Borders visit Monday 11 September 2017
Our happy group set off from York on a most luxurious coach from York to our first stop, Alnwick Gardens where we had two tours of the incredible gardens. The first tour took us through the main garden, our leader the head gardener took us to see the amazing mirror polished water features that have been established each one individual and with a surprise – like getting wet unexpectedly! We travelled through the bamboo labrynth to view the rose garden, still in bloom, and heard about the head gardeners favourite Chandos Beauty and also about the material they use to cover their soil on the borders – something called Strultch – from Yorkshire – which slugs avoid. We wandered on and looked at the many (400!) Great White ornamental cherry trees under planted with tulips and with swings between – a delightful setting on sloping ground. Our second tour was around the poison garden; we could identify plants in our garden that we had not realised to be potentially deadly – rhubarb and hosta for example. It was good to hear of community support in addressing loneliness with regular meetings of ‘elderberries’ and older men at held at different times in parts of the garden and also to see support for younger children – the sprouts area - with small allotment areas where they were encouraged to garden in the roots and shoots area. An amazing garden well worth a future visit as there is much more development in the pipeline.
This ancient and remarkable fortress is the home of Sir Humphry Wakefield Bt., his wife The Hon. Lady Wakefield and their family. Since 1246 the Castle has been owned by one continuous blood line with the Earls Grey ruling the Castle for the founding centuries. Those Grey Lords built the Castle’s alarming dungeons and torture chambers, as well as the beautiful parklands designed by Capability Brown in 1752 where the breed of Chillingham Wild Cattle roam. The Italian gardens were laid out in 19th Century by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville.
In the Castle we saw a wide diversity of styles in the rooms that typically spells out successive fashions through the early centuries, which gives an educative and vibrant difference to this ancient Castle.
Having a huge history there were many rooms we travelled through, The Great Hall with the balustraded gallery above for singers, known as The Minstrel’s Hall, Edward 1st Room, James 1st Room – indicative of many royal visitors, we eventually found ourselves in The Museum. Here is a mass of this and that! Royal liveries, craftsmen's tools, a great clock-works, some photographs and paraphernalia of Everest. There is too much here to describe, but most astonishing was the lack of dust that is usually associated with such a collection. Being relieved not to be lost in the dungeons we set off in the coach for our hotel in Kelso.
Tuesday 12th September Traquair.
This is Scotland's oldest inhabited house, with its origins going back to 1107. It came into the ownership of the Stuart family in 1491.
Our tour started in the 17th century ‘modern‘ wing and we were then taken on a journey through Scottish history, the Stuart's being catholic and loyal to the Jacobite cause. The 4th Earl being Captain of Mary Queen of Scots Guard.
Built more for defense than appearance it was non the less a fascinating building with many original features and artifacts including an operating brewery that has its origins going back 300 years.
A house with a curios building history. The East and West wings were built first in 1725 by William Adam in the Palladian style for George Baillie, it wasn't until 1770 that his Grandson commissioned Robert Adam to finish the house and build the central piece joining the two pavilions.
Robert Adams style was neo classical but he was instructed to tone it down So as to respect the earlier buildings. However he was allowed full rein with the interior with a magnificent collection of hierarchical rooms starting with a breakfast room and finishing in a magnificent withdrawing room progressing from one to the next via an enfilade effect corridor. The rooms demonstrating Adams devotion to symmetry and exquisite detail.
The house also benefits from two front doors on the north and south sides, and consists of 104 rooms and 365 windows.
As with Traquair part of the house is still occupied by the family, in this case the 31 year old 14th Earl of Haddington.
Wednesday 13th September. Paxton House.
A Georgian house with a Regency extension, built in 1758 by John & James Adam. Of particular interest in this house was the collection of Chippendale furniture. Most of the furniture in the house came from Chippnedales catalogue ‘The Gentlemen’s and Cabinet Makers Director ‘. Whilst comparisons with Habitat are probably a little unfair this was a much simpler offering than his bespoke pieces but allowed a house to be furnished and floor and wall coverings purchased through a ‘one stop shop’. Furniture could also be hired to impress that special visitor.
A house with a fascinating family history, it was built by the Reverend Patrick Home who made his fortune through money lending, eventually he was stripped of his titles because of his various money making activities. Also a cousin Ninian owned plantations on Grenada and was executed during the slave uprising.
The Regency extension was built to display the collections of Patrick and Ninian, acquired on their Grand Tours.
The house was originally built in the 1790’s but was heavily re-modeled in 1901 into the grand Edwardian house that it is today. It is still owned by the Miller family, the current Lord Palmer is still in residence. The money that has created this magnificent house was made through trading in herrings and hemp with Russia as well as a deep involvement in the politics of the day.
The interior of the house has to be seen to be believed as it was a money no object project. The architect John Kinross being told ‘it simply doesn't matter’.
All the ground floor is breathtaking with it culminating in the silver staircase, something that volunteers come into clean 2 or 3 times a year.
Outside are splendid gardens and of course a lake.
Thursday 14th September. Woodhorn Museum.
Built on the site of the Ashington Coalmine the museum is all about Northumberland’s industrial past. Of particular interest was the collection of the Pitman painters.
Our guide took us into the archive where we could see amongst others paintings by Oliver Kilburn and Jack Harrison. The museum then had displays of magnificent mining banners and also the relatively recent history of the miners strike.
Somewhere to return to as an hour wasn't long enough to do justice to it. Wallington.
Built by Sir William Blackett in the late 17th Century and now owned by the National Trust. Another magnificent house showing the wealth that existed to create an impressive collection of rooms and contents. This is particularly true of the central courtyard which was originally open but was roofed over in the 1850’s becoming the hub of the house.
The house also has a history rooted in radical politics with Sir Charles Trevelyan being an admirer of the early Soviet Union, he joined the Labour Party and became its first Education Minister