Kingston Bagpuize House is in private ownership, and is the home of the Grant family. It is open to the public on certain Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. It is also used as a wedding venue.
The current house on the site dates from the eighteenth century.
Only ground floor rooms are shown. In the entrance hall can be seen the cantilevered staircase, which is the most important architectural part of the house. The other rooms include the Drawing Room, oak panelled Dining Room and the Library, which has good views of the park and gardens.
Francis & Virginia Grant began restoring and developing the current garden, which includes herbaceous and shrub borders and woodland gardens, in 1995.
On our visit we met Mrs Grant, who was happy to answer questions about the house.
There is a tea room, serving home-made cake, in the old kitchens.
For opening times see the website. Entry is £7.50
Maybe this should be 'Off the Beaten Path', Kelmscott is difficult to reach without a car. However, it is a tranquil, unspoilt village that was the home of famous poet, craftsman and socialist, William Morris. Morris lived in Kelmscott Manor from 1871 till 1896 and the house is open to the public and filled with amazing items from the 'Arts and Crafts' movement of the late 1800's. This includes the famous painting "Blue Dress" by Dante Gabrielle Rosetti.
Kelmscott Manor was originally built in the late 1500's and stayed in the same family for centuries. The original 17th century bed is in the house, also some incredible 17th century Flemish tapestries. In the garden there is an ancient mulberry tree which is also hundreds of years old.
Kelmscott Manor is managed by The Society of Antiquaries and currently (2011) opens during the Summer months on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am. Entry is by timed ticket, in groups every 15 minutes. There is also a gift shop and restaurant, very friendly and professionally run.
Kelmscott Village is extremely pleasant. St George's Church (near the Manor carpark) has changed little since the 1600's and has the Morris family tomb in the graveyard.
Founded in the 12th century Henley-on-Thames is overlooked by the Chiltern Hills and is separated by the river from the village of Remenham where the famous Henley Royal Regatta is held. The Henley Royal Regatta lasts for four days in late June / early July and brings the town to life.
Henley-on-Thames is a market town that is an hour west of London making it a perfect location for a weekend away.
..............can be found in what is known as the Vale of the White horse, about 30 minutes drive from Oxford. Carved into the chalk bedrock, this stylised horse is 374 feet long and is thought to have been created at least 3000 years ago (Bronze Age). It may represent the horse goddess Epona. Similar images are found on both Bronze and Iron age coins.
It's difficult to photograph the horse (well, it was for me) so this picture is of the beautiful downland on which it is set.
I don't feel I can add anything to the descriptions of the grounds I've already seen here; after all, they were what prompted me to visit in the first place! We were fortunate in being able to visit on a day when the building was open to the public and this made for a lovely day out.
The rooms are well preserved with plenty of fascinating details (ceilings, panelling, wallpaper, doors etc.) and the furniture included in each room was interesting too, as it combined pieces made throughout the castle's history (particularly during the early 1800’s) with some lovely items made by contemporary craftsmen. The place really looked like a home too; I could imagine the present owners locking the doors after the last visitors leave and sitting down for a cup of tea in one of the rooms! Adding to the welcoming feel was the lack of roped off areas (other than to guide you through the house) and "Don't Touch" signs, no one seemed to object when I felt the texture of an object or turned the corner of a beautiful Persian rug to see the knotting.
A fair amount of information was provided, on the decor and content of each room, but there was so much to look at, I was glad I had already read much of it on their website, so I could enjoy just looking around. The people minding the rooms seemed very willing to discuss the castle and able to answer questions too.
The open day didn't start until two but we were glad we arrived a little early, as this provided us with a good opportunity to have a delicious meal at the Saye and Sele Arms, just by the turning for the castle.
The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest museum in all of England. It was founded in 1600 something and is still a lively part of the Oxford community. A wide array of interesting things are well displayed, including a large and excellent collection of fine art by many of the masters, a rare coin collection, antique musical instruments including a very prized Stradivarius, and many antiquities. The museum shop and cafe are first rate as well. Here are some facts about the visiting times.
Tuesdays to Saturdays: 10am to 5pm
Sundays: 12pm to 5pm (but not the Cast Gallery)
Bank Holidays: 10am to 5pm
Easter openings: 25th & 26th March 10.00 - 5.00; 27th March 12.00 - 5.00; 28th March 10.00 - 5.00.
Summer Evening Openings: During June, July, and August the Museum stays open until 7.00pm on Thursday evenings
The ‘city of dreaming spires’ (Matthew Arnold) is home of the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Originally known as Oxenaforda in Saxon times (‘ford of the ox’ and the crossing point of the rivers Cherwell and Thames), the city has a long history of importance in academic, religious, political and court life – from the founding of the university in the 11th century, the burning at the stake of the Oxford Martyrs for heresy during Mary I’s brief reign (including former Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer) through to housing the court of Charles I during the English Civil War.
More recent history is not part of the tourist attraction – in spite of being a city of approximately 150,000 and an important industrial city, particularly in car manufacturing, little is seen of Oxford outside the few square miles that make up the beautiful centre of the city and examples of every British architectural style of the last 1200 years.
You’ll rarely get Oxford to yourself – not only because of the local population. More than 9 million tourists a year visit the city!
Oxford is easily reached from London by train, bus and car (all approximately 70 minutes).
Found right on the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border, the collective name of The Barringtons refers to the villages of Great and Little Barrington, found approximately 3 miles to the west of Burford.
They're both typical Oxfordshire Cotswold villages - quiet, tranquil spot, views of open fields and distant hills, picturesque cottages, the village green, nearby River Windrush etc...
They're certainly not 'must see' - but the tranquility of The Barringtons was discovered as a result of staying at the 'Inn For All Seasons' (see separate tip).
Often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’ (certainly if coming from London and the south), Burford is a surprisingly busy town, with its main street running downhill (if coming from the A40 Oxford-Cheltenham road) to the River Windrush.
It’s a delightful place, with the High Street a melee of pubs, restaurants, cafes, tearooms, hotels, antique shops, galleries and gift shops. Streets leading off the main street are a warren of atmosphere, characterful homes and buildings. And on the banks of the Windrush is the 12th century St John the Baptist church.
Burford is just 20 miles west of Oxford.
Minster Lovell Hall was built in the late 1440s by Lord William Lovell, 7th Baron Tichmarsh alongside the River Windrush. Lovell demolished the original building, alongside the parish church, replacing the house with an impressive and extensive manor. He died in 1455, with the estate passing on to his son, Francis, 1st Viscount Lovell, who further extended the buildings. King Richard III is reportedly a visitor.
The Lovell family lost Minster Lovell following the defeat of Richard III by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Charged with treason by the new King Henry VII, Francis fled to the continent, with Minster Lovell Hall passing to Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry.
It changed hands several times over the centuries that followed, including courtiers of Henry VIII. It was abandoned by its last resident, the Earl of Leicester, in the middle of the 18th century, with large parts of the buildings being dismantled.
The ruins, sitting alongside the river, are fairly extensive – the ornamented entrance porch and the remains of the main hall the most prominent.
It is now managed by English Heritage – access is freely available and free of charge.
St Kenelm (or Cynehelm) was a Anglo-Saxon saint venerated throughout Medieval England – he is mentioned in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It is believed he was a young prince in the Kingdom of Mercia in the 8th century murdered in the Clent Hills. The parish church in Minster Lovell is one of only seven in England with St Kenelm as its patron.
The 7th Baron Lovell demolished the original 12th century church in the 1430s, replacing it with the present church, built in 1450. It has remained virtually unaltered since.
It’s a delightful church and in a beautiful location, with the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall immediately behind the church and graveyard.
Sitting aside the River Windrush, Minster Lovell is a village about 20 miles west of Oxford. The village is divided into three parts – the picturesque Old Minster, Little Minster and New Minster. It is the former that is the attraction to tourists.
Rows of cotswold stone buildings, some with thatched roofs, line the main street, the River Windrush winding through the village, the 600 year old The Old Swan - the village pub now part of the new hotel converted from the old mill. But the main attraction is the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall and the adjacent St Kenelm church.
Blenheim Palace is the only non-episcopal house in England to officially be called a palace, and it rightly deserves to be called that. It is huge, magnificently austere, and surrounded by 2100 acres of well managed and tended gardens, forest, and pastures. There are lakes and streams to lend a feeling of rustic countryside, and indeed, the whole estate is a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of modernity. It is also justly a highly ranked tourist attraction and on the UNESCO books as a treasure.
It was originally set aside by King Henry I as a park to keep the deer enclosed for his hunting pleasure. Henry II built a lodge there for his mistress, Rosamund Clifford. The succession of monarchs, plots, and buildings went on for a few centuries seeing Elizabeth I imprisoned there by her sister Queen Mary. The manor and most of the other buildings were destroyed in the Civil war when Cromwell's forces bombarded the area in pursuit of the Loyalists.
In 1704, The Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, was awarded the estate for his valor in the military campaign against the french and the Barbarians. Over the next century, the succession of Dukes continually improved the gardens and landscapes. Fountains were added, an Italian gardens build, rose gardens planted, and several walkways and bicycle paths added.
In 1874, the most famous prime minister of Britain was born there: Winston Churchhill returned to the estate as often as he could and is buried there with an appropriate tomb. Inside the palace the room where he was born is open for viewing and on the adjacent wall are photographs and paintings of the great man depicting his youth and early military careeer. On a hill located some distance from the palace there is a large column commemorating the 1st Duke. You will likely see sheep grazing peacefully underneath its shade.
Photography inside the palace is forbidden, however, if you should accidentally depress the shutter button until your memory card is full, you should happily discover a few usable photos for your 70 dollar fee.
Be ready for sticker shock when you go, but don't let that stop you from the historic significance and pleasure of seeing the palace. When I was there last it was about 20 USD per person for the grounds, gardens, and palace. That is now 47 pounds. Also be ready for the pure commercialism that is going on. The estate has a small railroad, a bottled water franchise, and has divided the tour fee into three different areas. It is necessary I guess to make enough to keep it open to the public, but I still feel a bit ripped off when I see fees like this charged.
Henley is nowadays a large picturesque town on the Thames famous for its boating regatta (and producing London Mayor, Boris Johnson).
In 1997 it opened a brand new museum, designed by top architect David Chipperfield. The "River and Rowing Museum", close to the railway station, exceeded my expectations. The museum has (1) a large gallery dedicated to the history of boating, rowing boats and rowing (2) an equally large gallery devoted to the River Thames (3) a smaller gallery all about the history of Henley. In addition there are temporary exhibitions of art, a large shop and a pleasant cafe/restaurant. Admission prices (2009) are £7 for adults and £5 for children and concessions. The tickets can be re-used for 12 months!
I am not a great follower of rowing but, all the same, I found the exhibits and information fascinating. Amongst many things, the museum has one of the boats from the first ever Oxford v. Cambridge Boat Race and the hi-tech boat used by the British Olympic team when they won their gold medal in 2000. There is lots of stuff for children, many buttons to press, moving exhibits and exhibtions about children's books such as "Wind in the Willows".
Henley the town is worth a walk around, especially after finding out about its history. The town church is very pretty, as is the main street too!
At the heart of Ascott under Wychwood village is this lovely church, dating back to the 12th century. It is set in a picturesque walled churchyard just off the village green, and approached through an avenue of lime trees.
Inside, pick up a leaflet (for a suggested donation of 20p) which will tell you all about the different periods of church architecture featured in the building. I particularly liked the simple sketches identifying the different window shapes (see my travelogue for my images of each). Look at the pews in the south west corner – the rear five are thought to be the oldest wooden pews in Oxfordshire.
In addition to exploring the church at Ascott under Wychwood, do make time to wander round the churchyard, one of the most interesting and photogenic I’ve seen. There are a number of intriguing old tombs, some with ivy and lichen growing over them, others with worn carvings of angels. On the south side of the church a row of tombstones lines a path to the porch, making a stony avenue. Do have a look at the beautiful photos Ingrid took in this churchyard.
Ascott itself is the smallest of the three Wychwood villages (the other two being Milton and Shipton), the most isolated, and arguably the prettiest. The name comes from the Saxon for “East Cot (or Homestead)”, referring to its location a few miles to the west of Shipton. Wychwood comes from the ancient royal forest of that name, of which little remains today apart from a few scattered clumps of trees.
On the green in the centre of the village, there is a bench around a chestnut tree. This is a memorial to 16 local women, The Ascott Martyrs of 1873, who campaigned for better wages for agricultural labourers and who are considered to be early pioneers of the trade union movement.
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