Thursday, 16 August 2018

Blenheim Palace

John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, defeated the French at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. The English name 'Blenheim' is a derivative of Blindheim, a small Bavarian village that lies on the left bank of the River Danube. The Franco/Bavarian army and the English army met on the banks of the Danube, and the ensuing battle took place in and around the village. 








To show her gratitude, Queen Anne gave him the ruined Royal Manor of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, along with £240,000 with which to build a house to commemorate his achievements. 



Sir John Vanbrugh, aided by Nicholas Hawksmoor, 
 designed and built Blenheim Palace between 1705 and 1722. It represented the beginning of a new but short lived style of architecture, known as English Baroque. 
The Grand Bridge 
The landscaped park designed and created by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was considered to be 'a naturalistic Versailles'. Vanbrugh's elegant bridge spans the Great Lake and Queens Pool, and enhances Brown's surrounding landscape with a scenic driveway.







Heading inside beneath the grand entrance portico, I suddenly spotted these eyes looking down.
Painted by British artist Colin Gill in 1928 they depict the bright blue eyes of Gladys Duchess of Marlborough. Gladys was renown for her good looks and exceptional blue eyes. The brown eyes are those of her husband, the 9th Duke.






The Great Hall
The hall, which stands a remarkable 67 feet high, is made out of locally quarried Oxfordshire limestone with exquisite carvings done by Grinling Gibbons and his assistants

The ceiling was painted by Sir James Thornhill in 1716 and shows the 1st duke offering his battle plan to Britannia, surrounded by allegorical figures. 






A series of nine large silk tapestries in three connecting State Rooms depicts all the victorious campaigns of the 1st Duke of Marlborough - this last tapestry shows the final French surrender to the duke (seated on the white horse) at Bouchain in France. Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim Palace, said that the 1st Duke's battle manoeuvres shown within these nine tapestries reveal his military genius, and said that the Battle of Blenheim completely changed the 'political axis' in Europe at that time.

A marble statue of Queen Anne dominates the end of the library.


To the rear of the house is a water garden laid out in the 1920s by French architect Achille Duchêne in a c17th Italianate style with detailed parterres and fountains. 

Steps lead down from the water garden to the water terrace where various paths then meander off through Brown's landscape and around the side of his great lake.


This obelisk fountain was carved in Gian Lorenzo Bernini's studio and was gifted to the 1st Duke in 1710 by the Spanish Ambassador to the Papal Court in Rome. It is a one-third scale marble copy of Bernini's Fountain in the Piazza Navona, Rome. It depicts the four great rivers of the world at that time - the Nile, the Plata, the Ganges, and the Danube, each one being represented by a symbolic figure sitting on rocks beneath the obelisk.

The obelisk at the other end of the water terrace was created to bring symmetry to the one created by Bernini.









This wall of caryatids linking the terraces was carved on site by French sculptor Jules Visseaux. The head and torso of the male caryatids was modelled on one of the palace's gardeners, who happened to walk by one day as Visseaux was working. 






Walking around the lake reveals just how green our landscape was during last May. 








Our final destination was a lovely walk through Brown's landscape and along the side of his lake to the Cascade. It was originally built as the overflow when Brown dammed the valley to create the Great Lake, and Queens Pool.

Blenheim became a World Heritage Site in 1987, in recognition of the quality of the architecture by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor and Brown's landscaping. The house and the 2,000 acres of parkland and gardens are all Grade l listed.

33 comments:

  1. Now there's another place I've never visited! Thanks for that tour amidst such grandeur. £240,000, you say? Nice to know my house cost much the same as Blenheim!

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    1. I was talking to my granddaughter about the cost of our very first house, and she found it difficult to believe how little we had paid for it.

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  2. Lovely photos - one place I have visited.

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  3. What a gorgeous palace is Blenheim. It must go on our list of 'what we wish to visit' if we get back to the UK some time. The bridge and Capability Brown's landscapes are so beautiful and I do love the water garden. Thank you for showing such a special part of the English heritage.

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    1. It really is a magnificent place Patricia, and in such a beautiful setting.

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  4. Pretty swanky! Those eyes painted on the ceiling would creep me out, though.

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    1. The eyes are actually outside beneath the portico entrance Debra, and go largely unnoticed by most, but I thought that they were fun.

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  5. I'm not into big houses any more, but Winston was born there and he's my hero.

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    1. These large properties and their grounds often require considerable stamina in order to see everything that is on offer during a visit.

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  6. Thank you for all these gorgeous photos. It is an astonishingly beautiful palace and parkland. I believe it is the only other palace in the UK not inhabited by the Queen. 
    I don't know if Winston Churchill also grew up there. I don't think I would have liked to. It's a bit overwhelming. 

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    1. Churchill would often say: “At Blenheim I took two very important decisions; to be born and to marry. I am content with the decision I took on both occasions…

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  7. Such magnificence! Blenheim is another of those places to visit on our next trip to England, whenever that may occur. The gardens and architecture look like they rival Versailles. How fun to notice those eyes above you, watching all!

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    1. It is on a similar scale to Versailles but the main difference is that Blenheim is still a family home. I was pleased that I noticed those eyes, they can so easily be missed as you enter through the main door.

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  8. Spectacular photos Rosemary...as always....
    Hope you are well....we’re still sweating over here...😂
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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    1. Enjoyed hearing from you Linda - during the past week we have had a bit of a reprieve from our 3 month heatwave, the air is much fresher, and I am enjoying it much more.

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  9. Heard of the place often enough but not the full history behind it. I've heard of Hawksmoor mainly because of his London churches and learned of them through a Peter Ackroyd novel of the same name. I read that strange book decades ago and had almost forgotten it until I watched the recent film The Limehouse Golem and The Frankenstein Chronicles on TV, both also based on Peter Ackroyd's historical novels. C. Brown really could produce visual art on a grand scale, just using a very large and different canvas to paint on.

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    1. I am not familiar with either the films or the novels you mention here, but I have purchased the book you recommended to me - The Snow Child and have just started reading it.

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  10. Thank you for the photos.

    I don't like the formal parterres... they are far too artificial. But the landscaped park designed by Capability Brown is still very naturalistic. The Great Lake is lovely and Vanburgh's bridge is still perfect.

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    1. I wonder what Lancelot Brown would think of the parterres which were not part of his plans but a much later addition?
      Another garden has come to light at Blenheim as a result of the heatwave this year which Brown dismantled to make way for his landscape - it was apparently known as the Military Garden - details if you are interested here:-
      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-44980314

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  11. Thank you for this most interesting and beautiful post, Rosemary. Your descriptions of the history and your wonderful photos of the places you visit are a work of art in themselves. Thank you for the time and care you put in to your blog presentations.
    I did not visit Blenheim Palace during my trips to England, but now I have done this with you.
    I've been away from blogging for a while, but will begin posting again soon.
    Betty

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    1. Thank you for your very kind comment Betty - I am pleased that you enjoyed a vicarious trip with me to Blenheim. I shall watch out for your next post.

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  12. Hello Rosemary, What a treasure house is Blenheim Palace--so many top talents united in one place. For those interested in fruit, the name Blenheim is synonymous with the Blenheim Orange Apple, famous on its own and possibly a parent of Cox's Orange Pippin. There is also the Blenheim apricot, still an acclaimed variety.
    --Jim

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    1. I knew nothing about the Blenheim Orange Apple or the Blenheim apricot so thank you for that information Jim. Both, I discovered have an interesting story. The Blenheim Orange apple was a cultivar grown by a tailor in Woodstock, the very attractive small town adjoining Blenheim Palace. He planted a pip taken from a Dempster's pippin which resulted in the Blenheim Orange Apple. A horticulturalist Richard Cox then crossed the Blenheim Orange with a Ribston pippin which produced the now famous Cox's Orange pippin.
      The Blenheim apricot is said to have originated from the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris via a seedling given to Shipley, the head gardner at Blenheim, in the 1820s. He grew it in the walled garden at Blenheim where it flourished and eventually made its way to California.

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  13. What a great post again, I always love your beautiful photos and the historical stories with it.

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    1. Thank you - I am touched by your generous comment.

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  14. Blenheim Palace, what an impressive buildings and I like the eyes of the Duchess of Marlborough looking down..... The landscape gardens of Capability Brown are always magnificant.

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  15. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a lovely place for a stroll and indoor visit this Blenheim Palace is!
    Under the 4th photo you got my attention to the reversed name of Sir John Vanburgh instead of Vanbrugh... What a master he and his team was. Guess nowadays we don't have such exceptional talent anymore.
    Thanks for sharing this! Also those lush May gardens.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Luckily our landscape is very slowly turning green again. The typing error has now been changed - thanks.

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    2. At least I'm reading... guess my eye is still trained for proof reading publications!💗

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