Saturday, 7 June 2008

Hatfield House (a grown ups outing)

Today Sue and I went to see Hatfield House while S and Jack spent some quality time together. It was nice to go out wearing earrings that dangled and a light coloured jacket, which would be far too hazardous with Jack and his chocolatey fingers around.
Hatfield House was built by Robert Cecil, 1st earl of Salisbury, in 1611 though unfortunately he didn't live to see its completion or be there when James 1 came for a visit. Apparently the bathroom wouldn't have had much of a workout (that's bathroom not WC) as James reportedly never bathed. Ever.
Anyway, Hatfield House is 'steeped in Elizabethan and Victorian political history' as Princess Elizabeth spent much of her childhood there and I think Vic popped in for a visit every now and again. The oak tree that Elizabeth was sitting under when she found out she was to become queen is still standing in the garden, though actually there were rather a lot of oak trees and we never did see the exact one.
It's a great looking place. and is actually about the same age as the manor, but whilst all sorts of ghastly things have been done to the manor (1970 light fittings and fake plants) or not done as in restoration and preservation, Hatfield is impressive. Lots of interesting pieces of furniture and artworks, very impressive chandeliers and sumptuous furnishings. One bedroom (which had the most extraordinary 4 poster bed) had hand painted wall paper from China. And there were a pair of silk stockings that Elizabeth 1 had worn. Amongst all these objects and antiquities were copies of Horse and Hound and the like strewn casually around and lots of family photos (interspersed with pics of the queen and winnie).There are guides in every room, though some were more helpful than others. One just wanted to sit and bark at people but maybe she was unhappy being placed in the loggia area. The word loggia always makes me giggle because of a ghastly neighbour we had when I was growing up, who when renovating a house decided it needed a loggia. She really must have been at the forefront of the tuscanisation of Mosman movement. And probably pro-daisy too.So it was fascinating and I learnt lots of things (but no photos allowed inside unfortunately) but I have to say the thing that stuck in my mind was the untimely and dramatic demise of the first Marchioness of Salisbury. Apparently the 85 year old had retired to her bed chamber for the night and somehow managed to set fire to her rather impressive hairdo and then the rest of the house with a candelabra. Fortunately a storm and the collapse of water tanks in the roof stopped the fire spreading but it was too late for the Marchioness. Apparently some charred bits of perfume bottles, jewellery and the Marchioness were found and dealt with in the manner befitting a ladyof her standing. I think the wording in the exhibit I saw (next to the charred bits of jewellery) was that she was given a 'proper burial'.From inside the house we had glimpsed the gardens and so we decided to perambulate amongst them and they were lovely. Lots of water features and wonderful, enormous poppies as big as my hands. There was also a nice scented garden and lots of oak trees of course.
Then we popped down to another section for a spot of afternoon tea. Very civilised and highly enjoyable.
For anyone interested the website is

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