Lounging around in Longleat and bedazzled by history in Bradford On Avon

Monday 24th August

Today we experienced our first seriously rainy day of touring and it certainly makes a contrast to the high thirties we experienced for a month in Italy.  We drove from Chippingham 35 minutes south to the C15th mansion of Longleat, ancestral home of the Thynne family who survived Tudor politics, serious Cromwellian warfare and the ups and downs of aristocratic life and who still own their house today.

View of the front of Longleat, England's finest Elizabethan house with 1000 acres of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown

View of the front of Longleat, England’s finest Elizabethan house with 1000 acres of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown

The present Marquess is an artist and patron of artists who has added to the over 1000 paintings and portraits in Longleat his own quite impressive political and social comment art as well as two mazes and many other garden additions. In 2010 he handed over the running of the estate to his son Viscount Seymour.

Ceiling in one of the three extraordinary State rooms. One of the marquesses was deeply influenced by travelling to Italy and the ceilings were modelled after the Doge's Palace ceilings in Venice

Ceiling in one of the three extraordinary State rooms. One of the marquesses was deeply influenced by travelling to Italy and the ceilings were modelled after the Doge’s Palace ceilings in Venice

Longleat's C16th clock in the Elixabethan Baronial Hall . We were there at midday and the chime lasted over a minute with various antics of the figures

Longleat’s C16th clock in the Elizabethan Baronial Hall . We were there at midday and the chime lasted over a minute with various antics of the figures

Massive solid silver candelabra on the State Room Dining Table commemorating a Thynne victory over Cromwell's ar,my

Massive solid silver candelabra on the State Room Dining Table commemorating a Thynne victory over Cromwell’s army

The estate is vast although not as big as in Elizabethan days.  It still measures 1000 acres of immaculately kept parklands initially established by famous English landscape designer Capability Brown. In addition there are 4000 acres of farmland which includes a running farm and another 4000 acres of woodland.

Ann in one of the seven library rooms of Longleat. The House holds over 44000 books, the largest private library in England

Ann in one of the seven library rooms of Longleat. The House holds over 44000 books, the largest private library in England

It was Henry Thynne (1905 -1992) who saved Longleat from the English death duties  taxation system (and in the process many other stately homes).  Against significant ridicule he opened the house to the public on a regular paying basis thereby setting a standard for many eventually to follow. In addition as an amazing entrepreneur he created an impressive wildlife safari park and a holiday campsite. Many major public events are held at Longleat and many films have been made there. Longleat is generally regarded as the most impressive still standing Elizabethan house in England.

The House itself contains just one space, the baronial  hall  remaining from Elizabethan times but that itself is an impressive space. Many ot the changes that have been made were completed in the C19th by architect Sir Jeffrey Wyatville  but what made an impact on us were the rich furnishings throughout the house and the high standard with which the interior and furnishings have been maintained. In addition the very committed and enthusiastic staff made an impact by their passion for the house. What made an impact on me was the library of over 44 000 books in seven extraordinary rooms! Hmm…

Baronial hall at Longleat, the only Elixabethan remnant in the house but an impressive room nevertheless

Baronial hall at Longleat, the only Elixabethan remnant in the house but an impressive room nevertheless. The  huge television screen is not Elizabethan!

Front staircase at Longleaf. The house contains over 1000 paintings many of them portraits of the family over 600 years and also a number of royal portraits. Elizabeth 1 visited this house

Front staircase at Longleaf. The house contains over 1000 paintings many of them portraits of the family over 600 years and also a number of royal portraits. Elizabeth 1 visited this house

This is the

This is the “ordinary” dining room with just the Sevres service!

Leaving Longleat after a very pleasant lunch in the crypt of the mansion, we journeyed back to Chippenham via the beautiful small Cotswolds town of Bradford on Avon which contains three very historic churches.  We were able to visit two of them. The most ancient is a small and simple Saxon Church, the Church of St Laurence whose existence is noted by William of Malmesbury in the 1120’s but thought by him to date back to the time of St Aldheim (died 709) although this date is contested and the original Saxon site may have been on the site of the present Holy Trinity Anglican Church. This is an ancient church indeed and reminds me of the simple chapel we saw in Glendalough Monastery in southern Ireland some years ago.

Entry to tiny Bradford on Avon Saxon church

Entry to tiny Bradford on Avon Saxon church

Bradford on Avon Saxon church C12th or earlier ..view of the simple sanctuary

Bradford on Avon Saxon church C12th or earlier ..view of the simple sanctuary

Tiny Saxon church of St Laurence in Bradford on Avon dating back to at least the C12th where it is noted by William of Malmesbury

Tiny Saxon church of St Laurence in Bradford on Avon dating back to at least the C12th where it is noted by William of Malmesbury

View of the Avon River at Bradford On Avon on a fairly grey day for an English summer

View of the Avon River at Bradford On Avon on a fairly grey day for an English summer

Ann on the bridge over the Avon River in Bradford on Avon with Holy Trinity Anglican church in background

Ann on the bridge over the Avon River in Bradford on Avon with Holy Trinity Anglican church in background

Another view of Holy Trinity church in Bradford on Avon

Another view of Holy Trinity church in Bradford on Avon

Exterior of Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon dating from C12th with many gravestones, most unreadable

Exterior of Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon dating from C12th with many gravestones, most unreadable

Holy Trinity is also an ancient church in Bradford on Avon although substantially rebuilt in the 1860’s. It certainly dates from the C12th on this site and ancient features include a faded wall painting in the sanctuary dating from c1300, the C15th tower, a funeral tomb for Anne Yew dating to 1601, the memorial to Charles Steward who fell off his horse in 1698 and the amazing “squint” or “hagiograph”…a long small corridor with a window into the sanctuary to enable leprosy sufferers to see the priest and hear what was happening in the sanctuary. In the former monastery in which the chapel was built there was a leprosy hospital. The Church will soon celebrate its millennium and is a lively and spiritually active community.

Anne Yew's 1601 tomb in Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Bradford on Avon

Anne Yew’s 1601 tomb in Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Bradford on Avon

View of Holy Trinity Anglican church in Bradford on Avon from the Sanctuary

View of Holy Trinity Anglican church in Bradford on Avon from the Sanctuary

The

The “Squint” window in the sanctuary of Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon which enables leprosy sufferers to stand in a separate room but to see and hear the service

Interior of Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon dating from C12th

Interior of Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon dating from C12th

Norman

Norman “beggar’s door” at Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon

View of the

View of the “Squint” corridor from the room outside the body of the church

Unusual pillars in Holy Trinity Anglican church in Bradford on Avon containing well known Bible verses scrolled around

Unusual pillars in Holy Trinity Anglican church in Bradford on Avon containing well known Bible verses scrolled around

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