Mixing the right amount of luxury and comfort with a Shakespearean inspired garden, The Old Rectory near Beeston in north Norfolkhas a charming moat that surrounds three-quarters of the property, a Willow tree that frames the water and a wooden Monet-style bridge that crosses the moat?
Beeston is a town in Nottinghamshire, England, 3.4 miles south-west of Nottingham city centre. To the immediate north-east is the University of Nottingham’s main campus, University Park.
The new crop of Italianate villas, iced white with stucco like giant cakes, and the rows of brick terraces and mansion blocks that followed them soon became home to publishers (Charles Ollier), artists (Sir John Tenniel) and poets: Robert Browning lived at 19, Warwick Crescent for more than 20 years and the pool where the Grand Union and Regent’s canals meet is now called after him.
Although Browning has been credited with naming the canal area Little Venice, it was Byron that first (facetiously) compared the basin to the Italian lagoon.
Story has it that the poet used to walk along the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal with his publisher, John Murray — helpfully pointing to the bridge where another publisher had once drowned himself — and was inspired to write that ‘there would be nothing to make the canal of Venice more poetical than that of Paddington, were it not for its artificial adjuncts’; a fair point, considering that, at the time, the London canals were lined with warehouses and wrapped in soot.
Even today, however, the elegant terraces halfway up Randolph Avenue, with their tripartite arched windows, are far more reminiscent of the Italian city than Little Venice itself, where the serene buildings and tree-lined banks have a rather more bucolic feel.
Over the 150 years that have passed since this opening, the Royal Albert Hall has established itself as one of the most important public venues in Britain, instantly recognisable as a backdrop to everything from the BBC Proms to comedy shows and from sporting events to theatre.
As described by Marcus Binney (COUNTRY LIFE, March 25, 1971) and The Survey of London, vol 38 (1975), the future Royal Albert Hall was one product of this initiative. The idea of building a music hall on the estate was first proposed in 1853, but, two years later, Prince Albert suggested something more ambitious: a music hall within an enclosing quadrangle of shops and flats inspired by the Palais Royale. He also directed that his exiled compatriot, Gottfried Semper, the architect of the Dresden opera house, design it.
Intrigue and romance were synonymous with Mayfair long before Bridgerton appeared on our screens, discovers Carla Passino.
If a part of London were ever to be crowned Queen of Romance, Mayfair would be it. The former home of Dame Barbara Cartland and the literary backdrop to Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton (although the Netflix series was mostly filmed in Bath for Regency authenticity), it has witnessed love affairs, romps and liaisons as entrancing as any penned by either author.
Its very foundation rests on a wedding: the one between heiress Mary Davies and Sir Thomas Grosvenor, whose descendants would become the Dukes of Westminster. Their eldest son, Sir Richard, was the first to embark on a building programme that would turn an unremarkable estate into one London’s most fashionable addresses.
By the 1790s, multiple dukes lived in the area, including a royal one, the Duke of Gloucester, and his daughter, Princess Sophia Matilda, who was born in Mayfair — as was, much later, The Queen (at her grandfather’s house, 17, Bruton Street, now demolished).
Wilby Hall is believed to have been built by Sir Thomas Lovell and lived in, among others, by Sir Robert Wilton, a friend of Oliver Cromwell, who is thought to have stayed at Wilby Hall during a visit to Norwich.
Of special interest to lovers of historic houses is the fact that, throughout its existence, successive custodians — including Russell — have taken care to conserve the many original features of the 6,183sq ft hall, which offers accommodation on three floors, each room having a specific purpose.
Of particular note are the impressive drawing room, the delightful sitting room with its distinctive wallpaper and handsome fireplace, the cheerful kitchen/breakfast room and the charming library.
Wilby Hall is approached from the east along a sweeping, tree-lined gravel drive that allows tantalising glimpses of the splendid brick-built house. To the north of the main building is an Elizabethan walled garden, formally landscaped with box and yew hedging, yew topiary, herbaceous beds, a pond and ornamental trees. A south-facing garden comprising a large expanse of lawn stretches to the moat that borders the lawns from east to west, with mature broadleaf woodland beyond.
The landmark Skerryvore House at Newquay, a substantial 1930s villa built on a one-acre site overlooking the town’s famous Towan surf beach, with dramatic views along the coast from Newquay Harbour to Stepper Point.
In its current form, Skerryvore House provides an entrance hall, sitting room, dining room, kitchen/breakfast room and a bedroom wing with three double bedrooms, all en suite, on the ground floor, plus two further large bedrooms on the second floor.
The grounds offer parking, lawned gardens, decking and hot tub, a studio/workshop and an adjoining one-bed apartment.
As dramatic as it is, it’s not quite unique. From the top of the cliff a tiny footbridge dangles above the sand to another rocky outpost, on top of which lies another house.
Hillfield House was once home to Gloucester’s Trading Standards officers — not that you’d know it to see the place today. Toby Keel takes a look.
This Grade II-listed building, in the Wotton area just north of Gloucester’s centre, was built in the 1860s and is filled with period touches, from the fireplaces and ornate cornicing to stone pillars and the extraordinary stained glass windows.
Just as grand is the first floor, accessed by a stone staircase, lit from a skylight above and ringed by an ironwork balustrade that looks out onto the space below. All your fantasies of hosting a Bridgerton-style ball can finally be fulfilled.
For all this grandeur, the living rooms themselves do offer cosier, more intimate nooks. Off the main hallway and the corridor beyond are a drawing room, sitting room, study, kitchen-breakfast room and seemingly-endless series of reception rooms.
Barnes played a role in everything from the invention of football to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Carla Passino takes a closer look.
Until an army of 19th-century engineers descended on Barnes to build bridges and railways, this was a world apart, a rural idyll preserved intact by the Thames that bounds it on three sides.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the village had made history even earlier, when it was granted by King Æthelstan to the canons of St Paul in the 900s. The link between Barnes and St Paul’s persists more than 1,000 years on, as the Dean and Chapter owns one of the local gems: 122-acre Barnes Common.
Today, its woodland and acid grass-land are an oasis for hedgehogs, bats, butterflies and Nature-starved Londoners, but, for many centuries, they were home to grazing cattle. The livestock even became embroiled in a dispute between Barnes and neighbouring Putney in 1589, when ‘the men of Barnes refused to allow the men of Putney to use the Common and impounded their cattle,’ reports A History of the County of Surrey.
Walking down Mare Street, vibrant even in these days of restrictions, it’s hard to reconcile today’s Hackney with pictures from the past. Shop-lined roads were once babbling streams, pubs were market gardens and this bastion of hip, edgy, urban creativity was a remote village where people retreated for a taste of idyllic countryside. But then, few places have changed more over time than this corner of East London.
According to local lore, the small settlement that sprung up along the Roman roads to Lincoln and Colchester owes its name to a Danish chief called Hacon, whose eye — islet—this was. No trace remains of this early history, but some medieval records indicate that the Knights Templars owned about 110 acres in the Hackney Marshes and built some mills on the River Lea — hence today’s Temple Mills. The village’s first parish church, St Augustine, was named after the Templars’ patron saint.
Dartmoor’s Baskerville Hall is one of the most famous country houses in English fiction. The arrival at its doors of Dr Watson, in the company of Sir Henry Baskerville, is a vivid piece of cinematic direction, artfully combining the Gothic horror tale with the more modern taste for detective thrillers.
Passing a ruined black-granite lodge, Watson and Baskerville go through the gates that are ‘a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron’ before reaching an avenue where ‘old trees shot their branches in a sombre tunnel’. The hall is a ‘heavy block’, with a projecting porch, its façade ‘draped in ivy’ within which the odd window or heraldic display can be seen.