Monthly Archives: May 2023

The other “Haitches”

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.

John Henry, the 9th Duke, looking a bit like a fugitive from “Brideshead Revisited.”
Lower courtyard with Banqueting Hall entrance.
Nifty Roman votive pillar in the entrance way. When you invoke the Gods, remember to acknowledge your debts!
Not exactly a gargoyle, but impressive none the less.
Great chandler in the Great (Banqueting) Hall.
The head table.

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.

A lot of scullions have raced through this passage to wear down the stone steps!
Denise admires the kitchen fire, perfect for roasting whole critters! Nice and warm in winter and unbearable in summer.
This one is the real deal. Think how many people have sat here over the years.
If one did not drink “fayre”, that is, if you drank too much or too little, you would have your wrist manacled here and drink poured down your sleeve. Etiquette has so many rules!
Veganism was not a big thing, so you needed a large chopping block to cut up all the various meats.
A few modern innovations crept in during the renovations!

Haddon Hall has a small museum of things found over the renovations, mostly lost behind the paneling. The laundry tally falls into the category of never-seen-one-of-those-before. (

Horn book with prayers.
Simply amazing laundry listing device, to keep track of items of clothing sent out to be cleaned.
Graffiti from the 1800’s.

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.

The Manners on the left and the Vernons on the right.
Both were knight of the garter.
Carved wooden paneling.
Sadly, not playable.
Date is clear.
Beautiful painted alabaseter reredos from behind the altar in the chapel. A modern relocation, may have been part of the original rood screen.
The bridge at the bottom of the hill is a classic English post card.

Two Halls, but four “Haitchs”

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. ( 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.

Notice that the height of each floor increases as you ascend. The four “towers” were banqueting rooms.

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.

You walk down the lane between the two properties.
The “old” hall is famed for its plasterwork.

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.

The Great Hall is pretty, but is clearly Elizabethan, rather than medieval.

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.

Interesting side stair. Wonder where this goes?
Be impressed, by the width the stairs, the expensive hangings, and the fact that you are still only half way up!
Granted, this is not granite, but think of how many feet have run up and down to wear like this.

The joy of these great barns is sometimes in the smaller details.

Not Elizabethan, but old. Think of the challenges of running wiring in a building this old.
Beautiful detail on the paneling of one of the upper rooms.

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.

This was Bess’s de facto throne room. People today stop and stare, as they must have done in Bess’s time.
Seal over the fireplace.
Look REALLY closely. Can you see the change in the motto?
Even today, the carvings are lifelike. Note that they were not sterile statues but burst out of the walls with realistic color.

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.”

Hours and hours of hand stitching.
Hiding in the car park.
There were three of these on display. The cost must be incalculable.
Dinner at the Wheatsheaf Hotel.
Denise at the gate.

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. ( After driving past a few times, we found the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Baslow, jammed ourselves into their carpark, and had a great dinner. (

That is two”haitches,” Hardwick Hall, down, two more to come.

Northward Ho!

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.  ( 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.

View down the Nene, with White Mills in the background. Traveling by narrow boat, this would be what you saw looking for a riverine rest stop or service area.
The marina was full of boats of all types.
Narrow boat leaving the marina.

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. ( 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.

On to the halls!

The UK Adventure Begins

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!

Easter included plum pudding napalm.

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.

Little hill in a city park? Yup! Original motte from a motte and bailey castle.
Chichester cathedral

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.

Photographing the geese.
Arundel castle as seen from the wetlands.
Local pub had Scotch eggs.

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. ( The little museum is well worth a visit for the extensive memorabilia and, next time, the flight simulators!

Crashed Hurricane, dug out of the ground.
Peering into an intake you find the engine inside.
Pondering the difference between a Harrier and a Sea Harrier.

In 1937 the Gloucester Gladiator became operational with the RAF; the last biplane. It even served during most of WWII. ( In 1943 the Gloucester Meteor became the first operational jet fighter on the allied side – a span of only six years. ( 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.

Gloucester Meteor. (The Jordanian air force used these as ground attack aircraft into the 1950’s.)

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. ( Again, we saw a selection of ducks, coots, and moorhens.

The final basin in Chichester,
Clever art. Expand the image and look closely at the wings.
Waling the tow path.
Little tug used to move barges, now only for maintenance.
Old machinery
Chichester cathedral from the canal.
And in 1828, by Turner.
End of the canal near Bosham. The lock gate is due to tides.

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.  ( (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. (

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. (

Those are real watch towers, once manned day and night.
The portcullis was the emergency gate to a castle. Should an enemy succeed in arranging a sneak attack, a swing of the sledge hammer and the portcullis would drop to bar entry. This would allow time to close the gates and raise or burn the bridge.
Counterweights made it easier to raise the portcullis. Usually, there were two; outer and inner. In the event of a sneak attack you dropped both to trap the attackers in the gate house where they could be killed with arrows or noxious things dropped through the “murder holes” in the roof and walls.
Looking from the old, Norman tower and walls to the newer living quarters which were added when the castle no longer had a military purpose.

Denise admires the great hall.
Simply stunning stairway.
The third Duke of Norfolk, aged 66.
Victorian loo
The family is still staunch Catholic. There is much Catholic art everywhere.
The Norfolks built a beautiful Catholic cathedral, just across the street from the castle. Castle gardens in the foreground.
Teeny-hopper tourists
Unusual fountain of Mary, Queen of Heaven.
A royal telephone. When not open to tourists, the family use the public parts of the castle for guests.
Denise, celebrating the sun which is peeking out.
The second effigy, underneath, is the “momento mori,” the reminder of mortality.
The effigy on the top of the tomb is pretty strait forward, dripping with symbolism.
Some of the original color remains, a reminder that these were never cold, stone images.

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. (

Mary Collins and her son, who died in 1918 at age 24.
And Thomas, who drowned in a storm in 1759, age 23.
Denise, believing the sign.
Ya think?
In this case, the threshold doesn’t hold the thresh, but keeps out the tide.
Ice creams available – limited time offer!

We spent a lovely morning at the Weald and Downland Museum.  Our first visit in about 30 years!  ( 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.

Beautiful roofing work, but no chimney.
Bedroom with “bed clothes.”
Table set for dinner.
Pegs to hold your shingles in place.
House of a wealthy merchant or farmer.
Early RV
Wealthy merchant, a garderobe.
Nasty job, cleaning the cess pit.
One of our family pastimes is noting family names that are actually professions. In this case, Thatcher.

This is one of the more modern houses; it has a chimney – required after the fire of London.
Medieval radio
Fans of Georgette Hyer will approve of “The Toll Gate.”
This is simply one of the houses you can see from the museum.

I suspect that this one has indoor plumbing, heat, and power.
A reminder that when these building are relocated, every single stone and beam has to be marked for reassembly.
And here are the tolls to be collected.

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.

And she has arrived, in perfect condition.

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. 

Those who know our family know why this was an ESSENTIAL provision for the trip!

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.

The M-25 awaits!