Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'U'

U - Uncle Tom's Cabin and ?

From Uncle Tom’s humble cabin to Brideshead Castle, fictional dwellings have often played a vital role in a novel’s success..

During the American Civil War, President Lincoln is reported to have said to an author, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!”

The author was Harriet Beecher Stowe; the book, once advertised on a poster as “The Greatest Book of the Age”, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Stowe in an angry reaction to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.


 Full page illustration by Hammatt Billings for Uncle Tom's Cabin [First Edition: Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852]. Shows characters of Eliza, Harry, Chloe, Tom, and Old Bruno.
George Orwell described Uncle Tom’s Cabin as “the supreme example of the ‘good bad’ book…..also deeply moving and essentially true.” 


Like the book multiple film versions have told the story of the fleeing slaves, the death of little Eva, and eventually the death of Uncle Tom at the hands of the evil Simon Legree. It is more difficult to visualise the cabin of the title as it only features in an early chapter of the book entitled “An Evening in Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. 

The description of it and its contents shows how sparse it was: “The cabin was a small log building, adjoining the master's house. The front, covered by a large scarlet bignonia and a multiflora rose, left hardly any of the rough logs visible. Inside, a bed in one corner was covered with a snowy spread; and by its side was a piece of carpeting; that corner was the drawing-room.

“In the other corner was a humbler bed, designed for use. Some brilliant scriptural prints and a drawn, coloured portrait of General Washington adorned the wall over the fireplace. A rough bench was situated in the corner. A table with rheumatic limbs, covered with a cloth, and brilliantly patterned cups and saucers, was drawn out in front of the fire.”

[The above text is taken from my article, 'Houses in Fiction', published in The Lady magazine in October 2008.]


And now to the ? I could have written about another house for U. Can you recognise it from this extract?

"Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me."

Monday, 24 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'T'

T - Tolethorpe Hall


Tolethorpe Hall, Little Casterton, Rutland
(By Dave Crosby - 22 June 2013 - CC BY-SA 3.0)
This is the venue of the Rutland Open Air Theatre, the 'home' of the Stamford Shakespeare Company.

This June they will be performing 'A Midsummer's Night Dream' and 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

The first manor house on the site was built by the Norman de Tolethorpe family in the 11th century The setting of the hall overlooks parkland with the River Gwash running near by.


I cannot say that I have ever visited the hall, but before we left the area in the early 1960s I had helped to clean out the Gwash further upstream. I also played cricket against the Tolethorpe Park team.

The Stamford Shakespeare Company acquired the then near derelict hall in 1977. I'll confess that we have also never been fortunate enough to attend any of their performances.

For more details of this year's programme visit http://stamfordshakespeare.co.uk/ and don't forget to book dinner in Tolethorpe Hall itself.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'S'

S - Saddlers Cottage


Saddlers Cottage, High Street, Ketton
This is the house in the Rutland village of Ketton in which I was born, eighty years ago next month.

The house of grey Portland stone and roof of Collyweston slate still retains its old character. I remember it in the 1940s and 1950s when the front had a grey wooden fence, a garden gate and a double gate across the drive at the left. It was fun to swing over them from one side to the other.

On either side of a concrete path to the front door were lawns each with diamond-shaped flower beds in their centre. At nine or ten, I had to cut the edges and woe betide me if I snipped off any flowers. They were in more danger from flailing sticks used to swat bumble bees attracted by the asters.

A rambling rose covered the head-high, wire fence between the lawn and drive. A small gate from the drive near the house opened onto a stone path crossing the front to the lawns and flower beds. Right of the house was a short path from the pavement into the garden of the landlord; he kept a beady eye on us especially as our Airedale, Punch, had killed his cat when it trespassed on ‘his’ lawn.

The drive up the left continued to the back boundary fence and contained a gate through which you could enter a stonemason’s yard – but only if he wasn’t there; he wasn’t keen on kids pinching his apples and plums from trees which were covered in the dust from the monuments and gravestones he made.


Those houses you can see in the background on the left are where that stonemason's yard used to be, The tree on the left is the apple tree I used to climb.

As you can see the wooden fences have gone, replaced by those stone walls. There are no gates. It had no name.

Now a nameplate (not visible in the photo) proclaims it to be 'Saddlers Cottage'. My father's family were saddlers before the motorcar came along.

Friday, 21 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'R'

R - Ragley Hall

Ragley Hall, the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Hertford, is located in Warwickshire, eight miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon.


Ragley Hall, Alcester, Warwickshire
(18 August 2007, ex geograph.org.uk - by David Fiddes - CC BY-SA 2.0
Designed by Robert Hooke in Palladian style, it was built in 1680 for Edward Conway, 1st Earl of Conway.

Later its parkland was laid out by Capability Brown.

During WWI and WWII the hall was used as a military hospital.

!982 saw it used a location in the TV series of 'The Scarlet Pimpernel.' 

It 'became' the Palace of Versailles in the BBC Doctor Who TV series of 2006.

Ragley was also one of the earliest stately homes to be open to the public.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'Q'

Q - Quarry Bank House

The Irish born industrial entrepreneur Samuel Greg built this house for his family in 1800.


Quarry Bank House
(Styal, Cheshire - 8 August 2013, ex geograph.org.uk, by David Dixon - CC BY-SA 2.0)
This year will be the first time the public will be able to explore the house.

In 1783 Samuel Greg had built a cotton mill, Quarry Bank Mill, on the River Bollin in Cheshire.

Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire
(18 April 2015 by Francis Franklin - CC BY-SA 4.)
Quarry Bank Mill is one of Britain's greatest industrial heritage sites which shows how a complete industrial community lived.

A recent Channel 4 TV series entitled 'The Mill' was inspired by the Gregs and Quarry Bank.

The estate, Quarry Bank House and the Mill are now National Trust properties and open to the public.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A-Z Challenge - Houses, some real, some not - 'P'

P - Preston Hall

Preston Hall and Park overlooks the River Tees at Eaglescliffe. The Preston Hall Museum and its surroundings in 100 acres of beautiful park land which has undergone a make-over as the result of a Heritage Lottery Grant.


In addition to the winter gardens at the right, the museum houses displays of art, which normally includes Georges de la Tour’s famous Dice Players, armour and social history. 

Exhibitions show visitors what life was like in the 1800s with craft workers in a typical local street of the1890s. The street includes the shop of John Walker from Stockton; Walker was the inventor of the safety match.


Permanent attractions include an aviary, riverside and woodland paths. The Butterfly World  contains hundreds of butterflies from around the world and even some meerkats.

You may ride on the Teesside Small Gauge Railway or take a trip on the river to Yarm and Stockton aboard the pleasure boat, the Teesside Princess.

The park is an ideal place to walk a dog. Other facilities include safe surface play area for children, crazy golf and a café.

The walks by the river and the Quarry Wood Nature reserve are havens for wild life. 


Grassy areas are perfect for picnics and if you have a piscatorial bent the banks of the Tees provide pleasant spots for plumbing its depths.

[This is an edited post from the first A-Z Challenge I entered in 2011]

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'O'

O - Osborne House

"It's impossible to imagine a prettier spot."

That's what Queen Victoria said of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.


North face of Osborne House, IOW
(CC BY-SA 3.0) 
The Osborne estate was in the hands of the Blachford family from 1705. Robert Pope Blachford  adapted an existing house there in the period 1774 to 1781.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert initially leased that house from the Blachford family before buying it in 1845. As it was too small for them Albert commissioned the master builder and developer, Thomas Cubitt to advise him.

Work on a new house began in 1846, the old house was demolished in 1848 and the new Osborne House's main wing was completed in 1851.

Prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861 and Victoria never really recovered from his death. She was to die at Osborne in 1901.

Neither Edward VII nor any other royal family member wanted the upkeep of the house and estate so , in 1902, he gave Osborne to the nation.

The house and Victoria and Albert's private rooms were sealed on Edward's orders but have been open to the public, with Queen Elizabeth's permission, since 1954.

English Heritage became responsible for management of Osborne in 1986. Since then other parts have accessible to the public as well, including the beach where Victoria used to bathe.

{ The majority of this post has been sourced from English Heritage's Osborne site.}

Monday, 17 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - N

N - Normanby Hall

This is a house that provides a link, for me, with Lincolnshire hockey, a steelworks, Buckingham Palace and a Prime Minister's wife.

In 1960 I started work at Richard Thomas & Baldwins Redbourn Works in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire; other works in the town were run by Appleby Frodingham and Lysaghts. The Lysaghts plant was called the Normanby Park steelworks.

I played hockey for Redbourn against App-Frod and the team from Normanby Park whose pitch was located in the estate surrounding Normanby Hall.


Normanby Hall
(12 August 2006 - by E Asterion u talking to me - CC BY-SA 2.5)
This classic English mansion is 5 miles north of Scunthorpe and was built between 1825 and 1830 for Sir Robert Sheffield whose family titles include the Duke of Buckingham.

John Sheffield who had become Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1703 built the fine Buckingham House in London - Buckingham Palace as we know it today.

Samantha, the daughter of Sir Reginald Sheffield the 8th Baronet is the wife of the recent ex-Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter - Sunday Stamps II

I looked for an Easter bunny but found this stamp from 1997 instead.


Great Britain
In 2009 my article in the magazine Ireland's Own entitled 'Mad as a March Hare' include a paragraph which read -

"Our name for Easter may be derived from a goddess associated with spring called Eastre. The date of Easter is tied to the moon, and the hare has strong lunar associations, with hare hunting being a common activity in England." 

Now that's probably illegal.

However I have discovered a rabbit on a set of pet stamps from the USA.

USA - Pets 2015
It may be Easter but I'm spending my time decorating. For those wanting to see more Easter of favourite stamps just check out the links at Sunday-stamps-ii-122.html

Saturday, 15 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'M'

M - Menabilly


Menabilly, The Seat of Rashleigh, Esq. Cornwall
(Antique print - in public domain)
I first went to Fowey in Cornwall in 2007. By chance our visit coincided with the Daphne du Maurier Festival celebrating her centenary.

The opening of Rebecca, possibly Daphne's most famous novel begins - 


"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited."

That opening introduced Manderley, a forbidding house with an equally forbidding, black-clad Mrs Danvers as its housekeeper. The fictional Manderley was modelled on Milton House, near Peterborough the ancestral home of the Fitzwilliam family and the house and gardens of the Cornish Menabilly. 

Menabilly House, Fowey, Cornwall
(Created Jan 1, 1920 - in public domain)

Belonging to the Rashleigh family, Menabilly, became the home for Daphne and her husband from 1943 to 1969, its history and grounds also provided input to novels later than Rebecca.

The first novel she wrote at Menabilly was The King's General. Set during the English Civil war, it was prompted by the discovery, during alterations to Menabilly in the 1820s, of a walled-up skeleton thought to have been a Cavalier. It tells the story of the love between Richard Grenville, The King's General and Royalist Honor Harris, one of du Maurier's strongest heroines.

in 1969 the year she was made a DBE, the Rashleighs wanted to return to Menabilly; despite all the money she had spent on its restoration Daphne was forced to accept a move to its dower house, Kilmarth, where she was to live until her death.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'L'

L - Lyme Hall


South face of Lyme Park House
(By Julie Anne Workman, 29 September 2013 - CC BY_SA
Lyme Hall in Cheshire was originally a hunting lodge. A house was built there in Tudor time which was turned into an Italiante palace in the early 18th Century.

Once the home of the Legh family it has become 'Pemberley' in the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice'.

It is now managed by the National Trust,

In this 200th anniversary year of the death of Jane Austen, Lyme turns back the clock to the Regency era, where you can uncover the fascinating story of Thomas Legh, Lyme's very own Regency Indiana Jones.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Orange - Thematic Photography

This has proved quite a challenge as a number of shots of orange flowers turned to yellow instead. What I have left is :

Berberis in our garden
Pansy - petals more orange than yellow
Litter louts leave lots of orange about.

Orange peel that will decompose
Orange drink bottle
Orange drink carton
Time to put a stop to it.
Time for me to tackle our fruit bowl.

As long as I pick the real fruit
For more orange items but hopefully not Agent Orange visit Carmi at thematic-photographic-408-orange.html


A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'K'

K - Ketton Hall

This is a location with which I was once very familiar.


Gateway to Ketton Hall
( © Copyright Alan Murray-Rust , licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

As a boy in the Rutland village of Ketton I walked alongside the wall many times and with other lads threw sticks to knock down conkers from the horse chestnut trees that grew along its length. I'll even admit to being given a 'bunk-up' to climb over it. 

Later I walked to the gate at the far right end of the wall, then the entrance to Ketton Cricket Club. More recently it became the way in to a green burial site.

During WWII the Hall was the home of Air Marshal Sir John Baldwin, Acting Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command (1942) and Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Force (Burma), (1943-1944).

Lady Baldwin, a member of the York Terry's confectionery family, would stop and talk to me (as a five year old) when she passed the wooden gate to my home. I never lived down telling her that my oldest brother had gone to war to stick a bayonet up Hitler's arse!

As for Ketton Hall, it was recently on the market for £2.5 million.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'J'

J - Jamaica Inn


Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn, in the middle of Bodmin Moor was built as a staging post for changing horses for stagecoaches crossing the moor.

It was made famous by Daphne du Maurier in the fourth of her novels. Jamaica Inn told the story of Cornish wreckers led by a parson.

On a winters night in 1930 stayed at the Inn with her friend Foy, the daughter of Sir Arthur Quiller Couch.

While they were  there they went riding on Bodmin Moor. Finding themselves lost in bad weather they apparently sheltered for some time in a derelict cottage on the moor being eventually led back to Jamaica Inn by their horses. 

During that stay at Jamaica Inn Daphne also met and talked to the parson from the nearby church at Altarnun. 

Her story tells the tale of Mary, an orphan who goes to live with her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss Merlyn, the terrifying landlord of Jamaica Inn and the mystery surrounding her uncle’s business - smuggling along the Cornish coast.



Today Jamaica Inn is both a pub and a museum, alongside the A30

Hitchcock's 1939 film of Jamaica Inn had its ending altered due to restrictions of the American Hays Production Code - the leader of the wreckers could not be seen as a man of the cloth and was changed to the local squire.

Daphne did not appreciate the changes.

Recently Jamaica Inn was made into a BBC TV series, ruined for me and hundreds of viewers by mumbling, inaudible  dialogue.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'I'

I - Ickworth House

For a while I thought that I would have to resort to an igloo to cool down after the usual hectic start to the Challenge.

Then I discovered:


Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk
(16 June 2004; ex geograph.org.uk - by Chris Downer - CC BY-SA 2.0)
Round the building, modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, below its 100 ft high dome is a finely carved frieze of scenes from Homer.

The rotunda and its pavilions for his art treasures was designed by Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol in the late 18th century. Unfortunately for him, while he was in Rome, Napoleon occupied the city and seized his art collection. Frederick died in 1803 before the house was finished.

The layout of the house may be seen in this plan:

Ickworth House - ground floor plan
(Plan drawn by user Giano - in Public Domain)

1 Library 2 Drawing Room 3 Dining Room 4 Entrance & inner Staircase Hall 5 Smoking Room 6 Pompeian Room 7 Orangery & West Wing 8 East Family Wing 9 Portico 10 Topiary Garden

The West wing remained unfinished until early in the 21st century - it is now an hotel and conference centre. The house is owned by the National Trust and  open to the public.


Monday, 10 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'H'

H - Castle Howard

An ITV television production of Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited was filmed at Yorkshire's Castle Howard between 1979 and 1981. Castle Howard was used again for the later film released in 2008.


Castle Howard
(21 March 2008 - by Pwojdacz -uploaded at en.wikepedia - Public Domain)

The Hon. Simon Howard, who owns Castle Howard, has said:

“It is easy to see why Castle Howard was chosen as Brideshead when we hear the description Charles Ryder gives when seeing Brideshead for the first time: 


'Below us, half a mile distant, grey and gold amid a screen of boskage, shone the dome and columns of an old house.'

Evelyn Waugh's novel which opens during the Second World War, charts the life and loves of Army officer Charles Ryder. Arriving at Brideshead Castle for the first time in more than 20 years, he recalls his years at Oxford University, his relationship with Sebastian Flyte and his - ultimately - doomed relationship with Julia, Sebastian’s sister.

However Waugh’s Brideshead Castle was not a castle at all, but a house built of stones from a pulled-down castle a mile away. It was not in Yorkshire either, but was situated in Wiltshire. So you may gain the wrong impression if you have not read the book.

{Note: Chatsworth House (Pemberley), Green Gables and Castle Howard (Brideshead) all featured in my article in The Lady magazine in 2007, entitled 'Houses in Fiction'}.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Green - Sunday Stamps II

I could not resist posting the green trees that appeared on the postcard Maria sent to me.


Singapore - 26 May 2010
Adenanthera pavonia ( Red-bead tree) on the left;  Pterocarpus indicus, the national tree of the Philippines, (also known as Amboyna Wood, Burmese Rosewood and Red Sandal Wood) on the right,

For other green stamps check out the links at Sunday-Stamps-II 121

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A- Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - G

G - Green Gables

Would you recognise this house in the town of Cavendish, Prince Edward Island?


Green Gables
(30 September 1982 - By Peter Broste - CC BY-SA 2.0)

In Anne of Green Gables Lucy Montgomery described it as follows:

“It was a rambling, orchard-embowered house on the furthest edge of cleared land, barely visible from the main road. It had a neat back yard with great patriarchal willows on one side and prim lombardies on the other. The kitchen windows faced east to cherry trees and west into the back yard. Nodding slender birches grew in the hollow by the brook covered with a tangle of green vine.

“The huge cherry tree outside Anne’s window was so close that its boughs tapped against the house. On both sides of the house was an orchard – one of apple and one of cherry trees. The garden contained purple lilac trees and beyond the garden a green clover field ran down to the brook where scores of white birches grew in the undergrowth of ferns and mosses.”

The novel Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery, translated into fifteen languages and a favourite world wide, was first published as a serial in a Sunday school paper.

Green Gables is now on Canada's list of historic houses.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'F'

F - Ferryside

In 1926, when she was 19, Daphne du Maurier's family found Swiss Cottage, a house on the bank of the River Fowey in Cornwall.

Swiss Cottage
Daphne later described that discovery in Vanishing Cornwall:

"There was a smell in the air of tar and rope and rusted chain, a smell of tidal water. Down harbour, round the point, was the open sea. Here was the freedom I desired, long sought-for, not yet known. Freedom to write, to walk, to wander, freedom to climb hills, to pull a boat, to be alone. It could not be mere chance that brought us to the ferry, and the bottom of Bodinnick hill, and so to the board upon the gate beyond that said For Sale. I remembered a line from a forgotten book, where a lover looks for the first time upon his chosen one – ‘I for this, and this for me."  

The house subsequently renamed Ferryside is inhabited today by Daphne’s son, Christopher (Kits).

It was at Ferryside in 1929 that she wrote her first novel, The Loving Spirit, the title taken from a poem by Emily Bronte:

Alas! the countless links are strong
That bind us to our clay;
The loving spirit lingers long,
And would not pass away!


The discovery of the wreck of the schooner Jane Slade in Pont Creek inspired Daphne. The Slade family were shipbuilders in the nearby village of Polruan on the same side of the Fowey estuary as Ferryside. Daphne researched the family and visited their graves at the local church of Lanteglos. In the book, Polruan became Plyn, Lanteglos became Lanoc and Jane Slade became Janet Coombe. The Loving Spirit is a family saga spanning four generations of the Coombe family, shipbuilders and mariners in and around the Cornish village of Plyn. The figurehead from the Jane Slade was later added to the front of Ferryside.

Ferryside
If you look closely you can see the figurehead on the right hand corner of the house, next to the tree.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not. - 'E'

E - Englefield House

An AD 871 battle between Saxons and Danes on what was to be called the "Englishman's battle field" or the "field of angels" is possibly the origin of the name of Englefield.

The Englefield family were lords of the manor from as early as the 9th century.

However it was via a John Constable painting that I first heard of Englefield House.


Constable's Englefield House© V & A Museum
The Berkshire mansion, with 18th and 19th century modelling is built loosely on the Elizabethan E-plan.

Sir Francis Englefield, the last of the Englefield family to live here, was prosecuted by Queen Elizabeth 1 for his Catholic sympathies. The house was seized by the crown in 1585.

Elizabeth gave the house to her favoured Earl of Essex. He later fell from grace and was executed for treason.

In 1635 the house was purchased by John Paulet, the 5th Marquis of Winchester. Paulet had married the daughter of Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster.

Englefield House became the main residence of the Paulets after their Basingstoke palace burnt down, It has remained in the ownership of the descendants of them ever since.

Englefield House - 16 April 2010
(ex geograph.org.uk - by Richard Croft - CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'D'

D - Dotheboys Hall

A presentation copy of 'The Life of Dickens' in the British Library contains a photographic reproduction of - 



In his novel Nicholas Nickleby describes the brutal regime at the Yorkshire school of Dotheboys Hall run by an evil headmaster, Wackford Squeers.

In 1838 Dickens and illustrator Hablot Brown had travelled to Yorkshire to see school conditions for themselves. The preface to Nicholas Nickleby describes the school masters as

"Traders in the avarice, indifference, or imbecility of parents, and the helplessness of children; ignorant, sordid, brutal men, to whom few considerate persons would have entrusted the board and lodging of a horse or a dog; they formed the worthy cornerstone of a structure, which, for absurdity and a magnificent high-minded laissez-aller neglect, has rarely been exceeded in the world."

Dotheboys Hall may be a fictional house, but unfortunately the actual school on which it was based was not. This was - 


Bowes Academy
It is believed that Dickens based Squeers on William Shaw, headmaster at Bowes Academy when Dickens and Browne made their two day visit. Earlier William Shaw had been convicted of ill treating children at his school.

Today Bowes Academy has been converted into flats and looks much different, not at all like the fictional Dotheboys Hall.

Bowes Hall
(ex geograph.org.uk - By David Rogers, 7 April 2009 - CC BY-SA 2.0)