P.S. – Whoops! I got a note from someone who said the Chatsworth photos would not enlarge. I figured out why and fixed the problem. Now you can click to get enlarged photos in that gallery. Thanks for letting me know, Lisa!
After going to bed to a cold, drizzling rain, we awoke Tuesday morning to glorious sunshine and this view from our hotel windows on the third floor:
Chatsworth doesn’t open until 11am, so we decided to drive through the Peak District all morning, then go to the great house after lunch. Let me tell you, it really is worthwhile to get a car if you come to England! It’s a little intimidating at first when you can’t understand all the road sign pictures and have to drive on the “wrong” side, but you quickly become acclimated. We lovethe roundabout system and wish we had it in the US. There are no four-way stops here and very few traffic lights unless you are in a major city like London or Birmingham. A roundabout keeps traffic moving smoothly, since you briefly yield (or “give way,” as they say here) to traffic already in the roundabout before joining in yourself. Then you take whatever “exit” you need to get back off the roundabout and go in a new direction. And if you missed your road, you just go ’round the roundabout again! It really is clever. We also understand now why English cars are so tiny. Over here, no one plows down villages to make way for a four-lane highway or larger streets with sidewalks. If a village has tiny lanes, your car has been designed small enough to fit them! And people really are careful drivers, even if they go fast. They’re used to the narrow streets and politely give way when necessary. Parking is scarce, so many streets have an entire lane taken up by parked cars that you must navigate around in order to go forward. The oncoming traffic will often stop or pull far over to the opposite side to let you pass. It’s tricky at first but old hat after a while.
Our innkeeper recommended we drive up toward Eyam (pronounced “Eam”) instead of taking the tourist cablecar into Abraham’s Heights. So we just set out, telling the GPS to navigate us around from one hamlet to the next. The scenery here is breathtaking. One moment you are in a tiny dale surrounded by hills and trees; the next you are up on a scraggy heath overlooking farms and villages (and sheep!). Some areas have very few trees, and we passed a couple of barren moors, but most of the area we drove had lots of trees with cleared fields and villages in the dales (valleys). One of our favorite places was Castleton–and after we stopped for a moment at the welcome center and looked behind us, we realized why it was named so. There is a very old castle ruin on the top of a hill above the village that looks to be at least 1000 years old–probably more. We encountered quite a number of walkers and hikers going up the tiny lane to see the castle and the rest of the views. What amazed us most were the number of spry and active 70- and 80-somethings walking along with their sticks and canes up hills and down dales. It is no surprise the British are more fit and healthy than Americans–particularly out here in the country. People walk everywhere and stay active. It’s most inspiring.
The scenery in this part of Derbyshire reminds me so much of James Herriot’s books (the animal doctor). Everywhere you see sheep, stone walls, stone barns and cottages, and farmers busy in their fields. There is no way for me to pick a favorite view from our morning drive, because each little village had its own charms and looked inviting. (We’ll upload the rest of the photos later and link to them!) You can stop anywhere for tea and sandwiches during the day, and there are so many bookshops it makes your head spin. We thoroughly enjoyed our morning’s outing and stopped at a nice country bookshop and cafe’ for lunch. There we enjoyed a leek and bacon quiche, brie, and a cornish pastie (a kind of miniature crepe filled with beef and potatoes–and pronounced “PASS-tee”). Once back in Bakewell, we decided to pick up the famous local “Bakewell Pudding,” which has been produced there for over 120 years. It is a cross between a tart and a creme brulee’ — just imagine a rich, almond-flavored custard in a pie crust, and you’ve got it. Very tasty! Melissa and I had been madly sewing on our way back to Bakewell to put the finishing touches on our outfits for Chatsworth. I just finished the last bit of lace on my crossover gown as we pulled up to the Rutland Arms. We got dressed, changed the babies, and purchased discount tickets at the hotel desk, then drove to the great estate.
I really don’t know if Chatsworth is what Jane Austen had in mind when she described Darcy’s Pemberley. Many say it is, and I could wholeheartedly agree when it comes to the landscaping and the grounds. As you approach the house, the beauty of the surrounding hills and the winding river Derwent is utterly enchanting. There is not a single spot of ground that has not been groomed to create a pleasing view–but it all looks natural rather than ornate or forced. It is just a heavenly place to look at. Towering trees, stone walkways, roses in abundance, cottage gardens, and kitchen gardens (even including chicken houses!) are all beautifully kept. The description of Elizabeth’s first view of Pemberley does come to mind: “They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” That is precisely how Chatsworth looks as you drive up–even to the “high woody hills” in back and the stream “swelled into greater” eminence in the front.
It is awe-inspiring to think of the incredible responsibility it would be to care for such an estate. It would take serious management and skill to do it. This helps you understand what impressed Elizabeth so much about Darcy when she visited Pemberley. It wasn’t his wealth so much as his ability to manage it all and be a kind and caring landlord for his tenants at the same time. A fool and a spendthrift would never be able to maintain such a miniature universe. It takes maturity and great care. Such were our impressions throughout our visit.
The house itself is a bit overwhelming and so highly decorated in the heavy style of the 1680s that I don’t think it resembles Pemberley much at all. It is definitely “a fine house richly furnished,” as Elizabeth’s aunt said, but it doesn’t fit the description in the next chapter of its being “neither gaudy nor uselessly fine.” Many of the rooms are quite gaudy and drip with finery. We did enjoy the awe-inspiring spectacle of the state rooms (one of which was used in the recent “Pride & Prejudice” film). There are hundreds of oil portraits on the walls and many amazing artifacts, including two ca. 900BC stele recovered from a dig site in Egypt and placed into niches in the wall of one of the halls on the lower floor. Here is one:
The library contains books so rare that only scholars are permitted to handle them on special occasions. They date from the 1500s onwards. Room after room leaves your jaw hanging and eyes popping. But you certainly wouldn’t want to live there and be responsible for its upkeep! It would take an incredible housekeeper and steward to manage such a place. The family apartments are, of course, private, but we flipped through some books in the gift shop later and saw that they are almost as splendid as the rest of the house. I think I’d start wanting to bring in something shabby chic after a while!
What is very unfortunate about Chatsworth at present is its current occupant’s love for modern “art.” Ugly modern art paintings adorn some of the walls, and huge, hideous sculptures have been placed all over the grounds, spoiling many views and leaving the spectator scratching her head. Please pardon my rant, but can’t we just laugh at the ridiculous folly that calls the silliness on the left equal to the priceless work of a great talent on the right?
I have to wonder if there aren’t a great number of “artists” laughing their way to the bank after selling a canvas full of colored rectangles for a million or so pounds. It seems to me we moderns have totally let go of our senses. Let’s just be honest here. It really and truly does not take talent to lump a bunch of scrap metal together, spray paint it, and set it up on a concrete base. Yet we are expected to be “erudite” and view this silliness with serious reflection and find some meaning in it? I’m sorry, but there is more talent and gifting in a tiny Vermeer portrait than in one square inch of any of the horrid, ugly, and ridiculous pieces of “art” scattered over the lawns of Chatsworth. Some child needs to stand up and yell, “But, mother, the emperor hasn’t got any clothes on!” I can hear someone saying, “But it’s all about expression and the artist’s personal tastes.” Okay, but some people are better at expressing themselves than others and can make a meaningful speech rather than rambling on incoherently. They work hard to perfect their skills and hone their talents so that what they produce is timeless and reaches beyond their own generation. Would we pay good money to go to Carnegie Hall to hear someone shriek for an hour at $75 a ticket? (Hmm… perhaps that’s not the best example, considering some of the “music” today — but that’s another rant!)
One final example, and I’ll quit.This silly piece of pop art “sculpture” has been placed in the middle of the beautiful water cascade in back of Chatsworth. It is essentially a metal word taken from one of our American postage stamps from several years ago–”LOVE” with the “O” tilted to one side. Were I set to inherit Chatsworth, I’d prompty throw all this rubbish in a heap and melt it down in a grand bonfire. My apologies to the duke….
We did go through the sculpture gallery, which was added onto the main house in 1833 (so it wasn’t accurate for 1797 in P&P!). We loved seeing the veiled lady statue, which is truly beautiful. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t get close to it, since another piece of modern “art” was near it and roped off, which prevented us getting near enough for a good head-on look. Still, it was a lovely piece. There were two magnificent sculptures of lions in repose at the end of the gallery–gigantic in proportion and based upon earlier Italian sculptures. Next to one of these was a small display on Jane Austen and her connection to Chatsworth through Pride and Prejudice (which mentions the great estate). Then there is one of Keira Knightley’s dresses from the film and the bust of Matthew McFadyen as Darcy. The dress, while totally wrong for 1797, is still beautifully made (totally hand stitched!). The design on the back of the bodice is couched cord (cord laid out in a serpentine pattern and attached with thread loops). It’s a wonderful piece of work–if only the waistline was at its proper place! But enough authenticity griping….
We wandered all over the gardens and lawns of Chatsworth, taking so many pictures we filled up the camera’s memory card and had to (sob!) delete some pictures to make room for more. Out went the chickens! You can take pictures of them almost anywhere. And, who knows, we may think our pictures are repetitive once we get to looking through them, but we just couldn’t stop taking more as each new perspective presented itself! There are several themed gardens, but I think our favorites were the cottage garden and the rose garden. Gorgeous!
The west side of the house is what was used in the recent P&P film as the front of the house. This is where the reflecting pool and fountain are located. This is also the side of the house that contains the stairs Elizabeth runs down to escape Darcy. That area of the house is private, so we just took a long shot:
And here I am with Matt, standing before the impressive west side:
The owners of Chatsworth have been thoughtful enough to provide backpacks to carry babies, since strollers can’t go into the house. That’s why Matt has the big red pack on his back! Tucker thoroughly enjoyed the ride and fell asleep toward the end.
We walked up the hill behind the house to view the fountain at the top of the cascade, and halfway up a sign said, “Take extreme caution if you choose to enter the water.” Melissa and I looked at one another with a mischievous twinkle and immediately knew this was a must-do. We slipped off our shoes, handed over the babies to Matt, and stepped into the cool, refreshing water. The stones beneath were not at all slippery, so we weren’t worried about falling. The icy water felt wonderful on our tired feet, so we stood there for a few minutes while Matt took some pictures. Then we continued on up the hill to the fountain that spills into the cascade.
On our way out, we stopped and spoke at length with one of the estate’s trustees, a man from Derby (pronounced “Darby” here). His family went back for generations in Derbyshire, and he really knew the history of Chatsworth and many other facts about the area. He took time to explain the accent to us and why people in northern England say “Bath” rather than “Bahth.” He wanted to hear all about our English ancestors and why they went to America and when. Fascinating conversation! As we prepared to leave, he told us to take a footpath, cross the bridge into the estate, then climb the right bank of the river Derwent for a special view of Chatsworth. That’s when we took this shot. Finally, Melissa gave her very best “Marianne” impression and walked uphill amongst the sheep for some pictures. Isn’t she lovely? She even got stopped by a tourist who wanted his picture taken with her! There really is something special about going to a place like Chatsworth in period dress. I think you feel the elegance of the place a little more keenly. Or at least I can imagine that you do, and you can humor me.
We spent the rest of our daylight hours driving around the countryside further to the southeast (near the Heights of Abraham). We didn’t see any of the rocky outcroppings we’d heard so much about, but you really have to take a train up to get to those. Next time! We stopped at the Wheatsheaf in Bakewell for a hearty English supper of steak pie with potatoes and peas before returning to our hotel to look at pictures and update the blog. As I type these last few lines, I am in a hotel at Heathrow, where we’ve been since 8:30pm. Today was another spectacular day, but I’ll have to blog on it after I get home! Our flight leaves at 7am, which means we have to be at the airport at 4am. Forget sleep. We’ll probably just snooze for a bit in our clothes before we head over to the terminal. We do appreciate all the prayers for safe travel! Lord willing, we’ll be in Atlanta by 2:30pm tomorrow! Farewell!
P.S. – I just have to add that Matt surprised me with a unexpected gift yesterday. He bought the copy of the memoir Jane Austen’s nephew wrote! I was totally floored. What an anniversary! And, no, I really don’t ever expect him to top all this!
I realize I forgot to mention yesterday that Matt and I visited Sydney Gardens in Bath on Sunday evening while the babies were napping. We got there before the sun set and enjoyed walking its paths. This was Jane Austen’s favorite spot in Bath. Here is a picture from the main entrance:
I’ll post more pictures later, since I took lots!
Monday morning we had breakfast, then packed up the car and checked out of our hotel. We drove into the center of Bath and parked up near the Circus so we could walk to the things we wanted to see (the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street, the Assembly Rooms, Museum of Costume, and the Royal Crescent). We took a tiny side street (closed to traffic) and realized we had stumbled upon the very shops mentioned to us by Naomi the day before–an antique book store, an antiques shop, and a “charity shop” (what we Americans call a “thrift store”). We eagerly perused the tiny corner bookshop, which was filled with treasures. Matt found a biography of G.A. Henty, who is a favorite writer in our household, and Melissa found some top-secret gifts for members of her family. I got a beautiful book on the places mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels, which is filled with color photos and lots of neat descriptions. There was also an original copy of the memoir of Jane written by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, but I put it back on the shelf with a sigh of regret. Just a bit too pricey for the pocket! Still, it was fun to hold it for a while!
We checked out the antiques store, which was just like Dickens’s Curiosity Shop in the flesh! It was one of those places where you can barely walk without tumbling over something or other. Shelves stuffed with china dogs, old hats, candlesticks, and toast racks ranged the walls. From an upper balcony hung old military uniforms. In the very back of the shop was a photo of the same building 40 years earlier, when it was what we’d call a Five and Dime–a store that carries a little of everything at low prices. The interior shelves were all original to the shop and still advertised confectionary, quality goods, and tea! A little further down the lane was this cute cafe:
We continued down hill over stone sidewalks until we reached the Jane Austen Centre. This is a wonderful place to visit if you are ever in Bath! The staff are all fellow Janeites and very knowledgeable about Jane’s life and times–particularly about her time in Bath. The exhibit is well put together and includes a short film on Jane in Bath with Amanda Root as narrator (she played Anne Elliot in “Persuasion”). There are some original garments on display as well as several reproductions (out where you can see everything up close and not through glass!). Photography is allowed, so we took lots and lots of pictures! The doll shown here is from the Dressing Elizabeth Bennet feature that demonstrates all the layers of a lady’s Regency attire. Everything on the doll is hand-stitched, and Melissa and I just about went cross-eyed over the tiny handiwork! After we get back, we will size down the rest of the photos and put them all up so you can see everything! The Centre also features a third-story tea room that serves Regency tea daily, but we didn’t have time for that, so we moved on to the Assembly Rooms and Museum of Costume (which is in the basement of the same building). On the way, we saw the Royal Crescent, which is every bit as stunning as you’d imagine. It has its own private lawn/park in front and glows golden in the sunlight.
If you really want to see what the Assembly Rooms look like, watch the film version of “Persuasion” with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. The room where Anne and Wentworth talk about “that wretched day in Lyme” is in the center of all the Assembly Rooms–a kind of “spoke” to a wheel. It is beautifully painted and has a domed ceiling. From there, you can walk into the “Upper Rooms,” which include a ballroom, an octagon room, and a concert hall. The hall is what you see when Anne goes to hear the Italian songs and sits with Mr. Elliot. Amazingly, the ballroom suffered a direct bomb hit in WWII and was faithfully restored to its former glory. The poor, misguided souls of the late Victorian era had actually gone in and painted the plain walls with all kinds of curlicues and wild birds and such, feeling that the room was too plain. The photograph of the “improvements” is something to see. Melissa and I agreed it was good that a later generation took everything back down to the basics and restored the beautiful simplicity of the original design! It’s a shame we weren’t allowed to take photographs, because the chandeliers alone were worth it!
The basement of the Assembly Rooms houses the Museum of Costume, which owns over 30,000 original garments. Only the merest fraction of those are on display at any given time, but we thoroughly enjoyed what we saw! here are some of my favorite Regency Era gowns:
When we get home, we’ll scale the rest of the pictures down a bit put them up so you can enjoy them all. The lighting was pretty low, so we used flash on some pictures (there is a bit of a glare at times as a result, but never directly on the garment itself). I wish we could have taken detailed closeups of the incredible lace and handwork displayed in one wall cabinet. It was breathtaking. (Matt, by the way, sat this one out so he could get us some lunch. I can hear him now, “No lace, Mrs. Bennet! No lace!“)
In one part of the museum we came upon some ladies working on mounting pockets for a future exhibit. These were beautiful pockets from the 18th century, and the curator had come up with a fantastic way to show how they worked. She dressed a mannequin in a reproduction shift, corset, and quilted petticoat, then created a see-through skirt out of–get this–steel! The skirt actually looked like organza, but it was woven entirely of thin steel “thread.” It was fireproof and touchproof and gave a bird’s eye view of the pockets tied around the waist of the mannequin. It’s always fun to see how curators come up w
ith display ideas!
After taking lots and lots of pictures, we finally went upstairs to drool all over the two gift shops, which are stuffed with fashion history books, paper dolls, Jane Austen ephemera, postcards, and more. I got a few postcards to keep and some to send home. Here is a picture of Matt after he dropped some postcards into the mail for home. We’ll probably beat them there, but it was still fun to post in that red box!
I have to stop and comment here that I think you come into Bath like Catherine Moreland and leave like Anne Elliot. As Catherine, you marvel at the incredible architecture and walk around like someone in a dream. Rounding each corner brings a new delight, and you wonder what you’ll see next. But after a day and a half in the town, you realize you’ve seen it all–and that’s all there is. It’s a fun place to visit, and the surrounding villages would make a charming place to live, but Bath itself is more a place to come and shop. That’s exactly how Jane Austen felt about it–that it was all one “white glare…cast from a mould.” In her day, she said it was full of “single persons, mostly superannuated females!” It was a place to go and be seen, but most of the activities became wearing after a while. She much preferred the country. We adored Bath and would gladly go there again, but we were glad to press on to the north country and enjoy its beauties!
So, stowed back in the car with our “take-away” lunch, we hit the road for Derbyshire. We’d instructed the GPS to take us by the scenic route rather than primarily by the M roads. Driving through Gloucestershire and Warwickshire was a treat–mile upon mile of wonderful scenery and beautiful villages. Here’s my “bird’s eye view” from the back seat, where I was blogging about Sunday as we drove yesterday:
And here are my happy companions on either side!
As we approached Warwick, I asked Matt if we had time to stop by Warwick Castle, which I visited when I was 16. It was right in our way, so we hopped out for a detour. The earliest section of the castle dates to William the Conqueror, while the later sections were begun in the 1100s and continued up through Elizabethan times. During the English Civil War, the inhabitants of the castle sided with Oliver Cromwell and avoided the fate of nearby Kenilworth Castle, which was sacked and burned. There is a Kenilworth bedroom in Warwick castle that contains paneling stripped from Kenilworth when that castle was sacked. Later, Queen Victoria had a matching wardrobe made to go with the paneling and presented it to the Duke as a gift. The original paneling contains the name of Robert Dudley, who was friend to Queen Elizabeth I (they were prisoners in the Tower at the same time). Speaking of whom, one of QEI’s saddles rests in a case in the Great Hall of the castle! Melissa photographed it. (We’ll upload all the Warwick pictures when we have a good connection at home to handle all the files.) The Great Hall currently houses (in addition to its regular armor and such) a collection of costumes worn in plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The display started two days before our arrival, and we were tickled to get to see this little “bonus.” Melissa and I walked through the “1898 Victorian House Party,” which is a huge collection of wax figures in period dress throughout the main rooms of the castle. Included among the figures are a young Winston Churchill and Prince Edward IV (for whom the “Edwardian Era” was named). I saw this same exhibit when I was 16, and it hasn’t changed a bit. I guess they must regularly clean the costumes and dust the figures!
I know my boys will love to see pictures of some armor and the huge trebuchet (catapult) next to the castle, so here are some of my favorite shots!
Because we arrived at the castle an hour before closing time, we got discounted tickets–and we still had plenty of time to look around. If you ever plan to visit, consider going late to get the discount! You will have plenty of time to poke around and see all the wonderful sights. We saw a tournament ground on one side that is used for reenactments. It’s a shame they weren’t putting one on while we were there.
We still had about two hours to go before we’d reach Bakewell, so we skipped supper and pushed on toward Derbyshire. The GPS guided us through several tiny villages with narrow streets as darkness fell, but when it announced, “You have reached your destination,” we were in the center of a hamlet almost entirely dark except for the lights at a nearby pub! We looked at each other in bewilderment, and Matt drove carefully along, looking for the sign of the Rutland Arms Hotel. No such animal. He turned around and drove back to the Bull’s Head public house to ask for directions. The keeper there said, “Oh, you mean the “ROOTlund Arms?” (The northern English accent is decidely different from the southern accent. “Me” is pronounced “meh,” and “you” is pronounced “yeh.” They also use a short “a” like we do–saying “Bath” instead of “Bahth.” “House” sounds more like “hoos,” and some vowels are almost dropped entirely. It is so much fun to hear the almost Scottish or Welsh tones and pronunciations. It’s a lovely accent.) Well, Matt pointed the car in the direction indicated, and we went three and a half miles as instructed. Ah-ha! Now we were in Bakewell. But where was the Rutland Arms? Not a thing remotely resembling it to be seen…. Matt remarked, “A neon sign would be nice!” (understand, there are almost NO neon signs in the English countryside!). We decided to see if the GPS could now find the Rutland Arms, and it did, but it said it was another three miles distant. We pressed on and ended up in another village entirely, but there was the Rutland Arms! Matt pulled into the car park and went in, just to make sure. A bemused innkeeper told us there are two identically named hotels within four miles of each other and that the one we wanted was back in Bakewell! The GPS still didn’t show it, so we just drove back and went slowly into the town center. There, in blazing neon glory, was a sign: Rutland Arms Hotel”–hanging just below the roofline of a tall building right in front of the town’s main roundabout! We all had a good laugh over that one. We couldn’t see it coming in from the other side of town, but it sure was obvious now!
By now, it was 9:05, and the hotel’s restaurant had already closed
. We’ve discovered that just about everything in the country closes around 9pm save the pubs, which are usually open until 11 (but not serving food). After inquiring at a couple of places, we found there was an authentic Indian restaurant that served until 9:30. So out in the heart of Derbyshire, we ate curried chicken and lamb massala over warm garlic pitas! It was quite delicious, and our host (a native Indian) was warm and friendly. He loved the twins, as his own wife is expecting their first child. There has been a fun and unexpected surprise on just about every stage of this journey. We feel so blessed!
I formatted pictures and updated the blog before going to bed, and tomorrow I’ll tell you about what we did today–driving around the peak district, eating a real Bakewell pudding, and visiting Chatsworth in period dress, where we saw Mr. Darcy and gave him all your best regards. Here’s a teaser picture to keep you in suspense:
Good night, all!