Breathtaking British Architecture

Our journey around England continued when we – Suzanne and Pat Moeller with my husband Brad and I – left our London friends, Paul and Anne Babb, at Newcastle and headed south to Durham. Anne had said we must see Durham Cathedral. Oh my! Durham is amongst the greatest churches ever built. Planned and begun by Bishop Carileph (1081-96), most of the Cathedral was built in the Romanesque style.

The nave, quire and the two transepts were built between 1093 and 1133, the Galilee Chapel in 1175 and the two western towers between 1217 and 1226. Finally, the Chapel of the Nine Altars was completed in the Gothic style between 1242 and 1280.

Until the 1800’s, there would have been no seats in the nave! The huge carved stone pillars have stood for almost 900 years and are 52 feel tall and 52 feet around! Together with the composite pillars, they support the stone-vaulted ceiling. The total length of the interior is 469 feet.

The long black stone set in the floor marks the point behind which women had to remain until the mid-16th century. Here, worship has been offered to God every day for over 900 years!

The cathedral is the site of the Venerable Bede’s tomb. Bede, who died in 735, is famous as a scholar. He wrote the first history of England – The History of the English Church and People.

When we left Durham Cathedral, we headed to the Bowes Museum in Durham County. It is a place unlike any other: a French chateau-style museum in the heart of northern England, with a vast and varied collection of European fine and decorative arts.

What you see is an extraordinary building, the work of two people: a wealthy English gentleman who was shunned by high society and the French actress-turned artist who was the love of his life.

Together, John and Josephine Bowes dreamed up an unlikely ambition – a huge museum in rural Teesdale – and they worked tirelessly for many years to make it a reality. Sadly, both died before the museum opened in 1892, but it continues to thrive. It is a beautiful building with an exceptional collection of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, costumes, textiles, musical instruments, toys and curios.

Then at York our first stop was at Castle Howard, one of Britain’s finest houses. Built over 300 years ago by Sir John Vanbrugh, today it remains home to the Howard family. Here you can relive iconic scenes from “Brideshead Revisited.”

It took over 100 years to build and was beset with challenges as a playwright took on the task of building his first grand house. There is the 18th century Temple of the Four Winds for relaxation. There are statues of gods in its garden. Castle Howard’s exterior is adorned with intricate carved decorations, coronets, ciphers and coats of arms, a frieze of sea horses and cherubs.

The walled garden of 2,000 roses is a riot of color and perfume when in full bloom. There are 1,000 acres of parkland and gardens. It’s a monumental landscape with statues, temples, lakes, fountains and sweeping countryside views and one of the world’s greatest mansions.

Next up was Harewood House. It is a place filled with art, Chippendale furniture, culture and heritage which continues to thrive today. One of the Treasure Houses of England, the historic Georgian house sits in a Capability Brown designed landscape. Its zoo even has flamingos, parrots and a pool of penguins!

Inside the spectacular house is an important Axminster carpet. Handmade by carpet-maker Thomas Whitty, this carpet dates from around 1780 and is an original part of Adam’s design scheme for the room. It is incredibly rare, one of only eight surviving in the world still in original Adam interiors.

Leaving York, we headed to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and then on to 16th century Haddon Hall, one of the few grand houses to have survived from the Middle Ages. Its architecture spans Norman, Tudor and Elizabethan eras and is enhanced by one of England’s finest collections of early English furniture and tapestries.

In Queen Anne’s reign, the Manner’s family left Haddon and locked the door for nearly 200 years! Being the first of the family to once again reside permanently at Haddon, they are rechanging rooms within. Nottingham was our next stop. More of it next week. VT