Victorian Opulence at Osborne House!

Osborne houseNicola here. A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days on the Isle of Wight in a cottage that is situated on the Osborne House estate. Although I knew that Queen Victoria had built Osborne as a summer holiday home (more on that later!) I knew very little about it or its history so it was a fascinating trip. When I say that we stayed in a cottage, it was actually the gatehouse to the estate, known as Sovereign’s Gate, which was the entrance through which Queen Victoria and her family would have approached the house back in the day. Now transformed into a holiday home over three levels, it’s a fabulous place to stay. These days the Sovereign’s Gate is locked but Angus was happy to pose for a photo to show it off! Inside the gatehouse has many of its original 19th century features, including these fabulous windows with movable sashes on a pulley system.

As the house and grounds were closed, we had the place largely to ourselves. This was an enormous privilege enabling us to explore IMG_7017
the acres of gardens, park and beach (as long as we told the security detail that we were going out – it was rather like having bodyguards!). It also meant that I got a personalised tour of Osborne House itself, which was brilliant. I was allowed to use the  “ministers’ door”; there were five different entrances at Osborne, one reserved for the monarch only, the second for the royal family, the third for ministers, the fourth for titled visitors and members of the court and the one round the back for the servants and tradesmen!

Read more

Home Improvements Historical Style!

Appuldurcombe exteriorNicola here. One thing that always interests me about the castles and old houses I visit is the different stages in their life; the way in which their purpose changes over the years and so they change shape and the usage of the rooms varies and the gardens are altered and each generation develops the property and leaves their mark on their home. It struck me recently as we planned some renovations to our cottage that the process we go through is not so different from that of grand builders of stately homes, only on a much smaller scale! (The picture is Appuldurcombe House on the Isle of Wight – more on that later.)

Ashdown House, for example, was used as a hunting lodge for several hundred years and so was not lived in permanently. It therefore remained architecturally unaltered all that time because there was no change in its purpose and so no need to spend money on alterations. However the moment the Victorian Cravens decided to take up residence there on a full time basis, they changed it completely. The house was too small to be an aristocratic family home so they extended it, just as people build extensions now. They added two wings, with a ballroom, a smoking room and a billiards room, and most importantly, one suspects, they built servants’ quarters to house the thirty eight people who waited on them! The gardens were also considered too plain so they remodelled them as well with a fashionable Italianate parterre garden that was all the rage in the mid-nineteenth century. 

Read more