Inevitably I have become an avid listener to the new heritage-focused podcast series launched by the Duchess of Rutland, simply entitled, “Duchess” as I have headed out for my daily constitutionals during lockdown.
The first series has ranged far and wide across the UK, focusing on the personal stories of the women behind the running and development of private stately homes and estates – most of whom are united by being part of the British aristocracy with the title Duchesses. As Emma Rutland wryly observes, it is a somewhat elite club!
She has however produced utterly engaging interviews which have been exceedingly open and honest, revealing how the interviewees have married into, inherited, survived and prospered as members of the British establishment. More importantly the interviews go a long way to break down the stereotypes of the private stately home owner in explaining the trials and tribulations of the sleeves-rolled-up approaches needed for maintaining the ongoing survival and flourishing of the estates in local communities and modern society more widely.
The love of peeking behind the curtain will make the series appeal to many, whilst anyone interested more in the ‘management’ of heritage sites will find plenty too, as the stories have provided a wealth of case studies of innovation, social inclusion, community development, tourism experience creation, and reflections on long term stewardship of historic assets in private hands often against the odds.
Historic England has published a list of its Top 10 Heritage Sites in England. But what would be on my personal list? The oldest site on their list was the Anglo-Saxon ship-burial site at Sutton Hoo, but I would like to push the list back a little further. I would place two key sites:
the first, the prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire.
the second, the monumental Roman frontier of Hadrian’s Wall that cuts across Northumberland and Cumbria.
Cathedrals are equally hard to list. I think top of my list would be Durham. What can beat the view of the cathedral from the train? I would also place the magnificent Norwich Cathedral in the rankings.
I would like them to be joined by one of the Yorkshire abbeys, and Fountains is probably the one that heads the list. But should there be a castle on the list? Pevensey Castle brings together the Roman fort with the later medieval castle, and with hints of the Second World War inserted into the masonry.
Country houses are difficult. Chatsworth is an outstanding residence, but I think that I would place Castle Howard, Yorkshire above it. Queen Victoria’s residence, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, has spectacular views over the Solent and should be on the list.
On a more modest scale, Cherryburn in Northumberland linked to Thomas Bewick, is an intimate location.
I feel that there should be some industrial heritage in the list. Stott Park Bobbin Mill, tucked away on the edge of Windermere in the Lake District, is one of those captivating sites. Local resources and energy supplies provided a key component of Britain’s trade.
Appuldurcombe is a major house on the Isle of Wight. The fragile structure was placed in State Guardianship in 1952. It had last been occupied in 1909.
The Ministry guidebook was prepared by L.O.J. Boynton (1967). This takes a different format to other ‘blue’ guides. It starts with an introduction, and then presents a short essay on the Worsleys of Appuldurcombe. This is followed by a long section on the building of Appuldurcombe, with sections on Sir Robert Worsley (1701–13), Sir Richard Worsley (1773–82) and the Yarborough period (1805–55) and after. Finally there is a description of the house and grounds. The text is supported iwth a block of 32 endnotes. There are 9 black and white plates, and a table showing the 18th century cost of the house. Inside the back cover are plans of the park and of the house itself.
The DOE guide (1971) is essentially the same as the earlier MPBW one except that it had integrated images. The English Heritage Guide (1986), that continues in print (most recently in 2009), is a revised and expanded version of Boynton’s 1967 text. It now starts with a tour and description, broken down into elements of the structure. This is followed by a history of Appuldurcombe starting in the Anglo-Saxon period. The final section is the building history. There are now 37 supporting endnotes.
This is one of several Ministry guides that continue to have a life under English Heritage.
The original Ministry of Works guidebook for Audley End in Essex was by Bryan H. St John O’Neil (1950). A third edition appeared in 1958, and this formed the basis of the (anonymous) Ministry of Public Buildings and Works Official Guidebook.
English Heritage replaced this guide with a new one by P.J. Drury and I.R. Gow (1984; 2nd ed. 1991). This had the standard ‘white’ cover with red title.
This was replaced in 1997 by a large format colour guide. The present English Heritage ‘red’ guide is by Paul Drury (2010).
We tend to think of the formal ‘blue’ Ministry of Works guidebooks. But the one for Audley End in Essex (London: HMSO, 1955; 1 shilling) is not only green but has a line drawing on the cover. It was written by B. H. St. J. O’Neil (formerly Chief Inspector of ancient Monuments), R.J.B. Walker (Curator of Pictures, Ministry of Works) and F.J.B. Watson (Assistant Director, Wallace Collection).
The guide runs over 22 pages and there are plans (p. 10-11) and black and white photographs:
History (3-9) [No mention is made of the wartime role of the house.]