Visit Reports

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Chichester Festival Theatre Visit, 14th August 2017

Chichester Cathedral and Pallant House Gallery, 13 Sept 2017

Upperton Vineyard, Tillington
Tuesday 13th June 2017

We tasted three wines, Nebula, Alia and Aurora, all sparkling whites. Alia has won Double Gold in both the Decanter World Wine Awards and The International Wine Challenge Awards. Aurora 2013 won a ‘silver outstanding’ medal at The IWSC Competition this year. We were glad to note that the Vineyard is open from 12 to 5 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 10 to 5 on Fridays and Saturdays for drinks on the terrace, for the enjoyment of wonderful wines and uninterrupted views to the South Downs. 40 Members booked to visit.

Visit to Firle Place & Alfriston Clergy House
Tuesday 16th May 2017

Our first visit of the 2017 Season to Firle Place, Firle and Alfriston Village and Clergy House saw a good sized party set off from Petworth on a pleasant sunny morning for the drive through the wonderful Spring scenery of West and East Sussex.   Firle Place sheltered in the lee of the South Downs has a Medieval core, rebuilt in Caen stone in the 16th Century and remodelled in the 18th Century giving it its Georgian façade.   Firle Place has been the home of the Gage family for 500 years and is now home to the 8th Viscount who runs the Estate helped by his son Henry.

We were greeted on arrival by our two Tour Guides and ushered into The Great Hall, where coffee and very superior biscuits awaited us.   Duly restored we started our tour of Firle, across The Little Hall to the Drawing Room perhaps the most magnificent room at Firle, where are displayed portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds yet is furnished for 21st Century family living.  Then by way of a grand staircase to The Upstairs Drawing Room with its display of fine French Furniture and porcelain, on to The Victorian Ante Room with its wall display of Chinese Export porcelain.  Next The Long Gallery, built by the lst Viscount to provide a “suitable gallery for his numerous and splendid pictures”.  It also houses much of Firle’s famous collection of Sevres porcelain in display cabinets, all quite splendid, some of it quite unique and very lovely.   We then went along The Pine Corridor on whose walls are hung “pictures and objects associated with Firle and its proprietors”.  Finally to The Billiard Room, thought to have been built as the “New Dining Room” but now housing a billiard table currently used by the family.

A welcome lunch was then set out for us in the courtyard Tearoom where over ample coffee and tea to accompany our generously filled sandwiches, we could sit and talk about the day so far.   A wander in the sunshine along the terrace to the north front of the House  with its fountain, or a wander to the lake area where can be seen the Stable Block and the spire of nearby Firle Church, was enjoyable. Then boarding the coach for a short drive to Alfriston Village, evidently and justifiably so, popular with tourists!
Our destination venue was the Clergy House, a Wealden Hall House, the first property saved from collapse by the National Trust. Now fully restored – its cottage garden being particularly memorable - laid out initially by the first tenants of the restored building.   Some found time to visit St. Andrew’s Church nearby and some were to be found lurking guiltily in the delightful tea rooms, offering up delicious cream teas and cakes.

Back on the coach and back in Petworth spot on time, as usual, thanks to our Driver.

Julie Rudkin
Visit Leader


Goldsmiths' Hall, October 2016

Our final 2016 Visit to Goldsmiths' Hall had created a lot of interest, particularly following on from the Lecture on The Great Twelve Livery Companies of London and from the enthusiastic feedback, did not disappoint.

For once a Visit that was not to be weather dependent, our party set off in good time from Petworth but despite the best efforts of our experienced driver, volume of traffic as we approached the Hall, resulted in our arriving a bit behind the scheduled time!

Nevertheless we were greeted on arrival by Eleni Bide, the Librarian, in the magnificent Staircase Hall and made our way to the most welcome coffee and biscuits served up to us by the staff. Suitably revived and seated in the splendour of The Livery Hall, we were given an Introductory talk by Eleni, prior to setting off on the Guided Tour she was to take us on, if not quite in the order that had been planned!

In addition to what we had learnt at the Lecture, we were to hear more about the history of the Hall, the third on the site due to many incidences of fire and bomb damage the different Halls on the site had endured and survived.   From there we then went on to the Exhibition Room, given time to view the wonderful window displays lining itswalls.   With a lunch being served there, we moved on to The Court Room, sitting around the table for our talk but nobody bold enough to sit on the Prime Warden's Chair!   Then on to The Drawing Room, where our attention was notably drawn to the magnificent carpet made especially for the room and overhung by an amazing crystal chandelier. Then the South Ante-Room hung with panels bearing the names of past Prime Wardens in gold and white gold leaf. Time to pause and admire the gilded statue of Saint Dunstan, Patron Saint of the Goldsmiths, originally made for the Company's State Barge of 1744.

The Hall also houses the Assay Office, in which hall marking of precious metal items takes place.   We were not shown over this but it is an all important function of the Livery Company's work, as is its charitable giving.   We gave our customary vote of thanks to Eleni for such a well informed and interesting tour. And on a personal level I would l like to pay tribute to my late brother-in-law Richard Vanderpump, Prime Warden 1998, for his introduction that made this very unique visit a possibility for WSDFAS.

With our eyes full of all this splendour but the need for sustenance calling, we departed the Hall and everybody made their way to various watering holes for lunch and if that did not take up all the time till our coach was due to depart, people visited a variety of places of interest in the area, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Bank of England Museum and the British Museum.   Everybody gathered up we left London at 4.00 pm and again due to our canny driver, negotiated the traffic and were back in Petworth right on time.

Our thanks to the many of you who have supported our 2016 Programme of Visits and we look forward to regrouping again in 2017.

Julie Rudkin
Visit Leader

Strawberry Hill House ~ Horace Walpole's Gothic Castle
14th June 2016

Our final “Summer 2016 Visit“, this time to Strawberry Hill House, was particularly looked forward to following the Lecture given by Philippa Barton. She related detail of the background to the life of Horace Walpole and his ambition to remodel the relatively modest Chopped Straw Hall into the fantasy Gothic Castle, recently renovated to the splendour on view today.

This visit turned out to have it all, trees down on the road, weather that went from not good to spectacularly awful requiring resort to Plans A,B,C and ultimately D!

Coffee on arrival at the venue was served efficiently in the Cloister Cafe (sadly outside tables not in use ) following which we were divided into two groups for our Guided Tour. Both groups, I hope, found their guides knowledgeable and informative on the meticulous details of the architecture and decoration of the many rooms they showed us. This ranging from the dull light of the Entrance Hall (less so given sunlight) with its intricately designed staircase, to the contrasting gilded splendour of the Gallery. Not to mention every room having spectacular stained glass windows, so placed not to spoil the view of the gardens and, in Walpole’s day, views of the River Thames.

Lunch for all efficiently served once again in the Cafe, the Gardens sadly not having much appeal due to the wet weather, what to do next? We assembled back at our coach for an onward visit to Orleans Gallery, where we had hoped to view their Capability Brown Exhibition. Putting play to this plan, the heavens opened, so after discussion it was agreed we would proceed home via Guildford Cathedral. Fully clad in scaffolding to mend its leaking roof, where it had been cleaned we could see how splendid it will look in the future. Finally the Rectory Cafe afforded our group the opportunity to sit and ponder the triumphs of the day over a cup of tea and slice of cake, despite which from the feedback was considered to be a very interesting and enjoyable day out!

Our final visit to Goldsmith’s Hall in October will not be weather dependent and we hope to have a good turnout on the day.

Julie Rudkin
Visit Leader

Bowood House, 16th May 2016

After coffee in Marlborough, we made our way to Bowood House, the private home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.

Our first stop was Bowood’s Woodland Walk with its collection of magnificent rhododendrons and azaleas, many of them hybrid species, now extinct, having been planted by Lord Lansdowne’s Great Grandfather, between 1866 and his death in 1927.  Since then the family have extended the garden and added to the collection.  Even non-gardeners couldn’t fail to be impressed - the colours were a feast for the eye and the whole effect absolutely stunning.  Then on to the House; built during the early 18th century and filled with fine collections of paintings, sculpture, jewellery, porcelain, 5000 books and countless artefacts, many reflecting the 5th Marquis’s six years spent as Viceroy of India.  And of course, all this set within a most beautiful park, and proving why Bowood is considered to be one of ‘Capability’ Brown’s finest designs.

The weather looked on us kindly apart from a few drops of rain as we returned to the coach at the end of a most enjoyable day.

Margaret Eatock
Visit Leader

Kenwood House, 14th April 2016

Now in the care of English Heritage and recently restored, Kenwood House was high on our list of places to visit; we were not disappointed.

Kenwood, a striking neo-classical villa on the edge of Hampstead Heath was purchased in 1910 by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh.  In 1927 he generously donated the house and part of his art collection to the nation; additional works of art were part of his later bequest.

In the morning an informative guided ‘Highlights’ tour provided us with an overview of the house and enabled everyone, after lunch, to return and explore at their own pace. The house contains an outstanding collection of paintings including works by Vermeer, Gainsborough, Turner and Rembrandt’s final‘warts and all’ self portrait as well as Zoffany’s painting of the famous Dido Belle.   The Suffolk Collection - a group of portraits was commissioned by the earls of Suffolk and Berkshire over a period of 400 years and gifted to the nation in 1974; full-length Jacobean portraits by William Larkin who clearly had an eye for exquisite detail form an important part of this collection and proved, for many in our group, one of the highlights of their visit.  Whilst for others there was the appeal of fine collections of 17th & 18th century shoe buckles, jewellery and miniatures. 

Altogether it was a most interesting and thoroughly enjoyable day rounded off in spring-like weather with tea outside in the garden.

Margaret Eatock
Visits Secretary