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Published: March 1st 2016
Another year has come and gone and this 60 something has had another burpday as Sion would say if he were in conversation with this best friend Woolly Mammoth. The head still thinks its about 16 or thereabouts but the body is beginning to hate this cold weather and what seems like never ending winter . Oh Greece ..................oh sun wherefore art thou? Today of all days I feel the need to get Suzy on the road and head off into the blue yonder where the sun shines every day. Where every day has a new view to behold. Where each morning I wake up to sunshine, to croissants, espresso coffees, where I am in food heaven all the time. Gnocci, cream cakes, sangria , churro and chocolate .
Suzy is in the process of being spruced up in readiness for our first real trip of 2016. Only 49 days to go and the we will get the freedom of the open road even if it is only for a month rather than the endless time I wish I could spend on the road. It is the first day of March. Officially the first day of Spring according to the
meteorologists. According to my diary that actually does not happen for another three weeks . The winter has been declared one of the wettest on record although not as wet as two years ago when most of England was flooded. This year just part of England. It has been the mildest and I can testify to that as we have not had to shovel snow this year. It is unlikely that any that arrives in March will stick . Today is St Davids Day . Our patron saint of Wales . My birthday too . What an honour for a Welshwoman to be born on such an auspicious date. And to top it all today is our wedding anniversary.
So what are the Jones' doing? First a trip to Nottingham to try to sell Glenns collection of Venetian coins collected over many years but languishing unloved in a cupboard. They would only be passed on to kids who would sell them anyway so we might as well try to cash them in . Whatever we get will fill Suzy with diesel or pay for campsites and a good holiday. Why keep them and not look at them? Why pass
them on to family who are neither interested in them nor need the money? Time for the start of the cull.
Suzy is taxed, insured and also has had her habitation check done for another year. No sign of damp which always is something we worry about. She is good to go. We just need to get her serviced - a big one this year, get her engine cleaned, her brake fuel replaced and give her her MOT and she will be happy as Larry. As we will be too. A time of great expense but worth every penny to keep her and us on the road for another year .
On from the trip to Nottingham was the three quarter hour drive to Derby to visit Kedleston Hall. Another Palladian pile. Another Baroque house. What are we doing I ask myself knowing in my heart of hearts this is going to be another identical house to any other Palladian in the country. Oh well perhaps we will be surprised. The parkland is typical Capability Brown English landscape. Miles of immaculate parkland with a river running through it. A picturesque bridge with a couple of weirs and a
few follies. Mature English woodland - oaks and beeches as far as the eye can see. The house grey with the obvious wings flanking an enormous staircase and Corinthian columns.
The family have lived in a succession of manor houses near to this site since 1297. Another one of those families who came over from Normandy with William the Conqueror and acquired land here. . The present house was commissioned by the 1st Baron Scarsdale in 1759 and was designed by James Paine and Matthew Brettingham based on plans by Palladio. Curzon though was very impressed with the work of the unknown at the time Robert Adam who was working on his garden temples he handed over the work of designing and building the house to Adam. What a house to add to your portfolio and CV. What is this I am saying? Me a hater of anything Palladian. The outside was impressive to say the least. The design of the three-floored house is of three blocks linked by two segmentally curved corridors. The ground floor is of heavily rusticated stone while the upper floors are of smooth-dressed stone. The central, largest block contains the state rooms and apparently
was just a show house. State rooms only used when there were important guests in the house. A sort of shell to showcase your wealth. The East block was a self-contained country house in its own right, containing all the rooms for the family's private use, and the identical West block contained the kitchens and all other domestic rooms and staff accommodation. It is only possible to view the stately apartments and the kitchens, toilet and bathrooms and servants accomodation are closed off.
We started off with a visit to the restaurant. Well this is what we do everywhere we go to. The car park was fairly empty, the kids are back at school and all was well in our world. The sun had come out and there were not many people about. Some were walking in the extensive woodland we headed for food. As it was just before lunch we had two choices. The first to wait and have dinner or eat now and order bacon butties. Bacon butties won. A huge bap arrived . The biggest bap I have ever seen. We munched our way through it washing it down with a nice pot of English tea.
Warming and very welcoming. And so to the house.
Inside was dark and gloomy downstairs . There is little lighting so as we entered we felt as if we were in a dark cave . A fire was twinkling and burning in a corner and we were directed by the very knowledgeable house guides to follow the arrows up the stairs. Each room had a plaque and a number so for once it was easy to move from room to room without getting lost. Up the stairs , we were shown a painting of one of the ladies of the house in her fine evening dress. We would see the dress later in the small museum. Into the grandest of salons I have ever seen. We were confronted by a long room with brown and white alabaster colums with Corinthian capitals which according to the room guide support the heavily decorated, high-coved cornice but not the roof. . Niches in the walls contain classical statuary. The floor is of inlaid Italian marble. Matthew Paine's original designs for this room intended for it to be lit by conventional windows at the northern end, but Adam, warming to the Roman theme,
did away with the distracting windows and lit the whole from the roof through innovative glass skylights. It was a lovely room and so unexpected. It had the wow factor that all the guests must have just like us felt as we walked in. The room had no furniture in it but furniture would have detracted somehow from its simple style.
The next room was labelled the music room. This one was more intimate and had musical instruments and setees for the family and visitors to lounge in. The paintings on the walls were from the family collection but some hand picked by Adam as if from a catalogue of paintings. I could imagine him saying I have a space so many foot wide and so many feet long and I want a painting of a still life to fit it.
On we walked to another room - the adjoining saloon - the vestibulum. The saloon, contained behind the triumphal arch of the south front, like the marble hall rises the full height of the house, 62 feet to the top of the dome, where it too is sky-lit through a glass oculus. What did we hear about
this room? Well the arch is a copy of something Adam saw in Dioclesians palace in Split . The oculus is a copy of the Pantheon in Rome. This was spectacular , white and gold rising up to a window in his uppermost point. We discussed with the room guide how this window was cleaned. No mean feat getting up there. On to the library with its ceilings all pale green and white looking all the world like a Wedgewood vase. The main item which caught our eyes in there was the esquisitely carved ivory chess set. A stunning piece showcasing the carvers art.
Through bedrooms all heavily decorated in blue and silver silk wall hangings and the same coverings on all the chairs. Pretty rooms all with extensive views over the parkland.
Finally down into the ground floor to the museum full of items from the time when the family lived in India. Curiosities brought back and divided equally between Kedleston and the V and A in London. There were Buddhist items, Hindu gods , a ceremonial chair used on top of an elephant, chinese artifacts and a huge rain drum which cannot be dated but was
found in the jungle and predates Christ at a guess. Also shown is Lady Curzon's Delhi Durbah dress of 1903. Made up to look like peacock feathers it has the shells of scarab beetles woven into the fabric. Produced in India it was shipped back to Paris and designed by Worth. A stunning and heavy dress made for a lady with nothing more than an 18 inch waistline.
We walked out of the house and headed for the nearby church which houses many memorials to the Curzons. The medieval church is a redundant Anglican building now. The church is constructed in mellow sandstone with a Welsh slate roof. Its plan is of a cross with a central tower over a crossing, a nave with a north chapel, north and south transepts. A typical medieval church design with a chancel and a glass clerestory. There is a norman doorway but the arch above it once had a carving of beasts. This sadly now has been eroded over time by the weather. There is a priest door in one of the walls and a parapet with sundial. Beneath this are the words We shall and cut in are skulls and crossbones.
We had the building entirely to ourselves much like the hall.
In the church are 35 monuments to the Curzon family; these include free-standing tombs, wall monuments and floor tablets.They date from the 13th to the 20th centuries.The largest is a free-standing tomb in the chapel. It bears the effigies of the 1st Marquis of Kedleston who died in 1925, and his wife Mary, for whom the chapel was built and who died in 1906 at the age of 36. It is a table tomb in white marble hidden behind some pretty impressive wrought iron work. I loved the tomb chest with the effigies of Sir John Curzon and his wife, dating from 1456. Sir John is dressed in armour, at the feet of the effigies are dogs, and on the sides of the tomb are the figures of their 17 children. Also in the transept is a plain slab decorated with a cross and foliage to the memory of Thomas de Curzon, who died in 1245. This is the earliest monument if you can call it that in the church . There is a wall memorial to Sir John Curzon, who died in 1686, and his wife, Patience,
who died in 1642. A further wall memorial is to another Sir John Curzon who died in 1727. There are more memorials in the north transept. They covered every inch of wall space and much of the floor. It was a lovely peaceful church sadly no longer used for its original purpose.
And so that was our day out, my birthday visit , what can I say about it all. Bacon butty fantastic - and for once I am not saying another bloody palladian building . Yes it was palladian, yes it had baroque inside it but it made a refreshing change . Adam wanted a place he could call his temple to the arts and he managed it here . I can certify it is definately that.
Winter sun - Solitude - in a world of one colour - the sound of the wind. Matsuo Basho. Sums up our day. The last of the winter sun ,the solitude of the place. The world still hasnt quite come to life although there are signs of spring blossom in the trees and the yellow nodding heads of the daffodils . The sound of the wind - there
was certainly some of that .
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