Monthly Archives: March 2013

Medieval Warwick unchanged since the industrial revolution


WarwickFire in medieval days destroyed large areas of ancient buildings in most historical centers of UK and European cities, same as the great fire of London which burn down most of the city in 1666. Nevertheless, fires also promoted progress in building design. After a great fire or natural disaster many towns and cities have been rebuilt in a more modern style. The town of Warwick on the river Avon has been constantly inhabited since the 6th century and was partially burned down in 1694. After the industrial revolution, in the 19th century, Warwick had not changed a lot like many other cities in England but kept that medieval look partly because of it’s location away from important highways.

Today, the main attraction in Warwick is the Castle. It was erected in 914 and was first used as an Anglo-Medieval WarwickSaxon fortress to protect England against attacks from the Vikings. In 1068 William the Conqueror rebuilt castle to maintain control over the center of England while he advanced to the north. Henry de Beaumont, the son of a powerful Norman family was made constable of the castle and eventually became the first Earl of Warwick in 1088. In 1978 The Merlin Entertainments Group bought it from the Greville family who were the last owners of Warwick castle since 1759 and turned it into a tourist attraction.

Medieval WarwickOriginally, a wooden fortress, it was rebuilt in stone in 1260. During the Hundred Years War a new defensive wall with towers was built, making the castle one of the best examples of military architecture of the 14th century. Warwick castle is now listed in the Schedule of Ancient Monuments and other important buildings, such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster.

During it’s one thousand year old history, the castle have been used as a protective fortress, a country Warwick castleresidence, a compound for war prisoners and today organized entertainments are held there frequently, like the “Flight of the Eagles” bird shows, medieval knights tournaments and ancient military competitions. In the grounds of the castle there is the biggest catapult ever built in the world made from an ancient oak tree, it is 18 meters high and weighs 22 tons. In 2006 a record was established when it catapulted a shell weighing13 kg, 249 meters.

Warwick castleIt is a known fact that ghosts love living in old buildings like ancient ruins, palaces, and castles. Sometimes you can even hear or read actual accounts about ghosts as told by eye witnesses. You can see a very realistic show called “Warwick Ghosts Alive“, it tells the ghostly story of Fulke Greville one of the castle owners who was murdered in one of the towers by his servant. There is also a Tower of Ghosts where the ghost of a little girl lives. In the same tower in one of the bedrooms Daisy Greville, the countess Warwick, carried out spiritualist sessions. She was probably attempting to help release these souls from our materialistic world. Psychiatrists strongly advise not to dabble in any spiritualistic games as it is dangerous to mental health, especially if the person mentally unstable.

It’s worth wondering along the medieval streets of the town and to enjoy the rare and attractive antiquity Warwickof the lovely houses. One important historical building in Warwick is the Lord Leicester Hospital, situated next to the last remains of the ancient wall called the western gate. In 1571 Lord Leicester bought the Chapel of St. James built in 1126 and opened the hospital. Actually, it was not a medical institution but a refuge for elderly and wounded soldiers and their wives. The building was restored in 1966 and still carries out the same mission it has done for more than four hundred years. The hospital is open for visitors and when carrying out certain ceremonies.

WarwickAs usual in any tourist the town, there are lots of cosy traditional English tea rooms where you can forget about time and dream of bygone days.


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Polesden Lacey and the diamond tiara fit for a Queen


PolesdenLaceyMargaret Helen McEwan Anderson was William McEwan’s illegitimate daughter, founder of the famous Scottish brewery business. Backed by her father’s great wealth she managed to get into High society and the Aristocratic circle, by holding lavish parties at her London home. At one of those parties she met her future husband Ronald Henry Fulke Greville, the oldest son of the 2nd Baron Greville. Ronald was also a great friend of the Prince of Wales later to become Edward the VII.

PolesdenLaceyFor several years Mr & Mrs Greville’s life revolved around entertaining the rich and famous, including the King, at their fashionable London home but Mrs Margaret Greville as she was now known wanted to outshine other London hostesses by having a second home in the country. Situated high up on the North Downs was the ancient estate of Polesden Lacey, now dominated by the early 19th century house designed by Thomas Cubitt. Before the present house was built, a 17th century country mansion existed on the site, the owner Richard Sheridan, had plans for rebuilding a much grander residence but were abandoned due to illness and financial difficulties, the old house became a ruin and was eventually demolished when Joseph Bonsor bought the place. Before WWI, Ambrose Poynter was commissioned to revamp the building by extending the main areas. Mrs. Greville employed Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis to transform the comfortable but plain country house into a sumptuous and elegant arena for entertaining. Margaret and Ronald turned the new Manor House into a neo classical magnificent guest house and museum.

PolesdenLaceyAfter her husband death in 1908, Maggie spent most of her time traveling abroad, holding dinner parties at Polesden Lacey and her London home. She became very famous in Edwardian society during the 20’s, for her exquisite French cuisine and her distinguished guests. Photographs recording the various occasions when royalty, heads of state, politicians, and titled dignitaries were entertained are scattered throughout the house. A sizeable and diverse art collection provides much fascination at Polesden Lacey, with everything from Dutch Old Masters, to oriental porcelain and contemporary jewelry mostly inherited from her father.

With an outstanding personality and charismatic character, she was often referred to as PolesdenLaceyshrewd, vulgar and sharp, but she was always the focus of attention. She was made a Dame and awarded a CBE in 1922. Called greedy, snobbish and an old toad, Maggie was admired by many people. She was also close friends with the Royals, the future King George the VI and his wife Elizabeth spent their honeymoon at Polesden in 1923. Members of the social elite, heads of state, and politicians were also frequent visitors to the mansion.

Maggie was very kind and generous to those who respected and accepted her in her circle. Who could she bequeath her present fortune to in order to become known and famous in history?

PolesdenLaceyMargaret Greville bequeathed Polesden Lacey Manor to the National trust when she died in 1942, Mrs. Greville insisted that Polesden Lacey be made accessible for public enjoyment, and that her art treasures are placed on permanent display. A magnificent collection of pictures, furniture, porcelain and silver are laid out exactly the same as they were during her time and provide much fascination to this day This powerful, often controversial, lady was undoubtedly a force to reckon with during her lifetime and a browse around the few downstairs rooms, the only ones open to the public, reveal something of her flamboyant and colorful character. Determined to have a lasting presence at Polesden Lacey, her grave is situated at the back of the house, in front of the rose garden.

Finally, her precious jewellery, including Marie Antoinette’s diamond necklace, jewelleryBoucheron_Diamond from the Empress Josephine, the diamond ring of Catherine the Great of Russia, a Boucheron ruby necklace and a honeycombed diamond tiara in platinum originally created for her by Boucheron in 1921, plus many other pieces such as earrings and necklaces were bequeathed in her will to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth wife of King George VI. This was a rare case in history when a heritage was given in such an unusual way.

The Queen first appeared wearing the Boucheron tiara in 1947 while on a state visit to South Africa. Queen Elizabeth didn’t wear the gifted jewellery for a long time as it was said that King George VI, her husband, didn’t welcome gifts from subjects. Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England inherited the complete set from her Mother after her death. The last time Boucheron’s tiara appeared in public was when the Queen lent it to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall in 2006, she herself being the granddaughter of Margaret’s best friend and the royal favorite, Alice Keppel. Society expects that this smart tiara will decorate Camilla’s head when she will attend Prince Charles’s crowning. Margaret would have played her final and interesting role in history.

PolesdenLaceyThe house accepts visitors and members of the National trust. Theatrical and musical festivals are organized regularly according to Margaret’s will. There is also a delightful landscaped garden with a seventeenth century Dutch canal and a rosary.


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Petworth House and French impressionism


Petworth gallery The eyes of a painter see the world in many colors, which are different from normal perception. The pictures of many impressionist painters look romantic because of light, shades and color modulation. Their pictures are created to represent their impression of the scene they are trying to portray, the word impression for a painting was first expressed in France and is written exactly the same way, hence the word impressionism. The art of impressionism can be associated in England with the painter William Turner who preceded the French with his style when visiting the old estate of Petworth in the county of West Sussex where he created his romantic watercolors.

William Turner,Petworth HouseThe Petworth Park with one of the largest herds of fallow deer in Petworth galleryEngland stands on a 30-acre woodland. The landscaped gardens were created by the architect Lancelot Brown in the 18th century and were designed to blend into the surrounding panorama. Masterpieces by W. Turner depicting the feel and mood of the surrounding nature can be seen at the house in the Petworth gallery together with collections of works by Van Dyke, Reynolds and other artists. Petworth House also contains ancient and Petworth galleryNeo-classical sculptures, graceful furniture, and lots of porcelain. This art collection of one family for more than 350 years can easily compete with many London galleries.

Petworth HouseI was impressed by the carvings of Grinling Gibbons, there is a room named after him containing what are considered his best creations. He is also well known for decorations at Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington palace, Blenheim palace and St Paul’s.

If you ever visit the house don’t miss the servant’s’ quarters with its fascinating kitchens and copper pots battery of more than 1000 pieces. I have not seen a better collection anywhere else during my travels. In one of the rooms there is an original terrestrial globe dating back to 1592 which it is said, is the only one in the world which highlights the travels of Francis Drake from 1577 to 1580 and the new English colonies included on it.

Petworth HouseModern Petworth House was built in 1688 for the 6th Duke of Petworth House Somerset. Since the 13th century there was a much older house on this site, which belonged to Henry de Percy. An antique chapel and the undercroft of the old house still survive to this day. To see dome of these ancient artifacts is always fascinating.

Lord Egremont is the current owner of Petworth House and the Petworth Houseestate has been in his family for the past 250 years. He and his family now live in the south wing. The rest of the house is currently managed by The National Trust.

The Lake, PetworthWhen walking around the park with its picturesque landscape one can see the reality of Turner’s impressionist paintings, what a shame that not everyone can see the world in unusual colors and feel the mood of nature, yet everyone admires a real work of art. As Leo Tolstoy once said “Great masterpieces are great because they are appreciated and admired by all “

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