Thursday, 18 December 2014

Longleat House

Our Decorative and Fine Arts Society had a private visit and Christmas lunch at Longleat House 
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Longleat House is regarded as one of the prime examples of high Elizabeth architecture in England. It was a simple run-down priory when purchased for the princely sum of £53 by John Thynne in 1541. Thynne achieved power and wealth in court politics and warfare and was knighted only six years after purchasing Longleat. The original priory was destroyed by fire in 1567 and rebuilt by Sir John to a design by Robert Smythson. The house took 12 years to build.
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The Great Hall retains its Elizabethan character and splendour. The minstrels' gallery was installed at great expense to honour a royal visit when Charles ll and his entire court stayed overnight 
A lovely Christmas lunch with all of the trimmings was much enjoyed 'below stairs' at Longleat
We were taken up to the attic and viewed some of the 7th Marquess of Bath's paintings and murals, but were not shown into the infamous Kama Sutra room!!!
He uses his own unique method and style - a mix of sawdust and oil paint
The 7th Marquess of Bath wears mult-coloured velvet kaftans, colourful waistcoats, tasselled fezes, leotards and capes, and although now in his early 80s the peer is said to have a collection of 75 'wifelets'. In 2010 he handed over stewardship of Longleat to his eldest son, Ceawlin - Viscount Weymouth
Orangery
The rooms inside Longleat were heavily shuttered to show off the Christmas decorations and lights, not conducive to photographs. Outside the grounds were looking distinctly "Disneyesque" to attract families over the Christmas period
All these things light up in the dark!
even this! resembling memories I have of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing visited many, many, years ago  
Real lions are to be found in Longleat's Safari Park but crazily these things light up too!
A 230 foot dragon made entirely from blue and white china plates, bowls, cups and saucers and hundreds of red chinese lanterns everywhere!
The cautionary moral of this tale is - should your preference be to admire a Capability Brown landscape, some prime Elizabethan architecture, the exquisite paintings and interiors of a fine stately home, then Longleat is best avoided during December!!!
Subsequent to my visit I have discovered that this is the largest light show in Europe - have I been too harsh? The figures have been designed and created, principally in silk, by a team of 50 Chinese men and women from Zigong over the past six months at Longleat. Apparently for 2000 years Zigong has been considered the home of the finest chinese lanterns. Admittedly I didn't see the displays lit up, and I do concede that they look magical at night. You can see them here - I imagine that they will delight many families during the Christmas period. 

40 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary, Those Longleat lanterns are exactly the kind they have at Lantern Festival at the end of Chinese New Year, although they do seem a little strange on an English estate. The makers should also have tried their hands at a few traditional British designs--they could have had a lot of fun with the idea: a miniature Longleat house, Buckingham Palace Guard, red postal box, etc.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - the main problem for me was that they were a huge distraction from the house and grounds which I personally had gone to see.

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  2. What a wonderful place. So beautiful photos.
    Have a happy this day.

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    1. Thank you Orvokki - glad that you enjoyed seeing them

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  3. Such a fascinating place to visit! I am intrigued by the colourful artworks and flamboyant owner :-)

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    1. He has been a rebel all his life - the above photo is not recent, I believe he now walks with two sticks, and no wonder!

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  4. Longleat is one Stately Home I have certainly heard about, especially the colourful Marquess of Bath. It is amazing he is still with us, and apparently as eccentric as ever. The Disney shapes seem so inappropriate in the surroundings, that they are quite fun, and the dragon astonishing. All those cups and plates, and all lit up at night. No doubt many families come to enjoy the show. The below stairs dining room looks ready for a merry olde lunch!

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    1. The Christmas lunch was very good including wine and trimmings. The Marquess is 82 now and furious that his son has removed many of his paintings and replaced them with some William Morris wallpaper!

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  5. It seems that many of our stately homes now need a commercial side to pay for the costs of upkeep, but...!! Each to his own I guess.

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  6. The outside looks lovely, inside is ok.
    Can't say I like those 'things' of such colour outside, it doesn't seem right somehow.
    I looked at the link of the lights at night, they do look good.

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    1. It is all done to make money at Christmas

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  7. Well that, certainly has character oozing out of it! Suzy x

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  8. Visited Longleat many, many years ago. Not much into light shows, but definitely enjoyed the house and gardens.

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    1. I am pleased to know that you have visited the house, the light show will be on its way in early January.

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  9. Dear Rosemary,

    I am enjoying your own blogpage light decoration! I am curious to know what you got at your place setting. At first I thought it might have been a popper, but on closer inspection, it appears to be a roll of paper. A souvenir of some sort? I agree with Jim; I think the artists could have had a lot of fun creating something on a British theme, but I do like the Chinese pavillion all lit up. And I would replace the old gent's paintings with William Morris paper, too!

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    1. Dear Mark - I don't have any christmas lights in the house as we shall be away over the festive season, so I have put some on the blog instead.
      As it happens I have written about the table 'poppers' which I will post next.
      The removal of the paintings, and the fact that they have been replaced by William Morris paper has caused a rift in relations with the son.

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    2. That is a shame. Were I in the son's place, I might have thought to myself that a few more years would not hurt. But that is easy for me to say, since I enjoyed my own parents' taste.

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    3. I think that you are right, it would have been a kindness if the son had left it a bit longer as the father is now an old man

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  10. Well first of all I really like your Christmassy lights on your blog! Very festive indeed. I have been to Longleat, but not at Christmas and before the handover to the Viscount. I am not sure that these light displays would be my thing, but they aren't generally, in any setting, something that I go for. That said, I think the dragon made of plates is pretty darn amazing, but I prefer it "in the plates" as opposed to the lit up version. However, putting that all aside, I can totally see the attraction of this for both Longleat and visitors. When you hear of some of the dreadful Christmas attractions this seems to be much better, it is offering something different and seems to be doing it well, so a thumbs up from that point of view. Also enticing visitors to come out in the winter is hard work - I know! - and you really do need something different to bring them to see you and this is certainly different from anything else. On balance therefore I think it is OK. If they were there all year round then perhaps not, but at Christmas yes, go for it and have some fun and the rest of us can avert our gazes! We have had exhibitions and displays at Basildon that haven't been to everyone ones taste and that is what I suggest that visitors do if they aren't interested - avert their gaze - you cannot please everyone all of the time - if only we could!! Glad that you enjoyed the visit overall though and it must have been very interesting to go up to the attic!! Happy Christmas! xx

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    1. I think that we have learnt our lesson Amy - no more trips in December even if it does include lunch!!!

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  11. What would Christmas be without some garish excess? And you know, there are no eccentrics like English eccentrics.

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  12. Rosemary, this is fabulous! However did you do your lights!!! I can see that's everyone else's question too! :)
    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.
    Hugs Rosemary

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    1. Happy Christmas Rosemary - go here:- http://www.bloggerwidgetgenerators.com/2014/08/add-flashing-christmas-lights-in-blogger.html
      and you can make the lights in a FLASH!!!. If you need help let me know.

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  13. A very unique place and a striking contrast between the antic and the kitch ! I was quite amused by the originality of the vest worn by the 7th Marquess of Bath resembling his paintings :-)

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  14. Oh no no no. Some things just do not go together! Both are amazing, but dim when combined.

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  15. Dear Rosemary, So, how do we get to see the "famous Kama Sutra room?" I do like the stalking lions and the paintings painted with sawdust and oil paints. Would not want to live with the "decorations" as they are right now but then there is no chance that I would be invited.

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    1. All of the chinese lantern figures will be taken away in the new year. Now Gina, I do not think that the Kama Sutra room is a suitable place for refined ladies of taste like yourself

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  16. I do recall that Longleat became a type of wildlife park many, many years ago - to raise money for its upkeep I believe. I had no idea they turned it into a type of Disney park at Christmas though! Must say the dragon made of plates etc. is amazing, however they should have stopped with that creation, it would have been enough!!

    Thanks for sharing the story Rosemary - I do love to read about eccentric Brits - sometimes I consider myself to be a little bit of one too, haha!

    Happy Christmas to you and your family - and many thanks for so many amazing posts during 2014 - you are an inspiration my dear.
    Hugs - Mary

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    1. I do think that we have more than our fair share of eccentric Brits Mary - I wonder why that should be?
      Thank you for your very kind comment Mary, and a very Happy Christmas to you, your husband and family♡

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  17. An amazing display, but not really to my taste either, Rosemary. However the task of maintaining a building and estate like Longleat must be enormously expensive, so one can't really blame them for trying to attract as many visitors as possible at all seasons.

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    1. You are right Perpetua, it is difficult enough maintaining a domestic property and garden.
      Our Arts Society made an error in picking the wrong time of year, but you learn by your mistakes.

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  18. Just love it! Wish I could be there...
    Have a beautiful weekend!
    Titti

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    1. Thank you Titti - hope you have a happy time too

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  19. Most country houses have these seasonal themes, don't they? And they can be quite annoying when they are of poor quality and spoil the experience of grand architecture and historic furnishings, but I can see why you warmed to these spectacular pieces. I think I approve!

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    1. I think that Chatsworth started it all off. I remember going there years ago but it was all beautifully decorated christmas trees in the grounds and throughout the house. I do admit that these chinese silk affairs appeared to look stunning at night.

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