Penshurst Place

Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

PENSHURST PLACE

Date: 13th May 2015

Friends of Canterbury Cathedral organized a day trip to Penshurst Place - home of Viscount De L'isle and his family.  Viscount De L'isle is the Lord Lieutenant of Kent and I have had the pleasure of meeting him at one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Days.

I am not going to attempt to try and précis the history of this delightful Historic Home because you will find anything you might need to know on the Internet.  But what I will say is that it was an incredibly enjoyable visit - made absolutely wonderful by the unseasonally good weather we encountered (especially as on the 14th it poured with rain all day).

Penshurst Place was once the home of Sir Philip Sidney - a renowned figure of the English Renaissance ; an Elizabethan poet, soldier and courtier, godson of Phillip 11 of Spain (husband to Henry V111's daughter Mary who carried the soubriquet 'Bloody Mary' because of her Catholic persecution of Protestants).

The Sidney family has been in continuous occupation of the house for more than 460 years and as Viscount De L'isle says in the introduction to the excellent Guide Book  'fortunately no Sidney has been rich enough to tear the house down and start again!'

Probably the most intersting feature of Penshurst is the Baron's Hall which was described by the writer John Julius Norwich as 'one of the grandest rooms in the world'.  The Hall was completed in 1341 and soars 60 ft high.  The Architect chose chestnut for the roof design - stronger and lighter than oak.

There are many many orignal portraits in the various rooms depicting the Sidney family over the ages and very intersting they are too.

It is not surprising that this wonderfully emotive and historic  family home is often used in films and television series - the most recent being the making of Wolf Hall at Penshurst - much of the filming taking place in The Long Gallery.

Because of my interest in Huguenots, it was a nice surprise to discover a portrait of  the prominent French scholar Hubert Languet who had tutored Sir Philip  Sidney in Latin studies. 

Our guide, Sue, was excellent.  She observed all the rules of good guiding - waited until the group were together before she began to speak, enunciated clearly and projected well.  We were very surprised at the end of the tour when she announced that it was only her 3rd guided tour. She got a well deserved round of applause.

In the afternoon we made a tour of the gardens which was delightful particularly because the weather was ideal - very warm but with a gentle breeze.  Apparently the historic Formal Gardens are the jewel in the crown of Penshurst Place.  There are records dating back to 1346 and the provide a superb example of Elizabethan garden design with 11 acres of walled and yew hedged garden rooms.  I was told that the Yew hedges stretch for a mile.  And they were so magnificently clipped they did not look quite real.  There were many beautiful spots in the gardens but I will remember most the wonderful Wisteria - which had obviously once been much taller but had been cut back vigorously so that the blooms were from ground level up to average person height and looked like a cascade.  My other memory will be of the Orchard with its very old Apple trees absoluted covered, and in some places choked with Mistletoe.  (I will put a photo in the Gallery).   Although it is parasitic, it will not kill the host tree but can weaken it.  There was one tree in particular which looked more mistletoe than apple.  It must provide a very worthwhile source of income at Christmas.

Quite correctly, we were not allowed to take photographs inside Penshurst but I took some lovely ones outside.  As you know I can only put one photo into my Blog but I will enter more into the Gallery.  So which to choose - perhaps this one showing you the whole of Penshurst with the roof of the Baron's Hall very prominent on the right hand side of the picture.  Note the different colouring of the tiles - the dark ones being original and the terracotta being more modern - but not that modern!

PENSHURST PLACE

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