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Burghley House (Stamford)

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Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire, PE9 3JY. Tel: 01780 752451.

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      17.10.2006 17:22
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      A day out, beautiful heritage, beautiful grounds, modern art and historic architecture

      ~~ Burghley House ~~

      Thirty plus years ago whilst in junior school, we did a class project on Architecture and the Historic Buildings of Lincolnshire. Although our school trip took us to Lincoln, we also wrote about Burghley House. In those days we did not have the internet it was visits to the library and searching through encyclopaedias. This project left impressions on me and taught me to appreciate the beauty of buildings especially the ornate ones. My interest spread from buildings to the beautiful designs of the furnishings and decoration. The time, love and labour that went into these works of art are totally awe inspiring.

      Burghley House was one of these buildings that I studied and never got to see until now. A few weeks before we decided to go away Burghley House was on the television, I don’t know what program it was on, but I just told my hubby that it was a stately home that I had wanted to visit since I was a little girl. So at his suggestion and to achieve my dream, we went to Lincolnshire for our holidays and visited Burghley House in the quaint and picturesque village of Stamford.

      Once you come close to Stamford it is sign posted to get you to Burghley House. You enter the estate and drive down a very long drive way taking in the view of the beautiful house and the estate. There is a large car park on the right hand side just a few hundred yards from the front of the house. This is also a grassed area and you often get the red deer walking between the cars. The disabled parking is right outside the main entrance along the road side, there are no parking bays as such, just a sign saying this is the disabled parking area.

      Once parked you walk down to the very modern extension which is the reception area. The modern reception area is quite surprising with its glass and aluminium everywhere and quite out of character for an old building, but strangely in character for the whole Burghley experience (all will become clear).

      We were greeted by a very nice receptionist and we our entrance fee of a whole £9.00 per adult; we got a buy one get one free offer which was even better. As I mentioned we are visiting loads of historic houses and castles in Lincolnshire and there is an offer on this year with Hidden England Passport, once you have visited one and paid full price you get to see the other four places on a bog off, the others in this scheme are Belton House, Belvoir Castle, Grimsthorpe Castle and Rockingham Castle. We managed to visit four of the five during our week away, we would have liked to have visited all five but Rockingham Castle was only open Sunday’s and Tuesdays, it was Wednesday before we realised this, oops too late.

      Sorry I got distracted and digressed, we paid for our tickets and bought a lovely colour brochure, which happened to be the most expensive of all the guide books this holiday at £5.00, but it is very colourful, showing all the rooms that you visit in the order you walk through them (which is very good as you cannot take photographs inside the house), it also provides you with loads of historic information.

      The receptionist informed us that our tour starts with an audio visual just up some stairs to the right of reception. We climbed the stairs into a room with strange paintings on the walls, these were painting on paintings or so they appeared s you could see a shadow of another painting on each one. The reason for this became apparent during our time in this room which was approx 30mins.

      Whilst we were looking at the lovely oriental collection of snuff boxes and bottles, (I never knew that you got snuff bottles) a voice boomed out and a projected image appeared on one of the walls. What’s it all about? Being the curious (or is that nosey) person I am I decided to take a look and got totally absorbed in a history lesson with a difference. Ancestors in the Attic an Audio Visual Presentation is what they called it and if I had been observant enough I would have noticed the sign on the wall informing me of this when I entered the room.

      They projected images of actors playing the parts of William Cecil, Lord Burghley (1520-1598) he built the original Burghley House in 1555, and you then meet The 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700) and The 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793). This is all done very well and it informs you of the history of the building and what each one accomplished with the house. This is all carried out in the form of a conversation that they conduct with each other, so there are three faces projected on the walls. Remember those strange paintings I told you about they have lights behind them, so as the conversation progresses some of the relevant paintings are lit up, all in all this conversation lasted approx 10 mins.

      It was shortly followed by two more audio visual presentations in the same way, the second one being with Capability Brown who was the 9th Earl’s Landscape Gardener and Culpepper Tanner the 5th Earls Steward. Finally the third presentation is with The 6th Marquess of Exeter (1905-1981), The 2nd Marquess of Exeter (1795-1867) and the current resident Lady Victoria Leatham, daughter of The 6th Marquess.

      There were benches provided so I sat and enjoyed the show, after it has finished you go down another flight of stairs which leads you into a courtyard and takes you to the entrance to the house.

      The courtyard is very pretty with its cobbled stone around a beautiful tree in the centre, with blue benches encircling it and big pots with blue Hydrangeas in. From the courtyard you can reach all the toilets, the café, the gift shop and the main entrance to the house to start your tour. Before starting our tour around the house it was time for a pit stop and to check out the toilets, which are very modern, yippee we did not have to go over a hole in the ground, like they did in primitive times. These toilets were very modern, very clean and fresh and a credit to them.

      We are both fit and raring to go and see the house I have waited so long to see, come and join me on a wonderful trip through history and the life and times of the Cecil family.

      Our first stop was the extremely impressive kitchen, which you could put at least four of my kitchen inside it, it was that big. There was a wonderful display of 260 copper utensils from the Georgian and early Victorian period. There was also quite a morbid display of clean turtle skulls stuck on the wall. The 19th century mechanical spit that was displayed was in full working order, you actually got to see it working as well. It was quite funny I was commenting to my hubby about this when a voice popped up and started telling us about the kitchen, she made me jump as I had been so engrossed I had not noticed her sitting there in the corner. It worked out she was one of the many guides there to fill your minds with historical facts and answer any of your questions.

      We were extremely impressed with both the kitchen and the member of staff here; she was very pleasant and knowledgeable.

      Moving on we went to the Anti Chapel and the Chapel, we entered the Anti Chapel which is where the staff assembled and is the outer room to the Chapel which the family used and still do today for Christenings etc. The Anti Chapel was very bright with its cream coloured walls, which was made up by small wooden tiles, one of which the guide here showed us. What struck me in this room was the beautiful desk with the extremely old family Bibles on it, I so wanted to look at them and turn those ancient pages, but you cannot touch as the natural oils from your skin could damage them. So I just had to be content with looking at them in awe.

      The family chapel was absolutely magnificent with its wooden panels and ornate wooden carvings around the walls. There was one painting that really stood out in the chapel, it was the centre piece on the Alter, and it actually takes up the whole of the back of the Alter as if it was made to measure. It is Zebedee’s Wife Petitioning Our Lord, by Paolo Caliar most definitely a masterpiece of Art work worth looking at.

      Back in the Anti Chapel our very pleasant tour guide took us to a corner window that gave us a view of the private courtyard; she did this because this is the one and only window you can see if from apart from those in the private quarters of course. You see the family had a corridor built to give them some privacy from all the windows, so from now on every room we looked at would have a secret door.

      From this window the roof area was also pointed out to us as this was where the families over the centuries used to go to escape the smells of the house from the drainage system. There is over a ¼ acre of space up there to enjoy the lovely views and have private conversations.

      We left the tour guide there and moved on across the hall and into the Billiard Room. It was here that the penny dropped and we realised that every room had its own member of staff ready to share there knowledge with you. There is only one member of staff per room, so you may need to tag along to another group and eves drop, or wait for them to become free.

      The full sized snooker table was covered over when we visited and donned with current trophies, which are still won today, they hold an annual staff snooker tournament in this room. Again there are beautiful ornaments and artwork in the room including some carved birds in oak. Compared to the rest of the house this room has a more modern feel to it, but that is not surprising when the Snooker/Billiard Table dates back to 1850.

      As there is a corridor (which you can’t see) linking all the rooms, you just go from one room straight into another. Each room has a chair where you can sit and rest for a while.

      Into the Bow Room we went and my hubby bless him went on to impress the guide with his knowledge of the period furniture, knowledge he gained from watching the Antiques Roadshow. This room was very impressive and well painted you just did not know where to look first, the ceiling depicted a scene of cherubs, clouds and white stallions, it was very beautiful (I am so sorry I just can’t do it justice), the picture spread out and down into the cornices integrating well into the whole design of the room. Here is a lovely example of the use of light and shading with the artwork, the artist has painted busts all around the room, making them look realistic with the use of light and shade, very authentic and a tribute to the artist.

      The Bow Room was originally used for Dinner parties, but as it is on the north side of the building and a very long way from the kitchens it was very hard to keep the food warm in such a cold room. The 9th Earl decided to use it as a music room as it had excellent acoustics. During the visit it was displayed as it original use as a Dinning Room.

      I really want to tell you about each room, but I am likely to get a little repetitive and border on boring you to tears, you do get to see some beautiful beds, paintings, porcelain, furniture etc and there are 14 more rooms to explore, each being individual and each giving you something new to look at. As I stated previously every room has its own guide to assist you with any questions you may have.

      The Hell Staircase which is quite overwhelming with its very active ceiling painting which continues down the walls, dons the old with the new, it is here you will see a Spanish inlaid tortoise shell cabinet dating from 1675 mixed with modern sculpture dating from 2005/6.

      Often furniture and displays can be moved around, a large wine cistern which is normally to be found in the Great Hall, was at the bottom of Hell Staircase, it had recently taken a member of staff 10 hrs to clean the Solid Silver Cistern which is still used today for large events, like the up and coming Horse Trials held in September.

      You will find a tribute to the 6th Marquess of Exeter who is also known as Lord Burghley, he was a great sportsman running being his sport. His medals from the Olympics are on display where he one the Gold medal in the 400m hurdles in 1928 and Silver in the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932.

      The grounds of Burghley House are vast and include a 22 acre lake which has the lovely Lion Bridge dating from 1775 going over it. There is a path that leads down to the bridge, but this was too far for me to walk, so we settled with taking a look at some modern sculptures in the Sculpture Garden.

      If you have a ticket for the house you can get into the Sculpture Gardens for free, but if you have not visited the house then it is £3.20 for adults and £1.00 for children. It is open all year round between 11am and 4pm; it also has its own little gift shop. I could not manage to get around all of it, as it is quite a walk and to be honest my hubby was getting a little grumpy as neither of us are big fans of modern art, but there was the odd impressive piece of art.

      You are quite welcome to bring a picnic with you or you can use the Orangery Restaurant, (sorry we did not attempt the restaurant), but the menus and prices are available on line if you wish to take a look – www.burghley.co.uk.

      There is also the obligatory over priced gift shop selling everything you don’t need at extremely high prices. There was also a quaint little ice-cream cart that was towed around the grounds.

      ~~ The Burghley Horse Trials ~~

      Burghley House plays host to the annual Horse Trials which is over 3 days at the beginning of September, this year it was held 7th -10th September. Next years event will be 30th August to 2nd September.

      The Marquess of Exeter arranged for the horse trials to be held here after hearing that they could no longer be held at Harewood. The British Horse Society consequently moved the trials to Burghley House in the autumn of 1961.

      Burghley has managed to stage two World Championships, six European Championships and a Young Riders European Championship.

      ~~ More Trivia ~~

      If you want to see for yourself what Burghley looks like then watch the recent version of Pride and Prejudice which was filmed in the Burghley House and in the picturesque village of Stamford.

      The house was also used in the filming of the Da Vinci Code. To tie in with the recent popularity of the Da Vinci Code, Burghley have produced there own leaflet on the Burghley Code, giving you clues to look for as you go on the tour of the house, you find your coded letter to make your final answer. This is a fun competition and you could be lucky enough to win a selection of books relating to the Da Vinci Code and the Burghley House Collections. The competition ends at the end of the 2006 season.

      Burghley also offer a range of educations days based around the house and sculpture garden, for school visits, teacher packs are available on line for downloading. – www.burghley.co.uk.

      ~~ Disabled ~~

      This house is disabled friendly, there are ramps and stair lifts for you to use, also like I previously mentioned a chair in every room if you need to take a rest as there is a lot of house to see.

      ~~ Location ~~

      Burghley House
      Burghley
      Stamford
      PE9 3JY

      01780 752451

      So where do we find this stunning piece of history, it is situated off the A16 one mile out of the very picturesque village of Stamford, which is 20 minutes north of Peterborough off the A1.

      ~~ Prices and Opening Times ~~

      Season runs from 1st April – 29th October open daily except for Fridays

      11am - 5pm, last admission at 4.30pm
      Adults - £9.00
      Children (5-15yrs) - £4.00
      Concessions - £8.00
      Family (2 adults & 2 Children) - £22.00

      Don’t forget as previously mentioned Burghley House is part of the Hidden England Offer.

      ~~ Burghley for Hire ~~

      You can hire Burghley House for Wedding and conferences; you just need to make contact with them to discuss the details, either by mail, email, fax or landline. Details are as listed above or can be found on their web site.

      ~~ Was it Worth Waiting For? ~~

      It was most definitely worth waiting for out of all the stately homes, castles and churches we visited over the last week, Burghley was both our favourite, I would recommend a visit, I don’t think I will wait another 30 yrs before I visit again.

      Thank you for taking the time to read this I hope it has inspired you to think about a visit.

      Lyn x

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        22.03.2002 03:50
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        If you are like me and enjoy visiting museums and stately homes then this place is well worth a visit. It is called Burghley House and is situated in a place called Stamford, which is in Lincolnshire. This is one of the largest and grandest houses of the first Elizabethan age. History: It was built and designed by William Cecil, who was the lord high treasurer of England, between 1565 and 1587 and has been a family home to his descendants to this day. Mr Simon and Lady Victoria Leatham occupy it today, you may recognise her name, as she is one of the experts on the TV program (The Antiques Road show). Things to see: There are a total of eighteen staterooms, many which were decorated by Antonio Verrio in the 17th century. In these rooms you will find great works of art like 17th century Italian paintings, Japanese ceramics, rare pieces of European porcelain and lovely wood carvings made by Grinling Gibbons. You will find four magnificent state beds, which are very fine samples of English and continental furniture. Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom is absolutely stunning. My favourite room has to be Verrio’s Heaven room; it is one of his masterpieces. The whole room is decorated with scenes from mythology, the walls and ceiling are totally covered, and it is remarkable. It should take you a few hours to wander through all the rooms, there really is so much to see. Outside: Here you will find the sculpture garden. The sculpture garden is a more recent development and is 12 acres of beautiful wooded area and a lake side walk. In the garden you will find specimen trees and shrubs, and a display area for a number of dramatic artworks by contemporary sculptors. The sculptures are varied in style but are all inspired by the garden, which accentuate the beauty of the surroundings. You could easily spend an hour walking around here. The parkland that surrounds the house has a large herd of
        fallow deer, which were established in the 16th century. The deer can be observed at up close, which is nice for the children. The Orangery was designed and built by (capability Brown )in the 18th century and has now been converted into a licensed restaurant, which over looks the lovely rose beds and a pond with a fountain. It is a lovely view of all the gardens from here. It is open from 11am to 5pm for light refreshments and traditional cream teas are served all day. There is a lunch menu, which is served between 12 and 2.30 pm. I can recommend their food. Apparently, they do have special events going on through out the year, e.g. concerts, craft fairs and horse trials, although I have not been yet to any. This really is a nice place to visit and Stamford itself is a beautiful small Georgian stone town. It has a wide variety of interesting shops, many antique dealers and on Fridays they have their street market, which is worth a look. So why not make a day of it as I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. Opening times: April to October Admission charges: Adults £6.50 OAP £6.10 Children 5-12years £3.20 Although one child gets in free with every paying adult) Disabled visitors are catered for here. Address: Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire, PE9 3JY Telephone Number: 01780 752451 Thanks for reading Cinystar

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