Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Wickham House - Berkshire

Wickham House in Newbury, Berkshire, looks nothing like its original form. Originally a rectory was built on the site in the late 1700s. In the mid 1800s the Rector was one William Nicholson, an Irishman of some considerable wealth. First he totally rebuilt the nearby church of St Swithum, and then he turned his attention to the Rectory itself. During 1855 and 1958 he added a tower, large bay windows, a cloister, conservatory and finally a vinery. Other additions that he had were later demolished.

The house we see today is available for weddings, conferences and functions, and the gardens are opened to the public when it is deemed that they have something to show.
Wickham House

RG20 8HD

Monday, 23 April 2018

West Woodhay House - Berkshire

The house is not open to the public, but the gardens are on occasions, and then they are worth a visit.

There was once a castle on the site, but there are no remains whatsoever. A medieval manor was next to be built, and again, no trace remains. The current West Woodhay House was built in 1635. It is credited by some to Inigo Jones, but was more probably built by Edward Carter.

West Woodhay House

RG20 0BS

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Welford Park - Berkshire

The area that is known as Welford Park has been occupied for well over 1000 years. There was a monastic lodge that belonged to Abingdon Abbey. This was usurped by King Henry VIII following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He put the manor to use as a hunting lodge. Welford Park is still known today as a deer park.
The house that now occupies the site was built in 1652 for Richard Jones, His Grandfather, Richard Jones (Lord Mayor of London) had bought the grounds in 1620, but had done nothing with it. An extra storey was added in 1700 under the ownership of John Archer, and it was further remodelled in 1840.
During the First World War, the house was used for convalescence. In 1954 it passed to John Puxley and it is still owned by his family. Welford is particularly well known for its splendid display of snowdrops, but there are other attractions, and the house is open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday.

Welford Park

RG20 8HU

Friday, 20 April 2018

Shaw House - Berkshire

Shaw House was built sometime after 1575 and was completed in 1581. It was built for, and owned by, Thomas Dolman. He had made a fortune through the cloth trade. During the Civil War, Newbury was the scene of two battles. Shaw House was used by the Royalists during the second battle.

In 1720 the house passed to James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. He was known for his eccentricity. This must have been a family trait because the Second Duke bought a wife at a sale in Newbury. (Hints of the Mayor of Casterbridge). Anne Wells was a chambermaid in Newbury, so probably enjoyed the elevation to Duchess, all with no sale & return.

Anne outlived her husband and remained at Shaw House until her own death in 1750. The house was next sold to the Andrews Family, was later used as a school, but now belongs to the West Berkshire Council. It is open to the public and is also available as a conference centre.
Shaw Manor House

RG14 2DR

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Nature Discovery Centre - Berkshire

Based on disused gravel pits at Thatchem, the Nature Discovery Centre is a good trip for all the family, not just children.

The main focus originally was to provide kids with a great day out, but as the popularity of the venue has grown, so has the intent to please all visitors, and so the site can be said to be a work in progress, especially if ambitious plans to improve the waterfront are approved.

The lakes features important reed beds, with a hide that allows the quiet and interested to investigate at close quarters. The surrounding area is marsh and heathland and abounds with wildlife.

The lakes are a welcoming host to over-wintering waterfowl, but later visitors include redwing and fieldfare, down for a visit from Scandinavia.  There are many moths and butterflies that are no longer common in towns and villages, especially the likes of the garden tiger, butterbur, waved black, holly blue, and gatekeeper. There are a variety of damselflies and dragonflies, interesting and uncommon beetles, and a host of wildflowers throughout the Spring and Summer.
Nature Discovery Centre

RG19 3FU

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Living Rain Forest - Berkshire

The following is taken from The Living Rainforest website:
“The Living Rainforest has evolved over many years and is now run by the Trust for Sustainable Living.

For decades, the site was home to one of Europe’s leading orchid nurseries, Wyld Court Orchids. In the early 90’s, the philanthropist Keith Bromley led its conversion into Wyld Court Rainforest, a visitor centre featuring plants and animals from the world’s threatened rainforests.

In 2000, after a short time as part of the World Land Trust, the centre was passed on to Karl Hansen, who re-established it as part of a global education charity (now the Trust for Sustainable Living). Today the Living Rainforest centre features plants and animals in ecosystem-inspired settings, and invites visitors to make connections between tropical rainforests and their own lives.”
This venue is growing in popularity. Currently around 90,000 visitors a year turn up, but the number is growing, and it would appear that the popularity is as much to do with recommendations by word of mouth as by anything.
The Living Rain Forest

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Frogmore House - Berkshire

Work on the construction of Frogmore House began in 1680 and was finished in 1684. The estate itself (within the extensive grounds of Windsor Castle and Park) was owned by royalty for about 100 years before the house was built. The first resident was George FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Northumberland. He was the illegitimate son of Charles II and Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland.  In 1792, George III purchased the house for his wife, Queen Charlotte.

Queen Charlotte  needed an escape from the demands and rigours of Court life and so she and her unmarried daughters would retire to Frogmore to pursue more ladylike pursuits.

The house was modernised by James Watt between 1795 and 1804. Most rooms were altered and the building was extended, especially on the second floor.

The Duchess of Kent was granted tenancy in 1840, and that led to further alterations, especially with regard to internal decorations.  From 1925 until 1953, Queen Mary used Frogmore as a kind of museum, gathering together all the royal heirlooms and souvenirs. When the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997, the Duke of Edinburgh moved most of its contents to Frogmore. When it was realised that Britannia was now stark, some were moved back, but Philip remarked that Britannia had been a great venue for the promotion of overseas trade, and equipped part of Frogmore to be used likewise.

There were further renovations during the 1980s, particularly with regard to what Queen Charlotte had wrought. The house is no longer occupied, but is frequently used for Royal functions and entertaining.
Frogmore House


Monday, 16 April 2018

Eton College - Berkshire

King Henry VI founded Eton College in 1441. He had little idea at that time that Eton College would become the most famous school in the world, or that it would produce 19 British Prime Ministers. The original objective of the school was to provide free education for 70 students, with the aim of preparing them to go on the even higher education at Kings College Cambridge.

Henry wanted Eton to be a grand building filled with icons and treasures. Unfortunately, Henry was deposed in 1461 by King Edward IV, and he promptly transferred most of the treasures to Windsor. However, he reckoned without intervention from Jane Shore, who was his mistress. She persuaded Edward to stop ransacking the school and over time the school did grow in size and splendour.

Eton is a boarding school, without exception. All pupils live at the school, but these days a good proportion receive financial assistance to meet the course fees, and some receive free education, though they have to meet very high standards in order to justify such support.

Eton College