The Woodstock Society
The Woodstock Society

Summer Outing to Althorp House

Friday 5th July 2019

 

THE WOODSTOCK SOCIETY

From Dr Tony Lemon

5 Meadow Walk,

Woodstock,

Oxford, OX20 1NR

Telephone 01993 812337:

email tony.lemon@mansfield.ox.ac.uk

SUMMER OUTING

 

Our summer outing this year will take us to Northamptonshire, to visit Althorp House, the home of the Spencer family for 500 years. The date is Friday, 5th July. The house claims one of the finest collections of furniture, paintings and ceramics in Europe. Its furnishings benefited greatly from the family’s abandonment of the Spencers’ London house in Green Park.

 

The Spencers were sheep farmers from Warwickshire who acquired the Althorp Estate in 1508. By the end of the century they had built the house with the courtyard and projecting wings. That plan survives, albeit altered beyond recognition. The exterior was remodelled in the 1660s, when the central court was filled with the present grand Restoration staircase which, to quote Simon Jenkins, ‘might be the entrance to the grand circle of an opera house, with the picture gallery above as chorus, and van Dyck as soloist.’ The house was remodelled again in 1787 for the second Earl Spencer, who amassed the greatest private library in the world, much of which has since been moved to the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

 

The Stables Block, designed by Roger Morris in 1732 in the Anglo-Palladian style, is a clear act of homage to Inigo Jones with a portico copied from St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. It now houses a café and seasonal exhibitions: there is currently a new exhibition celebrating the relationship between the Spencer family and the Animals of Althorp, and a second exhibition, The Spencers: the History of an English Family illustrates five centuries of the family and its place in public life.

 

The house sits in 550 acres of parkland which is part of a wider estate. The once formal gardens were reputedly designed by the French royal landscape gardener André le Nôtre (1613-1700). Formal lawns are lined with ancient oaks. The Round Oval, as the lake is now known was constructed in 1868; the summer house at the lakeside is now dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales. A 72-foot Crimea Oak, the oldest tree in the park, was planted in 1589, and a herd of rare black fallow deer has been roaming the park since the sixteenth century.

 

We shall start out at 11.45am from the car park entrance (the former Woodstock Library), arriving at Althorp about 1.00pm. There are no guided tours, so everyone will be free to explore the house at their own pace, and to enjoy the gardens and exhibitions. The café is open for coffees, teas and light lunches and there is also a gift shop. We shall leave at 5.00pm when the house closes, and should be back in Woodstock before 6.30pm.

 

The cost is £34 for senior citizens (aged 60 and over), or £36.50 for others. This includes admission to the house and gardens, the coach journeys and a tip for the driver. For members of the Historic Houses Association the cost is only £20, but please state your membership number when you book.

Cheques should be made out to ‘The Woodstock Society’ and sent to Dr. A. Lemon, 5 Meadow Walk, Woodstock, OX20 1NR, by Friday 14th June at the latest.

Please book .......... place(s) for me on the trip to Althorp House on Friday 5th July. I enclose my cheque made out to "The Woodstock Society".

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Telephone number........................................ Email address...............................................................................

 

 

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