Londinium Calling

It was so good to get back to London for a week!

I managed to see awesome members of family and fabulous friends to catch up and check out what they had been up to (my Aunt has taken to making awesome gemstone jewellery, which I’ll share some pictures of later as I bought some of her unique pieces).

Good people, good food – caught up with one of my fabulous fellow writers from Tuscany, AND I managed lots of revisits, sightseeing and shopping!

Places included –

  • National Gallery
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Tate Britain
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Sir John Soane Museum
  • British Museum
  • Apsley House
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Hyde Park
  • Bloomsbury
  • City of London
  • Westminster

Here are a few highlights:

Apsley HouseApsley House

  St. Paul'sSt. Paul’s CathedralBMBritish Museum


Miss Elyza the ‘Wanderer’

It occurred to me recently that though I had tweeted about this, I hadn’t mentioned it on the blog.

Miss Elyza of the Castle fame wrote journals about her travels.  We are well aware of their existence of course, but only some of us had travelled to see them in the local archives.

At the moment as part of an exhibition at the University of Aberdeen Library you can see several of Elyza’s journals on display – among many other documents.  So do pop by and see her!


Hospitalfield House

Not a house that I’d particularly heard about before, but a friend suggested we go over for the Open Day tour to Hospitalfield House, Arbroath.

Before we went to the main house however, we stopped off at the Fraser family, later Allan-Fraser mausoleum (or mortuary chapel), which is in the Western Cemetery and not too far away.  Let me tell you it is an astounding place!  I’ve seen a few mausoleums, mostly in pictures – but never anything like this.  Built in the neo-Gothic style it has a frankly strange mixture of architectural styles and looks large enough for the average family to live in.  A must visit – especially on Doors Open Day, which is normally September time where you can actually go inside.  Maybe I’ll do that next year.

Hospitalfield House itself, as the name suggests, was actually built originally as a hospice run by monks from Arbroath Abbey (which you can also visit the ruins of).  In the Seventeenth century however, it was bought by the Fraser family and from then on until the late nineteenth century was used as a family home.

When viewing the house now, it retains much of its Victorian décor – which it owes to its’ final owners the Allan-Frasers, also its art collection.  Patrick Allan, later adopting the name Allan-Fraser – having no children – Patrick and his wife Elizabeth Fraser decided that if Patrick outlived her, he would leave the house in a trust to provide young people with training in art.

This happened in 1890, and though much of the original estates have been swallowed up to continue the trust’s work – Hospitalfield continues with this work to this day.

You can study and attend events at Hospitalfield House, and do think about booking for the next Open Day.

Blood and Granite Tour

The sister in law booked us on the Blood and Granite tour of Aberdeen.  Fortunately, it was actually quite a nice sunny evening – but it was a long 2 hour walk!

We enjoyed some bits of it particularly though, like the bombing of the cemetery at the beginning.  Here is the Victorian house that was actually built within Trinity Cemetery:

Victorian House

You can see how nice the weather was for once!  It made a nice change for something to do in the evening and was our first organised tour within the city.  As you will also be able to tell from the title, it was about the bloody, gory history of the city and contained information about murders galore…(amongst other things).

Cawdor Castle and the Antiques Roadshow

I had been wanting to go and see Cawdor Castle for a few years, but not had the excuse to just get on with it and go until I heard that The Antiques Roadshow were going to be there!  To my knowledge, they don’t visit that many locations in Scotland, at least during each year’s filming.  I do love watching other people’s treasures – especially family stories.

We decided we didn’t really have anything we wanted valued, so packed ourselves off to the station to get the train to Nairn, outside of Inverness – which is the closest to Cawdor and the castle.  For June it wasn’t really warm and the weather was pretty atrocious, as was the non-existent bus service available to Cawdor, but hey-ho we got there and immediately loved the castle and gardens.

The castle is beautiful, and reminded me a little of Fraser, the rooms are also really comfortable looking – which is much in keeping with the fact that it is still a family home.  Enjoyed some of the paintings too – especially the portraits which were over the front desk where you show your tickets.  Had a nice wander around the shop to get my obligatory guide book, and to read more about the tree preserved within the castle itself…

Time for a final wander around the gardens (loved the roses) and to take some pictures and generally people watch the visitors and spot AR experts!  This is when I spotted this before we left:


Right in the centre you’ll spot the presenter Fiona Bruce!  It was nice to see her, if only at a distance.  The programme I believe is scheduled for the end of 2012, early 2013.

And I didn’t even manage to mention THAT Scottish play in this post!

*UPDATE The programme has now been shown.  You can see a clip here.

Eleanor in St. Albans

I must thank Adrian for a) showing me the following photo and b) allowing me to post it here for your delectation.

Eleanor is feeling a bit neglected you know, and demanded something of a short update.

The following is an image of the plaque placed on the clock tower in St. Albans near where Eleanor’s cross used to stand.  I’m loving the flint in the tower by the way.

Eleanor’s cortège from Harby arrived at St. Albans on the 12 December 1290.  Unfortunately, none of this cross survives, the last accounts for it are from 1721, when the base was demolished to make way for a market cross, and then finally in 1810, when the cross was demolished.

Eleanor’s cortège moves on from St. Albans, to Waltham, where the lovely Waltham Cross (restored) still stands.  It’s a shame that it’s current location is in the middle of a modern shopping centre.  For those of you looking to see the original statues or sculptures of Eleanor, they have them at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

They also have a rather nice plaster cast of her tomb from Westminster Abbey, the original of which I’ve been able to visit with special permission.

Books I’ve Been Lusting After Lately

Some brand new, some fairly new ones here:

  • English Country Houses Interiors by Jeremy Musson

I love any books by Musson.

  • Bergere, Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear by Serena Dyer

I am really in need of some good hat books!

  • The Late King’s Goods by Jeremy Brotton

Charles I’s art collection was amazing. I know a little about what was recovered, but not enough…

  • Spas, Wells & Pleasure Gardens of London by James Stevens Curl

I have his book on the Victorian way of death – and:

  • Vauxhall Gardens by David E. Coke

I’ve always been fascinated by the pleasure gardens, as so little of them survives.

In Which Alexander Presents Himself

I am excited to say that – sadly not due to my recent post about some original Raeburns I’m trying to track down – but due to some lovely visitors I spoke to last week, I can finally say I now know where Alexander Mackenzie Fraser’s portrait is!

I have been given the name of the London Club in which it hangs, as he was positively identified as such – name and everything!  If I am able I will update further.

Now, just to find Martha and Elyza…