Chastleton House is a beautiful gem of a home just waiting to be discovered, sitting quietly rather like a grand old lady who has slid into genteel poverty but refusing to give up the grandeur of her youth. Nestled between fields and rolling hills Chastleton has a wonderful history and the feel of a place you could love and feel at home in .A Jacobean country house situated at Chastleton, Oxfordshire, England, close to Moreton-in-Marsh.
There are none of the usual things for sale at Chastleton, no tea shop or gift shop however there are sprawling beautiful Jacobean gardens with trees as old as 400 years for you to enjoy a picnic and the church next door does a wonderful job of providing tea and cake at weekends by volunteers to raise money for its upkeep. A secondhand book ‘shop’ is situated in the house alongside home grown produce so there are still mementos for you to explore and enjoy.
The land Chastleton sits on and the previous house that stood was owned by Robert Catesby, leader of the Gunpowder Plot but Walter Jones purchased the property in 1602, and construction started on the new building and by 1612 it was complete.
In 1651 Arthur Jones, the grandson of the man who bought the house from Catesby, fought alongside Charles I at the Battle of Worcester. After their defeat, Jones fled to the house and, with Cromwell’s men in hot pursuit, hid in a secret room over the porch.
Having found Arthur’s exhausted horse in the stable, the Commonwealth soldiers thought that they had their man cornered and demanded supper and a bed from Jones’s wife, Sarah. She drugged their ale with laudanum, and, while they slept, Arthur escaped on one of his enemies’ horses.
Arthur Jones celebrated the Restoration by planting two oak trees at Chastleton which still survive.
Chastleton has passed down the branches of the same family, twice passing sideways to distant cousins in its 400 years history, before going into the protection of the National Trust in 1991.
One of the treasures here is the The Juxon Bible , one of a set of fifty ‘chapel bibles’ printed in 1629 and it is said to have been used by King Charles I in his last days and most likely the bible that William Juxon, the Bishop of London, read from to Charles I on the morning of his execution in 1649.The bible was handed down through Bishop Juxon’s family at Little Compton (a manor located one mile from Chastleton), until his line died out in the late 18th century,and then found its way to Chastleton House.
The house is made up of authentically furnished and restored Jacobean and Tudor rooms, which, whilst work has been done to restore and preserve unlike many other houses, this restoration has left a building that seems still a home and friendly not ostentatious. The floors bend and buckle with ancient timber, and you cant help but wonder at the feet that once trod the same piece that you can now stand on. This upper floor chambertknown as the long gallery occupies the entire length of the house. Here the roof is, unusually, barrel-vaulted, and beautiful plasterwork adorns every square inch of the ceiling. Unfortunately there is also evidence of the deathwatch beetle that has eaten away the fabric of the house over the centuries!
In the kitchens, which were in use until the 1950s, and you see the fairly primitive conditions in which food was prepared for hundreds of years here the blackened grime of centuries on the ceiling of the kitchens the evidence of local lore that an early resident declared that it was bad luck to clean kitchen ceilings, so it was never scrubbed or touched!
In the beautiful gardens there are always croquet sets set out for you to play with and enjoy the game where here at Chastleton in 1865 the rules of lawn croquet were first codified.
A wander around Chastleton is a foray into the past with a chance to take a deep breath and allow the air of tranquility to settle into your soul.
Melrose Abbey in Scotland with lots of Gothic charm
Melrose Abbey in Scotland is in the town of the same name in the Scottish Borders. Virtually all historic buildings found in the Borders (the border area between England and Scotland) have been destroyed numerous times by the English. Melrose Abbey is no exception.
What makes it important is that despite being destroyed and now only ruins remain, many decorative parts still remain. Like the gargoyles and the Gothic rose windows.
One of the many reasons why this abbey is famous is because it is said to host the heart of Robert Bruce, the famous king of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Other medieval Scottish kings were buried here.
The history of Melrose Abbey
Let’s start from the beginning, the abbey was built in 1100 by Cistercian monks under the order of King David I. It was located in the same place as another monastery, this one dedicated to St Aidan of Lindisfarne. The Cistercian abbey was followed by the town of Melrose, being an important religious centre, there was no lack of trade.
The abbey was almost destroyed by the English king Edward I in 1322 and then rebuilt. It was later set on fire by Richard II and its reconstruction lasted over 100 years.
In 1544 it was again damaged by English troops when the British wanted Mary of the Queen to marry the son of Henry VIII. After this event the abbey was never restored and was never a functioning monastery again.
It suffered further damage later from the cannon fire of Oliver Cromwell’s army. In the end, the poor abbey never managed to stand up for long.
In addition to visiting the ruins, you can also start from here St Cuthbert’s Way, a path that goes up to the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumberland. It had been the route taken by St Cuthbert himself in 650 from the old monastery of Melrose. In all it would be about 100 km, but you don’t have to do it all. However, it crosses some very beautiful landscapes. Melrose itself is a nice little town even if it doesn’t have much of a memorable one.
Exeter Cathedral; interesting things you can see
In England there is certainly no shortage of cathedrals, some splendid. Among the most beautiful are undoubtedly the Cathedral of Exeter or St. Peter’s Cathedral, which is located in a place of prayer that is over 1500 years old. The current cathedral, however, dates back to around 1100 after the arrival of the Normans, although now of that date we have practically only the two towers.
Another part of the cathedral dates back to 1270 when Exeter Cathedral was refurbished in a typically English Gothic. The cathedral was unfortunately hit by a German bomb in 1942, St James’s chapel was completely destroyed along with several medieval objects, some of which have been rebuilt piece by piece.
Fortunately some important historical artifacts had been taken away, in fact an attack on the cathedral had been foreseen, probably all these churches and cathedrals were hit in an attempt to demoralise the people.
What can you see at Exeter Cathedral?
You can still see the 50 mercies or genuflexors which are small shelves leaning against the wall that supported those who had to stand a long time to pray. These date back to the 1200s and are the oldest complete group in the UK. Also in this group is the figure of an elephant, the oldest in the United Kingdom.
There is the famous astronomical clock which dates back to 1484, the ancient library which dates back to 1100 and the gallery with 12 statues of angels playing different instruments.
The towers also have bells, the north tower contains a bell called Peter which however is no longer rung completely and the south tower has 12 bells which are among the heaviest in the world.
When you are at the cathedral you can be taken to the top of the roof and the North Tower, you have to climb 251 steps so you have to be fit but the views are spectacular. You must book in advance and here you will find the instructions.
Amersfoort in the Netherlands, a mini Amsterdam you should visit
Amersfoort in the Netherlands has a long mercantile history, in 1500 and in the following centuries it owed its wealth to the tobacco, wool and beer trade. Now you can still find some of that wealth, and there are several major merchant houses left.
The city has about 200,000 inhabitants and is therefore not a very small place, but it has the advantage of having almost everything you should have in a historic centre that you can walk around safely. In fact, in the old town, in addition to the canals, you can also see about 300 old buildings, all very characteristic of the period of the economic boom in the Netherlands.
Like other places in the Netherlands and Belgium this is a mini Amsterdam. We know with certainty that the area was inhabited since 1000 BC but we know it as a city only from 1100 onwards. Similar to the English ford, foort means ford on the river and in fact here is the Eem river which was once called Amer. There are therefore no mysteries about the origin of the name.
In any case, before becoming an important city for international trade, it was a medieval walled city and you can still find many traces of this past. Of the old medieval walls three gates still survive, all from the 1300s and 1400s.
The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk was once an important Gothic church, part of its importance was that it marked the exact centre of the Netherlands. The church was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1700 but the tower still remains and even today it is still used as the geographic centre of the town. If you want to take the 346 steps to admire the view, the tower is still open to the public.
In Amersfoort there is also another old church the Sint Joriskerk or St. George’s church. A medieval church from the 1200s and the 1400s, you can also climb the tower here and every hour in front of the facade you can see a mechanical Saint George coming out to kill the dragon.
Amersfoort has several museums including a major art gallery, where you will find many temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
Amersfoort in the Netherlands is also famous for being the birthplace of the painter Piet Mondrian and it is remembered with a museum located right in the house where he was born.
Part of the pleasure of visiting Amersfoort is wandering around the historic centre, strolling along the canals and sitting down for a drink in one of the many bars. There is obviously no shortage of restaurants.
How to get to Amersfoort in the Netherlands?
Very easy to reach from anywhere in Holland by train, it is close to Utrecht and only 35 minutes by train from Amsterdam.
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