Treasure Houses of England – National Treasurers series
The Treasure Houses comprise 10 of the finest stately homes, palaces and castles in England. In the main, they have each been individually owned by generations of the same family who have cared for and nurtured, preserved and restored them, as required. That work continues so that both today’s and tomorrow’s visitors can enjoy these wonderful examples of our nation’s heritage.
All this, and they all serve up a mean cream tea as well!
Burghley House, Lincolnshire
Burghley is said to be one of the largest and grandest surviving houses from the Elizabethan era. There are 35 main rooms, and 80 lesser rooms on the first two floors of this grand house – 18 of them are open to the public.
The state rooms are breathtaking, with the aptly named Heaven Room being the most impressive of them all. The room has 3D paintings on the walls and ceilings that are absolutely spectacular.
They assault your senses with the classical mythology of gods and goddesses in vibrant technicolour. Queen Victoria was the last person to use this room when she visited in 1844. Don’t miss The Hell Staircase, which is also stunning!
Burghley is famous for its horse trials, which take place every September. These events attract the best horses and riders in the world.
You’ll also find the Gardens of Surprise (be sure to go here), the Orangery Restaurant, a shop, and glorious parkland to explore.
T 01780 752451
Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
It’s a fantastical building with battlements, a number of domed roofs, and a fairytale appearance. The estate is vast, comprising a Walled Garden, South Parterre, woodland walks, lakes, and an abundance of statues and follies.
Hedgerows of topiary add to the building’s classical appearance and, inside, the state rooms will take your breath away.
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At Christmas, Castle Howard is decorated for the festive season. The Howard family themselves decorate the glorious building with Christmas trees and ornaments to make you feel all Christmassy and warm!
The magnificent Castle looks particularly eye-catching when adorned with thousands of baubles, wreaths and garlands, dancing in the orange candlelight.
Warming open fires, sparkling tree displays and floral arrangements are all part of the traditional Christmas at Castle Howard.
T 01653 648333
It was part of the Beaulieu Estate, purchased in 1538 by Sir Thomas Wriothesley following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. You can still see some monastic characteristics inside the house, and there are some separate Abbey ruins to explore outside.
Palace House has been the Montagu family home since 1538 – an exhibition shows how the family has been linked to roalty for more than 800 years.
The property has extensive gardens with a Victorian Flower Garden, a Rose Garden, a Wilderness Garden, a Mill Pond Walk, and an Ornamental Kitchen Garden.
Don’t miss the National Motor Museum, with its mixture of vintage and modern cars as well as some vehicles you might recognise from the movies.
A high-level monorail and veteran 1912 London Bus are an ideal way to see the sights.
T 01590 612345
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim is a World Heritage site. As with all of the Treasure Houses, public support is so important to its continuing restoration.
There are daily tours available through the Palace State Rooms, private apartments, and you can also take part in a free walking tour to explore the history of the formal gardens.
Want to know what happens on a regular day rather than what’s happened in the past? Blenheim also runs a behind-the-scenes tour on the day-to-day running of such an incredible property.
T 0800 849 6500
Holkham Hall and Estate, North Norfolk
Holkham has an amazing marble hall, a statue gallery, and stunning libraries.
It has been visited by royalty many times. Queen Mary was welcomed into the Green State Bedroom, where an 18th-century painting of Jupiter caressing his wife, Juno, was considered too saucy for Her Majesty. It was banished to the attic.
In 1835, Princess Victoria was travelling to Holkham Hall through Kings Lynn. The townsfolk were so delighted to see her in their neighbourhood that they took the horses off her coach, and local men started trying to pull the Queen’s carriage themselves. Princess Victoria was so disturbed by their antics that she and her mother escaped into a nearby house, before being reassured that the men meant no harm, and simply wanted to honour her by pulling her carriage.
Holkham Hall is certainly a stately home fit to receive royalty, with regal state rooms and glorious gardens.
T 01328 713111
Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
The Sundial Garden is of particular interest because of the unique sundial, which places Hatfield House at the centre of the world. It was commissioned to mark Hatfield House’s 400th anniversary in 2011. The gardens are also host to a sculpture display and there are dozens of butterflies flitting between the flower beds.
In the wider parkland there’s an oak tree planted by the Queen, on the site of an earlier tree under which Queen Elizabeth I heard about her succession to the throne.
The Royal Palace of Hatfield, built in 1497, once stood where Hatfield House stands now.
It was Queen Elizabeth I’s childhood home. In 1608 three sides of the Palace were demolished and the present house was built in its place at a cost of £38,000.
Hatfield House today is known for housing objects and treasures associated with Queen Elizabeth I. Inside the library is a roll of parchment, which displays the coats of arms associated with her lineage, and traces her ancestry back to Adam and Eve!
Finally, don’t miss the Armoury – it’s absolutely stunning.
T 01707 287010
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
The ceiling in the entrance hall is stunning, and everything is on a grand scale: chandeliers, paintings, statues, busts and semi-precious stones fill your field of vision.
Outside, the gardens are glorious, with lakes, fountains, and a grotto. There’s a fabulous rock garden, maze, and Chatsworth’s famous cascade waterfall. The gardens are huge and there’s so much to explore – it’s a child’s adventure garden and, of course, there’s a children’s farm next door (Discovery ticket holders only).
T 01246 565300 (24-hour switchboard)
Leeds Castle, Kent
Be sure not to miss the falconry. The birds of prey display is a great opportunity to see owls and falcons in all their glory.
The castle also has gardens, children’s play areas, and beautiful lakes, abundant with wildfowl. Don’t miss the state rooms and exhibitions, either. The incredible interiors remain in exquisite condition, the way their last private owner, Lady Baillie, left them.
T 01622 765400
Harewood House, Leeds
The House dates back to 1759, when Edwin Lascelles, a wealthy West Indian-plantation owner, set about building the perfect home. He employed the 18th century’s most revered craftsmen, including architect, John Carr; furniture maker, Thomas Chippendale; interior designer, Robert Adam; and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the period’s most popular landscape gardener.
Visitors today can see the Renaissance masterpieces that the Baron collected, as well as fine art, Sèvres china, and fabulous antiques.
Outdoors, Harewood is a little bit different to many stately homes. It has formal gardens and a bird garden, boasting a diverse collection of exotica, including a greater necklaced laughing thrush, Chilean flamingoes, snowy owls, burrowing owls and penguins.
A great day out for all, then!
T 0113 218 1010
Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire
According to Nancy, the Abbey is haunted. When they used to do their night checks, the doors would open by themselves.
While spooky stories are debatable, nobody can argue that the beautiful interiors certainly give you goosebumps!
Outside you'll find one of the largest conservation parks in Europe. Woburn's deer park covers 3000 acres and is home to nine species of deer, many of which you can spot while you drive through the grounds along one of the most picturesque roads you'll find.
Alternatively, take in the sights from one of the many footpath routes around the abbey and gardens.
T 01525 290333
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