Apologies in advance to anyone who uses this blog as a guide to days out (I’m sure there must be thousands of you). My magic blog post randomiser, which tells me what I’m going to blog about in any given week, has this week given me an attraction that is currently closed for the winter. But fear not, it will open again in April next year.
Farnborough Hall is a stately home near Banbury, home of the Holbech family for nearly 300 years, until it was sold to the National Trust in 1960. Built from honey-coloured stone by William Holbech in 1684, and extensively remodelled in the 1740s by his son, the imaginitively-named William Holbech the Younger. It remains a well-preserved example of a Georgian house, with a magnificent rococo drawing room, even if the paintings now on display are replicas of the originals, which had to be sold off in 1929.
The gardens were designed by Sanderson Miller (1716-1780), and based on the Ferme Ornée (ornamental farm) principle. Devised by Stephen Switzer (1682–1745), this simply meant farmland designed for aesthetic pleasure as well as practicality. The parkland contains several follies, including a game larder, a faux-classical Ionic temple, and a 60-foot Egyptianate obelisk.
The farm buildings were once home to a museum commemorating the Battle of Edge Hill, the first major battle of the English Civil War, which took place several miles to the north, over the Mercian border in Warwickshire. However, I was unable to find any recent references to it, so it may have been closed down.
The postcode for Farnborough Hall is OX17 1DU. Check the National Trust website for opening dates and times.
Fyne Court is a National Trust owned garden set among the ruins of a burnt-out Georgian house rumoured to be the original Castle Frankenstein!
Before I explain what I mean by that, a little overview of the garden as it is today. Set in the Quantock Hills, Fyne Court covers 65 acres. It provides a popular venue for orienteering, and three walking trails. one of which forms a part of King Alfred’s Way. Species that can be found here include red deer. skylark, and Dartford warbler.
The house formerly belonged to Andrew Crosse (1784-1855), a pioneer in the field of electricity. Sir Humphry Davy visited Fyne Court in 1827, and the two of them were among the first to create voltaic piles. a type of primitive battery, Cross later experimented with separating copper from its ores using electricity. During one experiment, he noticed a number of mites, which he believed had been hatched from eggs laid in the ores. He was accused of blasphemy, usurping the role of God by “creating” the insects (which he never claimed to have done). A popular legend claims that this was the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s a nice story, but unfortunately, the experiments took place some 20 years after Frankenstein‘s publication, so it could not possibly be true.
Fyne Court was burned down in 1894, not by an angry mob of villagers carrying flaming torches, but by an ordinary kitchen fire. Parts of the structure still remain, and the National Trust has tried to recreate the layout of the house, for example by placing doors in the same position as they would have been when the house was still there.
The postcode, for satnav purposes, is TA5 2EQ.
White Barrow is a neolithic long barrow south of Tilshead in Wiltshire, which was the first property to be bought by the National Trust purely for archaeological interest. Prior to that, the Trust had mainly been interested in stately homes, parks and gardens. But in 1909, the Committee of Imperial Defence, forerunner to today’s Ministry of Defence, was buying up land on Salisbury Plain for military use, and so the Trust decided to preserve it for the nation. They bought it by subscription for the princely sum of £60.
The barrow is approximately 77.5m by 47m, and carved out of the chalk, giving it its name. It has never been fully excavated, keeping it well-preserved, and was first described by the archaeologist William Cunnington. Human skulls were found that were believed to have been subjected to cranial trauma, suggesting that the people buried there had died by violence, but later examination showed the “wounds” to have been inflicted post-mortem.
Rare bees and wild flowers can be found at the site. In 1998, a badger sett was relocated in order to prevent the badgers from burrowing further into the burial chamber.
White Barrow can be accessed on foot from a byway leading south-west from the A360. The postcode, for satnav purposes, is SP3 4RX.