Time Travelling in the North of England

This past week has been my birthday and I’ve been celebrating it by visiting a few places of history in both Leeds & Northumberland. On Wednesday after opening my cards and pressies we set off for Temple Newsham, a Tudor-Jacobean large house in Leeds. This house is the birthplace of a Lord Darnley. The name meant nothing to me but it would seem he was the husband of one Mary, Queen of Scots – arch enemy of Queen Elizabeth the First! For anyone like me who doesn’t drive, it’s fairly straightforward to get the bus. However it doesn’t actually stop outside the house. Instead it’s a mile walk from the closest bus stop. Or, if you are like me and have no sense of direction, it becomes a 3 mile walk when you desperately try to remember the way you went several years before and end up circling round the HUGE grounds and woods that surround it! In all honesty though, the grounds are so lush green and the weather so lovely that we really didn’t mind the walk.

Going into the house my son was asked to out away his camera. One of the reasons for visiting is that for his photography dissertation he hopes to follow the Leeds version of the Monopoly board and photograph all the of the places of interest and Temple Newsham is one of them. Of the 40 restored rooms for our viewing pleasure some of them contain drapes and bedding so old they are in danger of falling apart and so kept in very dark rooms. While we were very good in those parts of the house, there was some very sneaky photography going on via his i-phone! But hey, needs must and he has a degree course to pass J

For people with small children the house also has a little farm attached to it. However neither of us felt inclined to pay it a visit. Overall it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

The next day I travelled up to Northumberland and Belsay castle. The castle is now left for ruins but houses exhibitions to help bring in the customers. Originally built in the 14th Century as a castle, an additional Jacobean mansion wing was later added. This building is in stark contrast to Temple Newsham with being left unfurnished. The wallpaper is hanging off the wall and there was nothing on the cold walls for decoration. While I found this a little dull, the aim of English Heritage who look after it is so you can fully enjoy the Greek Revival style of architecture. I normally like a good old fashioned castle but this looked as it was – an abandoned house.

We had a wander around the grounds and they more than make up for the house. I am not a gardener in any shape or fashion so can only say how beautiful and colourful the gardens are. They are obviously looked after with much love. The gardens have been created where the stone had been cut to build the Hall and walking around you actually find yourself in the original quarry whilst surrounded by greens and flowers. So peaceful I could’ve walked around several times.

The main reason for visiting though was the Jane Austen collection – costumes from various TV & film adaptations of her books – specifically the shirt worn by Colin Firth in that pond scene. A scene that whilst very, very tame by todays film standards has a tendency to send ladies of a certain age (and any taste!) into a frenzy. Indeed myself and a friend – both well past our teenage years found ourselves sneaking over the barrier for a touch J Several of my friends have asked me since what it smelled of! Fantastic!! I would’ve liked to have seen more costumes but seeing as we were only there for the one I can’t complain.

Both the visits and being able to spend time with family and good friends served to make it a really enjoyable birthday. Now where can I go for the next one???

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