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Stately homes and palaces
Lambeth Palace has been the official London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury for 800 years. It is famous for its gardens, and its extensive ecclesiastical library, which holds records dating back before the Norman Conquest and the archives of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Architecturally, the Palace is famous for its Tudor gate, Morton's Tower, but also has a medieval chapel and Stuart Great Hall. It is not, generally, open top the public, but guided tours available - see the website.
The ruins of the grand palace of the bishops of St Davids sit next to the Cathedral - the latter still very much in use. The palace dates from the 13th century though it is largely the work of Bishop Henry de Gower (1328-47). Even now, it is impressive, with decorative chequered stonework, carved faces staring down at you from the past and a grand banqueting hall. The rose window in the east gable is a peach. It must have been hard, being a bishop.
Home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, Highclere is a predominantly Victorian mansion set in extensive grounds in Hampshire - though, confusingly, the postal address is for neighbouring Berkshire. The house was redeveloped in Jacobean style by Sir Charles Barry, the architect responsible for the Houses of Parliament, from an earlier Georgian mansion which, itself, replaced a Tudor House. Before that, a medieval palace stood on the site, property of the Bishops of Winchester. The property has earlier roots, however, and there is an Iron Age fort in the grounds.
The 5th Earl sponsored the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.
Highclere was used as the location for the TV series Jeeves and Wooster and, more recently, played the title role in the highly successful Downton Abbey.
NOTE: Highclere has limited opening - check details before making a special trip.
This was the holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert - and their nine children - a palatial pile designed by Albert in Italian Renaissance style. Victoria had loved the Isle of Wight since childhood and Albert said that the Solent reminded him of the Bay of Naples. The royal couple even bought a real Swiss Cottage from Switzerland for the children, where the youngsters could learn important life-skills like gardening and preparing afternoon tea. This can still be visited. Further highlights include the royal apartments, nursery and the family's private bathing beach. Even after Albert's death, Victoria loved visiting Osborne House; she died there in 1901.
Scone Palace stands on a site of enormous historical significance. It was at the heart of the ancient Kingdom of the Picts, a meeting place, and traditionally where the kings of Scotland have been crowned, on the sacred Stone of Scone - stolen by King Edward I in 1296 and returned to Scotland in 1996 (it is now in Edinburgh Castle). The Moot Hill where kings were declared and crowned is opposite the palace, which is mainly 19th century, built near the site of the medieval Abbey of Scone - which itself replaced an early Christian church. The Palace contains an impressive collection which includes furniture gifted by Mary Antoinette, bed-hangings embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots and rare porcelain and ivory. A particular feature is the painting of Dido Belle, whose mother was a slave, and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. The long gallery is where Charles II processed to his coronation and where Queen Victoria watched curling. In the 100 acre grounds are walks, gardens and a maze. Regular events are held. Scone Palace has been home to the Murrays, later the Earls of Mansfield, since 1600.
Enormous 18th century home of the Dukes of Marlborough. The estate was given to the 1st Duke, John Churchill, as a reward for his military victories against the French. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim and has many associations with it. The estate is a World Heritage Site and one of the 'treasure houses of England."
Sitting in acres of Northamptonshire countryside, Althorp has been the residence of the Spencer family for 500 years and is one of England's grand stately homes. It is packed full of treasures, including some fascinating portraits. The original Tudor house is still there, beneath the later restorations and refurbishments, but the overall feel of the place is distinctly 18th century. The gardens are lovely and regular events are held, including an annual literary festival. Althorp is, sadly, best known for the association with possibly the most famous Spencer, Lady Diana, whose last resting place is on an island in the Round Oval lake.
Althorp has limited opening - it is essential to check their website before making a special trip.
The former Palace of the Archbishop of York stands on the site of a Roman villa, next door to the Minster and adjoining the present official residence of the Bishop of Southwell. It dates from 14th century, was wrecked during the Civil War of the 17th century and the house restored in the 19th century. Cardinal Wolsey stayed here on his last journey and Charles I was imprisoned here, having been captured in the town. Part of the building is now a choral school. There is public access to the ruins and an area of garden (including a sensory garden) and the restored state chamber.
The palace is used for functions so check opening before making a special trip.
Alnwick Castle dates from the 11th century and has been in the hands of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, since 14th century. The family still lives there. Their castle is one of the most visited in England, steeped in Percy history with gruesome discoveries to be made as well as magnificent state rooms. Alnwick is often used for filming and has starred in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey (to mention just two). The castle also houses a number of special exhibitions, including the Regimental Museum of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Adjacent to the castle is the Alnwick Garden, a formal garden built around a huge cascading fountain.