Monday we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before journeying to nearby Styal for our tour of Quarry Bank Mill–a beautifully preserved cotton mill from the early 1840s, complete with the workers’ village, apprentice house, and gardens. If you’ve read Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South or watched the BBC film adaptation, you can imagine the setting perfectly.
Getting to the mill proved a bit of a challenge once we arrived at the Manchester Airport train station and bus stand. When Suzi and I did the mill on our recce trip last year, we had quite a time with the bus and realized it was going to be a challenge to manage the route. So, as much as we wanted to add Stockport’s Hat Museum to our itinerary, we deliberately planned to do only the mill and nothing else on Monday. This turned out to be a good idea!
Waiting for the bus…
When we arrived at Manchester airport, the bus wasn’t at the stand, so we assumed it had already left (two minutes early?). However, after waiting in vain for the bus to loop back around, I checked the information desk and found the 200 bus had never showed up that morning, and the company was sending a mini-bus instead! When that arrived, it only held 14 of our group, so the rest of us dashed up to the taxi stand and hired two cabs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Approaching the mill
Quarry Bank Mill sits down in a river valley surrounded by green hills. Its owners lived on the property and built an entire village to house their workers in a clean and convenient location. During the early days of the Industrial Revolution, child labor was all too common, but the owners of Quarry Bank were considered quite forward-thinking to provide a school for the children and workers’ comp for injured mill laborers.
Looking back toward the smokestack.
Walking though the mill really provides a window on the time, and you can never again take a simple spool of thread for granted! It was incredibly dangerous work to manage the winding and weaving machines, and many people died or were left crippled for life in the process. The National Trust has done an amazing job of preserving this amazing site so we can all learn from it now.
Our group enjoyed a delicious luncheon before our tour of the mill and grounds.
This is one of the winding machines for cotton thread.
A weaving machine. Cloth is still woven here by hand for demonstrations and sold in the gift shop. It’s beautiful stuff!
Clothing produced by fabric milled here.
This is a block-printing table for hand-printing fabrics.
The entrance to the mill gardens, which are lovely.
A small bed of flowers.
My son is a wonderful photographer and captured a lot of shots of flowers (aren’t you proud, Grammie?)
I’ll blog later tonight about our day at Platt Hall if all goes well!
We were once again greeted by the sun as we rose to meet the day. Truly, the weather this trip was nothing short of spectacular. The temperature was neither too warm nor too chilly, and we had a lovely breeze all day. After a yummy breakfast at our hotel, we headed to the Gloucester Road underground station for our journey to St. Paul’s and walk to the Museum of London. Just as the tube was pulling into Holborne station where we’d change lines for St. Paul’s, the loudspeaker announced that Holborne had just been closed! So I did some rapid rethinking and decided we’d switch to another line at the next stop to disembark at Barbican. It would be an equal distance to the museum from that point, but we’d be a tad bit later due to the longer tube ride. Ah, the joys of the London Underground! We did manage to arrive just a few minutes past ten a.m. to find Suzi awaiting us in the museum’s main hall with curator Hilary Davidson on her way upstairs. Dividing our group in half, we sent a bunch downstairs with Hilary while the rest of us toured the new ground-floor exhibit hall. It is absolutely incredible–better, I think, than the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History (the MoL’s displays are far more child-friendly and so nicely laid out). Here’s my photo tour:
Off the gallery’s opening display is a room dedicated to fashion. It is a recreation of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a famous place where social climbers and royally connected people once mingled and showed off their taste. The historical clothing is behind glass and rather difficult to photograph due to the low lighting designed to protect the garments. The lighting does cycle up to brighter several times a day, but, unfortunately, we were shoo’ed out to make way for a school group before we got the good lighting. You’ll just have to put up with my attempt at low-light photography here! Later in the morning I saw some photographs in the costume workroom that showed how this exhibit was designed. Live people were put into costume (reproduction–not the real thing) and “blocked” just as though they were in a stage play. After trying out several arrangements of people, the final display model was photographed from several angles so those setting up the final exhibit would know where to place mannequins. It was really fascinating to see how this was done.
After leaving this exhibit, we went back to the rest of the displays to finish out the hour before our meeting with Hilary. The MoL is extremely child-friendly with hands-on things to do around every corner. My girls had a wonderful time opening secret doors, pressing buttons to turn on lights, trying on hats, and playing with train sets. Well done, MoL!
We made it through the new gallery in time to enjoy a short refreshment break in the cafe’. Then we traded places with the other half of our group, heading into the treasure room that is the MoL costume storehouse with Hilary. As before, I am not allowed to share any photographs of what we saw, but I can tell you everything was drool-worthy. We enjoyed seeing an unusual 1730s corset, a pair of Queen Victoria’s ball slippers, three 1820s bonnets, a lovely 19-teens evening gown, an 1890s evening gown bodice, and an absolutely breathtaking 1880s evening gown that looked brand new, it was so well-preserved. There were lots of “oohs” and “ahhhs!” as Hilary removed the protective coverings and held things up for our admiration.
After finishing our visit at the MoL, we walked a short distance to the nearby El Vino Alban Gate restaurant for lunch. Joining us was Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, who had brought several vintage pieces for hands-on study. We passed opera cloaks and an 1850s dress around the table while waiting for our meals. El Vino did a fantastic job with our food, which was oh-so-delicious and provided in a timely manner (no small feat for a group this large!). Hilary joined us, so we all got in a delightful visit, sharing costume stories and swapping history. It was wonderful fun. Cathy didn’t bring anything for dress-up this time, as we didn’t have room enough for trying anything on. Maybe next time…!
After lunch, our group divided up once again, some ladies going with Suzi to the Museum of Childhood to meet with Noreen, the curator of the costume collection there. The rest of us had tickets for the special Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A, so we said good-bye to Suzi and dashed back to the tube at St. Paul’s, glad to find that Holborne station was open once again so we could take a shorter trip to the museum. The Grace Kelly exhibit contained several of her film costumes but focused mainly on her life as Princess of Monaco. I was disappointed that the Philadelphia Museum of Art had not loaned Grace Kelly’s wedding gown to the exhibit, as I’ve always wanted to see it. I also wished there had been a wider representation of her film costumes, but it was still delightful to see what was on display:
Low lighting made it very difficult to photograph much in this exhibit–especially the hats and accessories. It was also crowded to the gills with visitors, so I didn’t get a whole lot of good pictures. Oh, well! After finishing up at the V&A, I took my daughters back to the hotel to await the rest of the group. They began to trickle in around 5:30, most of them ready for an evening’s performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Shakespeare’s Globe. Because my mother had never seen the Globe or attended a performance, I got a ticket for her this year. I was sorry to miss out on the performance, which is a yearly highlight, but I am tickled pink Mom got to go. Christopher Benjamin (who played Sir William Lucas in the A&E “Pride & Prejudice”) performed as Falstaff to great critical acclaim. With everyone off to the Globe or out to eat, I took my girls on a little jaunt to Fortnum & Mason, where I knew they’d be astonished at the beauty of the displays (chandeliers in a grocery store?!). We’d hoped to grab supper at the delightful Parlour, but they’d closed up early that night. Instead, we walked down Piccadilly, looking for an interesting place to stop. My middle daughter stopped me suddenly with a “Mommy, look!” so I turned to see what she was pointing at. Next to us was an adorable restaurant called “Cilantro,” just begging us to come in and take a seat:
As we walked through the door, we were immediately greeted by someone at the counter. I asked if they were closing up (it was already 7:30), but he said they didn’t close until 8pm and invited us to come and take a seat. A huge selection of sandwiches and drinks awaited us behind the counter, but the waiter urged us to get comfortable so he could show us menus and take care of us. We were waited upon with such friendly service that we felt right at home and knew this was going to be a real treat. My girls ordered spaghetti bolognese, while I got a chicken and tomato panini.
The whole atmosphere of Cilantro is cheerful and restful with lots of books around that customers are free to browse while they wait. We dove into our food, which was delicious and inexpensive (another plus!). After finishing up, an obliging waiter told us about the dessert selections, leaving our mouths watering in anticipation.
It is always a delight to find a new favorite place in London. I thanked my daughter for pointing this one out. If you’re anywhere near 193 Piccadilly, be sure to stop by. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The food is fantastic, the prices are right, and the staff is incomparable. We left satisfied and happy with our special evening out. After returning to our hotel, I put the girls to bed and waited up for the group from the Globe. They came back bubbling over with excitement at the evening’s performance, leaving me quite envious. It is something not to be missed if you ever have the chance.
And so the 2010 England Tour officially ended. We couldn’t believe how quickly our week had gone by. I said good-byes to several ladies Monday night, as they had early flights. We departed friends, and I know we’ll all stay in touch. I’ll finish up later with one last post to tie everything together. So many good memories!
We drove from Lacock Village straight to our hotel in Kensington, encountering a bit of traffic on the last few miles into the city. That put us at Gloucester Street around ten ’til 6pm. We quickly unloaded the coach and bade farewell to our excellent driver, who had spoiled us all week with his expert driving and amazing ability to get our entire group into tiny places. We knew we were going to miss him! We also said a short good-bye to Suzi, who headed home for the evening. She would rejoin us the next morning at the Museum of London.
I had promised to do an evening “dash” around my favorite places in London with any ladies willing to get their walking shoes out and keep up the pace. So after checking in and stowing our bags, a group of us headed out of the hotel for the Gloucester Road tube station to commence our little expedition. Our first stop was the St. James’s Park underground station. We hopped out and walked the short distance down to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, stopping just long enough to take a few pictures. You will have to forgive mine here — they are definitely “impressionist” views of evening London, as I am no expert with this new-fangled camera and all its settings…nor do I have the ability to hold my breath through long shutter exposures! As you can see, the sun had set, and the amazing blue of the evening sky made a breathtaking backdrop for the cathedral.
We continued down past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I missed my first turn back up toward St. James’s Park and took us on a two-block “detour” (oops!), but we enjoyed navigating through some pretty and quiet side streets before once again hitting St. James’s Park and turning north towards Buckingham Palace. At this point, Jenny, Nancy, and Stephanie had to bid us adieu and rush back down to Westminster Bridge to cross over to the London Eye, as they had tickets for a ride at 8:30pm. The rest of us forged onwards, skipping walking through the darkening park and instead skirting ’round it to reach the palace.
We now turned our steps eastwards, walking down the Mall along the perimeter of St. James’s Park, passing the Horse Guards, then going through Marble Arch to reach Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, I never managed to get a clear photo of the famous Nelson Memorial in the dark! We walked across the street to grab a bite to eat at Pret a’ Manger before continuing towards Charing Cross Station. After passing the station, we turned right to head back downhill towards Embankment. There we turned northeast to follow the Thames around to St. Paul’s. With the dome in sight, dear Karen decided her feet had had enough and asked directions back to our hotel. I pointed back to Westminster and explained how to grab the tube at Westminster station for Gloucester Road. So now we were whittled down to six ladies and yours truly. The walk along the Thames to St. Paul’s is a long one, but it affords a marvelous view of the London skyline, the Eye, the Tate Modern, and Shakespeare’s Globe.
So we kept putting one foot in front of the other, headed towards the goal of the beautiful domed cathedral in the distance. It was a fun walk as we chatted and shared tid-bits about London’s history. We ended at the foot of the Millennium Bridge, where we climbed up the stairs to finish the walk uphill to St. Paul’s:
We walked around the front of the church to head back toward the St. Paul’s underground station, stopping for a moment to snap some pictures of Temple Bar, one of the older entrance gates into the city of London. It was dismantled in the 19th century and sold when it became impractical for modern vehicular traffic. It ended up languishing in a forgotten garden before the City of London purchased it back and erected on this spot in 2004:
After boarding the tube at St. Paul’s station, we disembarked once again at Piccadilly Circus. I wanted the ladies to be able to say they had seen it at night. To me, it’s more of a very scaled-down Times Square and meant for tourists, but it’s still fun to see. We then boarded the tube for our home station at Gloucester Street, where I snapped the final photo of the night:
It was such a fun “dash” — nearly two hours of walking a good part of London in good company. Let’s do it again sometime! I promised the ladies I’d create a map to show all the ground we covered, so here it is:
Next time I’ll talk about our last day together in London on Monday. So hard to believe how quickly the week flew by!
Passing briefly through Lacock Village at the end of last year’s tour only whetted my appetite. I knew immediately that I’d love to stay there or in the vicinity, and I figured my tour guests would enjoy seeing “Meryton” and “Cranford” as much as I did. So after packing up and checking out Sunday, we met the rest of our group in Lacock at their B&B, loaded all the suitcases on the coach, then gave ourselves four hours to thoroughly explore and enjoy this lovely medieval village. Every nook and cranny in Lacock is charming. Inns that have existed since the 15th century sit nestled next to woolen shops and bakeries. On this day we happened upon a craft fair and a local art show, much to the delight of several artisans in our group. Here’s a little walking tour of some of my favorite spots:
My girls were absolutely thrilled to find a children’s play area tucked behind a fence across the street from Lacock Abbey (thank you, Trish, for pointing that out!). They played and played until we were ready for lunch:
After a yummy luncheon in the Stable House Tea Room, my mother, my girls, and I made our way to Lacock Abbey, which I’d never been able to tour. Our National Trust family cards got us in for free (this was a great investment, by the way, as it got us into Killerton and Berrington Hall free as well!). The Abbey is quite an imposing building from a distance, built over 800 years ago by monks and used as a monastery for centuries. But it also has some inviting nooks and little surprises, as you’ll see:
I have to say that Lacock Abbey is one of the most child-friendly “great houses” you can visit. Our girls found an “I-Spy” game card that took them through the house looking for hidden objects in each room. It was a blast! One of the docents told me they love having school groups and children come with parents, and I could tell. Photos are now allowed inside (no flash, of course), because the Abbey changed its no-photo policy earlier this year after realizing they couldn’t stop all the surreptitious mobile-phone camera shots people were taking and posting online. As the docent told me in a conspiratorial whisper, “We’ve just decided to ‘go with the flow,’ as they say!” I am glad, as it allows me to share what’s inside this beautiful National Trust property with you! If you ever have a chance to visit, I can recommend it highly. One more bonus we enjoyed: a men’s choir group was traveling around singing in famous abbeys and churches and happened to be at Lacock at the same time we were. When I re-entered the cloisters to retrieve our stroller, they were singing a beautiful hymn in harmony. The acoustics made it an incredible experience.
All in all, it was a marvelous day in Lacock. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves before heading back to London to check in at our Kensington hotel. Later I’ll post about Sunday night’s “London Dash!”
I woke to birdsong outside the window and just couldn’t stay abed, so I quickly got ready and headed downstairs to shoot some early morning photos of our surroundings. A little backstory first: We were all originally slated to stay in Lacock Village together at two B&Bs. Sadly, one of the B&B owners was diagnosed four weeks ago with cancer and has had to close her inn while undergoing chemotherapy. (Keep Kay in your thoughts and prayers if you would.) Losing that lovely place meant a bit of a scramble to find lodgings for 11 of us very close to the tour date. Suzi and I called and emailed and called some more, and we were most fortunate to find that Rudloe House Hotel (just across the way from Box Hill, can you believe it?) had rooms enough for all of us. So we are ensconced six miles from Lacock Village near the village of Box. It means a bit more of a shuffle for our coach driver, but we’re just glad this all worked out on such late notice!
Rudloe is a Victorian house atop a hill, overlooking the surrounding countryside. As we drove up last night, the sun was blazing through, giving us an unmatched sky with pink clouds. I wish I’d had my camera out! This morning I made my way down front to greet the day, and here’s a little walking tour before we head to Berrington Hall!
Well, I’m off to breakfast now and then to Berrington Hall in Hereford. It promises to be a marvelous day, and I’ll be sure to share the details later! Cheerio!
Well, we’re all here and accounted for (though finding folks at Heathrow this morning proved a bit of a challenge!). We went straight to the Victoria & Albert Museum for luncheon, then had a couple of hours free to see exhibits before meeting up for our private study session in the costume storage area. As with the Museum of London last year, we are not allowed to share photos of the objects displayed, but I can tell you we did lots of ooohing and ahhing! We saw a stunning 18th-century court gown, an 1880s day dress, and an ethereal Regency gown with silver thread embroidery. When I have time, I’ll look up the call numbers on the V&A site and post links so you can see, too! At left is a 1780s gown we saw last year (it was one of the inspiration pieces for my Ladies’ 1780s Portrait Dress pattern, now in progress).
After finishing at the museum, we boarded our coach for a rainy drive to Wiltshire, enjoying lots of visiting back and forth in the coach as we rode. The sun broke through the clouds in dazzling glory right at the end of our trip, casting that golden English glow over the countryside and lighting up the rain-wet trees and stone walls. It was stunning! Too bad I had packed my camera away by that point. If the weather holds tomorrow, I’ll be sure to get our gorgeous view.
Here are some highlights from today:
That’s all for today. Tomorrow we head to Leominster in Herefordshire to see the Snowshill collection at Berrington Hall and enjoy the delights of the Hereford Museum costume collection as well! Cheers!
I hadn’t planned originally to attend this event, but I am glad several ladies talked me into it. Bath Minuet (a group of vintage dance enthusiasts) was scheduled to perform several 17th-18th-century dances at the Pavilion across the Avon, followed by a one-hour English Country dance that anyone could join in. Since I had no plans to dance, I didn’t dress up, but the other ladies put on their ballroom finery, which was gorgeous! We asked the front desk to call us a couple of taxis, as no one wanted to walk the full mile down to the Pavilion. We then sat in the parlor for a while, watching for the cab before finally deciding to go out and sit on the front steps. Time marched on, but no taxis arrived. At five ’til seven, we were sure something dire had happened, so someone went back inside to ask the front desk gal what had become of the cabs. With a horrified look, she said that she’d thought we wanted cabs for 6:45 the following morning! Eek! She promptly called to correct her mistake, but it still took the cabs ten minutes to reach us. We arrived at the Pavilion 20 minutes late, missing the first two dances. Boo hoo! The group was just finishing up “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot” (A&E “Pride & Prejudice” fans know exactly which dance that is!).
During the break, I had a lengthy talk with one of the members of Bath Minuet, who dances with his wife. He said he had never danced a single step until joining the group five years ago. His wife saw the group on television and asked him to go with her to one of their meetings. They are now devotees of historical dance and absolutely love to share it with others. The gent hand-made his entire outfit and says he cherishes an original 18th-century waistcoat that he saves for very special occasions. One thing we noticed was the shocking lack of gentlemen — the group was mostly made up of ladies. This seems to be fairly common in the US as well and is such a shame. The gentleman with whom I spoke mentioned how they have tried to get young people hooked on historical dance and how much they love it once they try it. But many are afraid to try. Our group wasn’t! Of course, we had Aylwen with us, who is a historical dance expert and loves to help others join in. And many of our ladies had either tried English country dancing before or were eager to learn, so we had a very willing group! Here are photos from our delightful evening (all taken by yours truly, so pardon the lack of expertise!):
I wish I’d managed to get a group shot of everyone. It was really hard to grab pictures of people moving in and out of sets and lines during the hour-long dance. And by the time we all made it outside to head back to the B&B, it was pitch dark. Sorry about that! I hope these at least give you a little glimpse into a lovely evening!
One more post left to go: Our stop in Lacock Village on the way back to Heathrow.
Now, at the outset, I have to apologize for how dark most of these photos are. It’s not Lindsay’s fault at all. The Bath Fashion Museum has a fabulous collection, but, unfortunately, its displays are just about the worst when it comes to overall layout and, most especially, good lighting. You spend most of your time squinting into glass cases that reflect your own image back better than they showcase what’s inside. Yet some displays have lighting so bright that you have problems with overexposure. Suzi has refused on principle to visit the museum for years–LOL! But, all griping aside, the collection is lovely, and I hope in future they improve the layout and design. There’s such amazing potential in the Assembly Rooms for gorgeous display; it’s bound to happen one of these days. In the meantime, here’s a peek at what Lindsay captured.
Wish I could show you more, but the lighting just didn’t give Lindsay enough help. Next time I’ll share pictures from our gorgeous Sunday in Bath!
After the overcast, chilly Friday, I didn’t have high hopes for good weather on Saturday, but I sure prayed for it! Lo and behold, we awoke Saturday morning to streaming sunshine and warming temperatures! As the day went on, we were treated to bright blue skies, gorgeous white clouds, and balmy temps in the 70s. It was amazing–a perfect day for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival and Grand Costumed Promenade. We ate a delicious breakfast at our B&B and dressed in all our Regency finery. What a beautiful group our ladies made as they walked to the starting point of the promenade! I may be a little biased, but I believe we had the most authentic and elegantly dressed group of ladies. It was such a delight to see them all. Above you see several of our ladies walking to the Pump Room, where the promenade would assemble. I did not walk in the parade but sat at a booth in Queen’s Square, where the promenade would end around 12:30pm. I had the pleasure of meeting over two dozen of my customers from all over the world, which was a great treat.
Without further ado, here are pictures from the promenade for your enjoyment!
All in all, we had a fantastic morning. It was just a perfect day for walking around Bath (which is such a walkable city). Next time I’ll share the photos Lindsay took Saturday afternoon in the Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms.
WHOOPS! Here are pictures I took that I forgot to post the first time around!