Category Archives: Historical

English View: The Nunnery In Eden Valley, Cumbria

An exquisite private estate in the Cumbrian countryside — complete with fabulous interiors and secret waterfalls in the grounds .

The Nunnery is — as the name suggests — a former Benedictine Nunnery that has been the recipient of years of renovation works, transforming the historic property into a breathtaking, spacious home. Penny Churchill reports.

Cumbria’s glorious Eden Valley has been well-named and the setting for imposing, Grade I-listed The Nunnery at Staffield, 10 miles from Penrith, on the fringes of the Lake District National Park, is typical of the area, with traditional livestock farms and rolling grassland falling away to the River Eden, against a distant backdrop of dark, moody fells.

The former country-house hotel, set in almost 52 acres of wonderfully private park and woodland close to the village of Kirkoswald, has been beautifully renovated, remodelled and extended by its present owners who acquired it in a fairly run-down state in the early 2000s.

Although the origins of The Nunnery can be traced to a mid-13th-century Benedictine nunnery, according to Country Life (November 23, 2000), the present ‘plain but imposing red sandstone house’ was built by Henry Aglionby in 1718.

Ancient Views: Byblos In Northwest Lebanon (4K)

Byblos is a Mediterranean city in Lebanon, one of the oldest continuosly inhabited cities in human history (since 5000 BC). Many great civilizations left trace in Byblos’ history, including Egyptian, Phoenician, Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Fatimid, Genoese, Mamluk and Ottoman. Byblos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Recorded April 2022 in 4K Ultra HD.

Historic Views: Chouara Tannery In Fez, Morocco

Tanners at the Chouara Tannery have been transforming animal hides into leather since the 11th century. The tanning process has gone unchanged since then, but it relies on heavy chemicals that threaten the health of workers. Some say they are not willing to take that risk. We traveled to the world’s oldest leather tannery in Fez, Morocco, to find out how this ancient craft is still standing.

Cover Preview: Current Archaeology – July 2022

This year, events are taking place across the country to celebrate the 1,900th anniversary of the construction of Hadrian’s Wall (the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that this most-famous Roman landmark has also featured, in some capacity, in every issue of CA since January).

This month our cover story considers whether the Romans too may have commemorated the Wall’s construction – and we also have an opinion piece asking how sure we can be about its date.

From monumental stonework to modern quarrying, we next head to Bedfordshire to learn about archaeological investigations at Black Cat Quarry, carried out before extraction works began on the site. There, excavations have revealed an impressive multi-period landscape, including Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements, a significant Roman farmstead, and what may be the remains of a Viking ‘fort’ referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Home Tours: Kelmscott Manor In The Cotswolds

The architecture of Kelmscott Manor is woven into William Morris’s 1890 novel, News from Nowhere, in which a journey exploring utopian ideals in a post-industrial world leads, after much wandering, to a ‘many-gabled old house built by the simple country-folk of the long-past times’. There is no ‘extravagant love of ornament’ here, only a feeling that ‘the house itself and its associations was the ornament of the country life amidst which it had been left stranded from old times’. It is a poignant vision that underlines both a respect for the past and an ideal of a new society based on mutual interest and support.

Jeremy Musson, May 15, 2022

Today, this old stone-built farm house is best known as the Morrises’ country home, from 1871. First leased as a retreat from busy London life, it became a vital point of reference for Morris, as artist, designer and poet; it was his ‘Heaven on Earth’, and a source of profound emotional and artistic inspiration.

Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire

Fig 2: The first-floor Tapestry Room, with a carved 1660s chimneypiece, is hung with a late-17th-century Oudenarde tapestry. Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire. ©Paul Highnam for Country Life

English Country Homes: The Abington ‘Hunting’ Lodge On River Granta

Nestled in a private corner of the award-winning village of Great Abington is Abington Lodge: Where over 19 acres of gardens and grounds meet with elegant interiors and wonderful ancillary accommodation.

It’s hard to tell what’s best about Grade II-listed Abington Lodge, in Great Abington —whether the idyllic setting in a little more than 19 acres of parkland and paddocks coursed by the River Granta, the 8,600sq ft interior with magnificent spiral staircase and floor-to-ceiling sash windows or the intriguing history: the house was once a hunting lodge for Richard, Earl of Grosvenor, whose wife scandalised Georgian Britain for her relationship with the Duke of Cumberland.

Abington Lodge, which is currently on the market via Cheffins with a guide price of £3.5 million, has eight bedrooms in the main building, and also comes with a two-bedroom coach house, two self-contained apartments, a striking indoor pool and a stable block.

English Architecture: Arts And Crafts Willards Farm In Surrey & Sussex

The older farmhouses scattered across rural, deeply wooded areas on the Surrey and Sussex border have lost nothing of their appeal in the 21st century. Willards Farm, near Dunsfold, has recently been subject to sympathetic renovation and substantial extension. At its core, the house is a four-bay, 16th-century timber-frame house of two storeys, under a clay-tile roof, with a substantial off-centre chimney stack. It occupies an elevated site and was extended to its northern end in the 1930s and to the south in the 1980s. The latest works, completed in 2019, were imaginatively designed by architect Stuart Martin for a young family.

The brick walls enclosing the pool house create the impression of a traditional farmstead enclosure and the tiled coping echoes the treatment of a Lutyens pergola at Pasture Wood, Dorking, of about 1912. One angle of the walls is resolved with a fine dovecote and ceramic decoration of the pool by Craig Bragdy means that it resembles an ornamental pond.

Willards Farm

Willards Farm, Surrey. ©Paul Highnam for Country Life

Tours: Highclere Castle Of ‘Downton Abbey’ Fame

Downton Abbey has become THE British cult series. The story about the fate of a noble family and their servants at the beginning of the 20th century in Yorkshire, England, is even set in a real palace: Highclere Castle. There aren’t servants anymore, but it still has a countess. The lady of the house takes us on an exclusive tour of the castle where Downton Abbey has been shot. Some of the locations may look familiar, especially since the second film is now being released after six successful seasons on TV.

Highclere Castle is a Grade I listed country house built in 1679 and largely renovated in the 1840s, with a park designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century. The 5,000-acre estate is in Highclere in Hampshire, England, about 5 miles south of Newbury, Berkshire, and 9.5 miles north of Andover, Hampshire.

Ancient Walks: Petra – Al Siq To Treasury In Jordan

Petra is a famous archaeological site in Jordan’s southwestern desert. Dating to around 300 B.C., it was the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom. Accessed via a narrow canyon called Al Siq, it contains tombs and temples carved into pink sandstone cliffs, earning its nickname, the “Rose City.” Perhaps its most famous structure is 45m-high Al Khazneh, a temple with an ornate, Greek-style facade, and known as The Treasury. 

English Country Houses: Ancient ‘Hunton Court’ Near Maidstone In Kent

Hunton Court is an ancient house hiding behind a breathtaking Georgian facade, and all set in a truly beautiful corner of Kent.

Take a quick look at Hunton Court — near Maidstone, in Kent — and you’d immediately mark it down as an 18th century country house. Yet its true origins lie many centuries earlier: it’s a building that hides its timbered origins behind a Georgian look.

The house, once known as Court Lodge, had a turbulent history: first built in the 13th century and part of an estate that had belonged to the Canterbury’s Christ Church Priory, it was handed to Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry VIII’s High Sheriff for Kent, after the Dissolution of Monasteries.