Saturday, 13 March 2010

A Stately Visit

The first week of March we had a week’s annual leave (having to use it up before the first of April). We didn’t go away anywhere, instead we decided to have days out. One of the places we went to was Leeds Castle (which isn’t in Leeds but Kent, very English). Martin had been there before and thought it was a good place to take pictures.

As a child I was regularly taken to different stately homes around the country. My parents felt this was educational and a way to appreciate history, but back in the seventies stately homes were very dull places. As a child, I also had a poor interest in history, it was coloured by poor teaching of it at my school – all dates of battles and nothing about the people who lived through those times. But those stately homes were dull, long rooms with most of them roped off, lots of portraits of people I’d never heard of, and everyone wondering around in hushed tones.

Now, Leeds Castle hasn’t turned itself into an all singing and dancing theme park, it is still a very traditional stately home but what has changed is me. I now have an interest in history, but much more I have a lively imagination and love of literature.

The Castle itself is laid out as also a tour through time periods. You enter through the medieval part of the castle and pass through room after room, going through Regency Period, then Victorian and finally ending in the section of the castle that was modernised in the 1950s, the last time the castle used as a dwelling.

It was like passing through different rooms from different literary genres. The medieval rooms, all stark decoration and stone floors (rugs on the walls and no indoor plumbing), were straight out of a drama of medieval lust and intrigue: A Man for All Seasons, The Other Boleyn Girl or even The Tudors. The Victorian rooms could have easily been the setting for a Victorian Gothic tale, the ones Sarah Walters writes so memorably. But it was the rooms from the 1950s that left the most lasting impression on me.

These rooms, with their bright furnishings and straight angular lines, seemed the perfect setting for an Agatha Christie novel. The elegance and opulence of these rooms could have been taken straight from the pages of one of her stories. The bedroom with swathes of crushed velvet, were the figure on the bed isn’t sleeping and can’t be woken up. The corridor, with its panelled walls, were a hysterical maid runs down. The drawing room, populated with square furniture and an overlarge grand piano, were all the suspects sit and nervously wait for the Chief Inspector from Scotland Yard to arrive, while the body in the bedroom grows old.

Yes, I have an over active imagination but so far it has not harmed me, much. It has helped me through many overcrowded tube rides, all those times when I’ve been kept waiting for an appointment and countless of my family’s events. Also, I can turn some of my imagination’s wondering into fiction.

Also, at Leeds Castle Martin took some wonderful pictures (one them illustrates this blog). They can be seen at


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