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Other Peoples Homes Wilton House Postponed Littlecote House Planned

With gales of 60 m.p.h. sweeping across Southern Britain whipping trees, shrubs and those daffodils that had struggled to rise out of the earth, into a frenzy, British Summer Time officially started on 26th March. All was not doom, gloom and hang-on-to-your-hat however.

Hector, our ancient tortoise has emerged from his long winter sleep and the spring quarter edition of the Historic Houses Association Magazine has arrived so, despite being holed up in the conservatory for the time being, I can begin planning where to visit this coming summer. The Historic Houses Association (HHA) represents the interests of Britain's historic houses, castles and gardens that remain in private ownership. Of the 1500 properties represented by the HHA around 350 open to the public on a commercial basis and often are still lived in by the families who have cared for and occupied them for many hundreds of years. As such they have a special and individual quality all of their own.

On our way to visit relatives who live in Marnhull, near Sturminster Newton, Dorset last weekend I had hoped that we would be able to combine the visit with a stop-off at Wilton House, the home of the Earl of Pembroke, making it the first house visit of 2006. Disappointingly it doesn't open to the public until Easter weekend. Wilton House stands on the site of a ninth century nunnery founded by King Alfred. This in turn was replaced by a twelfth century Benedictine Abbey which, with its surrounding lands, was surrendered at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries, to King Henry VIII, who gave them to William Herbert around 1542. Visit here postponed until further notice but??. with planning hat on and much determination to get our house visits started I have booked a weekend at Littlecote House.

Littlecote House lies in the meadowland of the Kennet valley, to the west of Hungerford and close to the village of Chilton Foliat. Now a country house hotel, owned since 1996 by Warner Holidays, this Elizabethan house has an intriguing history. Once the focus of a much larger estate, Littlecote was described over 400 years ago by John Leland, the first English antiquary, in his "Itinerary" as 'a right faire and large parke hangynge upon the clyffe of a highe hille welle woddyd over Kennet'.From its conception in Edward I's reign, up until its formal sale to Sir Ernest Wills in 1929, Littlecote passed by various forms of inheritance through the de Calstone, Darrell and Popham families. Accompanying these inheritances are tales of love, murder, scandal and Royal romance.

It has hosted King Charles II and Elizabeth I. It was here that Henry VIII courted Jane Seymour, and that 'Wild' William Darrell, accused of two murders, brought an end to the Darrell inheritance of Littlecote.Although we have stayed at Littlecote several times before, it's ancient atmospheric rooms that span the centuries, beautiful Roman Orpheus mosaic and tranquil grounds cannot fail to draw you back.

.Olivia Hughes,
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By: Olivia Hughes


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