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Archive for the ‘Historic houses’ Category

We have just returned from a trip south where we went to a practice round at the Masters Golf Tournament and then on to Savannah and stopped at sights along the way down and back home.  I will be writing about them over the next several blogs.

I always think it is interesting when you learn about the origin of a name. The name Cheekwood comes from the owner of the property, Leslie Cheek, and Mrs. Cheek’s maiden name was Wood.  It is also the house that coffee built.

Leslie Cheek’s brother Joel developed a superior blend of coffee called Cheek-Neal Coffee.  Leslie and members of the Cheek family invested in Cheek-Neal Coffee.  Joel convinced the best hotel in Nashville, the MAXWELL HOUSE, to carry his coffee exclusively, thus the new name of the coffee.  He went on to sell his brand to Postum, which is now General Foods, in 1928.  Leslie Cheek then traded his Postum shares for IBM stock.  Thereby securing his fortune.  Then he and his wife built their dream home known as Cheekwood. We should all make such good investments.

CHEEKWOOD

CHEEKWOOD

 Passing through the main gates gives the impression that this is going to be something very special.

ENTRANCE GATES TO CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

ENTRANCE GATES TO CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

  This 55-acre property and 36- room, Georgian Revival mansion, was completed in 1932.  It was surrounded by luxurious gardens and fountains. 

CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

 The house and garden suffered somewhat from the ravages of time.  The home was lived in into the 1950’s when it was offered as a site for a botanical garden and art museum.  Changes were made and now it is a four season garden, with plants blooming throughout the year.

 The Museum of Art is housed in the mansion and includes world-class collections of American and contemporary paintings and sculpture, English and American decorative arts, and traveling exhibitions. You can get an idea of how graciously they must have lived by viewing some of their collections of silver and dinnerware.  Beautiful spiral staircases take you upstairs to what would have been bedrooms.

SPIRAL STAIRCASE AT CHEEKWOOD

SPIRAL STAIRCASE AT CHEEKWOOD

  What a life this family must have had. To look out one of the mansion windows and think, this is all my land.

It really felt like I had just walked into spring as we walked through the various gardens. 

SPRING FLOWERS AT CHEEKWOOD

SPRING FLOWERS AT CHEEKWOOD

Everything had that beautiful color of spring when the plants are clean and fresh.  On the grounds there were many different gardens such as the wildflower garden and the Japanese garden.

JAPANESE GARDEN

JAPANESE GARDEN

Our next stop was the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, which I will write about in the next blog.

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 With all the interest in the upcoming royal wedding I got to remembering our visit to Althorp last summer.  Althorp is Princess Diana’s family home.  It has been in the Spencer family for 500 years, 19 generations. It was built in 1508 by Sir John Spencer.  Diana’s younger brother Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, the 9th Earl Spencer,  lives in the house which is only open to the public in July and August.

 It is located about 1 1/2 hours driving time outside of London in the countryside. To get there we had to first take the tube to the train station.  We had booked our train tickets on line before we left.  When we got to the train station to pick up our tickets it was all very easy.  It is just like picking up your movie tickets that you booked ahead of time.  You use your credit card and out come your tickets.  Of course it took a lot of advance research to find out how to go about all this.

 You take a train to the Northampton train station and then you can take a public bus to the main gate.  We had picked our train departure time  to get us there in plenty of time to catch the bus.  However, when we got to Northampton no one knew anything about a bus or where to catch it. Then someone else said the bus had already left so we took a cab.  On the return trip we thought we would try the bus.  We found out where to catch it and the estate’s mini-bus took us to the entrance gate and pointed out where to go.  We were told you would have to flag it down because this wasn’t a normal stop.  So there we are standing on a desolate corner out in the countryside waiting for a bus.  They only run every couple hours and we didn’t want to miss it because we needed to get back to catch our scheduled train.  The bus did finally come and we made it in time to catch the train back to London. It all went well and we made it.

 Diana wasn’t a commoner by any means. The Spencer family has been at the center of social and political life in England over the centuries. Touring the house we found it to be fabulous with many priceless paintings, furnishings, porcelain, etc. We were able to tour 19 rooms in the house, including some of the Spencer Family’s private apartments. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed inside the house. The Spencers began as sheep farmers, coming to prominence in the 15th century.  

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

The estate now covers 14,000 acres of beautiful countryside and emcompasses cottages, farms, woodlands and villages. At the time a conservation project was in progress as much needs to be done to maintain the house.  A lot of the house was covered in scaffolding

Conservation work in progress

Conservation work in progress

but there were pictures showing how the exterior looked.

ALTHORP -Spencer Family Home

ALTHORP-Spencer Family Home

 The stables are in the palladium style and far larger and fancier than most houses. 

STABLE AT ALTHORP

STABLE AT ALTHORP

 They now hold a display commemorating Diana, pictures from childhood, home movies, and best of all her wedding dress and several other dresses she wore.

 After touring the house and having lunch in the courtyard we walked to the lake to see the island

ISLAND

ISLAND

on which Diana is buried and the memorial they have to her. 

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

 

It is a very beautiful and peaceful setting.

An interesting thing is that I always thought Winston Spencer Churchill that Spencer was a middle name but it turns out it is a family name and there is some connection with Diana’s family.

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