If you’re flushed with royal fever like the rest of the world, then no visit to England would be complete without experiencing The Treasure Houses of England. A unique collection of ten of the finest castles, palaces and grand historic houses, they are an absolute must-see with 900 years of history and royal heritage that are so prolific, everyone’s vying for a taste.
One of the most compelling features of the houses is that they all offer visitors a genuine living history – and many are still homes to the esteemed families that have owned them for generations.
As well as boasting beautiful gardens – many landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown and set amongst grand estates – they contain some of the most revered art collections in the world. Visitors will encounter famous master works from the heady likes of Van Dyck and Gainsborough alongside fine furniture, priceless porcelain and exquisite china with examples of Chippendale, Wedgwood and Meissen.
You might also recognize the houses from the silver screen as they have been featured in Hollywood hits such as Gulliver’s Travels, Pride & Prejudice, The Duchess, The Kings Speech, My Week with Marilyn and Elizabeth Golden Age, to name a few.
Beaulieu has been the ancestral home of the Montague family since 1538. As well as the inspired Palace House, it is also home to the National Motor Museum and – for 2012 only – features the world’s largest official collection of James Bond vehicles. Bond in Motion showcases 50 vehicles to celebrate 50 years of the Bond franchise in spectacular style.
Home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a coveted World Heritage Site. The gilded State Rooms, with original ceilings designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, house some of the finest portraits, tapestries, sculptures, china and painted ceilings in Europe. Visit the room where Winston Churchill was born, and the special exhibition ‘Churchill’s Destiny- the Story of Two Great War Leaders’.
Burghley House is one of the largest and grandest houses of the first Elizabethan Age, built and mostly designed by William Cecil between 1555 and 1587. Visitors today are able to see one of the finest assemblies of 17th century Italian masterpieces, an exceptional collection of Oriental and European ceramics, fine furniture, textiles and artworks in a magnificent setting that remains a family home.
Sir John Vanbrugh designed Castle Howard in North Yorkshire for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. Its stunning interiors are the perfect backdrop to world-famous collections, from frescos and furniture to paintings and porcelain. Capturing the Castle comprises an extensive exhibit spanning 300 years of the Arts (May-November), incorporating everything from photography and paintings to souvenirs – the display offers an inspired and rare treat to visitors.
Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. The house has over 30 rooms to explore, from the magnificent Painted Hall, to the family-used chapel, regal State Rooms, newly restored Sketch Galleries and beautiful Sculpture Gallery. Chatsworth has one of Europe’s most significant art collections comprising ancient masters to contemporary ceramics through to cutting edge modern sculpture and computer portraits. From July 2012, discover a selection of old master drawings, including work by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Van Dyck.
Harewood is one of England’s greatest Georgian mansion houses overlooking Capability Brown’s landscape and containing outstanding art collections, magnificent Robert Adam interiors and Chippendale furniture. Edwin Lascelles (1713-1795) commissioned the building of Harewood House in the mid-18th century and it has since been home to the Lascelles family, reflecting the changing tastes and styles of the past 250 years.
Hatfield House is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. Superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout Hatfield House, such as the Grand Staircase with its fine carving and the rare stained glass window in the private chapel. Displayed throughout the House are many historic mementos collected over the centuries by the Cecils, one of England’s foremost political families.
Hatfield House is staging the first major UK outdoor exhibition of the sculptural works of French artist Xavier Veilhan (7 April – 30 September). In addition, discover more about The Ladies of Hatfield House with a new exhibition offering an insight into their passions, accomplishments and, of course – the odd scandal! (7 April – 30 September)
Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, built Holkham Hall in Norfolk between 1734 and 1764. This elegant Palladian style mansion is based on designs by William Kent, and has been home to the Coke family ever since. Holkham’s new exhibition highlights the 400-year long royal connection between the monarchy and Earls of Leicester.(April-October) Delve into the archives, library, personal records and photos to discover original items, all illustrating a spellbinding story.
Leeds Castle enigmatically combines 900 years of history and 500 acres of beautiful parkland. Historically, it has been a Norman stronghold, the private property of six of England’s medieval queens, a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, a Jacobean country house, a Georgian mansion, an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous; and as a result – in the 21st century it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.
Home to the 15th Duke and Duchess of Bedford, Woburn Abbey has been the family home of the Earls and Dukes of Bedford for nearly 400 years. As well as housing one of the UK’s finest privately-held art collections and an impressive array of antiques from around the world, visitors will find interesting and colourful stories of the Abbey’s previous residents. Hear of an historic encounter with Charles I, find out about a Flying Duchess and be entranced by a tragic tale of love. Today, find out about the current (15th) Duke and Duchess, who are making their own mark on the intriguing history of Woburn.
Written on behalf of The Treasure Houses of England for EuropeUpClose.com