like it. I suppose not everybody thinks an Italianate Renaissance palazzo type courtyard is right for the house, or perhaps it’s the wall paintings they don’t like.

Central Hall, Wallington P1080991The wall paintings illustrate the history of Northumberland. They are the work of William Bell Scott, a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The photo below shows three of the paintings, featuring Egfrid, King of Northumberland with St Cuthbert, Danish Vikings landing at Tynemouth and the death of the Venerable Bede.

Wall paintings, Wallington P1080993Just a few more photos – below a photo of one of the cabinets containing a collection of model soldiers, 3,800 in total. These belonged to the three sons of Sir George Otto Trevelyan. They set them out following the plans of the battles of Marlborough and Napoleonic wars to re-enact the battles. Now they are laid out in regiments:

Model soldiers, Wallington P1090002There are the usual rooms – Kitchen (my photos of this are a bit dark), Parlour, Study, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, Nusery, Bedrooms and Galleries, all with many paintings, sculptures, beautiful furniture and collections of ceramics and textiles.

I was intrigued by this large boot in one of the bedrooms:

Boot Bath, Wallington P1090021It’s a Boot Bath – used by Sir William Blackett in the 18th century. It’s made of metal sheets soldered together. I don’t think I’d have liked using it, but it was designed for modesty – just your head and shoulders could be seen when you’re sitting in it – and for warmth! It was originally used in a bedroom downstairs and placed near a fire. I don’t think I’d like to have been one of the servants either, whose job it was to fill it up or empty it.

One final photo. After going round the house and part of the garden we needed some refreshment: a cup of Earl Grey tea with coffee and walnut cake for me and and mug of coffee with chocolate fudge cake for David (you can see my reflection in the teapot):

Teatime, Wallington P1090036

That’s enough for now – more photos another day, maybe of the Cabinet of Curiosities on the top floor of the house.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshot: Cragside Again

Following on from last Saturday’s snapshots of Cragside here are a few more photos.

There were many other visitors when we were there and it was difficult sometimes to get a good photo and I had to be quick before someone moved in front of my camera. So, some of my photos are a bit out of focus and rather dark. (It’s amazing that you can take photos in National Trust properties – in the past it was strictly forbidden. I asked one of the room stewards why they allowed them now and he explained that because you can take photos on mobile phones it was impossible to stop people. It’s good to take your own photos, but actually there are much better ones than mine in the guidebook.)

The first room we saw was the kitchen. As you can see the area is fenced off. It’s not very big but there are also sculleries and larder and cellar storage beneath the kitchen, with a ‘dumb waiter’ to carry food and equipment up and down. The Butler, Housekeeper and Cook each had their own areas.

In the next photo you can see the spits with joints of meat in front of the range.

There is a dishwasher. Rather primitive compared to the modern models this dishwasher has wire compartments for crockery, a motor turned it whilst hot soapy water was squirted into it from a boiler. This had been invented in 1886 by a wealthy American, Josephine Cochrane whose servants had chipped her fine china.

None of the rooms at Cragside are very large, apart from the Drawing Room, and I could imagine being comfortable in most of them, such as the Dining Room. It has a lovely inglenook fireplace with stained glass windows designed by William Morris.

The windows either side represent the Four Seasons. the photo below shows two of the windows – Spring and Summer.

I still have more photos, but these are enough for one post. (Click the photos to see a larger view.)

Cragside is open to visitors from today. I  would really like to go there again this year, there is so much I didn’t take in and I only had a brief look at the grounds.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot

My photos this week are a few of Cragside in Northumberland, now owned by the National Trust. It was built in 1863, with further extensions over the next 15 or so years, by William Armstrong, who later became Lord Armstrong. Armstrong was a remarkable man – a scientist, an innovator and a successful industrialist.

We visited it last year. Here is the view of the house approaching from the public car park:

and the view from the gardens:

It has to be one of my favourite National Trust properties and it’s a very popular house with everyone else too – the place was packed when we were there last April. There is so much to see inside the house, too much for one post. The house was very modern for its times, with all the latest and advanced technical devices of the day.

One of my favourite rooms is the Library, with its  stained glass windows, comfy chairs, leather sofas and the latest lighting available. This was the first room in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity.

The light suspended from the ceiling has four bulbs within the ornate and fringed light shade. I tried very hard to get a photo without any of the other visitors, but gave up when there was just one person looking out of the window – anyway he gives scale to the room.

There are four more bulbs around the room, place in globes, sitting on vases:

The books are in oak bookcases around the room:

Note the library steps at the left-hand side of the photo.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

At a later date I might post more photos – of the kitchen with its dishwasher, the lovely dining room with its William Morris stained glass windows and of the amazing Gallery, with its collection of paintings and sculptures. As for the Drawing Room, this was not to my taste at all with its huge marble chimney piece.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

ABC Wednesday: P is for …

… Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit first made his appearance in 1902 in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Peter was a very naughty rabbit, who disobeyed his mother, despite being told the terrible fate of his father who had had an accident in Mr McGregor’s garden and was put into a pie by Mrs McGregor. He squeezed under the gate into the garden, ate lots of vegetables and then came face to face with Mr McGregor and escaped by the skin of his teeth.

Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was an English author, illustrator, mycologist and conservationist best known for children’s books featuring anthropomorphic characters such as in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and rural lifestyle. (From Wikipedia)

Her original watercolour paintings and sketches are in the Beatrix Potter Gallery at Hawkshead, Cumbria. Hill Top, the house which she bought with the proceeds from sales of her books and which she used as an artistic retreat from London, is in Near Sawrey, near Hawkshead. She left it to the National Trust. It is open to the public and it remains just as it was when Beatrix lived there.

I love the watercolours in her books and this is my attempt at painting Peter Rabbit, copied from The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

An ABC Wednesday post.

Saturday Snapshots – Castles

Bamburgh Castle seen from Lindisfarne

This is Bamburgh Castle, off the coast of Northumberland south of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and on Monday when we went to  the Island, it was clearly visible on the horizon. The sea was shimmering in the sunshine.

I posted a photo of Lindisfarne Castle when we visited the island in March. Early on Monday morning it was raining but it soon stopped and the sun came out, even though it remained extremely windy.

The Castle was originally an Elizabethan fort protecting the harbour. It was built between 1570 and 1572 and was garrisoned for over 300 years – guns and soldiers were removed in 1893. Now it is owned by the National Trust.

The photo below is of Lindisfarne Castle taken from the walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll north of the Castle. The site of the garden was where the soldiers of the fort had formerly grown vegetables.

Lindisfarne Castle

Inside the Castle it’s an Edwardian house, designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens for his friend Edward Hudson, who was the founder of Country Life magazine. By 1902 the castle was derelict and Lutyens turned it into a holiday home for Hudson. It’s both homely and dramatic. There are columns and rounded arches; the rooms are all small  – you can imagine yourself living there. The dining room in the old Tudor fortress has a vaulted ceiling with a wide arched chimney-piece. It had once been a bakery and there is an old bread oven next to the fireplace.

Lindisfarne Castle Dining Room

These days you can get married in the Ship Room, so called because of the wooden model ship that hangs from the ceiling, flanked by two Dutch 17th century chandeliers:

Lindisfarne Castle Ship Room

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home with Books.

Glimpses of Edward Gibbon at Sheffield Place (Sheffield Park Garden, East Sussex)

Each day during this last week I’ve been reading one of Virginia Woolf’s essays from the collection in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. Each one has provided some fascinating glimpses into the lives of a number of writers including Edward Gibbon (1737 – 1794), about whom I know very little. In fact before I read her two essays “The Historian and ‘The Gibbon’” and “Reflections at Sheffield Place” all I knew was that Gibbon had written The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

I didn’t know about his connection to Sheffield Place and was interested when I realised that this is now Sheffield Park in Sussex. Although the house is privately owned, the National Trust owns Sheffield Park Garden. I visited it several years ago when I had no inkling that Gibbon had also visited it some 300 years earlier. The garden was originally designed by ‘Capability’ Brown for John Holroyd (who later became Lord Sheffield) in about 1775. So, Gibbon who was a great friend of Lord Sheffield would have seen the garden when he stayed with Lord Sheffield, but I doubt that he would have walked round very much of it as, according Maria, Sheffield’s daughter, Gibbon was “a mortal enemy to any person taking a walk.” To her he was a figure of fun “waddling across the room”, but she admitted that he was “the most delightful of talkers” and she was genuinely fond of him.

Woolf in her essay Reflections at Sheffield Park ponders whether Gibbon had paused in front of the “great ponds … bordered with red, white and purple reflections, for rhododendrons are massed upon the banks and when the wind passes over the real flowers the water flowers shake and break into each other.” I wish I had known that when I visited. I remember how beautiful Sheffield Park Garden was with its colourful displays of flowers and trees surrounding the lakes; I could have stood there imagining that maybe Gibbon had stood on the same spot and seen a similar display! The lakes, cascades and waterfalls make this one of the most picturesque gardens I’ve visited. I can’t find the photos we took when we were there, so this photo is from Wikipedia, showing one of the lakes. The National Trust website has a few photos showing the Garden at different times of the year.

Woolf’s description of Gibbon’s appearance as well as his character caught my imagination and brought him to life. He was fat and ugly, talked incessantly, was sickly and had none of the advantages of birth. She describes his appearance as “ridiculous – prodigiously fat, enormously top-heavy, precariously balanced upon little feet upon which he spun round with astonishing alacrity.”

Gibbon apparently abandoned his purple language and wrote racy colloquial prose to Sheffield and was the only person who could restrain Sheffield’s extravagance. The contrasting characters of his eccentric Aunt Hester and his Aunt Kitty who brought him up after his mother died show the complexity of his nature. Woolf wrote that Aunt Hester’s view was that he was “a worldling, wallowing in the vanities of the flesh, scoffing at the holiness of faith.” Aunty Kitty on the other hand, thought he was a prodigy and was intensely proud of him.

Virginia Woolf’s essays are brief but give enough facts and a general impression of how Gibbon grew up and became a historian to make me keen to find out more. Gibbon did of course write in a very ornate, ironic and elaborate style, but Woolf considers reading it is like being “mounted on a celestial rocking-horse”, which then becomes a “winged steed; we are sweeping in wide circles through the air and below us Europe unfolds; the ages pass; a miracle has taken place.”

I still have essays on Coleridge, Shelley, Henry James, George Moore and E M Forster to read in this little book – such a wide sweep of literature yet to explore.

"Cranford" – the location of Lady Ludlow’s House

Very often when I’m watching TV I wonder where the filming took place – the scenery and the buildings can look so familiar and yet usually I can’t place them. In the case of Lady Ludlow’s house in “Cranford” I recognised the outside views immediately. It’s West Wycombe Park, in Buckinghamshire. It is set in beautiful grounds. It’s been a while since I visited the house and I’m not sure that the scenes inside Lady Ludlow’s house were filmed inside West Wycombe Park mansion. Looking at the pictures in the guidebook the grand entrance hall has a similar floor but the columns and walls are different. The colour too is different, whereas the actual entrance hall is predominantly cream and brown Lady Ludlow’s grand room was overall white and grey, matching the grey grandeur of Lady Ludlow herself. Wherever it was filmed it was impressive. Lady Ludlow is becoming my favourite character in this TV production, stealing the show somewhat from Miss Matty in my view. The view of the railway coming over the horizon onto Lady Ludlow’s land was astounding – I could almost believe it was real!

I’m looking forward to visiting West Wycombe Park again next year. It is owned by the National Trust and is only open to the public during June, July and August. The grounds with its temples, lake and cascade are open from April to the end of August. It’s a beautiful Palladian style house, remodelled from the original Queen Anne house between 1735 and 1781 by Sir Francis Dashwood. Sir Francis was a most interesting character – a member of the Hell-Fire Club, and a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries.

Elizabeth Gaskell based her fictional town of “Cranford” on Knutsford, in Cheshire. I suppose it is because Knutsford has changed since the 1840s that Cranford was not filmed there, but in Lacock, in Wiltshire. I had a school friend who lived Knutsford. Every year there is the May Day festival in Knutsford and I remember going with my friend to watch the May Day procession through the town, but the highlight for me as a young teenager was the fairground rather than the coronation of the May Queen. It was all very different from the “Cranford” May Day celebrations, which were filmed on the Ashridge Estate in the Chilterns, not in Cheshire. There were Morris Dancers and a Maypole, but I don’t remember a dancing bush!

Cross Stitch – Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

For a change this post is not about books.

I like to do cross-stitching, but one of its disadvantages is that I cannot read and stitch at the same time. Other difficulties are that I cannot do it in the summer as my hands get too hot and at other times of the year I find the light is not good enough so I have to use a daylight lamp, which I don’t find very easy. Anyway, now that I’ve just finished reading The Testament of Gideon Mack, which I’ll write about soon, I feel it’s time to get stitching again after many months of inactivity. I have quite a lot of different ones on the go, some I’ve been doing for years. One of them is a kit to stitch Little Moreton Hall. The photograph above shows the minimal amount I’ve done. It’s quite hard as it is such a fine canvas and small stitches – I’m no expert. The Hall, a National Trust property in Cheshire is a beautiful timber framed Tudor building as shown in the photographs below.

Little Moreton Hall is one of the most impressive buildings I know, with its wonderful decorative timber framing and patterned glazed windows. It is marvellous to be able to visit such an historic building and many rooms are open for the public to look at and walk through. It looks top-heavy with its projecting upper storeys. The earliest part of the building dates from the 1440s and 1450s when the Great Hall and the East Wing were built. A third storey was added in 1560-70 during the reign of Elizabeth I, containing the Long Gallery, 68 feet long with a massive arched roof. Cross beams were inserted into the roof trusses in the late seventeenth century to stop the walls from coming apart. The walls are crooked and the floor is uneven, so you experience a truly precarious feeling walking along the gallery. When I visited it quite a few years ago the Long Gallery was not furnished, much as it would have been when it was first built, because the Elizabethans used the room for walking, daily exercise and games. It was very easy to imagine what it must have been like.

I bought the Guide Book, the Cross Stitch Kit and a small bay tree in a pot for the garden as souvenirs. I like to buy Cross Stitch Kits of National Trust houses and properties wherever I can find them. I now have a few including a view of St Michael’s Mount near Penzance in Cornwall, and an ornamental gate in the garden of Townend, a 17th century solid stone and slate farmhouse near Windermere in Cumbria.

I also like to buy bookmarks to stitch. They are much quicker to finish and have a practical use. I’ve decided to start the bookmark shown on the left in the photograph below even though I have several other kits I’ve started and not finished.

Claydon House

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon on Wednesday this week when my husband and I visited Claydon House in the north-west of Buckinghamshire. The National Trust doesn’t allow you to take photographs inside the house, so my photos are just of the outside.

It was a most enjoyable visit. We weren’t quite the only people going round the house, but, except for the room stewards, we were the only people in the rooms as we toured the house. Although it belongs to the National Trust, most of the contents of the house still belong to the Verney family. Sir Edmund Verney, who inherited the baronetcy in 2001, lives in the east wing with his family. I’ve heard that Lady Mary Verney, the widow of Sir Ralph (who died in 2001), is a concert pianist and although she is now in her mid 80s, she still gives concerts and takes her own piano with her. Apparently she’s known in the nearby village as a bit of a madcap driver and one day last summer she was giving a recital at Claydon House and arriving late she drove up to the house, spinning the car round in the car park, making the gravel fly as she pulled up. As we left the grounds an elderly lady drove in and politely waited for us to go out, as the drive is only wide enough for one car – we’d like to think it was Lady Verney, but, of course, it could have been another visitor.

One of the most interesting rooms is Miss Nightingale’s bedroom. Florence Nightingale was Sir Harry Verney’s sister-in-law and often stayed at Claydon House between 1857 and 1890. Sir Harry had first asked Florence to marry him but she declined and he married her older sister Parthenope (they’re named after the places they were born – Parthenope, being the Greek name for Naples. That’s like the Beckhams calling their son Brooklyn – I wonder if that’s where they got the idea? Somehow I don’t think so, but you never know!)

Florence Nightingale slept in this room, but the furniture is not necessarily the furniture she used, although it is furniture that was found in the house. It’s very unlikely that the four-poster bed is the one she slept in, as she wouldn’t have thought it was hygienic – the dust would collect in the fabric and the curtains wouldn’t have allowed the air to circulate. Sir Harry was devoted to Florence and as he championed her cause in Parliament, he was known as the ’Member for Miss Nightingale’, rather than the Member for North Bucks.

Before seeing Florence’s bedroom you pass through the Museum. This is a fascinating room, chock full of objects that the Verney family collected and placed there in 1893. I love such old fashioned museums as this is, with artefacts displayed in glass cabinets and labelled in spidery handwriting – the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is the most interesting museum I know (another post some day maybe). The Verney Museum displays amongst other items, tribal artefacts from British Columbia collected in the 1860s, masks, native clubs and other weapons; British army uniforms and the Colours of the 14th Regiment of Foot, carried at the Battle of Waterloo. There are also some of Florence Nightingale’s personal items, including her little, travel communion set and a lock of her hair – a rather striking, brown chestnut colour. Taking up centre stage in the room is the gamelon, an orchestra of gongs and other instruments used in religious ceremonies from Java.

The library is the only other room that is fully furnished. Parthenope converted this room into a library in 1861. I love seeing the books in libraries like this and these were obviously the personal collections of generations of the Verneys, being a mixture of different subjects and looking as though they had been read and weren’t just there as decoration.

There is so much more I could write about –the beautiful mahogany staircase, with its balustrade of fine ironwork that rises the full height of the house ending on the top floor, which is inlaid with coloured woods and ivory (needless to say the public can see but not use this staircase); about the intricate, painted wooden carvings that looks like delicate plasterwork; the intricate and rich decorations in the Chinese Room, which are unbelievably also carved wood in the chinoiserie style; and so on and so forth.

At the end of our visit we went to the tearoom, which is in one of the outbuildings. The entrance is the single blue door on the left next to the hanging basket. I had Afternoon Tea, comprising a pot of tea (enough for two cups), two scones, with clotted cream and jam and a strawberry, whilst my husband had a cup of coffee and an enormous slice of chocolate fudge cake.

Suitably refreshed, we then visited the Secondhand Bookshop, opposite the tearoom. The entrance is the dark doorway shown in the photo. It’s a treasure trove of books and we bought The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning – the first novel in her Balkan Trilogy (for The Outmoded Authors Challenge), rather a dusty copy; The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke (mentioned by Ann); and One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes, a Virago Modern Classic.

Finally we went into the Church of All Saints, Middle Claydon, which is next to the House. This doesn’t belong to the National Trust and is still in use as the parish church. It’s a little church dating from 1231 and contains monuments to the Verney family, including one to Sir Edmund Verney, the Standard Bearer to Charles I, killed at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. The story goes that Sir Edmund was killed clutching the Standard and as they were unable to prise it from his hand the soldiers had to hack off his hand. You can just see the representation of the hand holding part of the Standard in my photo of the church interior.

The Verneys: a true story of love, war and madness in Seventeenth-Century England by Adrian Tinneswood is on sale at the ticket office, where I was told that he is currently writing a further book about the family history. I’ve borrowed the book from the library and have just dipped into it – it looks as though I should have bought it.

TV dramatisation of Cranford by Mrs Gaskell

Coming up on the BBC this autumn is Cranford by Mrs Gaskell, starring Dame Judi Dench and a whole host of stars, including Dame Eileen Atkins, Julia McKenzie, Barbara Flynn, Julia Sawalha and Imelda Staunton. Set in the fictional town of Cranford, a small Cheshire town based on Knutsford (where Mrs Gaskell grew up), the 5 part drama was filmed on location in various places including Lacock Village in Wiltshire (as the setting for Cranford), the Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire in the Chilterns (also used in the Harry Potter films)and the Buckinghamshire village of West Wycombe owned by the National Trust.

Cranford is based on three of Elizabeth Gaskell’s works, Cranford, My Lady Ludlow and Mr Harrison’s Confessions and I see from Amazon that The Cranford Chronicles is to be published on 4 October to tie-in with the TV series.

The National Trust Autumn Magazine has an article “The Dame Game” about the filming at the NT locations, with some great photos of the actors and the settings. At the moment the Summer Magazine is available to look at on-line, so I expect that eventually the Autumn Magazine will be too.

The Gaskell Web has lots of information on Elizabeth Gaskell plus photographs of present day Knutsford as well as prints of Knutsford Past, with connections to her life and works. These photos are of St John’s Parish Church, where Elizabeth married Rev William Gaskell in 1832 and of the Old Vicarage.

I read Cranford at school and haven’t looked at it since, so I’ll be able to watch the series without many preconceived ideas about the characters and the story, although as I used to live near Knutsford, no doubt I’ll be comparing Lacock to my memories of Knutsford. It’s to be broadcast on BBC1 this autumn – I can’t find a precise date on the television listings yet. One to look out for.