Here’s where I got to this year.
Favourite House: Boughton House, Northants (HHA)
Favourite Garden: Houghton Hall Walled Garden, Norfolk (HHA)
I’ve visited a lot of houses and gardens this year, some of them spectacular, some depressing. The best really stand out and the rest just blend into the mix.
How do I approach a house?
For me, when it comes to the house, first there is the architecture (such as at Ickworth) and then (but I won’t say second) there are the contents.
I watched a programme this year called “Antiques to the Rescue“, which essentially advocated selling off contents to fund the restoration and maintenance of the fabric of the historic home. However, for me, unless a house has truly special architecture, it needs to have good contents.
Carpets that haven’t been replaced since 1950 I can live with (such as at Turvey House), but when the house itself is of a middling sort, I am not drawn to a house with no pictures or furniture worthy of a second glance (such at many National Trust houses where they received empty shells and have simply shipped in ‘period pieces’).
As Ruth Watson has said before me, if the owners sell everything worth seeing (regardless of the fact that they are the pieces that will raise the most at auction), who will come and visit?
I too look forward to amazing pieces coming to market (I have been known to go to auction viewing to see things that I know will disappear into private homes again quite soon), but I accept that some just have to stay where they are.
How much truly greater Houghton would have been had Lord Walpole’s descendant not spent all his money and had to sell a lot of the art (which I am delighted to see is in part coming back for a brief stay in 2013 as part of a temporary exhibition in conjunction with The Hermitage – see here).
Alas, Houghton has its garden.
The garden, there’s another story.
A tired house can always have an inspirational garden: each season, each Spring, there is a fresh opportunity to create a marvel. This is the case at Erdigg, a sad Welsh house that lacks the life which a 100 people should give it, but which has a smashing garden.
You’ll see from the list below that the lack of links to many of the places I visited this year means that I haven’t yet written up a lot of houses, including those which were my favourites of 2012. Perhaps that is because when I am truly inspired by a place I feel the need to make sure I do further research and understand my subject before putting pen to paper, so to speak. With those that are just memories I am happy to pick the pictures and make sure I just say one or two things.
I therefore commit to write up those houses below that I have neglected, and would be so sad to forget.
If you want to be talked at for a whole evening without the opportunity to speak yourself, get me onto the subject first of Boughton House and then the walled garden at Houghton Hall. I will spare you some of the length but they are truly amazing places, offering something on so many levels and are reasons alone to travel first to Norfolk and then to Northamptonshire.
So where did I get to:
- Cliffe Castle, Keighley, Yorkshire
- East Riddleston Hall, nr Keighley, Yorkshire (NT)
- Nostell Priory, nr Wakefield, Yorkshire (NT)
- Dennis Severs’ House, Central London
- Museum of the Home (The Geffrye), Central London
- Farm Hall, Cambs (private)
- Island Hall, Cambs (private)
- Chirk Castle, Wrexham (NT)
- Erdigg, Wrexham (NT)
- Bodnant Gardens, North Wales (NT)
- Penrhyn Castle, North Wales (NT)
- Aberconway House, North Wales (NT)
- Conway Suspension Bridge, North Wales (NT)
- Plas Brondanw Gardens, North Wales (HHA)
- Llanecheron, Mid-Wales (West Coast) (NT)
- Botanic Gardens of Wales
- Colby Woodland Gardens, South Wales (NT)
- Tudor Merchants House, Tenby, Wales (NT)
- Picton Castle, Pembroke Peninsula, Wales (HHA)
- Tredegar House, nr Newport, Wales (NT)
- The Kymin, nr Monmouth, Wales (NT)
- Cornwall House, Monmouth, Wales (HHA)
- Bowood House, Wiltshire (HHA)
- Corsham Court, Wiltshire (HHA)
- Lacock Abbey grounds and cloisters & village (NT) – abbey rooms not open as it was a Tuesday
- Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire (HHA)
- Stowe Landscape Gardens (NT)
- Claydon House, Bucks (NT)
- Turvey House (HHA)
- Sandringham, Norfolk (Royal Palaces)
- Wolterton Park, Norfolk (HHA)
- Mannington Hall, Norfolk (HHA)
- Strangers House, Norwich
- Blickling Hall, Norfolk (NT)
- Priory Maze & Gardens, Norfolk
- Houghton House, Norfolk (HHA)
- Holkham Hall, Norfolk (HHA)
- Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk (NT)
- Stody Lodge Gardens, Norfolk (HHA)
- Bolwick Hall Gardens, Norfolk (National Garden Scheme)
- Sommerleyton Hall, Norfolk (HHA)
- Raveningham Gardens, Norfolk (HHA)
- Hoveton Hall Gardens, Suffolk? (HHA)
- Flatford Mill, Suffolk (NT)
- Layer Marney Tower, Essex (HHA)
- Capel Manor Gardens, Greater London
- Dr Johnson’s House, Central London
- The Mansion House, Central London
- Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (HHA)
- Hampton Court Flower Show, London
- Emery Walker’s House, 7 Hammersmith Terrace, London (HHA)
- Syon House garden, Brentford, Nr London (HHA)
- Belvoir Castle, Nr Grantham, Lincs (HHA)
- Belton House, Nr Grantham, Lincs (NT)
- Goddards Garden, York (NT)
- Treasurer’s House, York (NT)
- Kensington Palace, London (using my ArtFund card)
- Temple Newsam, nr Leeds (using my ArtFund card)
- Lotherton Hall, nr Leeds (using my ArtFund card)
- Brockfield Hall, nr York (HHA)
- Castle Howard, North Yorkshire (HHA)
- Althrop House, nr Northampton (using Tesco vouchers)
- Marble Hill House, Twickenham (EH)
- Ham House, Ham (nr London) (NT)
- Audley End, Essex (EH) & Saffron Walden
- Boughton House, Northamptonshire (HHA)
- Deene Park (HHA), Northamptonshire
- Southwick Hall (HHA), Northamptonshire
- Godmanchester, Cambs
- Ickworth, Suffolk (NT) & Bury St Edmunds
- Havingham Castle (HHA), Essex
- Kew Gardens, London
- Kew Palace, Kew Gardens, London
- Hardwick Hall (NT), South Yorkshire
- Haddon Hall (HHA), Derbyshire
- The Swedish Ambassador’s Residence, London (London Open House 2012)
- The Argentine Ambassador’s Residence, London (London Open House 2012)
- Marlborough House, London (London Open House 2012)
- The Reform Club, London (London Open House 2012)
- The Gherkin, London (London Open House 2012)
- The Queen’s House, Greenwich nr London, Royal Museums (London Open House 2012)
- The Painted Hall, Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich nr London (London Open House 2012)
- The Admiral’s House, Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich nr London (London Open House 2012)
- The Royal Naval Museum Chapel designed by James A Stuart, Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich nr London (London Open House 2012)
- Keats’ House, Hampstead, North London (Art Fund)
- Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
- Richmond (where there is Richmond Castle) & Hawes, Yorkshire Dales
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- The Houses of Parliament (inc. the Stranger’s Dining Room and the Member’s Dining Room)
- Osterley Park, West London (NT)
- Fairfax House, York (HHA)
- Benningbrough Hall, nr York (NT)
The theme tune: like the pseudo Earl of Grantham last year, It was a very good year… (and I hope next year is too)