Doddington Hall & Gardens

Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire

We arranged a private visit to this magnificent house and gardens in Lincolnshire.  The house dates from the 16th century and has never been sold and therefore still contains a fascinating collection of furniture, weaponry, textiles, porcelain and paintings that have been acquired over the centuries.

The walled gardens remain faithful to their original Elizabethan layout, with mellow brick walls sheltering the formal East Front and West Gardens;  beyond these stretch the Wild Gardens.

Talk by author Adam Kay at Boughton House

Adam Kay

The best-selling author Adam Kay, who is also an award-winning comedy writer and former junior doctor, gave a talk based on the diaries he kept when training and working as a junior doctor in the NHS.  With wonderfully amusing anecdotes, he described life on the hospital front line – 90+ hour weeks, life and death decisions while earning less per hour than a hospital parking meter.

Adam’s book, This is Going to Hurt, has been in the Sunday Times best seller list for many months.  All profits from his talk have been donated to Cransley Hospice.

Visit to The Spalding Gentlemen’s Society

Spalding Gentlemen's Society and the Boston Stump

We visited the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society Museum in Broad Street, one of the oldest museums in the country, which houses an incredible collection, with many items having been donated by previous members.  The society was founded in 1710 and remains active today.     .

The Library has a fascinating collection of books, some very rare, many very old.  One of the museum’s many charms is the eccentric and appealing way that, among the thousands of items on display, the priceless is displayed next to the mundane.

After lunch we visited St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, known universally as the Boston Stump, and famed for its Medieval Tower.

Grimsthorpe Castle, Corby Glen & Irnham in Lincolnshire

We arranged a private tour of Grimsthorpe Castle and its grounds.  In the afternoon we visited St. Andrew’s church at Irnham where Charles Leggatt, past curator of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, spoke about the church and its fine facsimile of the Luttrell Psalter.  We ended the day in Corby Glen, visiting the Willoughby Art Gallery and St. John’s church in order to see its important medieval wall paintings.

A Talk by James Stourton at Deene Park

James Stourton

We are grateful to Robert and Charlotte Brudenell for allowing us to hold a talk at Deene Park by James Stourton, past Chairman of Sotheby’s and author of many books including the acclaimed Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation, and also The Great Houses of London and Great Collectors of our Time.  He will be giving an evocative look at the international projection of British power and culture through our diplomatic buildings around the world.

Andrew Davies

A view of London

Every year Andrew Davies takes us on a walk around a particularly fascinating part of London.   His deep knowledge and infectious enthusiasm always make these days hugely popular.

Dr. Allan Chapman, Boughton House and Robert Hooke

The Duke of Buccleuch allowed us to use the Great Hall at Boughton House for a talk by Dr. Allan Chapman of Wadham College, and Christ Church, Oxford about the 18th century polymath, Robert Hooke, contemporary of Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Isaac Newton.

Felley Priory and Newstead Abbey

Felley Priory

Newstead Abbey garden


Thomas and Amanda Brudenell kindly allowed us to visit Felley Prior and garden.  In the afternoon we visited Newstead Abbey.  Both houses have associations with Lord Byron.

A Visit to Badminton House

Badminton House

The Duke of Beaufort allowed us to take two groups on private tours of Badminton House and its gardens.

A Visit to Faringdon House And Lord Berners’ Folly

Faringdon House

We visited Faringdon House where the owner Sofka Zinovieff, the author of ‘Mad Boy, Lord Berners, my grandfather and me’ guided us round the house and gardens. Sofka is the grand-daughter of the ‘Mad Boy’, Robert Heber-Percy, and she gave us an account of the many glamorous people who had passed through Faringdon House in the 1930s.

A day of discovery at Lamport Hall with Martin Drury CBE, Professor Phillip Lindley and Thomas Greenaway

Lamport Hall

One purpose of this day was to look at how a country house can be run in the 21st century. Professor Phillip Lindley of Leicester University and George Drye, the Executive Director of Lamport, discussed the running of Lamport Hall by a private trust. Martin Drury used the acquisition of Canons Ashby as an example of how the National Trust operates.  Thomas Greenaway, who made the pietra dura coat of arms on Richard III’s new tomb in Leicester Cathedral, gave a demonstration of his highly skilled work.

Sandy Nairne, recently retired Director of the National Portrait Gallery

Sandy Nairne spoke at Lamport Hall about art theft in general and the theft of two Turners in particular. He gave an account of how his efforts to help retrieve them involved dramatic contact with the underworld.  He then went on to discuss the ethical considerations that may arise in recovering stolen works of art.

Professor Sir Hew Strachan

Professor Sir Hew Strachan

Hew Strachan looked at various aspects of the First World War and, in particular, he discussed the different ways it has been commemorated since 1918 and how it might be remembered in the future.

Peter Taylor, OBE

Peter Taylor

In January 2015 we heard Peter Taylor talk about past and present terrorist threats. Having covered the troubles in Northern Ireland for the BBC, he is now a freelance journalist, documentary-maker and author and has turned his attention to the acute problem of Islamist extremism.  Peter described how the John Major government began the slow process of ‘talking to terrorists’ – the IRA – and what hopes there may or may not be for talking to present-day terrorists.

Tim Knox, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Tim Knox

The history of the magnificent Hôtel de Charost, the British Ambassador’s residence in Paris, was described in a talk by Tim Knox.  It has witnessed the turning tides of European history, having been owned by Napoleon Bonaparte’s notorious sister and then by the Duke of Wellington after his triumph over the Emperor.  Mr. and Mrs. Robert Brudenell kindly let us hold the talk at Deene Park and the evening started with Charlotte Brudenell giving us a brief introduction to the history of the house.

Giles Waterfield

Giles Waterfield

Curator, writer, Director of the Royal Collection Studies and Courtauld lecturer

Giles Waterfield, art historian and author, talked about his grandparents’ gentle way of life among ex-patriate society in the South of France before the First World War changed their world forever. He described Clos du Peyronnet, the fine house and gardens they created in Menton and how he had used their lives as the basis for his haunting and nostalgic novel, The Long Afternoon.

Caroline Sandon and Burnt Norton

Caroline Sandon

The author, Caroline Sandon, kindly took us round the grounds of Burnt Norton, a Jacobean Cotswold manor house.  In September 1934, T.S. Eliot came upon the deserted Burnt Norton which inspired him to write the first of his ‘Four Quartets’.  Caroline has recently written a novel, also called ‘Burnt Norton’, which incorporates the bizarre history of the place.

Creative Workshop with Theodora Wayte

We limited numbers to only a dozen for a day with an artist who is impossible easily to define. We advertised Theodora Wayte as being ‘an artistic polymath’ with her talents ranging from watercolours to beautiful copperplate lettering.  She introduced us to her art and took us through some of her techniques for achieving unique results.