Needed Distraction!
0 comment Saturday, May 3, 2014 |
A friend and I went "house-coveting" on a glorious Sunday. Last year we did a fair bit of driving out and about (since it is through my friend's help that I am able to get out and about at all). We joined the National Heritage membership scheme and got our cards so we could go exploring round our area of England free of charge and covet lovely architecture and coo over gardens.
Yesterday's trip was Kingston Lacy which is being restored by English Heritage and several charities. It seemed the last owner died in the 80s and the house was already in a horrible state of repair at that point, the gardens completely falling apart and everything needed re-doing. I must say I am infinitely impressed with the English pride of heritage and history because this is one house where it's obvious a lot of time, effort, and money has been donated to bring the house back into a semblance of its former state and yet there's still loads to do. The gardens are being completely renovated, the wood and furniture of the house restored, and it's all very much an ongoing project. We postulated how many gardeners you'd need to take care of grounds that are that extended, and I'd imagine at least five - one head, four generalists. I could be totally wrong of course, but I seem to recall that a friend of mine who was a gardener managed 30 acres with that number. Though I would imagine the kitchen garden renovation probably would take five people alone to do!
Thankfully one of the great things about English Heritage is they're used to being frequented by us less able to walk about so I'm always assured to have a mobility scooter of some kind to get around in, and this was pretty vital as the grounds were extensive and there was a lot to see. The daffodils were out and my friend and I had a very pleasant walk all round and about. The Japanese gardens are the most extensive I've ever been to; can't wait till the water is turned back on to the gardens but when we were there it had been off all winter and the pool was incredibly alkaline - literally BLACK water. Honestly I thought it looked rather cool although my friend (who is an avid animal-whisperer and has a fish tank she keeps in pristine condition was a bit horrified).
The family of the Kingston Lacy had a fair bit of history - apparently their original ancestral seat was Corfe Castle and the keys to the castle are displayed in one of the main rooms. The castle was defended by "brave Mary", the Lady of the manor, when it was under seige (so much for the idea that the women just wailed and fainted in the tower when enemies came knocking!). The castle withstood the first seige and was holding during the second before it was betrayed by someone in the garrison and he let the attacking army in. The castle was then blown up as it was considered such a difficult structure to attack and the Parliamentarians didn't want to have to try and take it a third time! The Bankes then moved to Kingston Lacy rather than try and build the Castle anew but they proudly kept the keys to their former ancestral home.
The Bankes certainly appreciated art and exploration because the whole house is jammed full of paintings, and the Spanish room in particular is choc-a-block with the Spanish style of work form the 1700s. I'm no historian but I am an artist and I was very impressed by the sheer scope of detail in the place. Not only that, but the carved panels of windows and painted ceilings...good grief, I have yet to understand why someone takes a house like this, guts it and paints it white to sell to new-millionaires. WHY?! I won't even try and describe any of it...just go look for yourself. I couldn't bear to modernise any of it, personally.
We spelunked about the house with a few "eek" moments as often happens in such homes; they're OLD, and therefore there's always some sort of residual 'something-or-other' hanging about. For all the rooms we saw we heard one of the volunteers say there are so many rooms filled with other furniture and stuff because they quite literally cannot place it all - they don't even know how many rooms there are! I'm pretty sure we only saw half the place, and chances are only 50% of it has been refurbished. The amount of work it all entails boggles the mind.
My friend knows me well and the primary reason she chose this house for a visit was the Egyptian collection. The Bankes had explorers in their rank and file and one in particular regularly went to Egypt and Nubia and (because of course at the time there were no laws against it) brought artifacts and relics back from both places. There are three Egyptian obelisks and a sarcophagus on the grounds - and they're the real thing! A striding funeral figure of a boy who had a royal beard displayed so either a young king or a prince, various wall carvings, even representations of Nubian writing tablets which I have never seen before. I was well and truly staggered and could have spent a fair bit of time ooh-ing and aah-ing in there but I know it pretty much went over my mate's head and I didn't want to bore her stupid.
It was a perfect way to spend our spring equinox, really. After all this a pub lunch at a very slow but nevertheless nice pub and friend and I discussed a few heavy but brilliant subjects - it's really fab to have a friend who can appreciate some of the more esoteric and weird thoughts that run through my head without giving me a deer-in-headlamps stare.
Back home again in time for the cleaners to sort out my own ancestral pile! Child back from dad's and sleep (albeit quite late and so at nearly a quarter to eight he is still out like a light, bless him!) I need to go and wake him up on this very sleepy, misty morning, and plan my own day as it's even more sit-about-and-wait this week. Needs must - hopefully it will give me time to write and paint.