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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Chateau of the day: Aldby Park

Aldby Park
My Opinion

Hello everyone, sorry it has been an unexpected break from the blog but I have had some work to finish, and the addition of a whole lot of unanticipated responsibility at work, so I have making sure I get my systems in place. It has meant that I have had to shift focus for the last week, so sorry!

We head to the beautiful English countryside to visit the ancestral home of the Darley family who have owned the house since 1557. The current elegant homestead took the place of a Tudor mansion and with its fine exterior and refined interiors remains a rather beautiful example of English aristocratic architecture. 

Welcome to Aldby Park

Main facade
Aldby Park is a country estate in the village of Buttercrambe near the village of Stamford Bridge in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. The house, replacing the original Tudor one, was built around 1725 by Jane Darley but it occupies the an ancient site believed to be where Edwin of Northumbria was crowned King in 625 AD. Aldby Park is best known as being the ancestral home of the Darley family. This family's best known member is Thomas Darley, brother of Jane Darley, who owned the celebrated Darley Arabian horse which is widely recognised as being the earliest ancestor of most of the world's thoroughbred race horses. The three storey house is built of brick with ashlar dressing and a slate roof, with a nine bay frontage.


Park of the house
The gatehouse 
William Darley had bought Buttercrambe manor in 1557. Sir Richard Darley's son and heir, Henry Darley, was elected MP for Malton in 1645. It was Henry Darley's son Richard who asked his own son Thomas to send the Darley Arabian from Aleppo, where Thomas was a merchant. Richard died in 1706 and was succeeded by another son Henry, on whose death in 1720 the estate passed to his sister Jane, all her other brothers having also died. Jane had married John Brewster, who changed his name to Brewster-Darley and built the present house around 1725. Their grandson Henry Darley died in 1810. Henry's son Henry (1777-1846) was a Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1827. His son, Henry Brewster (1809-1860) and the latter's son, yet another Henry (1839-1904) also served as Tory justices. Cecil Geoffrey Darley of Aldby Hall was born in 1885.

The house was requisitioned by the army during the Second World War and suffered severely, but was renovated after the war by Mark Winn. He passed it on to his son George whilst continuing to live there. In 1999 the house suffered a serious fire

Aldby Park main entrance
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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Chateau of the day: Chateau de La Rochefoucauld

Chateau de La Rochefoucauld
My Opinion

Hi everyone, I am afraid that my work load has been increased and so my days are even more hectic than they used to be! If only I could focus on visiting all the beautiful places I post about, wouldn't that be a grand existence! 

We are heading off to the beautiful Chateau de La Rochefoucauld in France. This 11th century fortress started life as a fortress and was slowly converted into a grande renaissance palace for the Rochefoucauld family. The family lays claim to one of the oldest lineages in France, one only shared with other major family's like the Capetian's. The grand chateau remains a testament to the power and glory of the family, and one of the finest buildings in France. 

Welcome to Chateau of La Rochefoucauld

View of the chateau  with fortress tower
La Rochefoucauld is a commune in the Charente department in southwestern France. It lies very close to the line which delineated occupied France and Vichy France during World War II.

Early in the 11th century, the son of Fucaldus built a square keep, still identifiable at the heart of the present site. Two entrance towers were built from 1350, with three angle towers following, along with a heightening of the keep, in 1453. Galleries and a grand staircase, the latter attributed to designs by Leonardo da Vinci, were added in 1520. Much of the medieval building was demolished in 1615 when the courtyard was opened out and improvements were made to honour a visit by Louis XIII of France. There was some rebuilding in 1760, following a fire. The lineage of the family of La Rochefoucauld can be traced back to 1019 with Foucauld, the Lord of the Roche. The family of La Rochefoucauld is considered as a branch of the Lusignan, because their arms are similar. In fact, it seems that Foucault was a close parent of the Vicount of Limoges, a descendant of a Lord, member of the court of Charlemagne. Only four other families of France (among which the Capetians) can claim such an old lineage.

The history of the castle is deeply connected to the history of the family of La Rochefoucauld, which itself, fits into, century after century, the political life of its time. The castle of La Rochefoucauld gives a remarkable illustration of the interlacing of politics and architecture all through the life of a family who has always owned the castle since Fucaldus has erected the first fortification around 980. With the history of the family of La Rochefoucauld, the use of architecture aiming at political and social means finds one of its most spectacular expression. The donjon, a unique remain of the XIth century, expresses an obvious and boastful dimension. Apparently, it was already a prestigious building whose function was to demonstrate the power of Foucuald when confronted to the count of Angouleme.  In the XIVth century, Jean de La Rochefoucauld, who was a seneschal in the region of Perigord and was promoted in 1462 to the most important vassal of the country under the tutelage of Charles de Valois-Angouleme. Until 1473, he imposed himself as the most powerful Lord of the region. Jean gave a physical and architectural feature to his political situation by raising the towers and thus endowing the building with an incredible height. The donjon was also raised in order to overlook the whole domaine and give a true substance to the power of the builder.

One of the most striking moments of the history of the family dates back to the XVIth century. King François the First, the godson of François de La Rochefoucauld, changed the barony into a county. François the Second of La Rochefoucauld started building in 1519 with his wife Anne de Polignac, the most bewildering part of the castle : the towers and the south wing. The magnificence of this architecture and its adornment inscribes the castle among the greatest achievements of the French Renaissance and testifies again of the exceptional rank of François the Second within the royal court.

Architectural detail and the famous staircase

View from the chateau
Main entrance and facade
River near the chateau
Last building, that was the western wing, is situates around the XVIIIth century and was erected just after a fire. It illustrates for the last time in the Family’s history, the power of the family.  Centuries after centuries, the family will produce remarkable personalities : the cardinal François de La Richefoucauld, great chaplain of France at the head of the king’s council under the reign of Louis the XIIIth. François VI who fought Richelieu and who was the leader of the Fronde of the princes before becoming one of the greatest writers of his days, author in 1664 of the famous maxims. LaRochefoucauld d’Anville, a member of the Academy of science, a great admirer of the American constitution and also a close friend of Franklin. He was at the head of the liberal trend of the lords for theStates General in 1789. He was murdered in Gisors in September 1792, a few days after his cousins of La Rochefoucauld-Bayers, bishops, deputees of the clergy in the States General. They were put to death in the prison of the Carmes and beatified. Last but not the least, a free spirit and a true philantrophy characterizes the work of François Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld Liancourt (1747 – 1827), who was also a deputy of the lords in the States General and who emigrated to the United States at the worst period. He is at the origin of the school of arts and crafts and he is also the co-founder of the bank “Caisse d’Epargne”.

Following subsidence problems affecting the keep in the 1960s, the building is currently in the midst of restoration, during which time one wing remains a family home and much of the rest is open to the public. Guided tours of the libraries are sometimes available, and there are costumes for children and adults to wear during their exploration of the rest of the public areas, which include several furnished rooms, and some of the foundations within the rock.

Chateau de La Rochefoucauld
Source of text:,_Charente
Source of Photos:,_Charente

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Château of the day: Wawel Castle, Poland

The castle seen from the Dębnicki Bridge.
source; Original uploader was KHRoN at pl.wikipedia
The Gothic Wawel Castle in Kraków in Poland was built at the behest of Casimir III the Great, who reigned from 1333 to 1370, and consists of a number of structures situated around the central courtyard. In the 14th century it was rebuilt by Jogaila and Jadwiga of Poland. Their reign saw the addition of the tower called the Hen's Foot (Kurza Stopka) and the Danish Tower. The Jadwiga and Jogaila Chamber, in which the sword Szczerbiec, was used in coronation ceremonies, is exhibited today and is another remnant of this period. Other structures were developed on the hill during that time as well, in order to serve as quarters for the numerous clergy, royal clerks and craftsmen. Defensive walls and towers such as Jordanka, Lubranka, Sandomierska, Tęczyńska, Szlachecka, Złodziejska and Panieńska were erected in the same period.

Inner courtyard

People have lived on Wawel Hill at the site of the Castle as early as fifty thousand years ago, in the Paleolithic Age. The settlement was apparently bustling with trade, assorted crafts and local farming. When more people began to settle down on the Wawel Hill and when trade became more efficient, the rulers of Poland took up their residence at the Hill as well.

During the early 16th century King Sigismund I the Old (Zygmunt I in Polish) and his wife, brought in the best native and foreign artists including Italian architects, sculptors, and German decorators, to refurbish the castle into a splendid Renaissance palace.It soon became a paragon of stately residence in Central and Eastern Europe and served widely as a model throughout the region. In the fire of 1595, the northeast part of the castle burned down. King Sigismund III Vasa rebuilt it, although of his efforts only the Senator Stairs and the fireplace in the Bird Room remain today. In 1609 King Sigismund moved the capital to Warsaw, and tough times for Wawel began. Both the castle and other buildings were neglected despite the concerns of local governors. The Swedish invasions of 1655–1657 and 1702 contributed to the further deterioration of the castle

The amazing mix of architecture
Aerial View of the castle complex
Inside St Mary's Church
The Hill was occupied by the Prussian Army in 1794. Royal Insignia were stolen and never retrieved (apart from the Szczerbiec).After the Third Partition of Poland (1795) Wawel, as an important defensive point, was modernised by Austrians with defensive walls. The interior of the castle was changed and some of the buildings pulled down. In the second part of the 19th century the Austrians redesigned the defensive walls making them a part of a stronghold. However, in 1905 the emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria gave an order for Austrian troops to leave Wawel.Restoration works began, with the discovery of the Rotunda of Virgin Mary as well as other relics of the past. The renovations of the Wawel Hill were financed by public subscriptions.

After World War I, the authorities of the newly independent Polish Second Republic decided that Wawel Castle was to become a representative building of the Polish state and would be used by the Governor and later by the President himself. In 1921 the Polish Parliament passed a resolution which gave Wawel official status as the residence of the President of Poland. Following the ravages of World War II, by the decree of the State National Council, Wawel Castle became a national museum.

Sigismund III Vasa Tower (1595) and defensive walls.

Crown Treasury and armory

The Crown Treasury situated in the historic Gothic rooms which were used from the 15th century on for storing the Polish coronation insignia and Crown Jewels, feature on display objects from the former Treasury that survived plunder, among them the memorabilia of Polish monarchs including members of their families and eminent personages, like the hat and sword given to John Sobieski by the pope after the Battle of Vienna, as well as the coronation sword Szczerbiec.

Hen's Foot tower, where Michał Sędziwój had his laboratory.
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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Chateau of the day: Traquair House

Traquair House
My Opinion

Hello everyone and welcome to a new week. We head to Scotland today to visit the rather impressive Traquair House. This lovely building is built in the style of a fortified mansion, and claims to the longest continually inhabited house in Scotland. This impressive home was built as a hunting lodge for the Scottish royal family, and has been owned by many different people throughout its long history. 

Welcome to Traquair House

Rear Facade
Traquair House, approximately 5 miles southeast of Peebles, Scotland. While not strictly a castle, it is built in the style of a fortified mansion. It predates the Scottish Baronial style of architecture, and may have been one of the influences on this style. It contains a brewery which makes Jacobite Ale and House Ale. It is built on the site of a hunting seat used by the Scottish kings from the 12th century, though no part of the present building can be dated with certainty before the 15th century. Alexander I was the first Scottish king to stay and hunt at Traquair. At that time it was a remote "castle", surrounded by forest. Upon Alexander III's death, in 1286, the peace of the Borders region was shattered and Traquair became a key link in the chain of defence that guarded the Tweed Valley against English invasion.

Over the next two centuries, Traquairs ownership changed often, at times coming under the control of the English, and at others, the Scottish throne. In the 1460s, James III conferred the estate on Dr. William Rogers, an eminent musician, and one of his favourites. After holding the lands for upwards of nine years, Dr. Rogers sold them for an insignificant sum, in 1478, to the Earl of Buchan. The Earl gifted the estate to his illegitimate son, James Stuart (1480-1513), 1st Laird of Traquair, in 1491. James Stuart obtained letters of legitimation, and married the heiress of the Rutherfords, with whom he received the estates of Rutherford and Wells in Roxburghshire. He was killed at the Battle of Flodden. His daughter, Lady Jane Stuart, became involved with the married Earl of Angus, by whom she had a daughter out of wedlock, Lady Janet Douglas (d.1552). Janet married Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven and produced several children and the main Ruthven line. Traquair remained the family seat of the Earls of Traquair for the next four centuries. In 1875 Traquair passed to a cousin of the Stuarts, Henry Constable Maxwell. He was a direct descendant, but via the female line. The current laird of Traquair is a woman, Catherine Maxwell Stuart.


Side facade
Gate house

The architecture of the house
Traquair is a 50-room house. The rooms include "The Drawing Room", containing ancestral portraits and photographs of the current residents; "The Dressing Room", which is decorated to demonstrate life in former times; "The Museum Room", containing a mural dating from 1530, one of the oldest to survive in a secular building in Scotland, as well as charters stamped with the royal seals and signatures of the Scottish Kings; "The King's Room", where Mary, Queen of Scots stayed in 1566 and which contains some relics belonging to her and the Jacobites, such as her rosary, crucifix, purse, a silk quilt, and letters bearing her signature; "The Still Room", where breakfast is taken among the 18th century porcelain that decorates the shelves; and "The Dining Room", one of the last additions to the house, built in the late 17th century. There is a Roman Catholic chapel built in 1829, following the Catholic emancipation. The 18th century library contains more than 3,000 volumes. Although three lairds made alterations to the house, prior to the 17th century, Traquair has changed little, architecturally, since then. The Bear Gates at the main entrance to the grounds were installed by the fifth Earl, Charles Stuart, in 1738. When they were closed, after Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) passed through in 1745, the Earl vowed they would never be opened again until a Stuart king returned. The garden contains a recently planted maze. An annual Traquair Fair is held on the first weekend in August.


The Traquair House Brewery was started in 1965 by Peter Maxwell Stuart using the 18th century domestic brewery equipment that had previously been used to make beer for the house. The brewery makes a range of beers, though the two main brands are Jacobite Ale and House Ale. Ale was brewed at Traquair during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1739 a 200-gallon copper was installed in the brew house under the chapel.

Traquair House
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