Day 24, Thursday January 2, 2020
The news out of Australia continues to be catastrophic. They’re forecasting Saturday to be crunch day for the Tumba region and I read something online this morning saying that they’re considering Batlow to be indefensible. It all beggars belief.
Today is our last full day in England – we fly out tomorrow evening – and we’ve saved some of the best for last: Blenheim Palace this morning and posh tea at Ellenborough House this afternoon.
Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough and the only non-royal country house to hold the title of “palace”. It’s named for the 1704 Battle of Blenheim and the land was gifted to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, by Queen Anne as a reward for his military triumphs. His wife was Lady Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough who was Queen Anne’s favourite in the movie “The Favourite”. So there you go – your history lesson for the day.
I’ve wanted to go to Blenheim Palace for what seems like forever, but we’ve never quite made it here before. I remember reading about it after watching the repeats of a mini-series many many many years ago. It was about Lady Randolph Churchill, the American born Jennie Jerome, who was the mother of Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill was, in fact, born here at Blenheim.
At Christmas, the grounds are illuminated and the palace decorated to a different theme each year as a Christmas spectacular, with the tickets selling out quickly. This year it was Alice In The Palace with everything given the Alice In Wonderland treatment. Given that we were staying only about 30kms away we weren’t going to miss out and managed to get tickets for what I think was the last day.
The house, if you can call it a house, is massive – much bigger than the photos below show as I couldn’t get the whole thing into a single frame. As far as grand country estates go, this is grand indeed, but it’s not the largest private residence in England – that accolade goes to Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire which is twice the length of Buckingham Palace. How on earth would you keep it clean? In any case, Blenheim has UNESCO World Heritage status.
The Alice in the Palace thing was spectacular, fantastical and all those other superlatives. Sarah and I gave up counting how the number of Christmas trees they had scattered through the rooms open to the public and all the rooms were decorated heavily to the theme.
And some more of the lightshow:
They even had an Alice…sitting very awkwardly in front of the grand organ.
To be honest though, it didn’t need all the Alice palaver; A few decorated Christmas trees would have been enough for me. The lights and the rest of it, I think, took away from the grandeur of the building – which is what I really wanted to see. I guess though, given that it was pretty much sold out, it gets the punters in and the kids seemed to like it, but, me not so much.
I preferred the rooms as they normally would be.
And I was very glad to see the library with a few surfaces not Alice’d.
The family chapel had a wishing tree. I wished for the fires to stop.
Afterwards we took a walk around the grounds.
There is, of course, the obligatory sculptures.
and naturally, one of the man himself.
Blenheim Palace is located in Woodstock, about 10 miles north west of Oxford and about 60 miles (around a 90 minute drive) north west of London.
A ticket for the palace, parks and garden costs (at the time of writing) £28.50, or £18.50 for the parks and gardens alone. Because of COVID-19 you can’t buy tickets at the gate and need to pre-book your visit.
The palace usually closes for a few weeks in early November to get ready for Christmas with the illuminations this year scheduled to run from 20 November – 3 January.
For more information check out the website.
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Oh my goodness Jo!! Stunning!!! I can’t wait to go to England.
You had me at “The news out of Australia continues to be catastrophic.” What a freakin’ year it’s been. Will I ever get to go to England EVER?
Gosh I hope so. For now I’ll live through you …
We’ll all be flying again…fingers crossed. It was weird going through my journal & reading what I’d written at the beginning of the year.
What a fantastic pictorial. I love Alice so thank you so much for sharing! I’m glad you got there (and I’m glad the fires did stop…for now). On the table is a pineapple. Pineapples were a luxury item back in the day, and a sign of wealth (and I think royalty – there’s even a summer house build like a pineapple – I think in Scotland). They even used to get one for parties and pass it around for photos with it. (Here’s a article on it – there’s tonnes of them, I just picked one at random if interested. I just find it so hilarious https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/3kjg8b/when-owning-a-pineapple-meant-youd-made-it). Anyway, seeing that pineapple on the table made me smile!! Even Alice & Co wanted to show off they’d made it!
There’s a fabulous scene in Sanditon where the pineapple sits there as a sign of wealth & when it’s cut open it’s full of maggots – naturally sumbolism for decay and blah blah blah
You are right about the Dunmore Pineapple in Scotland!
Thank you for sharing so beautiful xx
Thanks… it’s an impressive sight.
Hi, Jo – This post beautifully intermingles the beauty of your travels through England, with the horrors of the fires at home. Powerfully done!
Thanks. It was quite surreal writing straight from my journal with the knowledge of what had happened.
I’ve never heard of this palace! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
It’s a gorgeous place & the photos I’ve seen on Instagram show it to be gorgeous in Autumn.
How good is that to read and see…but it must feel surreal now as well. Winston and I share the same 30th Nov birthday! Obvs. not same age! Loved this. Thank you. Denyse.
It sure felt surreal writing from my journal.
I think i have been to Blenheim many years ago. There was a TV series when I was young (even more years ago) called The First Churchills, about John and Sarah, which got me interested – I even possess it on VHS (unopened), not sure I have anything to watch it on now! I agree about the decorations. Less is more.
Less absolutely is more. Wow, a real VHS cassette! lol
What a beautiful palace! I would think the Alice in Wonderland theme would detract from the house itself too.
I can see how it’s great for families etc, but to me it just was overboard. Gorgeous place though…
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