A Pocketful of Rye

The sleepy hilltop town of Rye looks almost chokingly picturesque. Chocolate-box-charming, the cobbled streets, half-timbered cottages, elegant Georgian town houses, olde-worlde shops and Norman church are steeped in bucolic Englishness and sugar-coated nostalgia. Hard to imagine this land-locked paradise was once the bad boy of the southern realm; the 18th century smuggling capital of England….

Grotto Spinney

Boughton, Northamptonshire. On a ridge of rolling hills deep in the Northamptonshire countryside sits a strange spinney (small cluster of trees). Too round to be natural, too wild to be tended, it crowns the fields of oilseed rape, of waving wheat and black-faced sheep. A footpath leads down from Butchers Lane, in the bucolic village Boughton, long…

Hudson’s Heritage Inspiration

Hudson’s is one of the best-known directories of interesting heritage things to visit; it’s hardly surprising that winning one of their coveted Heritage Awards is a big deal. The ceremony, held at Goldsmith’s Hall in the City, is always a glittering affair. Yesterday’s was enlivened by the always delightfully rambling Dan Cruikshank, whose focus on world…

Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s Grand Tour

  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a good costume must be in want of adventure… Halfway through Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, heroine Elizabeth Bennet takes a vacation with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner to the Derbyshire Peaks, home to a certain Mr Darcy. Before visiting the fictional Pemberley, Miss Bennet…

Lost Kitchens at Hampton Court

Hampton Court Palace. Thomas Tosier is pounding roasted cacao beans to a paste on a hot granite slab. He is wearing full periwig, breeches and a long waistcoat. The slab has taken an hour and a half to heat up but that’s nothing to the 30-odd hours it will take to grind the beans to…

The Lost Library of Dr John Dee

 Scholar, courtier, magician: The Lost Library of John Dee 18 Jan-29 July 2016, Royal College of Physicians, free admission   Where do you start with Doctor John Dee? Mathematician, alchemist, magician, astrologer, astronomer, spy, angel-botherer, Dee was a true Elizabethan polymath. From early theatrical leanings, directing student productions at Cambridge with astonishing special effects, to advising…

English Civil War Centre

Both politically and geographically, the English Civil War (1642 – 51) shaped the country we know today. Nine years of fighting followed by a Commonwealth government meant no English monarchy could ever regain the absolute power rulers once enjoyed. The Divine Right of Kings had been severed with the head of Charles I and the…

Carlton Towers

There’s a scene in Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennet has been touring the Peaks with her aunt and uncle, visiting the grand stately homes in the area. She’s unsure about the largest of all. Supposing she were to bump into Mr Darcy? Her relatives persuade her the family will be away; only the staff…

The Rakish Charms of Rye

The sleepy hilltop town of Rye looks almost chokingly picturesque. Chocolate-box-charming, the cobbled streets, half-timbered cottages, elegant Georgian town houses, olde-worlde shops and Norman church are steeped in bucolic Englishness and sugar-coated nostalgia. Hard to imagine this land-locked paradise was once the bad boy of the southern realm; the 18th century smuggling capital of England….

Dreamland awakes

Margate has many claims to fame, not least one JMW Turner, who endlessly painted the curious, ever-changing light. More recently, TS Eliot wrote much of The Waste Land while convalescing in Margate and YBA (Young British Artist) Tracey Emin defiantly nailed her colours to the until-recently unfashionable town’s artistic mast. Most people, however, associate Margate…

Well-Dressing in Derbyshire

Perhaps it was the swinging sixties and folk music that did it. Perhaps it was a realisation that in our clamour for modernity we were losing something important to our heritage. Or perhaps it was just a fundamental human need to go back to the land that triggered in the last few decades a resurgence…