Monday, 30 May 2011

Burghleigh House - The Inside, posting 2

I posted about the outside of Burleigh House briefly yesterday, but include this aerial photograph of the whole house which is taken from the guide book.

Sadly no photos were allowed inside the house, so I've had to use the guide book images to give you a small flavour of the magnificence of Burleigh.

It's the best value and most interesting property I've visited in quite a while and would encourage you to visit if you can, as the following images can't properly convey the overwhelming feeling of grandeur you get in person.

Anyway, I've waxed lyrical enough! 

Burghleigh? Who was Burghleigh? Well, he was Elizabethan and lived from 1520 until 1598. He held office under catholic Mary 1 (Henry VIII's daughter with Catherine of Aragon) but being Protestant was more loyal to Elizabeth, so when she succeeded to the throne in 1558, he bacame her principal Secretary and later Lord Treasurer.

If you believe all the history programmes on TV you'll probably have heard of him and how he supported Elizabeth. I like to think of him more as a swan with a gliding demeanour and unruffled appearance, but underneath paddling away like mad. He certainly was very intelligent; speaking French, Italian and Latin fluently, a patron of architects, musicians and gardners and a student of geneology and heraldry.

So, very wealthy and very influential. With the ear of the Queen and the best interests of himself and fortunately England at heart. So there we are, the founder of a dynasty and the builder of a magnificent house.


Although the house is essentially tudor, the family have had great wealth and have used it to make alterations and acquire a vast array of pictures, porcelain, furniture etc.

The kitchen on the left shows the original tudor rib-vaulted roof, and is the only room which reminds you of the early house. 

The tour takes you after the kitchen, into the chapel.  In the distance behind the arches is the Ante Chapel where household staff waited whilst the family and their guests were at their prayers.
 I'm skipping forward to Queen Elizabeth's bedroom.  (it's only been known as that for the last 150 years however)

She visited William Cecil (Lord Burleigh) frequently at his other houses, but when she came to visit this house in 1566 she couldn't stay as there was an outbeak of smallpox within the staff.  The state bed and suite of chairs that surround it date from the 17th century, and were restored in 1985.

Simply and utterly gorgeous.
 The Blue Silk Bedroom

Now previous readers of the blog will know I'm fascinated by curtain headings, pelmets and bed drapes, which probably explains my leap to this bedroom and another splendid state bed.

Supplied to the 9th Earl by Mayhew and Ince (we've met them before at Shugborough! An important and influencial London furniture manufacturer)

The canopy and headboard are in the 17th century style, covered in velvet applied to a heavily carved wooden frame.

The bedspread and and headboard are decorated with crewel work. Wow.
 And from the bedroom you nip into the Blue Silk Dressing Room. I have a dressing room; it's the fourth bedroom really and measures about 7 foot by 8 foot and is beige. I much prefer this one.

You can just see the 18th century Chinese export lacquer table which had fold over flaps so you could play backgammon, chess, cards, or have tea on it.

The blue and white porcelain arranged on the chimney is mainly Chinese.
Back to beds! The second George Room.

The spectacular state bed and curtain hangings were supplied to the house, at huge expense, by the London firm of Fell and Newton in 1795.

It was reduced in size in 1844 when Queen Victoria came to visit. If you turn back a few postings, you will see the chair at Hughendon which had it's legs reduced in size by Disraeli to make her Maj. more comfortable. Same thing I guess.

The room was used by Victoria and Albert and has many souvenirs of their visit including a child's wooden spade used to plant one of the trees in the formal garden.
 A whizz forward again to The Heaven Room.

"Gods and Goddesses disporting themselves as Gods and Goddesses are wont to do"

It's difficult to get a sense of scale from a photograph, but perspective tricks leave one with a sense of awe. It's truly outstanding.

We visited the Cistene Chapel in Rome during October, and I have to say that this not only compares, but betters it!

That large silver trough on the carpet is in fact the largest silver wine cooler in the world.

Imagine it filled with trifle!
The Fourth George Room, was used by Queen Victoria as a withdrawing room. It's panelled throughout in oak, the dark colour of which was made by staining the wood with strong dark ale.

On the table is a 17th century casket decorated with tortoiseshell, ivory and silver foil. The cabinet against the wall features pietr-dura inlay and is truly beautiful. I'd love to open just one of those drawers. Imagine being able to store you threads in this?
Now I'm going to end with two more ceilings. The last one is the most spectacular of all, but this one isn't bad!  It's Verrio's painted ceiling in the Third George Room.



























And finally, at the end of the tour, comes the greatest treat of all.  The Hell Staircase. It was painted by Verio.

He worked mainly on his own for this project, as he was heavily in debt and couldn't afford to pay assistants. It took him 11 months. Just imagine, all that work in 11 months. It takes me that long to do 3 or 4 textile pieces.


It shows the mouth of Hell as the enormous gaping mouth of a cat. The Grim Reaper (death) is shown as a skeleton weilding his sickle amongst the unfortunates.

The walls were painted by Thomas Stothard (1775 - 1834) over a century later. After the Heaven Room the contrast is one of darkness and despair.

Magnificent, and worth the entrance fee on it's own.

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