To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and to complement our recent lecture about him, we visited one of his most celebrated creations at C18th Blenheim Palace, in Woodstock. Blessed with ideal weather but less helpful traffic conditions, we were a little late arriving and had to wait longer to collect our pre-booked tickets from the friendly but somewhat disorganised staff.
We then found our way to the Marlborough Room for coffee and an amusing, though sometimes bewildering, talk on the’Ladies of Blenheim’. Our speaker took us on a journey through the lives of various Duchessses, though in truth much was, perhaps invitably, about the Dukes.
With this background, we embarked on our tour of the very splendid State Rooms, ably guided by Ramona who coped well with the demands of such a large group and a crowded palace. No-one could fail to be impressed by the Great Hall with its stone carvings by Gibbons, the trompe l’ oeil painting in the Salon, the tapestries of the Battle of Blenheim and the immense long Library with its statue of Queen Anne at one end and the famous large pipe organ at the other.
After looking at the Chapel, it was time for lunch. Many of us chose to sit near the fountains of the Water Terrace to enjoy the vista in the sunshine. In the afternoon we were able to return to tour the Palace, visit the Churchill Exhibition and/or explore the gardens. Some chose the buggy tour of ‘Capability’ Brown’s naturalistic landscape with its parkland, lakes divided by Vanburgh’s memorable bridge and the grand cascade. The weather being so favourable, it was an ideal way to round off the day before our journey home.