Sunday, 30 September 2012

Big ol' Homes -- Haddon Hall and Hardwick Hall

We topped off a fairly laid back weekend with a quick tour of a couple of manor homes on Sunday.  Saturday was supposed to be the better weather day but we had various appointments set up so we were stuck with Sunday.  Fortunately, the weather held out (and we stayed mainly inside) so good times. 

Haddon Hall is about 40 minutes away near Bakewell (B).  Since it didn't open until noon we figured that would be it for the day, but we had a little extra time so we zipped over to Hardwick Hall as well (C).

Haddon Hall has been on my list for awhile but we haven't made it there until today.  (I'm sure having to pay to get it had something to do with it.  It's still privately owned).  Some pretty funky shrubbery to greet us.  Love the warthog.

Haddon Hall was owned by the Vernon family and later the Manners (by marriage, never sold).   The home is one of the seats of the Duke of Rutland though I admit I don't even try to keep up with that.  I tried to see if they were later rivals with the Bess of Hardwick clan since they were relatively near by, but it didn't sound like it.

The building has been used in various films (Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Elisabeth, etc.) but I got a kick out of the fact that it was Prince Humperdinck's castle in the Princess Bride.

Impressive entrance tower.  Not technically a fortress though.

The courtyard into the main house.  Haddon Hall (wiki) dates back to the 12th century and is one "of the finest examples of a medieval home".  It did seem to have a nice, older feel to it. 

A wall?  Not just any wall -- parts of the wall actually date back to the 1100's.  The estate was given permission to build the wall from John-before-he-was-Magna-Carta-King-John (though there were restrictions on how high it could be so it wouldn't become a fortress).  It's easy to get numbed to the old stuff here, but this was really old!

another shot from the courtyard and then it was on to the house

early kitchen counters

they actually had a place to tack someone to the wall in the banquet room if their drinking got out of hand

outside in the garden for a spell -- great views as most of these homes have

down along the river and a very old footbridge

a nice shot of the house from the garden

garden and countryside

interesting hall of fame above the fireplace -- royalty only may apply (sign)

Queen Mary

and again on a return visit with . . . 

King George (King's Speech guy)

Kuk checking out the signatures

check out this old 3-legged chair -- looks like it requires some balancing, particularly in its current state

 a cute little piano from 1289 (supposedly, I did not confirm); notice the dried thistle which is a polite way of saying don't sit here

interesting carving to say the least, reminded us for our trip to the Louvre and . . .

. . . the sister's pic

cool 3-D glasswork (from the inside)

and the outside

We had a nice walk through the house and grounds which took about 1.5 hours.  Not sure it was worth £27.50 for the family, but it was unique compared to some of the others.  Given the short duration, we decided to tick off another on our list and visit Hardwick Hall.

On the way there, we past through Chesterfield which is famous for it's crooked spire.   Neither the twist nor the lean were by design!  (folks didn't always engineer things perfectly you know).  Some of the theories include that there were few skilled craftsmen when it was built due to the plague and the addition of lead 300 years later caused uneven heating from the sun. 

[photo from the web as I didn't feel like stopping as we passed]

And here we are at Hardwick Hall.  You may recall that we went to Hardwick (Old) Hall next door in January (link).   The "new" hall (still late 1500's mind you) was closed so we thought we'd see it today.

I'll not repeat the details, but ole Bess of Hardwick was a tough, smart cookie who also new how to marry well.  Her family owned Hardwick Hall(s), Chatsworth and had ties to Bolsover Castle as well.  She's buried in Derby Cathedral, btw.

The house itself was not a big hit for us, largely because it was so dark inside (preservation reasons).   Cuts back on the photos as well.   But, it was free with our NT membership so we aren't complaining.  [we might actually like the ruined Old Hall better]

very large coat of arms above the fire place

think you can go to sleep with that in your bedroom?

 Queen Elisabeth I.  (I thought it was Bess of Hardwick at first-- they look somewhat similar)

Jesus on the ceiling -- that should punch your ticket

cracked us up -- we are always looking for hairy cows

Photo of the Old Hall next door for good measure

My buddy Jay did a nice write-up on the Hardwick Halls if you'd like some more info and photos:  link.

Hundred bucks says that a guy does not own this car.

Light on the historical facts this week.  More of a carefree casual stroll.  Hope you still enjoyed it.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Saturday was a clear, sunny (albeit crisp) day so we decided to take a day trip to Chester with our fellow ex-pats and friends, the Seppannens (Jay's blog).   Chester is a small city that is known for its Roman connections, a complete set of medieval city walls, and "The Rows" of medieval looking (but Victorian refurbished) half-timbered shops.  It made for a nice, relaxing day out with friends.  The photo above is along Eastgate and gives you a glimpse of The Rows and Chester's famous clock.  (more on that later)

Chester is close to the Wales border which I've crudely traced in above.  It's about 1.5 hours from Derby.  I've highlighted Liverpool and Manchester so you can see that it is closer to the former.   It's essentially on the route to N. Wales.  Conwy, from our August visit, is in the red box.

Here's a closer view of the Eastgate Clock.  It was erected to commemorate the previous (Queen Victoria's) Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  I thought it was amusing that they bickered about the financing so much that it didn't actually complete until two years later.  It's supposedly the second most photographed clock in England (next to Big Ben).  No telling how they actually determined that.

Here's the gang up top.  Sorry I chopped you off, Lori.  Not my best photography week as you'll see.

Chester was established as a large Roman fortress in 79 AD.  (Remember that the Romans were busy conquering/expanding and got into Britain in their hey-day.  They had some trouble with the areas that are now Scotland (Hadrian's Wall) and Wales).

One of the key artifacts from the era is a Roman Amphitheater, the largest discovered in Britain (fairly recently in 1929).   You can also see one of the entrances to the city (via the arch) on the right.

Here's the gang walking around the amphitheater.  Fortunately no lions around.

The oldest church in the city is St. John's which dates back to the 7th century (though most of the building you see if from medieval times or later).  I found it interesting that it ended up being a key location for the Civil War as Parliamentarians "captured" it and used it as a launching point for canon bombardments into the city (which became heavily ruined as a result).

another shot of the church -- the sun posed problems for my photography this week.  Apparently my lens could used some cleaning.

after milling around a bit, we took a short (30-40 minute) Heritage Bus Tour.  It gave us a nice tour of the city with some decent commentary.  Nothing too exciting, but generally worthwhile.

As mentioned above, Chester has "the most complete" set of city walls in Britain (shown above).  Some of the walls date back to Roman times but they were largely completed in the 12th century.  The perimeter is about 2 miles which makes for a nice walk (which we did later in the day).

Not too many usable photos from the bus.  This is actually back to St. John's on our way to the River Dee after the tour.

Nice shot of the kids outside of our lunch destination of Hickory's Smokehouse.  Not sure what the deal with the rhino is though.

here are the kids enjoying their lunch (an their own table -- nice)

And the ladies . . . it was a nice meal with good service.  Glad we went.

very posh faucet in the restroom ("toilet" in UK speak) -- I had to snap this quick as someone came in and I didn't want to get beat up for having a camera in there

The River Dee (and the tour boats)

The Old Dee Bridge with its 7 unique arches (and more sunspots from the photographer -- sorry).  A Roman bridge was built on the same location but the one you see above was likely from reconstructive work in 1387 (!).

 two swans along the river (had to get an animal shot in)

Here's an example of the black and white, half-timbered buildings in the city.  The snootier folks might say they are "fake" in that most were part of a revival in Victorian (mid to late 1800s) times rather than medieval but I like them all the same.

Next up was the Grosvenor Museum which has some nice information on the city's Roman history as well as some bits from the Victorian era (and it was free making it all the better).  Roman's were quite impressive with their engineering feats.  I liked this depiction/explanation of the aqueducts.   Reminded me of my childhood favorite Richard Scarry's "What Do People Do All Day" book.

rendition of what Chester looked like in Roman times

Roman headstones that have been uncovered.  Many were used as filler in the walls and other places!

 my two enjoying the Victorian hats upstairs in the musuem

This is a small version of "The Rape of the Sabine Women".  The larger, original version is in Florence.  It reminded me of our trip to Rome and seeing Bernini's "The Rape of Proserpina".  To be honest, I'm not sure what the story behind this smaller version is.  [Note that "rape" means abducted in this sense]

more of the Victorian half-timbered store fronts

youngest street singer we seen so far -- he was jammin' to some 80's hair band tunes (not bad, particularly for his age)

a shadowy view of the Rows from near the Cathedral

and the Cathedral itself . . . . it's always hard to get a photo of these large cathedrals because you invariably can't get far enough away to take it all in without running into another building.  The cathedral dates from 1093 but was largely built in the 16th century.

 inside the cathedral . . . I guess the lady took my picture as well!

stained glass, likely from the 19th century as the cathedral was besieged during the civil war

David handing over Goliath.  Apologies again for the photo (tilt).  Rotating it tended to blur it so I didn't.

 massive organ

 Roman/Norman and Gothic arches

after doing all the time critical events, we decided to have our walk along the walls (and another sunspot photo)

The Chester Racecourse is the oldest still in use in Britain.  I believe there were races scheduled the week before and after our visit.  The first recorded race here was in 1539.

Partial castle shot.  The castle here is different than most in that in was built around 1800 (which was like yesterday here).    As with many, a Norman Castle (1070) was built on this site though.

 another wall shot -- our gang is up top there

Roman Gardens -- date back to . . . the 1950s though the artifacts themselves are much older

My slug streak is extended by a technicality (no real slugs in the city fortunately)

All and all a great day.  Unfortunately, our (my) evening meal didn't work out very well but I'll save you from the whinging.  It didn't ruin the day so all is well.  Glad we could enjoy the weather and activities with our friends and look forward to the next outing.

Bonus Pic of the Week
Saturday morning, 7 am or so, cool/crisp with the sun shining.  I guess the sun was "baking" the water out of the fence.  Steam was rising out of the top.  I'd never seen this before so I quickly took a photo.

Weird, huh?

Have a good week everyone and thanks for reading.