My previous visits to London having been far too short, this year I took the plunge and rented a flat for a month in late spring. Not cheap, but far cheaper than staying in a hotel, and it’s centrally located, near many of the sites I plan to visit. My aim is to write in the morning—as I do now—and visit in the afternoons. Since my intention is to include as much as I can in that month, I’m keeping a spreadsheet of information about places I want to visit, including those farther afield, like Leeds Castle and Chatsworth. I thought perhaps some of my readers might be interested in some of the resources I’ve discovered.
Scenes of Iconic British Estates
While each featured estate’s remarkable beauty is noteworthy, it’s the hidden stories within the homes that set them apart.
Do you have Amazon Prime? If so, you should be able to watch this wonderful series by PBS. The first season consists of fascinating tales and footage about three prominent British estates. I’ve been to Hampton Court, and plan to take in Chatsworth this year if I can.
Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace, Hampton Court
A Tudor palace built by the infamous Henry VIII together with a European-style baroque palace built by William III. There are plenty of secrets here with Henry VIII alone. The last king to live here was George II. Magnificent gardens with yew trees and and a fabulous maze.The kitchens alone are worth the price of admission, as Henry loved his food and he also had to feed about a thousand others.
Secrets of Althorp: The Spencers
Althorp is the country estate of the Spencer family. The late Princess Diana grew up here after her father became Earl Spencer. Her brother Charles is the current Earl. She is buried on the grounds here.
Like most of the British aristocratic families, the Spencers of Althorp and the Cavendishes of Chatsworth are related. The infamous Georgiana Cavendish was the daughter of the 1st Earl Spencer, who was the great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough.
Note: Be sure to visit Spencer House, on St. James Place in London. Tours on Sundays only.
Secrets of Chatsworth
I’ve read quite a bit about Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, but didn’t know that much about the rest of this majestic home’s history. Apparently, the estate was so large (one-fifth the size of Rhode Island) that even after Georgiana’s (pronounced George-ayna) heavy gambling debts were paid after her death, there was still enough money for her son, the Bachelor Duke, to spend millions renovating the grounds.
Did you know that Fred Astaire had a sister named Adele who was his dancing partner for 27 years? She married Charles Cavendish, the second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire. After their marriage, she was called Lady Charles Cavendish, or Lady Charles.
Did you know that Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F., Robert, Teddy, etc. married the eldest son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, and bore the title Marchioness of Hartington? Unfortunately, he died weeks later in WWII, and she was killed in a plane crash four years later. She is buried in the Cavendish family plot near Chatsworth.
I also discovered that the BBC aired a three-episode documentary on Chatsworth in 2011, but the programs are not currently available. Bummer!
I just booked a room at the Devonshire Arms on the Chatsworth estate for my birthday! A steal at 99 pounds! Do I know how far it is from the main buildings or the train station. Nope! But I guess there must be some sort of transportation. Not sure I want to try driving in England, on the left side of the road, but hey, I’ll do whatever I have to to get there!
Frommer’s Memorable Walks in London
I’ve also been reading this 2006 book, which is unfortunately no longer in print. I guess they figured out Americans don’t want to walk as much as all that. But you can still get a used copy on Amazon—mine cost one cent plus the $3.99 shipping, for a total of $4.00. The walks here are a bit longer (up to three hours) than in Louise Allen’s book, and as you might expect, the two books do overlap. The historical information is priceless. Checking the current hours online or in a more current book is a must, however. Tours included are:
- The City
- Dickens’s London
- A Historic Pub Walk
- Westminster & Whitehall
- St. James
- The East End
What resources have you found helpful in planning your trips to England? Please share!