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A Visit To The Vyne

The Vyne

This isn’t quite a ‘Present Past’ post, but I hope you’ll like it anyway. To view the photographs full size, right click and open.

On what was supposed to be a sunny day, we headed to The Vyne, a Tudor house in Basingstoke. It was our first ‘history visit’ of the year, and a good choice.

The grounds sport an impressive driveway, and whilst you don’t enter via the front gates you do get to walk round to them. Our time at The Vyne was short, the cold hurrying us along away from the few flowers that beckoned us closer, but time is well served when visiting the house. The building takes an hour or so to walk around, leaving you plenty more for lunch and sightseeing outside. In this way it is akin to the more familiar Hever Castle, the short ‘to do’ list making for a relaxing and completed day out.

The Vyne's stairway

The Vyne's stairway

When you visit, you enter a side door into the stone gallery, a room much like a long gallery but on the ground floor and neoclassical in design. You get to see a fair number of rooms, between a third and a half of the building, and the house has been decorated to demonstrate the variety of eras in its history – the small, dark drawing room with its oriental tapestries; a lounge of sorts (it was under restoration when we visited) that is full of paintings from the Stuart and Georgian eras; the utterly incredible entrance hall with its central staircase and a beauty that you would probably say was over-the-top if it didn’t take your breath away as soon as you saw it.

Chalnor Chute's tomb

The Vyne's Roman-inspired gallery

There’s also a chapel, short on floor space but full of air space in which one of the owners, Chalnor Chute, situated his massive marble tomb. It is a work of art that in many ways trumps the tombs of people even higher in society and wouldn’t be out of place in TV-Pemberley’s statue gallery. It’s very dark in the chapel and my photograph didn’t come out well so I’ve edited it as best I can to show you the tomb.

One of The Vyne's drawing rooms

The Vyne's library

As I stepped into one of the upstairs rooms, my boyfriend put his hand out. ‘It’s good there’s a railing here’, he said. No guesses which room this was. The library at The Vyne shows what you can do with a small space, even if it’s an impossible dream for the majority of us and no longer in style. (It’s the photograph on the right.) There are many books – no Rowling or Gaiman but who cares? The detailing is elaborate, and I hope my photograph shows the desk well enough. I love my own desk a lot, but I’d take one like The Vyne’s in a flash. The volunteer in this room told us the story of the lady in the largest painting, which you can just about see in the photograph. A woman who kept creating obstacles for the younger heirs so that she could keep a hold of her home. She kept it up for 20 years and died at the age of 90.

The Vyne's Tudor long gallery

The Vyne's oak tree

In another long gallery, a room where the Tudor panelling is on full display and a volunteer goes around spraying the woven reed matting so that it stays fresh and the room retains even more authenticity, we were shown the arms of Henry VIII – above a door said to lead to his rooms. Katherine of Aragon’s pomegranate was carved into the panelling, too, as well as the symbols of Thomas More and Thomas Wolsey. It was obvious that the owner at the time, William, Baron of Sandys, was in favour, and you can see why. Though I think it’s interesting that there are so many different symbols from the various factions and none are scratched out or damaged (considering some of these people fell from the King’s favour).


The Vyne's avenue

Henry VIII’s rooms are now in the Victorian style. Certainly he wouldn’t fit the bed that now resides there. Katherine of Aragon’s rooms, which may also have housed Anne Boleyn, were torn down, most fitting when you think of what happened to both women. There is a beautiful little four-poster in the Victorian rooms as well as a myriad of botanical watercolours drawn by the respective era’s residents. The last few rooms to visit include one in which the walls are decorated with prints of paintings. This may sound different, but it’s a much better way to decorate than the sliced-up tapestry the volunteer showed us in one of the seating areas. I doubt fray-check existed when it was decided to cut the tapestry to size, so it’s amazing it’s in rather good condition.

After viewing the house, we had lunch in the tearooms – jacket potatoes that we received almost as soon as we’d sat down. There may not have been many diners at the time but regardless it was the quickest service we’ve ever had. And the food was delicious. My boyfriend recommends the shortcake; I believe all the food was made on site that day.

If my boyfriend gets to make a recommendation then I would like to as well. The 600-year-old oak tree situated by the brick summerhouse is almost magical. It’s perhaps testament to its historical value that we noticed its difference and beauty long before we read about it, its twisted trunk and the beating it’s taken through the ages merely adding to its character.

The gardens are likely stunning in summer but as it was cold and only snowdrop and crocuses were in bloom, we made a hasty retreat from the outdoors to the relative sanctuary of the car. My boyfriend had had his curiosity in the big chicken relived (a twenty-something can be confused by a large illustration on a map; a child realises that it simply signifies the chicken coop) and I had my macro shots of flowers.

The Vyne made for a lovely day out. The weather was cold but the welcome was very warm. It’s a great place to be and as it’s often the best signifier of value – yes, we’ll be going back.

What is your favourite period of history in terms of architecture?

Change In Location

A photo of a beautiful conservatory with the summer sun shining through - unfortunately not mine!

I’ve been waiting for homesickness to hit me but it hasn’t yet and whilst I can’t say I’m ‘home’ I am liking my work area very much. For this book lover who – at least whilst she doesn’t have too many books – has been ‘granted’ a fine section of wall for bookcases yet to be bought, there is excitement about the posts she can create. Assuming her readers would like to see them.

And no, that conservatory and garden are not mine, unfortunately.

How did you feel the last time you moved home?

In Which I Laugh At Myself For Having Laughed At Someone Else

A photo of one of the sculptures by Yue Minjun in Vancouver

This photograph was taken by Louise Gadd.

The set-up will be familiar to many of you. You’re at school, going about your studious day, when a teacher hands out a list of times for each pupil – you’ve got a career’s meeting. You’re sixteen, you’ve already decided about your immediate educational future. You either know what you want to be or you’re still figuring it out, but either way you have a basic idea of who you are; you’ve picked your subjects for next year.

In my case I was starting to realise that I wanted to be a musician or at the very least a composer. At the same time I was recognising how difficult this would be but I didn’t have a second plan. I didn’t believe I should need one. You’re too headstrong at sixteen.

I knew I liked History. I knew I liked reading occasionally (English Literature had put a big damper on it). I knew I quite liked writing but that I had never been able to finish anything I started. I knew I liked drama but that my shyness held me back from acting and that although I enjoyed art, I wasn’t a particularly good set/prop designer. (I once created moustaches from card and lots of pieces of thread…)

As I expect many people who have a passion find, I was in love with one thing and nothing else, no matter how much I enjoyed it, could quite compare.

That’s a potentially unnecessary background for this post.

Back on topic and none of my class, that I remember, were particularly enthused by the idea of a career’s meeting with a random person who didn’t know us, and the software the career company had provided had told almost every one of us that we should become a leather worker.

So the time came when I went into the library and talked to the career’s advisor. Thankfully she didn’t tell me I should be a leather worker. She told me I might make a good journalist.

I laughed about that for a while because whilst I liked writing it was rather low down on my list – music, history, and web design trumped it. I didn’t want to write, I liked it but wasn’t good enough for the time and ideas that would be needed for journalism. As I spoke about writing very little during the meeting I really didn’t understand how she had concluded that journalism was a good match. To be honest I still don’t.

A few years later and I had to give up on music. A few years after that and I started blogging. It may not be journalism and it may not pay, but in the grand scheme of things it’s pretty similar.

Once I laughed at someone. I suppose they should be laughing at me now.

What did your school career’s advisor tell you and has your life matched their advice in any way?

The Second Update On My Quest To Visit All The Castles In England

When I said I was going to try to visit as many castles as I could over the summer, I wasn’t kidding. In fact I visited enough after my first update that I have another for you. As I’m a summer person, this will be the last castle update for some time.

Ludgershall Castle

Ludgershall – A hunting lodge built in the 1100s, and an unexpected bonus Elizabeth Chadwick castle (it was managed by William Marshall’s father). I once said that Jane Austen seemed to be wherever I went. I think the baton’s now passed to Chadwick.

Odiham Castle

Odiham – A hunting lodge built in King John’s time. I couldn’t help wondering if it had been inspired by Ludgershall.

Rochester Castle

Rochester – A well preserved tower that, in its current build, was owned by archbishops. In terms of the castles I’ve visited so far, Rochester holds joint first place with Ludlow in the awe-inspiring stakes.

Upnor Castle

Upnor – An Elizabethan military base a short way from Rochester.

Winchester Castle

Winchester – Presumably pretty important given its location in the former capital of England, but only the Great Hall remains. Although I’d previously decided not to list it here, I may write a short post about it so it seemed right to include it.

Yarmouth Castle

Yarmouth – A Henrican military fort on the Isle of Wight. (It’s difficult to get a good photograph of the exterior of this one unless you’re willing to pay for the ferry to the mainland that leaves from beside it.)

So over the next several months you may see new castle posts in the form of my Present Past series, but there will be no more updates of this type. I have posts ready for Ludgershall, Rochester, and Yarmouth, and of course my posts on Odiham and Upnor have been online for a while now.

Which historical building (of any sort and age) that you’ve visited left the biggest impression on you?

Language Learning

A photo of a sheet of paper with a Chinese character written on it several times

This photograph was taken by littlegreenfroggy.

I’m not sure how much I’ve spoken about it here, but I used to be somewhere between beginner and intermediate level in both Hindi and Mandarin. I was self-taught and it was a lot of fun.

I guess that to most people, it sounds a crazy combination of languages, but to me it fulfilled a lifetime preference – for as long as I can remember, I’ve had very little interest in languages written in the Roman alphabet. I don’t know why exactly, but I think it has something to do with there being less to learn, already knowing the alphabet as an English speaker. And having learned different scripts I have to say there is something almost magical in reading them as you do your own language. There have been occasions when I’ve indicated, for example, a shop sign to someone, to show them we’ve found the place we were looking for, and been met by bemusement. I suppose when a different script becomes as natural as your mother tongue, it’s hard to understand how others can’t understand it, too.

Hindi and Mandarin fit my interests. After I left school, I discovered Bollywood as well as Japanese music. J-pop lead to me discovering Chinese television. Somehow I skipped learning Japanese. At school, learning languages is (or at least was) about textbooks and old tape cassettes. With Bollywood and Chinese TV, their English subtitles, I didn’t even notice at first that I was learning. The true interest in the mediums, as well as a burgeoning desire to learn the languages, lead me to be able to understand quite a lot in a short period of time. I bought books to learn writing. The only thing always lacking was my speaking ability.

My learning ceased around the time I met my boyfriend; I started to become interested in following his example and going to university. I stopped watching Bollywood films because the new releases were sexual and what had drawn me to the industry was the sensuality. I didn’t stop listening to the music, but J-pop was taking more of my listening time, and I suppose I just have a natural tendency towards visuals and subtitles as learning tools.

I want to pick up Chinese again. I have more of an interest in Chinese, it’s stood the test of time with me. The script is daunting, and re-learning approximately 250 characters just to begin with, some of which are incredibly similar to one another, is hard. It’s my hope that writing this post will push me to start.

It’s my non-existent knowledge of Japanese, besides the characters taken from Chinese, that baffles me. I have been listening to Japanese music for nine years now, and yet I’ve learned only a smattering of it. I can only assume it’s that lack of visuals, the fact I listen for the music and forget to find translations of the lyrics, and that out of the two Asian languages I’d prefer to know Chinese. But still, it’s odd.

Have you learned another language, or have an interest in learning one?


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