Sunday, 18 September 2016

Loughborough and Althorp

Sorry for the absence this last couple of weeks: I've been exceptionally busy with one thing or another, so haven't had time to post.

After the events of this weekend I feel vindicated for concentrating my recent blog efforts on connections ... but more of that next week. In the meantime ...

Loughborough and Althorp? I mean, really? Really???

So, a couple of weekends ago I was off celebrating my first wedding anniversary, and we decided to go and visit Althorp Hall. I've been meaning to go for a very long time (19 years, to be precise) but for whatever reason have never quite made it. As I said, this weekend we did get there, and we were not disappointed! 

It was the last weekend that the hall was open for the season (apart from the following weekend which would be the Althorp Food Festival in the grounds, but I don't think the hall was open), so we were lucky to catch it. Sadly, it wasn't a beautiful sunny day, in fact it was quite cold and very overcast, but this didn't put us off, and we arrived around midday.

I had thought that visiting Althorp would be a fairy safe thing to do, and even I wouldn't be able to find any connections with Loughborough whatsoever! But, of course, I was wrong! I wasn't looking for connections, so I guess this is probably why they jumped out at me as we walked around the house and gardens! Here's a selection of connections below: some are a bit tenuous, but ...  

We approached the house via a really long drive that reminded me of the approach to Calke Abbey, in South Derbyshire, which followed along the length of the estate wall. Beautiful wall, actually, that once we were very close to the house, dipped down so that the view from and to the hall was uninterrupted (I think it's called a ha-ha).
The wall at its lowest point

The view of the house and from the house over the wall
Once we'd paid our entry fee, we walked along the path to the stableyards, where we had a cup of tea in the most fantastic setting of the horse stables which was adorned with the names of the 100 horses that had lived there!
The stalls with seating for diners
The servery with saddles (there is some significance of the 2 saddles, but I've forgotten what it was)
Also in the tearooms, we learned about Cotherstone, a thoroughbred racehorse, who won 6 consecutive races in 1843, and was sold that year to the 3rd Earl Spencer. Sadly, within a year Cotherstone was injured, so didn't race again. This reminded me of Sunloch, the winner of the Grand National in 1914, who appears not to have been the same after winning that particular race, and like Cotherstone was also once a steeplechaser. 
The story of Cotherstone
One isn't allowed to tour the house alone, so we joined a small party of folk being shown around by a very knowledgeable guide. The house is still lived in, and the guest bedrooms we were shown are still used today when visitors come to stay, as are many other rooms in the house, and actually, it was quite funny to see modern-day reading material, and bottles of water on the bedside tables.

We were not allowed to take photographs, so I hastily scribbled a few things down in my little notebook, which now looks like a spider got hold of my pen!  

Anyway, as we toured around, I couldn't help noticing things that rang a bell with me, but it took me a little while to work out why. In one particular instance, I saw a painting by John Boultbee, and couldn't work out why this rang bells with me until we moved into another room, the walls of which were covered with paintings of horses and other impressive animals, including the famous Durham Ox! So then it dawned on me: Boutlbee was the painter of that lovely likeness of Robert Bakewell on his horse, that I had seen so many times whilst I was blogging about Robert Bakewell of Dishley! Boultbee was born in Osgathorpe around 1753, and was influenced by the works of George Stubbs.

Also in Althorp House there were several portraits relating to the Earls of Leicester, including one of the 2nd and 3rd Earls, and one of the wife of the 1st Earl, as well as many of brothers, sisters and descendants of the various earls. 

Finally, hidden amongst the many portraits of the family, royalty and other persons, was the most beautiful picture of Lady Jane Grey (ok, royalty!), painted by Lucas de Heere. Lady Jane Grey was also known as the Nine Day Queen, and her family home was in the house in Bradgate Park. Here's a link to the painting: it really was quite striking. According to the "Catalogue of the pictures at Althorp House" from 1851, the view through the windows are of "the remarkable [church] spires of that town". There are also some black and white engravings, in the style of de Leere's painting, available to view on the web on the National Portrait Gallery website.

After we'd finished at Althorp, we walked to the village of Great Brington where there were some lovely old buildings, including the village pub, The Fox and Hounds, and the church, St Mary the Virgin with St John, where members of the Althorp family are buried. Next door to the church was the Old Rectory. So completely different from our own Old Rectory on Steeple Row (museum open every Saturday, 11-3, until the end of October)!
The Old Rectory at Great Brington
The Old Rectory in Loughborough
Below are a few pictures of my day at Althorp:
Althorp House

The grand entrance

View of the house from the side!

The secret garden perhaps?
The island memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales

A gate into the deer park

A quiet corner of the estate!

Relics from the Battle of Navarino, 20 October 1827

The inspiration for Dixon of Dock Green, perhaps?
See you next week!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Loughborough and Althorp. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 2 October 2016]

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