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Powderham Castle work in a historic house

The Historic Houses weekly e-bulletin launched in February 2019 and has since become a source of enjoyable news and entertainment consumed by Historic Houses members, journalists, historic house owners and heritage enthusiasts alike. Below, you can see a full archive of all our previous issues of the weekly bulletin.

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Weekly Bulletin #232

Gin & Tonic | 14 July 2023

Like so many quintessentially British creations, the roots of the classic gin and tonic are intertwined with our global history.

Gin began to emerge as a distinct member of the wider aqua vitae family of distilled spirits in the Early Modern period, in the Low Countries, where it was known as jenever or Geneva. The name has nothing to do with the Swiss city, but derives from the Latin for juniper, the berries of which are the chief of the drink’s botanical flavourings.

It took off in England after the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, when Parliament invited the ruler of the Netherlands, William of Orange, and his wife Mary Stuart to assume the throne and ensure a Protestant succession. Not only were Dutch tastes suddenly in fashion – restrictions on the importation of French produce such as brandy gave a practical boost to gin’s popularity. It soon become England’s national spirit.

Tonic water began life as a solution of quinine, taken by Europeans visiting tropical climates because of the protection it afforded against malaria. The practice was taken up by agents of the East India Company, who soon began adding gin to mask quinine’s unpleasant bitterness. It was their habits that undoubtedly helped to rehabilitate gin’s image, which in the eighteenth century had become associated with the ruin of the lower classes – famously satirised in engravings by Willian Hogarth.

By the twentieth century, the ‘G&T’ was associated with the upper classes and comfortable country house living, and soon became widely enjoyed in Britain and the rest of the English-speaking world.

Today, craft gin is a booming business, and many Historic Houses member places distil their own brands. Gordon Castle’s award-winning gin (pictured above) is flavoured with botanicals grown in the castle’s award-winning walled garden.  Other examples include a gin that comes in a bottle whose shape and decoration are inspired by the central tower of Belvoir Castle, and the unusual Skaill House gin from Orkney, made with seaweed from the Pentland Firth.

Or maybe you want to sample a wider range before you buy. If you didn’t manage to make it to the Sussex Gin Fest at Borde Hill last week, try its Surrey cousin at Loseley Park on 9 September.


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Weekly Bulletin #231

Sculptures | 7 July 2023

Historians suggest that the first documented sculptures date from approximately 35,000 BC and are carvings in the form of animals, discovered in two German caves: the Vogelherd and the Hohlensten-Stadel.

Now, the art of sculpture is a very popular artistic discipline which involves carving three-dimensional figures in certain materials. A visit to a historic house is a good way of checking out some of history’s finest sculpture works. Newby Hall, in North Yorkshire, are showcasing some of the best talent around in a stunning contemporary sculpture exhibition. Celebrating its eighteenth year, the Newby23 exhibition features artwork from 25 new and established artists working in a wide range of media from bronze and stone to wood and glass.

The trail is now open to the public until 1 October. Ticket entry to the Hall and Gardens includes access to the exhibition. Read more here.

Elsewhere, Godinton House and Gardens, in Kent, are holding their annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibition soon, featuring artists from across Kent and the south of England. The exhibition runs from 22 July to 13 August, and booking is advised. Read more here.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Muncaster Castle, Hovingham Hall in Yorkshire is our Tour of the Week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

Weekly Bulletin #230

Watercolours | 30 June 2023

In the summer of 1819, the landscape artist J.M.W. Turner set off on a journey to Italy that would have a profound impact on his life and work. Visitors to Turner’s House this summer will be able to enjoy an exhibition of evocative watercolours capturing some of Turner’s first impressions of the place he was to later call the ‘land of all bliss’ and which provided inspiration for the rest of his career.

Seeing the Light represents an exciting opportunity for the public to see some of Italy’s most well known and loved sites – Venice, Rome, Naples – through Turner’s eyes, in the unique setting of his then rural retreat in Twickenham. Visitors will also be able to appreciate Turner’s evolving use of colour and light before and after 1819.

Read more here.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Rockingham Castle, Bruern Abbey in Oxfordshire is our Tour of the Week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #229

Summer | 23 June 2023

The summer solstice occurred on Wednesday 21 June in the UK this year, officially marking what many believe is the most enjoyable season of the year.

Regardless of whether the summer is in fact your favourite or not, we do have a special offer exclusive to Historic Houses members which may make this summer that bit sweeter. We’ve teamed up with Just Go! Holidays to offer members of Historic Houses a £60 pp discount for any Historic Houses 2023 tours. Take a wonderful short holiday to discover some of Britain’s most special houses, castles, and gardens. With specially tailored itineraries, each four, five, or six day escorted tour allows you to easily discover some of our extraordinary houses.

To qualify for the members’ price, just quote your membership number when booking with Just Go!. If you’re not a Historic Houses member already, what are you waiting for? Become a member here.

The offer ends on 31 July 2023. Redeem your discount here.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Lowther Castle, Stonor Park are hosting a medieval jousting weekend, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #228

Sweet Pea Season | 16 June 2023

Sweet Pea Season begins at Easton Walled Gardens on 21 June.

In late June and throughout July, visitors can treat their senses to the visual delights of perfect sweet pea blooms in stripes, bicolours, picotee, light pastels, and deep velvet tones. The dazzling colour and fragrance comes from over 40 sweet pea varieties grown at the gardens.

Throughout the garden, roses will be in flower and the meadows provide an exuberant display attracting a variety of insects, mammals, and birds amongst the grasses and wildflowers.

The gardens are open Wednesdays to Sundays, 11am-4pm.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Tregrehan Gardens, there’s a cocktail making class on at Belmont House, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Weekly Bulletin #227

Yoga | 9 June 2023

The sun is out, we’re feeling that bit more active, it’s time to get both our mind and body in perfect condition for an enjoyable summer. That’s why outdoor yoga may be just the thing you need to try out right now.

Surrounded by an abundance of blooms and birdsong, join Melissa Mailer-Howat for a holistic outdoor yoga class at Falconhurst Gardens, designed to improve strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility within the body and mind. Melissa’s practice is led by conscious breath for all abilities – whether looking to support an existing sport or rediscover the many abilities of your body and mind, you’ll emerge feeling refreshed and stronger for the life you lead.

Get involved!

This week, there’s a recommendation for Leighton Hall, Larchfield Estate are hosting a Garden Party, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Hopetoun House Concert, credit Hopetoun House 2019

Weekly Bulletin #226

Festivals | 2 June 2023

Festival season has come around, and you may be surprised to find that there is a very strong link between historic houses and popular music festivals. As Belvoir Castle welcomes thousands of people to the Forbidden Forest festival taking place on their grounds this weekend in Leicestershire, take an exclusive read of an in-depth piece from this year’s Historic Houses summer magazine, exploring the unexpected link between our houses and gardens and some of the UK’s most exciting festivals.

Read here.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Newby Hall, Wenlock Abbey are hosting a Calligraphy course, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Bowhill House Library

Weekly Bulletin #225

Libraries | 26 May 2023

What can be more peaceful and therapeutic than spending your Bank Holiday weekend surrounded by books? Sun comes and goes, but books last forever.

Many of our houses boast impressive collections in their libraries, with Bowhill House (pictured above) containing books over 200 years old. Whilst the house at Bowhill remains closed until August, many more of the UK’s most impressive private libraries within a country home are open for viewing.

The Long Library at Eastnor Castle, in Herefordshire, can be viewed this weekend on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 May, while visitors to Chawton House in Hampshire can enjoy a continuously changing display of works from the library’s fantastic collection of women’s writing. Fulham Palace, in London, also have a space which was originally created to display the books belonging to Bishop Porteus (Bishop of London, 1787 – 1809), while Kiplin Hall, in Yorkshire, have an equally impressive library open for visitors six days a week.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Quy Hall, there’s Art in the Barn at Doddington Hall & Gardens, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Outdoor Theatre South Lawn at The Bishop's Palace

Weekly Bulletin #224

Theatre | 19 May 2023

Birdsall House is launching live theatre for the first time in its history this May. The house is collaborating with Malton-based theatre company Be Amazing Arts for a series of performances of The Secret Garden.

The Willoughby family opened Birdsall House for private events, such as weddings, five years ago. The house has been in the family for over 300 years and the Hon. James and Lady Cara Willoughby still reside in part of the house with their three children. Private tours, concerts organised by the Ryedale Festival, and film companies have also been welcomed to the house since 2018 but this is the first time it will host live theatre.

“We are absolutely delighted to be working with Be Amazing Arts,” said Lady Cara Willoughby, “The Secret Garden lends itself so well to Birdsall, with the gardens here once being designed by Thomas Knowlton, student of Capability Brown. We have found the perfect people to collaborate with for our first venture into theatre. We’re looking forward to welcoming audiences here over the spring half-term.”

The Secret Garden runs from 30 May to 4 June at various times. Tickets are £18. Purchase tickets here.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Inveraray Castle, a summer fayre at Bryngwyn Hall is on the horizon, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Easton Walled Garden 25

Weekly Bulletin #223

Plants | 12 May 2023

National Plant Health Week takes place this week, an annual designated week of action to raise public awareness and engagement on how to keep plants healthy. Half of the world’s population rely primarily on natural medicines for their healthcare, while 98% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by plants.

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) have put together some very useful information on how best to manage plant health, and why it is vital to protect our woodland for the future. Check out their hub of information here.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Camfield Place, Langton Hall is tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #222

Coronations | 05 May 2023

It’s coronation weekend, as Saturday will see King Charles III crowned at Westminster Abbey. Various celebrations are planned around London, with the King and Queen Consort being joined by other family members on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to conclude the day’s ceremonial events.

Outside of the capital, many more celebratory events are taking place. Up in Northumberland, a lineup of special events is planned at Bamburgh Castle over the weekend, including fascinating talks about the monarchs who have influenced the castle over the centuries, a live screening of the coronation on Saturday, and a community sand art event.

Elsewhere, Stowe House in Buckinghamshire is hosting a Coronation Crafts event, Iscoyd Park in Wales is offering special champagne afternoon tea to mark the occasion, while Newby Hall, North Yorkshire, has live music amongst a range of other activities on Monday 8 May.

This week, there’s a recommendation for West Stow Hall, Grimsthorpe Castle have a fascinating lecture coming up, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Tulips and glasshouse at Miserden Gardens

Weekly Bulletin #221

Tulips | 28 April 2023

Tulips are one of the most instantly recognisable flowers, but they definitely vary. Although Holland is the largest producer of tulips, the flower is native to central Asia where almost half of the 120 known species originated from. They thrive in the extremes of hot summers and harsh, cold winters.

There’s no precise record of when the first tulip left Asia but the scarcity and beauty of this flower led to a huge desire for tulips in Europe in the seventeenth century, particularly in France and most famously in Holland.

At this time of year, tulip’s reach their peak display and many of our houses invite visitors in to take a look. Pashley Manor Gardens‘ spectacular Tulip Festival sees the East Sussex garden carpeted with over 46,000 tulips, featuring 100 varieties of tulip planted in colour themed ‘garden’ rooms. Visitors can wander through every day of the week up until 3 May. Elsewhere in Sussex, one of Europe’s top tulip displays is set against the backdrop of the stunning Arundel Castle. This year’s display features over 100,000 tulips.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Milntown Gardens, Iscoyd Park are inviting you to an evening of opera, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Weekly Bulletin #220

Costumes | 21 April 2023

Knebworth House has made starring appearances on the big screen in major films, series, and music videos over the past 50 years, with highlights including: The Crown, The King’s Speech, Batman and YOU.

Now on display in the House throughout April and May are some of the costumes used on location at Knebworth House in ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010), ‘Victoria and Abdul’ (2017), and ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ (2020). Visitors are able to see the costumes close up and read information and quotes from the costume designers.

The On Location at Knebworth House exhibition is a must-see for any film fan. It tells the story of filming from behind the camera with hilarious stories from the Lytton-Cobbold family and staff.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Prideaux Place, a pottery festival takes place at Glynde Place, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Drummond Castle Gardens landscape and topiary

Weekly Bulletin #219

Gardens | 14 April 2023

It’s National Gardening Day today, so we’re putting the spotlight on gardens as we celebrate the launch of the 2023 Garden of the Year Award.

The Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award has been celebrating Britain’s wonderful historic parks and gardens since 1984. For almost forty years, the public have voted one of our member gardens as their favourite. The award, run in conjunction with Christie’s, has gone from strength to strength since then, with tens of thousands of votes cast in recent years.

The final six nominated gardens this year are: Blair Castle Gardens, Hergest Croft Gardens, Dunvegan Castle Gardens, Glenarm Castle Walled Garden, Mount Stuart Gardens, and Scampston Walled Garden. Find out more about each garden and vote your favourite here. Voting is open until 31 August, and the winner will be announced in November.

This week, there’s a recommendation for Shilstone House, Turner’s House are inviting you in for an evening of gin tasting, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #218

Easter | 7 April 2023

Easter weekend is upon us, and many of our houses are opening their doors with family activities on to keep the kids entertained. The first spring joust of the year takes place at Hedingham Castle & Gardens in Essex on Sunday, with plenty of fun activities and displays on during the day. Elsewhere, Easter Sunday Lunch is occurring at Weston Park, Shropshire, there’s a Fairytale Woodland Family Trail on at Newby Hall & Gardens, North Yorkshire, while further egg-themed activities take place at Wentworth Woodhouse, South Yorkshire, and Mapperton House in Dorset.

Have a browse of our events page to see what’s on near you. Bear in mind that special events usually aren’t free with your Historic Houses card.

This week, we suggest a visit to Holker Hall & Gardens, Constable Burton Hall picks up tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Weekly Bulletin #217

Bluebells | 31 March 2023

Hyacinthoides non-scripta, more commonly known as bluebells, is a bulbous perennial plant found in Atlantic areas from north-western Spain to the British Isles. Bluebells usually flower from late March to early May, but this varies from year to year.

Hole Park Gardens, in Kent, re-opens on 1 April, just in time for visitors to come and enjoy the tapestry of colours that illuminate the gardens throughout the seasons. The ‘Bluebell Spectacular’ will be on show from mid-April to mid-May. Visitors can admire one of nature’s most impressive shows as a magical carpet of bluebells transforms the woodlands into a sea of violet-blue.

Admission is via the Hole Park website. Members of Historic Houses visit for free.

This week, there’s a sneak peek of a Lego exhibition at Paxton House, Lullingstone Castle & World Garden is back open for visitors, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Van Gogh House Introduction to Calligraphy

Weekly Bulletin #216

Calligraphy | 24 March 2023

Although calligraphy has been around in some form for roughly 3000 years, the word wasn’t used as a distinction until around the fifteenth century after the introduction of printing in Europe.

Calligraphy is the artistic process of forming beautiful symbols by hand and arranging them in a way that inscribes words that possess integrity, harmony, some sort of ancestry, and rhythm. In this definition, integrity represents admirable proportions and design of letters and symbols in calligraphy images. Harmony is a pleasing relationship between the words, characters, and single letter’s elements. Ancestry refers to the preservation of heritage of letter-shapes, materials, and techniques which calligraphers use. Finally, rhythm is a deliberate repetition in calligraphic writing that creates feelings of pattern and emphasis within the eyes of the viewer.

The individual stamp of the calligrapher’s personality on the work is ultimately what makes calligraphy a valid member of the arts, and the key aspect that separates it from conventional penmanship.

Join a workshop at Chawton House, in Hampshire, for an introduction to pointed pen modern calligraphy in a beautiful, historic setting. You will learn the basic strokes, practice writing the alphabet, learn how to join the letters to make words, and how to add in simple flourishes.
Workshops run from 10:30am – 2pm until 22 April.

This week, Camden Place gets a recommendation, Crow’s Hall is our tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Weekly Bulletin #215

Mother's Day | 17 March 2023

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, 19 March, so there’s only one person you need to be treating this weekend. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll through the daffodil garden at Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, afternoon tea in the beautiful Long Gallery at Wentworth Woodhouse, or a delicious two-course Mother’s Day lunch at Chawton House, our houses have plenty of ways to spoil your mother this weekend and show your appreciation for everything she does. No excuses!

This week, Knebworth House re-open their doors to visitors, a spring tour of Acton Scott Hall is on the horizon, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #214

Women | 10 March 2023

It was International Women’s Day this week, on Wednesday 8 March, and we’ve been taking a look at and celebrating the women in heritage who make our brilliant sector tick.

From Julie Biddlecombe-Brown (curator at Raby Castle) to Julie Montagu (TV presenter and entrepreneur, Mapperton House) to our wonderful president Martha Cobbold (managing director at Knebworth House), we spoke to six women working at historic houses about their experiences and advice for other women. Read here.

This week, a visit to Kiplin Hall is on the cards, there’s a book talk at Benjamin Franklin House, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #213

March | 3 March 2023

It’s March! The spring equinox is just over two weeks away, and the spring edition of the Historic House magazine is beginning to land at doors. Our favourite castles and gardens are slowly starting to open back up for visitors. We’re pretty excited here at Historic Houses. Can you tell?

In the spirit of visits to beautiful landscapes, we’ve put together a list of some of the best houses and gardens to visit in the Cotswolds, sprinkled with some mildly interesting facts about the area. The Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the country, covering 787 square miles across six counties. Beautiful countryside, picturesque villages, and vibrant market towns make it one of the most enjoyable places to visit – a true tourist’s dream.

This week, Hoveton Hall is our recommendation of the week, a murder mystery evening takes place at Roswarne House, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Oh, and we’ve also got some footage of the northern lights illuminating the grounds at Blenheim Palace. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #212

Chapels | 24 February 2023

The earliest Christian places of worship are now often referred to as chapels, as they were not dedicated buildings but rather a dedicated chamber within a building. Most larger churches had one or more secondary altars which, if they occupied a distinct space, would often be called a chapel.

Generally, today, a chapel is a place of worship that is not a church which belongs to a parish in a village or town, but is more private or has a special purpose. It’s usually smaller than a church—sometimes just a room—and can be within a church itself or in a secular place like a hospital or airport.

Chapels can be found in many of our historic houses. For 900 years, Auckland Castle (pictured above) was the home of the Bishop of Auckland. Now, after being a beneficiary of an ambitious restoration project, the chapel, castle, and gardens are open for visitors to explore.

Visit Auckland Castle & Gardens Wednesdays to Sundays, 10:30am – 4pm. Members of Historic Houses can enjoy free entry to the gardens.

This week, Elsham Hall is our recommendation of the week, Hall in Bishops Tawton claims tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!


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Eastbury Hotel & Spa afternoon tea

Weekly Bulletin #211

Cafés | 17 February 2023

Who doesn’t love a café? Many of our houses run cosy and intimate cafés on their grounds for visitors to explore, grab a hot drink, and take a break. They’re hubs of life, a place for general chit-chat, light-hearted mingling, and the odd harmless gossip. You may meet a fellow Historic Houses member, you may get chatting to the friendly staff, or you may even bump into the house owner casually popping in say hello.

As the days become ever so slightly brighter and warmer, cafés are slowly opening back up across our houses. The café and gardens at Browsholme Hall, Lancashire, re-open to the public on 1 March, while the Stables Kitchen at Burton Constable is open daily. Down in the south, the tea room at The Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village is open daily and is known to be a place of bustling energy and community, while Goodnestone Park’s Old Dairy Café is open Wednesdays to Sundays.

Get yourself down and have a brew as we all look forward to spring!

This week, Athelhampton House is our recommendation of the week, Talliston claims tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Weekly Bulletin #210

Valentine's Day | 10 February 2023

The most romantic day of the year is coming up next week, and our houses are pulling out all the stops. Some special Valentines offers at the Falconhurst Estate farm shop caught our eye, Burghley House are encouraging you to spoil someone special courtesy of a splendid afternoon tea experience for two, while Painshill Park are inviting you to Surrey to explore their romantic landscape before sitting down to a delicious spread of sandwiches, scones, and cake – topped with a glass of Painshill’s very own sparkling wine. Does it get much more romantic than that?

If you’d rather spend the day indoors, we don’t blame you. Love is in the air, whether that’s warm insulated air or cold, breezy, fresh air. It’s all about the company you’re with. Do keep your Historic House magazine and handbook to hand, though. We wouldn’t want you forgetting about us.

This week, Quy Hall is our recommendation of the week, Llanerchydol Hall in Wales claims tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Kingston Bagpuize House snowdrops

Weekly Bulletin #209

Snowdrops | 03 February 2023

Is there anything more charming than a leisurely walk through a garden surrounded by snowdrops? They evoke a sense of cheer, flowering when little else does, marking the end of winter and the beginning of longer days and, hopefully, some kinder weather.

Easton Walled Gardens is well-known as one of the prettiest snowdrop gardens in Lincolnshire and they open specially for visitors to enjoy them too. Opening on 15 February this year, the gardens, courtyard shop, and coffee room can be visited Wednesdays to Sundays, 11am – 4pm.

Keep your eyes peeled to our events page, as many of our houses prepare for special snowdrop themed events during the spring season. Snowdrop walks can be booked at Wentworth Woodhouse and Deene Park, while special openings occur at Hopetoun House and Chawton House for Snowdrop Sundays. It’s all happening in February!

This week, Camden Place is our recommendation of the week, Brinton Hall claims tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Boughton House

Weekly Bulletin #208

Calendar Houses | 27 January 2023

Earlier country houses were built in eras of looser planning controls with more lavish budgets, and hence could more easily reflect the whims of the owner. One indulgence were houses which incorporated horological elements, creating the phenomena of the ‘calendar house’.

The principle of the calendar house is that the number of external doors, windows, chimneys, staircases or other elements should total either four (the number seasons), seven (days in a week), twelve (months in a year), or 365 (days in a year). The concept was popular during Elizabethan years, due to the widespread fascination of horology, astronomy, and mathematics.

Boughton House, home to ancestors of the Buccleuch family for centuries, is one of only a few remaining calendar houses in the UK. It has 365 windows, 12 entrances, 7 courtyards and 52 chimneys! If you don’t believe us, feel free to count them up yourself. We’ll probably be entering a new year by the time you finish.

This week, The D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum is our recommendation of the week, Dorfold Hall is tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Sudeley Castle The Bohun Book of Hours

Weekly Bulletin #207

Storytelling | 20 January 2023

National Storytelling Week is coming up, beginning on 28 January. This is a time to share the pleasure of your favourite stories.

Godinton House & Gardens has 600 years of stories to tell but a particular book in the Study brings pleasure to house manager Chloe Hearn:

“Since I was young my favourite book has been Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. A classic for a reason! This coming-of-age story resonates with a lot of people as the characters all follow their own individual path. I found a lot of similarities between the close bond of the four sisters and their mother and my own relationship with my sisters and mum. The book also holds a special place for me as my mum gave me her copy to read as a teenager – inside was a note in her handwriting with her name and the year she had first read the book.”

“At Godinton House, when cleaning some of the books in the Study and returning them to their rightful place I found a copy of Little Women with a bookplate in the front showing it once belonged to Geraldine Ward” Chloe added, “She was the mother of Alan Wyndham Green, the last owner of Godinton House.”

“As with all well-loved books it is slightly worn on the spine but it gave me great pleasure to come across my favourite book in the collection here.”

Godinton House opens on Friday and Saturday afternoons from 7 April.

This week, Burton Agnes Hall is our recommendation of the week, Camden Place host tour of the week, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Thirlestane Castle library

Weekly Bulletin #206

Sofas | 13 January 2023

The word “sofa” dates back to 2000BC in Egypt, and is derived from the word “suffah” which roughly translates to “bench”. Originally, sofas were intended as furniture to perch on – not lounge on – until the 1680s. Canapés were the first chairs intended to seat more than one person, and their arrival marked the dawn of a new era of comfort.

According to Joan DeJean, author of The Age of Comfort: When Paris Discovered Casual — and the Modern Home Began, the evolution of seating from purely pragmatic to comfortable heralded perhaps the earliest iteration of a casual private life. The same decade the sofa debuted, people began to read for pleasure, cotton textiles became widely available, and the first concept of “casual dress” hit the scene in France.

“They loved their sofas and other new types of comfortable seating because they saw them as giving a new ease to daily life,” explained DeJean.

Well, it’s fair to say sofas are now very much in fashion. Many of our houses feature designs from the most critically acclaimed furniture makers in British history.

This week, Chawton House is our recommendation of the week, Burton Constable Grounds is welcoming visitors, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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Harewood House was designed by Robert Adam

Weekly Bulletin #205

Landscapes | 6 January 2023

Garden landscaping has always been a big deal for country homes and estates in the UK. It’s essential to have a garden that matches the aesthetic beauty of the house itself, designed and maintained with an equal level of attention and care.

Step forward Lancelot Brown (more commonly known as ‘Capability’ Brown), the most prolific and famous eighteenth-century garden landscaper and designer. It’s estimated that Brown was responsible for designing more than 170 gardens surrounding country homes in the UK.

Brown’s style was built on three main principles: comfort, economy, and elegance. His nickname came from his fondness for describing country estates as having great ‘capabilities’ for improvement. Some of his most impressive work can be seen at many of our houses, such as Harewood House (pictured above), Blenheim Palace, and Stowe House. 

This week, Montalto Estate is our recommendation of the week, you’ve just got time to catch the Twelve Days of Christmas exhibition at Bamburgh Castle if you can’t bear to let go of the festive season, and last week’s Mystery House is revealed. Enjoy!

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