Sunday, 6 August 2017
Aficionados of Ashdown House and William Craven will already know that he was a man of wide-ranging interests. I had not previously realised, however, that one of them was horticulture. Last week I discovered that when he came back from the Netherlands after the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 William Craven brought with him the seeds of an apple which he planted at Wyken Manor near Coventry. This grew to be the Wyken Pippin apple tree. On Thursday, wandering in the orchard at Stanton Park near Swindon, I found a Wyken Pippin tree and learned of its history. Apparently the fruit is creamy white, moderately firm, juicy, sweet and aromatic, which sounds delicious. At Stanton you can pick the pippin and other heritage apples, which is a rather lovely idea!
Wednesday, 6 April 2016
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Ashdown, the fairytale house, is waking from its winter sleep. It is spring in the woods, with snowdrops and primroses, and soon the house will be open again too.
Thursday, 2 April 2015
Here are a few of the highlights of a visit to this most unusual of NT properties (and yes we may be biased but we think it is fabulous!):
The Landscape. The Sarsen Field is the first thing you see on the left of the drive as you approach the car park. This is open to everyone to walk in and is a fascinating are of Special Scientific Interest where the huge, ancient sarsen stones lie amongst the grass as they have done for thousands of years. Legend says they are an army turned to stone by the magician Merlin.
High on the hill to the east is the weathercock. If you fancy a climb up onto the Downs this gives a
The woodland dates back to when this was a medieval hunting ground and the deer still live here.
The house. A stunning 17th century hunting lodge, Ashdown is
We hope to see you soon!
Monday, 23 March 2015
One of the things I love about print on demand is that antiquarian books that previously you could only access by visiting the British Library are now available to own at a modest price. So it is that I am now the proud owner of Henry Miller’s book: “Some Account of the Parish of Ashbury in Berkshire etc” written in 1877. Henry Miller was a vicar and fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. His book is short, a mere 17 pages, but it is fascinating on the history and folklore of the area and as a window into how the village was seen in the Victorian era. For example he bemoans the use of Sarsen stone and chalk in building because so many cottages are as a result dilapidated and “worthless rubble.” How times have changed!
Miller traces the history of the parish from 400 years before the Norman Conquest when it was first
“To enliven a dull subject I may add that at a distance of about two miles below the hill… among a clump of trees, there is a large stone partly embedded in the ground…Weyland Smith hurled it from his forge at his familiar imp when he was attempting to run off. From the tears the imp is supposed to have shed, the spot is appropriately called “snivelling corner.” Snivelling Corner still features on the OS maps today and I have always wondered about the derivation of the name!
On the subject of Ashdown Park, Miller exercises some poetic licence as to which member of the Craven family bought it, when and why, and also gives some fanciful tales about the family. He does however fix the date for the building of the Victorian extensions to 1850, which was within thirty years of when he was writing. He also gives a tantalising glimpse into life in that country house: “In the modern billiard-room is a large picture representing one of the great coursing meetings held on the downs near the house.” This is the original picture by Stephen Pearce or which there is a copy at the top of the stairs. It was commissioned by a committee of coursers and presented to the Second Earl of Craven in 1862.
Wednesday, 4 March 2015
In its day the Craven Mixture, produced by the Carreras Tabacco Company, was world famous. The antecedents of the Carreras Tobacco Company business stem back into the eighteenth century (their products and advertising materials consistently bore the legend 'Established 1788'), and forebears of the family were Spanish apothecaries. The founder of the business was a Spanish nobleman, Don José Carreras Ferrer, who served with distinction in the Peninsular War and later established himself in London. He was a pioneer of cigar development and his son Don José Joaquin specialised in blending both tobacco and snuff.
The concept of the smoking room was quite a specific Victorian idea. Amongst other purposes, it was intended to restrict the smell of smoke to one room of the house since the smoke was considered to ruin the furnishings. Smoking rooms were frequently decorated in velvet - velvet drapes, velvet upholstery even velvet smoking jackets - as it was thought to absorb the smell. Smoking rooms also contributed to gender segregations since they were seen very much male preserves whilst the ladies spent the after dinner period in the drawing room. It would be interesting to know how the smoking room at Ashdown was decorated but whilst we have photographs of the drawing room none of the interior of the wings appear to exist.
Some of Don José's other tobacco brands also became world famous, including Guards' Mixture and
Hankey's Mixture. Over one thousand brands of cigar could be bought from Carreras, together with snuffs, cigarettes, pipes and all the usual requisites of the trade. After World War I Carreras developed the first machine made, cork tipped cigarettes and named them Craven A, a brand that also became a huge success and is still sold around the world today. When the renovations to the house took place in 2012 quite a few packets of Craven A were discovered, left by builders who had worked on the house in the past century.
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Once you climb the stile, however, and head out
On Wenlock Edge by A E Housman, a different wood and a different county but a similar sensation of the past melding into the present. Alfred's Castle is a place where you can stand and dream - until the wind buffets you back towards the wood again and the trees close around you and offer shelter.
Do you have a favourite place where the past and present meet and where you go to stand and dream?