Well, first things first, thank you so much to all of you who gave feedback on covers! Option A and Option C were neck-and-neck, which I had not expected, so I’m very glad to have had your input. I’m still making final deliberations and you’ll get to see the final cover when I announce that the book is published, sometime in the next few months.
I’m also back from my travels, and I have so many things I want to share! As I’m just back and still organizing thoughts and photos/video, I thought I’d start with Arlington Court, as it’s a bit more straightforward, and yet super relevant. It’s a Regency-era (built 1820-1823) property built by the Chichester family, and also houses the National Trust’s extensive carriage collection. So it has been on my list for many years, now, and I finally managed to get there this time.
One thing that surprised me about the property was the rather Pemberleyishness of the walk on the grounds, particularly given it’s in Devon. Much of the walk is beside a stream, however, and sided by woods, and as I got there early it was nice and peaceful. I think I saw two dogs being walked, two joggers, and one fox in the whole course of my walk.
The exterior of the house itself is not by any means the most exciting one you’ll ever see in a country house. Symmetry has been abandoned and aside from the bow portico, it doesn’t have much in the line of architectural flourishes. Yet I think it’s likely that country houses like this were more common than the great architectural show houses, and many of Austen’s characters would have lived, dined and danced in such places.
Beyond this rather uninteresting exterior, though, the rooms are very well suited for entertaining, and much more impressive. They’re organized around a central staircase hall, which was updated post-Regency (1865) and feels large enough that I wonder if they held balls there.Staircase Hall 360
The main rooms for entertainment consist of one long room divided into three spaces, a dining room, ante room, and drawing room. Screens allowed the rooms to be separated or run together in one long entertaining space, and the decor here felt very Regency.Dining Room 360 Boudoir (separate room off the Staircase Hall) 360 Upstairs in the Staircase Hall 360
The house came into the National Trust’s hands rather early on for a house. This is due to the family’s somewhat unique history. Sir Bruce Chichester died at age 38, in 1881, in considerable debt. This left his only child, Rosalie Caroline, in the lurch when it came to being able to marry. An heiress, apparently, is not desirable when she’s heir to an estate with a load of debt. She never married, and left the house to the Trust in 1945, continuing to live there until she died in 1949.
What this means is that furniture and the family’s extensive collections, some of which you can see in the photos, were all intact. And the house very much has a lived-in feel.
The Trust even had one room set up as the 1950s-era estate office, which was a nice touch.
There is also a formal garden and a kitchen garden, both of which are nicely done, so all in all it’s a nice property to visit AND THEN THERE IS A CARRIAGE MUSEUM.
I took a ridiculous number of photos and video, so it’s tough to choose highlights, so I think I’ll try to show the most Austen-relevant ones.
As I said, I’ve got much I want to share with you all, beyond today’s post. And of course one of these months (finally) a published book to announce. So watch this space!