Friday, 30 September 2016

Dunster Castle and Coleridge Cottage

Dunster Castle

On the north coast of Somerset is Dunster Castle which was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War. It is said that Charles II (when he was Prince of Wales) slept here in 1645 when he was trying to raise support for the Royalist cause in the West Country.

We thought that Dunster Castle was an example of the National Trust at its best. The Grounds are lovely, the house is brilliantly presented to visitors and we got a good feel for not only its history but also how it has been lived in over the past 400 years. The volunteer staff were also very enthusiastic and more than keen to tell you things about the house.

Dunster Castle

The sun was exactly in the wrong place when we were there and hence the above photograph is one of the worst I have taken. It does however give a feel for the presence of the Castle. 

Drawing Room

When you go around inside the Castle (with a very good guide book), you feel almost as if you are a guest

Morning Room

and in places you can sit down, read books, do jigsaws etc. 


This is just off the hall, 

Sitting Room

and this is a sitting room not too far away.

Sudbury Staircase InfoStaircase Knewl Post

The staircase is one of the best examples of carving we have seen for a long time

Staircase Carving

and is something to be enjoyed.

King Charles Room

In the King Charles Bedroom, there is some plasterwork over the mantelpiece dating from 1620 which depicts the Judgement of Paris. Also within the room is a “secret” passageway leading out to the stables.

Dining Room

The dining room is laid out for dinner 

Dining Room Ceiling

and the plasterwork on the ceiling is superb.

Extension Kitchen

When the house was lived in during the 20th century, a kitchen was constructed just off the dining room which has been preserved in its original state.

Quantoxhead BedSpread

This bedspread in the Quantockhead Suite is said to have been made out of 18th century silk in 1830 by three sisters who lived in the castle, 

Quantoxhead view

and this was the view from the bedroom which looks out over the Bristol Chanel, a large field which once was used as an airfield (so we were told) and hills to the right upon which troops camped during the civil war.


A detailed (and cold) tour is given of the cellars and here are the original bells (some of which still work) going back to each of the rooms in the Castle.

Original Kitchen

This was the original kitchen with a revolutionary (for its time) steam heated hot cabinet and the original cooking range.

Staff Dining Room

The staff dining room felt a little more modern than the kitchen but still was very much from the age of “upstairs downstairs"  

We were very impressed with Dunster Castle and felt that there was so much more to learn that we have decided to go back there sometime next year and stay in the village whilst we visit the Castle.

Coleridge Cottage

Coleridge Cottage

Samuel Taylor Coleridge has an interesting history and one must have some sympathy for his wife and friends. Where he lived for part of his life is a National Trust house and it contains a lot of information about his life, his history, his writings and more. From a visitor point of view, parking is a challenge - somewhere in the main street seems to be the answer and rather nice light snacks are available in the cottage cafe.

Coleridge Cottage Bower

From a photographic blog recording perspective, there is not much to record other than this bower in a rather nice garden with a lovely lady sitting in it.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Montacute House and Barrington Court

Montacute House

Yeovil seems to be surrounded by National Trust properties and we start with Montacute House - wikipedia will tell you more than you ever wanted to know here.

Montacute front

This view is currently the rear of the house although when the house was built in Elizabethan times, it was the front. The house was built in an E shape possibly to honour the queen of the time.

Montacute rear side

This view is currently the front of the house (although the entrance for NT visitors is the other side in the rear). The fire engine is there because they were practicing accessing the roof in case of a fire. 


Montacute Drive

It was the construction of this drive which led to the rear becoming the front. The drive was created when a public road was built across its far end.

Montacute walls

The (now) rear lawn is enclosed by a rather fine stone fence / wall. 

Montacute Hedge

To one side is a hedge which in itself is famous because of its shape (the National Trust call it wobbly wobbly) and also because it is one mile long and takes 4 gardeners three months to cut.

Montacute Freeze

Inside the house in one of the first rooms we came to is this plaster panel. It depicts an example of rough justice dating from the 1600s. On the left, a henpecked husband has a drink whilst looking after the baby. His wife catches him and hits him with a shoe. A neighbour reports the incident to the village and the husband is punished by having an uncomfortable ride on a pole, while the inhabitants mock him. This is known locally as the Skimmington Ride” similar to one in “The Mayor of Casterbridge”.

Gobelins Tapestry The Hunter

Another room has a fine Gobelins tapestry called “The Hunter”, we have seen a lot of tapestries is various National Trust Houses and this was quite a good one.


Upstairs is a bath within a closet in a bedroom which was a rather unusual way of creating an en-suite.

Walter ralegh and son 3914When we were there, a good exhibition of portraits from the National Gallery including this painting of Walter Raleigh and Son. Because the house was not crowded when we were there, it was an opportunity to get up close to the paintings.









We thought it was a beautiful house despite the fact that compared to many other houses, little of the original furnishing exist inside the house. A lot of its beauty comes from the shape and history of the house.

Barrington Court

Not too far away is another superb National Trust house - Barrington Court.  This nearly empty Tudor House has gone through significant authentic restoration and together with its grounds it is quite majestic.

Barrington Court

The house is in the traditional E shape for an Elizabethan period house.

House 1625 Fireplace

Barington Court became a wreck and by the time is was repaired, very little of the original insides remained. One thing which did remain was the fireplace above dated 1625, it is very beautiful. In the attic is an amazing experience involving owls - I will say no more so as not to spoil it for anyone intending to go there.

Garden Wild Border

National Trust properties always seem to have inspired gardeners on their staff and here was no different. 

Garden 1

The borders were in full bloom when we were there

Garden Border

Garden Flower 001

with numerous beautiful flowers

Garden Flower

Garden Veg 001

and an interesting display of useful

Garden Veg

and or ornamental vegetables.

It is a very nice house to visit with a lot to learn if you take the effort to read all of the displays and notices in the numerous rooms of the house.



Wednesday, 28 September 2016


After lunch at the nearby Duchy of Cornwall Nursery of a

Lunch 1

Davidstowe Open Cheese sandwich (very good)

Lunch 2

and a Cheese and Onion Cornish Pasty (ok),

it was off to a National Trust Tudor House at Cotehele near Saltash on our way to Yeovil where we were staying the night.


Entrance path

Parts of this house date from around 1300 although the majority dates from 1485 making it one of the least altered Tudor Houses in England. As well as the house, there is a boathouse and boat on the Quay below and a working mill. Our first impression was of a beautifully kept and unspoilt house.

Inner Courtyard

Being the end of the season, it was reasonably quiet and there were not many visitors inside.

Cotiele House Entrance  Hall 1

Once in the inner courtyard, the door leads into an inner hall where hanging on the wall

Hall false arm

is a most unusual exhibit, namely a false arm made by armourers to replace one lost in battle. The National Trust website provides this additional story

Terrible injuries on the bloody battlefields of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries led surgeons to design elaborate prostheses for lost limbs. These were usually made by armourers and the moveable fingers in this mechanical vambrace can lock into place, enabling a soldier to grip his reins or sword.

It’s not known how this rare survivor of a brutal period in European history came to Cotehele in Cornwall, but in 1947 the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe related a story of his father’s late-night encounter with this most unusual piece of armour.

Awakened in the middle of the night by a sound of someone breaking a window, the Earl groped his way in the dark, searching for a pair of ancient pistols hanging on the wall of the Banqueting Hall. Suddenly, he felt his wrist tightly gripped by cold fingers. Grappling to free himself, he fled back to his bedroom in horror. The next morning, in braver mood, he discovered that the fingers belonged to the mechanical arm and that the burglar had been a cow, scraping her horns against the window bars.

Although the Earl was adamant that Cotehele was never haunted, others beg to differ and believe that this atmospheric Tudor house has more than a whiff of the paranormal about it.

When we were researching Cotehele after our visit, we came across a National Trust Website here (set for Cotehele) which enables you to search its collections for images and explanations about the various objects it cares for.

The Cotehele Tapestries

I shall remember the house most for its numerous Tapestries. Whilst I have seen them in better condition elsewhere (Houghton Hall comes to mind), the quantity and the way in which they are still an integral part of the original room was something to remember.

Dining Room 1

There is no electricity in most of the house  and hence we saw them with what little natural

Punch Room 2

light came in through the small windows on a late autumn day and also with the help of torches provided by the volunteer guides in each room.

Dining Room 2

A few of the tapestry have almost equally old mirrors in the middle of them.

Mirror in Tapestry

This tapestry is "Boys Pouring Wine" c 1670 possibly made in London.

White Room Four Poster Bed

Even the four poster bed in The White Room comes with tapestries. There is a lot to see here including a very old original tower clock. 

There is a comprehensive but concise description of Cotehele here and far more to see and enjoy than I have described.

A morning at Lanhydrock House

Whilst Pat was seeing a friend who lived in the area, I got to go to Lanhydrock House and it was very very impressive. My overall impression of the house was of a house frozen in Victorian times although parts of the house (the north wing with a long gallery) date back to the 1620s as does the gatehouse. The rest of the house was significantly damaged by fire in 1881. When it was rebuilt, Thomas Charles (the then owner) specified that he wanted “an unpretentious family home”, I am not sure he succeeded with the unpretentious part.

The Lanhydroch Journals provide a detailed history of the house and its owners - so detailed that only the dedicated will read them all.

L Gate and Wall

Much of the house is presented as the Victorian / Edwardian Country House used by the Robartes Family as their Summer House - they also owned Wimpole Hall (another National Trust property) in Cambridgeshire from 1740 to 1938.

Gate House

Passing through the 17th Century Gatehouse, here seen from the inside,

L Drive

you walk up a long drive leading to the original front porch

L Front Door

and just inside, as a taster to the clever way the National Trust have laid out the house are pictures of those people who lived in the house around whom the house is now presented.

L Family

They include owners of the house and servants. 

L Hall

This is the hall and it is furnished in a rather welcoming style and it is easy to imagine one has just arrived for a weekend stay.

L Dining Table

 The adjacent Dining Room is laid out for a formal meal

L Kitchen 1

and close by are the kitchens 

L Bakery

the bakery

L Cool Room

a cold room for cheese and other dairy products and anything else which needed to be kept cool plus many other service rooms. When it was rebuilt, many of the latest modern inventions were installed including a hot steam method of cleaning greasy pans.

L Typical Corridor

When I left “below stairs” (or more exactly, the back of the house) I was in a corridor leading to The Honourable Thomas Agar-Ronbartes room - the eldest son and heir whose determination to go to the Front in WW1 saw him killed at the age of 35.

L TARobartes Room 1

His valet has obviously just popped out for a moment because his  

L TARobartes Room 2

rooms are laid out just as if the valet had been unpacking.

L TARobartes Room 3

Over 50 rooms are open for visiting and it is impossible to record or comment on them all but I was taken by

Play Room

the Children’s Nursery / Play Room, 


their Bathroom,

His Lordship s Bedroom

His Lordship’s Bedroom which was separated from

Her Ladyship s Bedroom 

her Ladyship’s Room by a bathroom and two lockable doors (nothing so vulgar as always sleeping in the same bed !)

Her Ladyship s Tea Room

and her adjacent sitting room 

Her Ladyship s Tearoom 2

where she and her closest friends could meet for tea and cakes.

The Library 

If I was allowed only one favourite room, it would the the Long Library and its ceiling - a room which survived the fire of 1881. 

Library Ceiling

To describe the Library Ceiling as magnificent, is to do it an injustice. Not only is it magnificent, it is also an astonishing piece of craftsmanship with the whole of the Book of Genesis being portrayed in the ceiling.

One side has one story per picture - and in order they are:

Adam naming the animals

Adam naming the animals

Adam and Eve in the Garden

Adam and Eve in the Garden

Eve giving Adam the apple

Eve giving Adam the apple

Adam and Eve driven out of the garden

Adam and Eve driven out of the garden

Adam and Eve tilling the ground

Adam and Eve tilling the ground

Offering of Cain and Abel

Offering of Cain and Abel

Cain killing Abel

Cain killing Abel

Noah building the Ark

Noah Building the Ark

The entry into the Ark

The entry into the Ark

The Flood

The Flood

Noah giving thanks

Noah giving thanks

Abraham offering up Isaac

Abraham offering up Isaac

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

and then, perhaps when they realised that Genesis was longer than the ceiling space, the other side has two stories per picture frame

Rebekah speaking to Jacob  Kids

Rebekah speaking to Jacob and Jacob brings the kids to Rebekah 

Esau Hunting Isaac Blessing

Esau Hunting and Isaac blessing Jacob

Rebekah Talking Isaac talking

Rebekah talking to Isaac and Isaac talking to Jacob

Jacob Praying Jacob Dream

Jacob Praying and Jacob’s Dream

Jacob Oil Jacob meeting Rachel

Jacob pouring oil upon the stone and Jacob meeting Rachel

Jacob and Laban

Jacob and Laban and Jacob serving seven years for Rachel

Jacob with Leah

Jacob with Leah and Rachel and Jacob setting his wives upon camels

Laban in Jacob s Tent Jacob s Covenant

Laban in Jacob’s tent and Jacob’s covenant with Laban

Jacob Wrestling The Man of God

Jacob wrestling with the angel and The Man of God and Jacob

Meeting of Jacob Hamor

The meeting of Jacob and Esau and Amor and Jacob

Dinah Going Jacob setting out 

Dinah going and Jacob setting out for Bethel

Jacob Pouring Oil Burial Isaac

Jacob pouring oil upon the altar and The Burial of Isaac.

History does not stop here however. In a case to one side it the book which was used by Henry VIII to justify the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to (the pregnant) Anne Boleyn.

Ockham s Book

The book was written by William of Ockham who (and I now partially quote from the explanation given inside the case) was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher and theologian. It is known that the book was owned by King Henry VIII because in the top right hand corner of the flyleaf is written the number 282. This corresponds to its place in an inventory of the Upper Library at Westminster Palace taken in 1542.

After many years of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII had no male heir. Having set his sights on Anne Boleyn, he unsuccessfully appealed to the Pope to annul the marriage.

Ockham had argued against the supremacy of the Pope. He maintained that in the case of a heretical pope (as he branded Pope John XXII, a view which might have been influenced by the fact that the Pope had excommunicated him) that a General Council could determine the outcome of King’s request.

Without going into a detailed explanation, because Pope Clement VII would not grant an annulment, the result was that in 1534, King Henry VIII and subsequent monarchs became the supreme head of the Church of England instead of the Roman Catholic Pope - essentially the formal beginning of the English Reformation.

It really is a superb house and well worth far more time than I could spend there.