Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Washington Connection

The day following my visit to Oxford I joined a private tour of two Tudor manor houses. Unfortunately the whole day was thrown out of gear by the very late arrival of several of the people on the tour. We are not talking 5 or 10 minutes here but over 40 minutes which was enough to make the whole of the rest of the day rushed and it also meant that there wasn't enough time to do all that was intended. I was actually very cross as I think that people rude enough to be so late should have missed the first house instead of which those of us who arrived on time were the ones who suffered.

Weston Hall is privately owned by the Sitwell family and is a very pleasant and interesting place. This is the back of the house, there was no chance to take a decent one of the front as it was in very heavy shadow when we arrived.

We weren't allowed to take any interior photographs so the only ones I have are of the lovely old family Brougham standing outside the coach house.

Something you don't often get chance to see - the interior of the carriage. It looks surprisingly comfortable. There was no time to look round the garden and we all rushed off to Sulgrave Manor where we due to have lunch at 1pm. Originally there should have been time to wander round the gardens when we arrived but as we were late for lunch as it was, that went by the wayside too. The lunch was excellent at any rate so that was something.
The photograph at the beginning of this post is Sulgrave Manor and this is where the Washington connection comes in. It was built in about 1500 by a man called Lawrence Washington, the 5xgt grandfather of George Washington, the first President of the United States. George Washington's gt-grandfather Colonel John Washington emigrated to Virginia in 1656. The house belongs jointly to the peoples of Great Britain and the USA and the flags of both nations always fly outside.

If American readers click on this photo and enlarge it they will see the origin of their national flag on the small plaster shield above the door.. The coat of arms of the Washington family consists of three stars above two red stripes.

This lovely dish of pot pourri decorated with dried flowers and strands of ivy was standing on a table in the Screens passage as we went into the house. Unusually we were allowed to take photographs of the interior and I was given permission to use them on my blog for which I am most grateful to the Trustees.

The Great Hall furnished as it would have been when Lawrence Washington first built Sulgrave. I love this room and with a fire lit in the great fireplace it would look wonderful. The small cupboard to the right of the fireplace is a salt cupboard and carved into it are the initials of Lawrence Washington and the five pointed star which became part of the American flag. The portait of George Washington over the mantelpiece is an original by the American artist Gilbert Stuart.

After the Washington family emigrated to America the manor was sold and in the 18th century a new wing was built. This lovely spinet stands in the Oak parlour which is in the new wing. It is moved into the Great Hall occasionally for concerts and I am listening at the moment to a recording of Martin Souter playing various pieces by 18th Century English composers on it. Very pleasant it is too.

The Great Kitchen which is still used on living history days to do period cookery. It's a poor photo as those of us with cameras had to wait until the guide had finished speaking then grab a few photos and dash after the others.

Another view of the kitchen, looking towards the window.

The Chintz bedroom has a four poster bedstead upholstered with Queen Anne Linen. Just visible on the far side of the bed is a white painted mahogany chair which once belonged to George Washington. Again the photo is poor as we could only look in through the door and the sun was streaming in through the window.

We are now back in the original part of the house and this is The Great Chamber. The oak four poster bed is Elizabethan but the bed hangingings are modern. The individual embroidered motifs have been stitched by volunteers in both the USA and the UK. They have then been applied to a beautiful rich green velvet and made up into the bed hangings which look absolutely superb.

This is a close up showing some of the embroidery in more detail.

A seventeenth century tapestry on the wall behind an Elizabethan carved chest which is one of the rarest pieces in the house.

As I said earlier there was no time to look round the gardens so this is just one photo taken as we left the house at the end of the tour. Sulgrave is a lovely house and well worth a visit if you are in the area.


Leanne said...

another lovely post Rowan, that embriodery piece is stunning!

Leanne x

Lynda (Granny K) said...

What a wonderful house! Lovely pictures too.

Rosie said...

That was fascinating. I'd heard of Sulgrave Manor but didn't realise how old it was, it looks wonderful inside. The great hall looks amazing. I wondered if the Sitwell family of Weston Hall are the same ones who lived at Rennishaw Hall in Derbyshire? Isn't it annoying when people arrive very late? They really should have been allowed to join the party later and miss something out to catch up not to keep you all waiting when you only have a few hours. The dish of pot pourri is so pretty.

Janet said...

I enjoyed this little tour and liked learning about the Washington connection. I must admit I didn't know much about our first president's family history.

PAT said...

Hello Rowan
Thanks so much for this post! It's wonderful seeing the Washington home, especially at this time of year!

As always I truly enjoyed my visit!

Have a wonderful week!

Jenny said...

Another fascinating post, Rowan. And as someone is always punctual, I can truly relate to your frustration about the late arrivals. I had no idea this house existed, and I think it's lovely that both the English and American flags are flown there.

peppylady (Dora) said...

Thank you for sharing the tour with us.
I'm not much on lateness but I find my self very irate when one shows up late.
But then if there is super good reason a life and death one. then I feel guilty having such thoughts.

I new George Washington and Martha had no children between there self but I know he has an older brother Lawrence.

Breezy said...

Looks interesting shame you were pushed for time and didn't get to wander the garden

Dreaming Stone said...

I've always loved old houses, still do even though I live in one :) Enjoyed your great photos - fascinating to see a glimpse of the interior of Sulgrave - thanks for sharing.

Tea said...

It`s always so interesting coming here Rowan :)
It`s a nice way to see places I`ll never see.


L'Adelaide said...

I wandered over from "beyond the fields we know" and am so glad I did...what a lovely blog and photos...I enjoyed your pictures of the washington house and others ... it is so GREEN there!

thank you so much!

Kelli said...

What a beautiful tour! I'm sorry to hear that people were late...I don't think everyone should have had to wait either. Hopefully you get get another change to explore the gardens, they look wonderful!

Rowan said...

Rosie, I've been meaning to say that 'yes' it is the same Sitwell family who own Renishaw Hall. It was Sacheverell who lived at Weston Hall and Edith also spent much time here. I didn't mention it because I didn't think many people would have heard of the Sitwells.

laoi gaul~williams said...

thanks for giving us this 'tour' what a wonderful place. somewhere else to add to my ever growing list of places to visit!

Bovey Belle said...

What a lovely "virtual" tour - many thanks for such wonderful photographs, especially in the kitchen. That embroidery was absolutely amazing. As for the people who were so late - the tour should have started without them.

Heidianne said...

What a wonderful tour! Having been to various historic places from the Revolutionary period here in America, it was great to see where George's family came from. Pretty cool. What's wild to me is some of my own ancestors were heading over to the colonies from England and Germany around long ago..
It blows my mind!:)
-That velvet bed hanging is amazing! I loved the period depictions of animals and Natives from the New World.
Thanks for the great tour!