Two GTO Readers’ Days to explore English Heritage properties were enjoyed in September. First up, I joined the morning tour of Kenwood House in north London where, after tea and coffee, readers were led on a very informative guided tour around the house, which has an eclectic history as the former residence of both the Mansfield family, who now live at Scone Palace in Scotland, and the Guinness dynasty. The house re-opened last year after a refurbishment project, and one of the highlights is the Great Library, which has been brought back to life as it would have been when Robert Adam created it in the 18th century, revealing original features such as the floorboards. Paintings by the Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer line the walls and the grounds are a delight to explore, with views over Hampstead Heath. The house itself is free to enter, but it is well worth taking a tour to gain further insight into the venue’s varied past. Tours are staggered to enable individual groups to get the best experience.
Val Baynton, meanwhile, joined our Readers’ Day to Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire. The group enjoyed a tour learning about its history and how it was used by its flamboyant owner, William Cavendish, and his family in the 17th century. Descended from Bess of Hardwick and with their main residence at Welbeck Abbey, the Little Castle at Bolsover was used by the Cavendishs as a place to relax and entertain friends including royalty, and was never intended as a residence. Its quirky style with battlements, chivalric towers and turrets has been preserved by English Heritage and it is one of the most important Jacobean buildings in the country. This year, carefully researched furniture and fabrics have been added to the building to give it warmth and personality. There are glorious views, especially from the newly restored and opened wall-walk and around the Fountain Garden, planted to show how it would have looked in 1634. William Cavendish, it is famously said, had two passions in life – women and horses – and visitors to Bolsover can also discover his significant contribution to the art of modern dressage in the magnificent indoor Riding House. Val adds, ‘Afternoon tea in the comfortable café completed what was a fascinating visit to one of Derbyshire’s hidden secrets.’