Saturday, 18 March 2017

Althorp - Northamptonshire

My first visit to Althorp was just before it began to be a popular tourist attraction. The estate had existed since before the days of the Domesday Book but the current owners - the Spencer family - didn't take over until 1508.

Everything went well for several centuries. The family grew in wealth and the original red brick Tudor house was gradually converted into something more grand. As the family prospered they built up a huge and valuable art collection and one of the finest libraries anywhere.

But things got tough and in 1978 it was decided to sell off some of the collections, especially the books. By 1992 a lot had gone and it was decided that tourists should be attracted. We were invited for the first time on part of a car launch in the Midlands. It was there that we learned Althorp is pronounced Althrop, and that goes back to the beginnings of the estate, when it was spelt quite differently.

Those of us who were lucky enough to make those early visits could see that there was plenty to attract visitors, but something was missing. The most famous member of the family was one Lady Diana Spencer and it was she that first brought attention to the Spencers, especially when she married Prince Charles and became Diana, Princess of Wales.

When Diana tragically died and brought the whole county to mourning, her brother decided to create a memorial in the grounds, and that has become a mecca to thousands who still adore the Princess.



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