We then headed north to visit a friend from our Botswana days. At her suggestion, we visited Haddon House, another fabulous medieval house, which had retained its “pristine medievalism” because it had been shut up for 200 years (its lord got an upgrade and moved to a bigger house) and it was only reopened in the early 20th century!
So while Hardwick Hall reflected the heights of Elizabethan, rennaissance, sophistication, Haddon Hall took you back to an earlier, more rough edged time. The kitchen, for example was more of a true medieval kitchen with fewer mod cons.
The family is actually still in residence now, but in a modernized section! Absolutely amazing. It was the middle of the week, so we had a very pleasant visit and a lovely lunch.
The first mentions of a house/fort at Haddon date from around 1150. Around 1195, the owner was granted permission by John of Mortain (Later, King John. Yes, THAT John.) to build a low and un-crenellated wall around the buildings – hardly a serious fort. The building grew in fits and starts until 1703, when the owner was elevated in title and moved to Belvoir Castle. (Better view!) The site was then basically abandoned until the early 20th Century when the ninth Duke and Duchess of Rutland began a restoration program. Close to a time capsule.
All of that eating required a lot of cooking. The kitchens were large and, over time, connected to the Banqueting Hall by a large passage.
The Earl’s Apartment, One of the upstairs bedrooms preserves royal graffiti from over the centuries. Some of it dating way back, and some of it VERY modern!
The Hall has been owned by two families. Their crests are in the left photo and the Order of the Garter is in the right photo. The colored glass still glows on a sunny day. The diamond shaped panes are each set at a different angle to maximize the sparkle.
Four “H’s”?? Read on. We continued north towards two famous, and very different, halls, Hardwick and Haddon.
Bess of Hardwick was an amazing Elizabeth era woman. In today’s world, she would be outstanding; in her era, she must have been a force of nature. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bess_of_Hardwick) Read the fine print; when your first husband is 14 years old, it gets complicated! Besides being very rich, her husband was, from time to time, the keeper of the captive, Mary, queen of Scots and Mary and Elizabeth would sew together. You thought Downton Abbey was a stretch? Even Julian Fellowes couldn’t write this stuff.
Hardwick Hall is almost as interesting as Bess herself, being very modern “(Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.”). Sadly, you cannot visit the four banqueting rooms, in each of the towers.
One of the odder things about Hardwick Hall is that there are actually TWO of them, right on the same site. And one is National Trust and the other, “Old Hardwick Hall.” is English Heritage. The old hall has long been abandoned, but was never torn down.
Hardwick Hall may have been built strictly as a residence, but it was still sited on a hill with steep defensive slopes. The result is great views.
In the days before elevators, there were stairs everywhere. Some elegant, intended to impress, some smaller and practical, but most well worn with centuries of use.
The joy of these great barns is sometimes in the smaller details.
The upper rooms, where the family lived, are every bit as amazing as you would expect, with beautiful plaster work, paneling, and rich hangings. Conspicuous ostentation was the goal and Bess and her successors achieved it.
The motto of of the monarch of the United Kingdom, said to date from Richard I is “Dieu et mon droit.” Literally, “God and my right.” Bess covered Hardwick with her initials, “ES,” Elizabeth of Shrewsbury. The letters crown the towers. Now go back and enlarge the image of the seal, you will see that the motto has been modified to include the letters “E” and “S.”
We are members of Harvest Hosts, a system that lets you stay overnight at vineyards and similar establishments in the US. Harvest Hosts recently acquired Brit Stops, a similar organization for pub stays in the UK. (https://www.britstops.com) After driving past a few times, we found the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Baslow, jammed ourselves into their carpark, and had a great dinner. (https://www.wheatsheafpubbaslow.co.uk)
That is two”haitches,” Hardwick Hall, down, two more to come.
After leaving the south coast, we fought the joys of the M-25 and M-1 on a Bank Holiday weekend. For those who may not be familiar, the M-25 is to London what I-495 is to Washington, D.C. – a ring road.
Only, on a Bank Holiday Weekend, it is simply a multi-hour parking lot. Think lots and lots of clutch pumping. Finally, we were able to join the M-1, the UK’s main north/south axis (think I-95) and start north. This may be a good time to introduce some essential Anglicisms – “tail back” and “queue,” both words usually pronounced with a wide range of select obscenities! That was the bad news. The good news is that UK motorways are excellent with some very nice features.
First, most on ramps are two lanes wide and join at two points on the road. This smooths out the traffic flow immensely.
Secondly, most British drivers are simply more courteous than their American counterparts. For example, regular drivers, not just truckers, routinely move out of the slow lane to let you merge – especially nice if you are driving a heavy and underpowered truck.
Finally, passing on the left, or slow side (Same as passing on the right in the US.) is almost always illegal, so again, with a slower vehicle, you are much, much less likely to get “trapped” in a faster lane should, for example, you move over to allow an HGV (heavy goods vehicle, or “artic” – articulated lorry or, in ‘murican, a semi) to merge. And speaking of HGV’s some are double trailers and some are double height, and lots are foreign; a wild new world. (We will return to this theme later.)
After some hours, we reached our first UK campground, the White Mills Marina just south of Northampton. (https://www.whitemillsmarina.co.uk) A lovely spot to gather ourselves together, take walks along the towpath beside the River Nene and make a shopping trip to complete our supplies.
The marina was an interesting insight into the parallel world of river boat travel with lots and lots of narrow and wide boats. Some are floating hotels, some are day trippers for tourists, some are rentals, and lots are simply people full timing, just like their cousins in RV’s. And the marinas offer all of the same amenities as an RV campground. White Mills is simply nicer than most.
We first discovered this world when, some years ago, we took a short trip on the “Wessex Rose.” She has new owners, but looks to be as lovely as ever. (https://www.wessexrose.co.uk) Geek note: The Wessex Rose is a “wide” boat. Some of the hotels are two narrow boats, a powered boat with day facilities which tows a second boat which contains the sleeping accommodations. At night, the two tie up side by side.
We had expected to wait about a week for our truck to appear, but plans have a habit of going awry and the ship carrying the 917, the Hawaiian Highway, was about 2 weeks late!
Because of the delay, Denise’s brother ended up hosting us for a total of three weeks, which really was above and beyond the call of duty. We were, needless to say, very grateful. And, as always, we had great fun together!
While near Chichester, in Sussex, we were able to explore the area a little. We made several visits to Chichester, a lovely Roman town with fragments of wall still existing and the traditional Roman cardo layout, with four main streets leading to the medieval cross in the center of town. (“Chester” comes from the Latin, “castra” meaning fortress. See also Doncaster, Leicester, and all the rest.) There are lots of fun shops (for a few important purchases) and wonderful coffee shops for a coffee or light lunch.
On a rather chilly day we went to the Wetlands Reserve at Arundel, a nearby town, to view its amazing selection of different ducks, coots and swans. They are free to leave if they wish but most obviously do not. They looked quite at home.
Fred and Denise’s brother, Trevor, snuck out for a quick visit to the little Air Museum at Tangmere. Devotees of the Battle of Britain will have heard of Tangmere, one of the many RAF bases. (https://www.tangmere-museum.org.uk) The little museum is well worth a visit for the extensive memorabilia and, next time, the flight simulators!
In 1937 the Gloucester Gladiator became operational with the RAF; the last biplane. It even served during most of WWII. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloster_Gladiator) In 1943 the Gloucester Meteor became the first operational jet fighter on the allied side – a span of only six years. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloster_Meteor) Considering that the first jets were only conceived of in the late 1930, this was an insanely short time. The Meteor was so secret that pilots were no allowed over German lines least one crash and be recovered. The Meteor was used to intercept V1 flying bombs and to tip them over with the wing so that the gyro would fail and the bomb would crash. That would have been a wild maneuver.
Fred was amazed; he knew that the Allies were working on jets, but did not know that any were ever operational.
Chichester also has a Ship Canal and we enjoyed a lovely walk along the towpath one morning. In the early 1800’s, there was an idea to connect London with the sea near Chichester. The goal was route to carry heavy cargo that was protected from French raiders on the Channel. The canal never reached London or made any money, but it did make it to Chichester. Quite an interesting little artifact. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichester_Canal) Again, we saw a selection of ducks, coots, and moorhens.
We were back in Arundel a week or so later to visit the Castle and to explore the gardens during the Tulip Festival. The Festival had been delayed for a week as with a chilly spring, the tulips were not flowering!
The displays were wonderful, though some flowers were still not open.
The tour of the Castle, which is the home of the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal of England, was most interesting. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_Norfolk) (You don’t want to meet the current Duke on the road; he is under a six month driving ban!)
The castle is old, parts are Norman, huge, in good condition, and still occupied by the family. Needless to say, it has been expanded and altered many times. Some of the bedrooms you can visit are still used for guests! This leads to the odd anachronism of telephones and modern magazines in odd places. Arundel should definitely be on your short list of castles to visit, if only for the only intact portcullis the first that we have ever seen. (https://www.arundelcastle.org)
The Dukes of Norfolk are hereditary Earls Marshal. While this used to mean tending to the king’s horses, now the primary duty is to organize major state occasions. For example, the funeral of Elizabeth II and, more recently, the coronation of Charles III. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Marshal)
If you read the Bayeux Tapestry in the original latin (doesn’t everybody?), you will learn that Edward went to the church at Bosham before leaving on his ill-fated trip to what is now Normandy. WE went to Bosham to have fish and chips at a great pub with Denise’s cousin, visiting with his wife from Iceland. (Small world. His wife’s nephew is a great guitar tech at a guitar shop in Arlington and performed an amazing setup on Fred’s Strat!)
Bosham is an interesting little town as parts of it flood every high tide. And even though it has been doing this since Edward’s time, people still park in the wrong places! And, fish and chips enjoyed, we also visited the church, which is still there, if greatly expanded. (https://boshamchurch.org.uk)
We spent a lovely morning at the Weald and Downland Museum. Our first visit in about 30 years! (https://www.wealddown.co.uk) The Weald and Downland museum is a large, open air collection of “vernacular” buildings from the Middle Ages on. Basically, the buildings in which real people, not the nobility, lived and worked. It has parallels in Colonial Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. If your image of the past begins with castles and stately homes, this museum completes the picture with houses of more ordinary people. It has expanded a bit and there were new exhibits.
Finally, we had word that we could pick up the 917 in Southampton. We really appreciated the train system around that area. We had taken the train from Gatwick Airport to Trevor’s local station, Barnham, when we arrived. Later we took the train from Barnham to Chichester to shop and now we took the train from Barnham to Southampton to pick up the truck. A great system. The Brits always complain about the trains, but would that we had similar service around DC. Oh, we did. And we had street cars in DC – until the great Firestone/General Motors campaign of the 1950’s. Breaks your heart.
We spent a day unpacking our clothes as we had shipped some in the camper. We had also locked most of our possessions in the back garage, so that all needed to be organized and sorted.
Then we visited the camper storage facility that we had thought to use during our returns to the States only to find that they thought us to to be “inappropriate.” So we are currently looking at alternatives – stand by; trains may be involved again! We had our first shopping trip and then headed back to prepare for departure.