Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blenheim Palace

The Front Gate

Front of the Palace
Known as the birthplace of Winston Churchill,  Blenheim Palace was built by the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill.  Queen Anne gifted him the land and helped pay for part of the construction as a gift from a grateful nation after his victory at the battle of Blenheim in 1704.   John didn't live to see the palace completed, but his wife, Sarah Churchill the first duchess, finished it as a tribute to her late husband.  Winston Churchill being born at Blenheim was a quirk of fate.  His mother was visiting when she went into early labor and produced Winston in one of the downstairs bedrooms, which is now open for viewing.  They also have the curly locks of young Winston's hair saved from when he received his first boys haircut.

The Back Entry

Side gates, where we entered.

Every Palace needs a cannon on the front porch.
While Winston didn't live at Blenhiem, he did spend time there.  They really play on this aspect.  The bulk of the downstairs is given over to his history.  It's all very interesting, with family letters from when he was a school boy, on to letters from his true love, Clementine.  There are several of his paintings, as well as cards from Hallmark with Churchill's artwork.  The years he spent in public service, with the many awards given him are all shown.  Listening to the English people who were visiting, it is plain the man is still revered in this country.

The Water Gardens

Another view of the Water Gardens.

One of the wings of the Palace seen from the lower Water Garden.

We found this sculpture interesting.
The upstairs of the palace is given over to a tour guided by a ghost, Grace Ridley, who was lady's maid to the 1st Duchess of Marlborough ovr 300 years ago.  A well done tour with lots of history, but it feels very "theme park".   Disney's Haunted House meets an English Grand Palace.

Lower fountains

Detail of lower fountain.
Outside, the gardens were lovely.  Three are formal with the rest grassy meadows and woods.  The entire place was designed by Capability Brown, who popularised the less formal look in English gardens. 

The Italian Gardens, which were private for the use of the Duke and Duchess.

Fountain in the Italian Garden.
Bird Hedge
To support their home, the current Duke and Duchess sell mineral water that is bottled from the estates springs, and wines under their own labels.  Of course they charge to enter the grounds and palace.  Our ticket, a concession because we are both over 60, was 15 pounds, or $24 each. The place was full of people from all over the world.  We shared our table while eating ice cream with a young boy from Hong Kong.
The palace is in good condition and they are able to do renovations as needed, so they must be doing something right in the money making department.

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