Thursday, July 20, 2017

Broughton Castle

I think it would take a lifetime to see all the great manor houses and castles that dot the countryside of the U.K. This week I discovered a jewel of a grand house, Broughton Castle, a moated and fortified manor house a few miles from Banbury in North Oxfordshire. 

The core of the house was built in 1306 and the gatehouse in the early fifteenth century, but most of what you see today dates from the 1550's. 

The main part of the house was a center of opposition to Charles I during the English Civil War.  It was besieged and damaged after the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.  

Broughton Castle is home to the 21st Lord and Lady Saye & Sele, whose family name is Fiennes. The ownership of the Castle has remained in the same family since 1447.  

Sir Thomas inherited Broughton Castle from his great uncle William of Wykeham, the founder of New College in Oxford and Winchester College in Winchester.  William Wykeham bought Broughton Castle in 1377. Sir Thomas inherited it in 1447.  Their descendants still live in the Castle nearly 700 years later!

This is a genealogy of the decedents of William of Wykeham and the owners of Broughton Castle since the 14th Century. It hangs in the great hall.  The family name of the owners changed to Fiennes (through marriage) in 1447. The British actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes are distant cousins to the current owners.  (It was used in the film Shakespeare in Love in 1998 staring Joseph Fiennes as young Shakespeare!)

If Broughton castle looks familiar, that is because it has been used in dozens of movies and TV shows. Above is a list of the movies and TV productions filmed here since 1960.  The one that I recognized the castle from was Wolf Hall, filmed in 2014.  

One of the many things that impressed me with this home are the views from the every window. Every room that I toured, the windows all have beautiful views in every direction. Since the castle is still the private residence of the current Lord and Lady Saye & Sele, only part of the house is available to tour. It is also only open to the public on Wednesday and Sunday 2-5pm.

Through the centuries, various kings and queens of England have been guests at the castle.  The wall paper in this room and the next is 18th century hand painted wall paper from China.  It is stunning.

These documents are the original title to the ownership of the castle.  They date back to 1377.

I love this collection of baby shoes from the various generations and centuries of castle owners.

Stunning views from every window. 

The castle is surrounded by a man made mote.  It helped protect the castle from siege in 1642 during the English Civil War. 

While the gardens are not as large as most castles, they are simply stunning. Two hundred years ago 14 gardeners where employed to maintain the one and a half acre garden. Today only one gardener manages the garden and does so brilliantly. It's is a beautiful English garden.

Behind the gatehouse is the church where the owners of the castle are buried. Here lies William and Mary Wykeham, the first Lord and Lady of Saye & Sele.

This is the tomb of Sir John de Broughton, the builder of the church (1315).  It was restore to it's original medieval colors in the 19th century.  

On the top floor of the castle you'll find a room where there are canon balls that were fired upon the castle in the 1600's. It was also in this room where Sir William and other Parliamentarians made plans to oppose the autocratic rule of King Charles I.  After the English Civil War, William Fiennes (1582-1662) arranged for a group noblemen to travel to the New World, America, where they founded Saybrook (Connecticut).

There is so much history in the walls and grounds of this spectacular house. The castle has been lovingly maintained and restored through the centuries. It is no wonder it is sought after as a movie set.  It looks like a fairytale castle and is well worth a visit.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wimbledon after 4pm.

I had the great privilege of having a dream come true yesterday. I finally made it to Wimbledon. We didn't have advanced tickets so I did some research and we decided to go late afternoon, stay through the evening, and take our chances with the queue.  It worked!  We got in (after having the Wimbledon queue experience), saw some terrific tennis, and got to enjoy the electrifying atmosphere.

Hundreds camp out each night in an effort to be first in the morning queue for day passes into the park.  We opted instead to try for tickets for later in the day and skip the camping part. 

We left Oxford a bit after 2pm and arrived at Wimbledon just before 4pm where we parked at parking lot #10 because parking is only £10 starting at 4pm. We queued to get a gate pass to the Park and were in the queue over 2 hours as it snaked along. The time passed quickly, though, because we met a young man in front of us from Germany and talked with him the whole time. It's always a delight to make a new friend and have an interesting conversation.

"We've all gone a bit Wimbledon"

We finally made it into the park just past 6pm -- we paid £18 to get into the park after 5pm. With a park pass, you can see games on courts 3-18 but it's really crowded and nearly impossible to get a seat to see anything. So we went to the resale booth above court 18 and bought £10 resale tickets to Center Court. We stopped along the way to quickly eat a picnic we brought which was a big mistake. By the time we made it into Center Court, the last match had just ended. We got to see the court but no play.


Results are still posted by hand

Henman Hill or more recently known as Murray Mount

I was surprised to see the skyline of London and to see that Wimbledon is so close to London.  It was also a lovely summer sunny afternoon and a perfect evening.

Court 18 

A quick picnic that cost us from seeing play on Center Court

Center Court as the crowds were leaving

We then turned in out tickets, explaining we didn't get to see any play, and were kindly given tickets to Court Two. We were lucky enough to see an entire match of women's singles: Ons Jabeur from Tunisia (ranked #104) against Sventlana Kuznetsova from Russia (ranked #51). Svetlana won and, although it wasn't a close match, it was still great tennis.
 Ons Jabeur 3, 2     Svetlana Kuznetsova 6, 6

It was an amazing day that I'll never forget. It was a great way to spend the 4th of July, or as my daughter said, Brexit of 1776.

Now that I know just about any one can get into Wimbledon with some luck, planning, and patience, I'm already looking forward to going back next year -- next time for a full day.  I think it is pretty remarkable that for such a world class athletic event, that ordinary folks, without advanced tickets or spending a fortune, and with a little patience, have the opportunity to attend one of the most beloved sporting events in the world. I'm grateful for that.  It's a magical place!

Here are some of the sites that helped me figure out what I needed to know to make our attempt to get into the Park and buy return tickets successfully. Also, here are a few things I learned about Wimbledon:

  • 39,000 spectators in the grounds at any one time.  The space really handles crowds well
  • Center Court holds 15,000; Court One has a capacity for 11,393
  • There are 40 courts in total -- 18 Championships grass courts (Centre + Nos 1-18, minus #13) plus 22 grass practice courts in Aorangi Park and at Southlands College nearby
  • Championships courts grass playing height is 8mm. Court grass composed of 100% rye grass.
  • The screen on Henman Hill (or most recently known as Murray Mound) is 40 square metres in size
  • 674 matches played over a two week period with 757 players (2017)
  • There is usually no play scheduled on middle Sunday to allow the courts to recover from intensive use of Week 1 and be thoroughly watered to ensure optimum performance in Week 2 
  • Around 6,000 staff are taken on each year for Championships, including 250 Ball boys & girls
  • 28,000kg of strawberries are consumed during the tournament with over 10,000 liters of fresh cream
  • Since 1954, money raised from returned tickets has been donated to charity
  • There are 360 official umpires working each day

This is dedicated to my dear mother-in-law who loved to watch Wimbledon.  We thought of you often, Jean, and knew you were with us in spirit.