Hanbury Hall – beautifully disorganised

We decided [somewhat foolishly] to drive from Leeds to Wales to Lincoln over the course of two days, to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Cardiff and then visit other relatives on New Year’s Day – we covered a fair few miles, but of course found time to stop off at a National Trust house in Worcestershire on the way. Excited for this one, we got out of the car and showed our cards, only to be told that the house was closed. Slightly disappointed, we decided to go to the café anyway (obviously) and maybe to walk around the gardens. So, we wandered up the drive of Hanbury Hall, and as we approached a lovely tour guide called out of the front door to ask us if we wanted to join a tour. Naturally, we did – when he said that we couldn’t, as it was full. Somehow, though, we ended up in the hallway of this beautiful house, and on a tour. We weren’t complaining, if slightly confused…

Hanbury Hall

Built in 1701, the house has a colourful history with many family stories and much scandal. We were taken through a number of the rooms on the ground floor and talked through the family history. The Christmas decorations were also pretty wonderful, with garlanding on the stunning stairs, which were painted by Sir John Thornhill, of St Paul’s Cathedral dome, the Painted Hall at Greenwich and Chatsworth fame. The legend has it that he and his painting team made a fair bit of mess, which resulted in him painting in the housekeeper’s face to one of the cherubs…

Painted staircase inside Hanbury Hall

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Trip up North – Leeds Art Gallery

We love you, Yorkshire! The time between Christmas and New Year was perfect for a few days exploring the North of England (while trying to stay out of the floods), where one of us comes from. Leeds Art Gallery was one of our stops, home at the time to the British Art Show, which meant it was almost completely full of contemporary installations. We did put in an [early] appearance in the creative children’s section, as you may be able to tell…

Letters at Leeds Art Gallery

And made sure we took a look at the one room which remains constant amid the changing exhibitions; home to Renaissance and Victorian works by a range of artists, The Temptation of Sir Percival was one which caught our eye. Painted by Arthur Hacker in 1894, it depicts Percival, one of the Round Table knights, being tempted in his piety by a beautiful, predatory maiden. Excalibur of course features in the painting, as the counterfoil to her advances, and we particularly liked the use of colour and emotion in a classical scene.

Painting at Leeds Art Gallery

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Merry Christmas!

Wishing all our readers a very happy festive season, and hoping you have a few days off to relax and enjoy the company of your loved ones, yummy food, and maybe even a few presents! London themed wrapping, anyone…?

With love from the Month of Sundays duo xx [the kisses are from her, not me…]

Merry Christmas

P.S. Festive photography tip: this year we ordered some photographic Christmas cards to send to family and friends from moo.com. We chose five designs (which you will have seen before!) from last year’s wintry fun. They were ready quite quickly and cost around 80p each. Recommended!

Wintering at Winterville

Have you been to Winterville? We couldn’t face the Winter Wonderland crowds so thought we’d see if this was quieter, more interesting and just as festive!

So it was quieter. Almost too much quieter [it was a little bit creepy]. There were a lot of rides, and I’m a bit rubbish with rides [disappointingly], but they were fun to watch… And there were some indoor sections which were pretty amazingly decorated. Our favourite was a bar/café/stalls section (we really wish we’d seen the band playing!):

Stage at Winterville

We did have much mulled wine, which was very good.

Bar at Winterville

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Sunsets in Primrose Hill

Just two photos to share with you today, but we think they’re pretty good ones… We had a gorgeous day pottering around Primrose Hill (we’d definitely recommend the Greenberry Café for brunch – worth queuing for a little while [or booking!], as once you’re seated they are super accommodating and the food is delicious!), and snapped these photos as the sun set while we were on a walk.

View from Primrose Hill

Beautiful reflection on the water…

Regent's Canal

We hope you all had a fantastic Sunday!

A restorative visit to Polesden Lacey

After leaving Clandon Park, we headed to Polesden Lacey nearby for a restoring burst of National Trust normality. An Edwardian country retreat, it was home to famous society hostess Mrs Margaret Greville, and is presented as it would have been in her time, with her collection of furniture, paintings, porcelain and silver.

Polesden Lacey

The house was completely rebuilt by Thomas Cubitt in 1824, and remodelled for the Grevilles by the architects responsible for the Ritz – hence the luxurious bathrooms!

Taps at Polesden Lacey

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We will remember them

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.-
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

– Wilfred Owen

Graves at the American War Cemetary in Cambridge

(This photograph was taken at the American War Cemetery in Madingley, near Cambridge. You can see more pictures from our visit there here.)

A trip out West – St Asaph

No, we’d never heard of it either. All we knew was that it was a city in northern Wales and we’d been asked to sing there. Enticed by some good music and lovely friends, we agreed – and then realised that it was rather a longer drive than we thought; about 4.5 hours from London [urgh]. So, we decided to make a weekend of it and go up early, spending Friday night in a hotel nearby.

St Asaph is the second smallest city in Britain [it was only awarded city status in 2012], but the cathedral has been a cathedral for 1,400 years, while the building itself dates from the 13th century. Musicians may recognise Mathias’s name – a composer of considerable renown, he was buried here with his wife upon their deaths.

Mathias' grave at St. Asaph's Cathedral

The cathedral is simple in design, but with a historical feel to it:

Inside St. Asaph's Cathedral

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Up the hill: a weekend at Lincoln Cathedral

Neither of us had visited Lincoln for a long time (I had once, at university) and had forgotten quite how stunning it is. Perched up the appropriately-named ‘Steep Hill’, the cathedral looks out over the city.

As John Ruskin said, “I have always held and proposed against all comers to maintain that the Cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles.” [And I whole-heartedly agree with him.]

Inside Lincoln Cathedral

Building started in 1088, under William the Conqueror’s instruction, and in heavy Norman style, opposite the castle he had already built across the city. Around 100 years later, a fire and an earthquake between them caused extensive damage to the great building, and parts were rebuilt in the Gothic style, which included the use of flying buttressing to enable huge stained glass windows, and pointed arches replacing the original rounded ones.

Rose window at Lincoln Cathedral

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Below London – a trip to the Clapham South deep-level shelter

You know when you book tickets for something and forget you did…? This happened to us, when we looked at our calendars and realised that we had tickets for a Clapham South subterranean shelter tour, run as part of London Transport Museum‘s Hidden London. So, we headed along one night after work and congregated at the entrance to Clapham South Underground. But this wasn’t a tube tour – instead, it took us down to the tube level, 36.5m below street level, but into huge, cavernous tunnels built during World War Two, as a response to heavy civilian bombing during the Blitz.

Our surroundings seemed [remarkably] modern and sleek, with some incredibly well thought-through details considering the rush in which they were built. One of our favourite features was the double helix staircase so that people could descend twice as quickly in the event of a raid.

Clapham South Deep Level Shelter

Although ten of these shelters were planned, ultimately eight were built, by the London Passenger Transport Board and the Ministry for Home Security between 1941 and 1942. They were a response to the inadequacy of tube stations as refuges from bombing raids, after 111 people were killed at Bank station. The tube stations were often not sufficiently deep, and in addition were liable to flooding if a water main was hit. Although not built quickly enough for the Blitz, they were used during all the bombing that followed by V1 and V2 bombs, and were also a temporary solution for those who had lost their homes through Blitz attacks.

Clapham South Deep Level Shelter

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