Kiplin Hall : Country Seat of the Founder of Maryland USA

Kiplin leaflets

For many years I have picked up the leaflet describing Kiplin Hall and tempting me to visit. My interest was even more piqued when I read fellow blog poster nilly hall‘s description of her visit to the house and garden last October. Then earlier this year I was lucky enough to join friends to attend The History Wardrobe Premiere : Women and The Great War. Although organised by Kiplin Hall the performance was presented in nearby Scorton Village Hall. Finally last week I visited the hall itself.

Kiplin Hall

We arrived nice and early in good time to give the tea room a try and have a walk around the gardens and estate before lunch. The house was not due to open until 2pm. During the process of deciding on a day to visit Kiplin we pondered as to why the opening hours were rather unusual: generally Sunday to Wednesday 2 – 5pm. The grounds and tea room being open on the same days between 10am and 5pm. Could it be that they host weddings on Fridays and Saturdays? As we ate our delicious salad lunch we soon realised the reason for this. The volunteers began to stream in, greeting each other, checking the rotas and signing their attendance book. Of course, a house like this cannot operate successfully without the generous assistance of a host of local volunteers. Sunday to Wednesday must be their preferred days of working so it’s Sunday to Wednesday that Kiplin Hall is open. I should add that in each room we talked to the volunteer room stewards who added much to our enjoyment of the day.

Kiplin topiary

 On arrival at Kiplin Hall you are greeted by giant topiary peacocks

White garden and topiary

Our walk started at the White Garden

Arriving at lake walk

Walking through several gardens you eventually arrive at the Lake Walk

Lake and folly

Grassy paths lead round the lake to The Folly or ‘eyecatcher’ which, until the 1990s gravel extraction work which brought much-needed to funds to the hall and created the artificial lake, originally stood in the west parkland. The lake provides a habitat for many aquatic birds and wild flowers.

The Folly

The Folly

Lake and Hall

Kiplin Hall from the Lake Walk

We didn’t have time before lunch to complete all of the garden/estate walk nor even touch on the Woodland Trails, although we managed to fit in the Walled Garden and the Garden Museum where we learned more about the house, gardens and owners. Kiplin Hall and Gardens definitely warrant a return visit.

Beautiful blooms

Beautiful blooms near the Walled Garden

Kiplin 1780

Kiplin in 1780 by George Cuit The Elder

Christopher Crowe

Christopher Crowe bought the house and estate in 1722

Crowe bought the estate from Charles Calvert, the 5th Baron Baltimore, whose ancestor in the late 1620s set sale for America and later founded the state of Maryland.

After several years of negotiation over both the land and Calvert’s proposed charter, on 20 June 1632 Charles I put his seal to the patent for land to the north of Virginia, to be called Terra Mariae or Maryland in honour of Queen Henrietta Maria. Sadly, George Calvert had died in April that year and his son Cecil, 2nd Lord Baltimore, became the first Proprietor of Maryland. Cecil appointed his younger brother, Leonard, the first Governor.” [Source]

Maryland flag

Maryland maintains connections with Kiplin Hall (or rather, they have been re-instated) through the Maryland Study Centre near the main entrance to the grounds. When students from Maryland University are staying at the Centre and involved in helping or research at the Hall the Maryland flag is always flying. As it was on the day of our visit.

Maryland Study Centre

The Maryland Study Centre

Dog Graves

The ubiquitous Doggie Graves in the Kiplin Woodland

 No photography was allowed in the house. The excellent website has links to each room with photos and descriptions. The theme of the exhibition and trail throughout the hall this year is “Kiplin Hall in times of War”. Various paintings, pieces of furniture and other artefacts connect the Hall with British fighting campaigns throughout the ages from the English Civil War (1642-1651) to The Crimean War (1853-1856). A further two rooms on the second floor have been preserved from the time when the hall was requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War and these two rooms were part of a flat later occupied by RAF officers.

Lake from house

The Lake from The Hall

A very satisfying day out!



Spotting Man’s Best Friends – in Norfolk and in Bedfordshire

Finally, for these posts about my trip down to eastern England last week just a few pictures and doggie-connections!

Billy in snow

Billy in the snow

Billy, lives with his master and mistress at the B&B in Norwich where I stay. He is very quiet and very much behind the scenes but it’s always a joy to see him when he pops into the breakfast room or has a little toddle round the garden in the summer. I think Billy is quite old now and he’s a bit shaky on his pins so on each visit I’m pleased to see him again and renew acquaintance.

Of course, the whole idea behind the very existence of Keeper’s Cottage is that it was home not only to the gamekeeper but also, and very importantly, to his dogs. They lived in separate accommodation a few yards down from the house.

A short distance down the slope was a four-stalled kennel block, where the head keeper kept his dogs for retrieving the game. One of the stalls had a hearth and copper boiler for the keeper to boil up scraps and bones for the dogs’ mash.”

Keeper's Kennels

The pictures on the walls of Landmarks usually have some connection with the property. In the case of Keeper’s there are a number of dog pictures and most notably to me the one in the bathroom :

Dog picture

For some reason he reminded me of Billy.

Alfie in snow

Alfie dislikes the snow and won’t keep still to be photographed!

We did, of course, have our own pug dog with us at Old Warden. Alfie is fast becoming a seasoned Landmarker. He already accompanied us to La Maison des Amis, the Windsor’s place near Paris, earlier in the year. And now he’s been to Keeper’s. Where next for Alfie?- you just have to wait and see ….

Alf at Keeper's

Eventually all dogs pass away and go to the great kennels in the sky. The Shuttleworths were no different from the Windsors, from Edith Wharton or from Agatha Christie. They also  had a great love and respect for their four-legged friends and in the Swiss Garden are 14 gravestones each marking the burial spot of a much-loved pet.

Dog graves in Swiss Garden

The Doggie Graves in the Swiss Garden despite their age each name can be clearly read

Leo's stone

Agatha Christie at Home and at Hotels

It was great news when The National Trust announced in 2000 that they had received the gift of Greenway to add to their inventory, although the house did not open to the public until 2009. Being a regular visitor to Devon I made particular point of arranging a visit to Greenways on 22nd August that year. I’d seen the house, perched above the River Dart, several times from river excursion boats and apparently travelling by river boat (The Green Way) is the best way to approach it.

But I had my elderly mother in tow so we booked a car parking space and a table in the restaurant (converted from Agatha’s own kitchen). The gardens are beautiful and varied and paths lead up above the house to the kitchen garden and down to the River Dart and the Greenway Boat House.

Greenway Boat House from the River Dart: featured in Agatha Christie’s ‘Dead Man’s Folly’.

The Greenway Boat House (above and below)

Agatha Christie used the boathouse as the location for the fictional murder of Marlene Tucker in ‘Dead Man’s Folly’

We made a tour of the house with an introduction by a room steward and were then left to our own devices. I don’t have any interior photos so we were probably asked not to take any. My question to the guide was “Which books did Agatha actually write here?”. The answer was “None”. She used the house as a summer retreat and invited guests of friends and family to join her. Here she would read her latest manuscript to these guests in the evenings before publication in the following autumn. However, one book was written based entirely around the Greenway location : “Dead Man’s Folly“. I read loads of Christie novels in my late teens but have never gone back to them since. With the exception of DMF which I bought secondhand the day after visiting the house and read straightaway. All the locations came back to me with immediate clarity. The boat house featured as the location where the murder took place.

Greenway Library – my favourite room (Photo from Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill)

[The frieze was painted by Lieutenant Marshall Lee when he was stationed at Greenway by the US Navy. The house had been requisitioned by the Admiralty during the Second World War.]

After our house tour we used the servants’ entrance to the dining room where only 3 or 4 tables were set for lunch. We enjoyed our meal surrounded by Agatha Christie’s cookery books and kitchen equipment.

Moorlands Hotel

Interestingly, I have come across two hotels with Agatha Christie connections within just a couple of weeks. The first is Moorlands near Haytor just on the edge of Dartmoor. Whilst staying here Agatha Christie was inspired to write her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Moorlands is now a hotel belonging to the HF Holidays organization and it was just steps away from our cottage on Dartmoor in October. There’s a lovely cafe (with wifi) – Dandelions – which is open to non-residents. I already knew about the Christie connection and asked to see the picture.

Agatha Christie Portrait and Complete Works

Then this weekend I visited a friend who was staying at The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. This was the hotel where AC was found 10 days after she mysteriously disappeared following her husband’s revelation that he was leaving her for another woman.

And finally, what do Agatha Christie, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Edith Wharton (all featured in these pages) have in common? Answer : they all had doggie cemeteries for their own pets.

A Step from the House is a Step into Nature : the Grounds and Gardens at The Mount

Wharton carefully planned the grounds of The Mount, which during her ownership comprised 150 acres of drives, woodlands, orchards, meadows, wildflower fields and formal gardens. Her niece, the noted landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, assisted by designing the maple-lined drive leading to the house and the elaborate kitchen garden that occupied the field in front of the stable. Wharton’s restored greenhouse still stands near the original gates.

The formal gardens around the house were designed by Wharton herself. Completely overgrown for many years, they now appear much as they did when the were new. At this time she was also writing her book Italian Villas and Their Gardens.

A broad Palladian staircase leads down from the terrace to gravel walks which descend to a lime walk of linden trees. The Lime Walk serves as a connecting hallway between the two major garden rooms. 

To the right when facing away from the house, the walled garden is an Italian “giardino segreto”. Wharton completed this garden with the proceeds from her first best-seller “The House of Mirth”.

On the left, the French-style flower garden has eight boxwood bushes arranged around a pool with Wharton’s dolphin fountain. Over 3,000 annuals and perennials have been planted here to suggest Wharton’s design. The trellis-work niche was recreated from photographs.

I wish I had had more time to wander the grounds at The Mount. I never visited the greenhouse, the woodland and the walled garden but I did walk up the small mound where Edith’s beloved dogs are buried.

Reminded me of the little gravestones of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s pet pugs at Le Moulin de la Tuilerie.

The Lost World of the Windsors

In one of the sitting rooms of the main building at The Moulin de la Tuilerie, or The Mill, as it is sometimes called, is a mural painted above the fireplace. It was put there by the Duchess of the Windsor and it says “I’m not the miller’s daughter but I’ve been through the mill.”

Over the years since 1734, the best date that can be given for the main building at Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, The Mill at Gif Sur Yvette has had many incarnations. The most glamourous being during the 1950s when it was the weekend home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. They bought the house in 1952 from the artist Drian and set about making renovations and improvements to both the house and the garden. During the 1950s and 1960s they were entertaining celebrities and the glitterati at weekend parties here just a 30 minute drive from their home in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

The Garden

Here is an interesting introduction  to Le Moulin and some comments by the daughter of one of the gardeners who worked with the Duke of Windsor.

Le Moulin De La Tuilerie

Looking at old pictures of the Mill I really do think that the Duke loved pottering in the garden. Russell Page, in his book, The Education of a Gardener makes several comments about the Duke’s choice of plants and about his keen interest in the garden in general.

Photo from The Windsor Style by Suzy Menkes.

The Garden at The Mill Today

“It was a lucky day for the Duke of Windsor, who loves stones as well as streams, when in his garden near Paris, he found the remains of an old quarry with enough stone to pave all the garden paths. We used them with fairly wide mortared joints in the enclosed garden, and spaced more widely and with grass between, in the wilder parts outside the garden walls.” (Russell Page – The Education of a Gardener)

Both of my visits have been in May so very few flowers have been in bloom and the garden is generally tidier and less fussy than in the Windsor’s day.

The Grounds

When the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived here at the weekends and entertained their guests the grounds contained a swimming pool and a tennis court. Today these are overgrown and have all but disappeared. The pool was filled in but standing by it and still topped by a weather vane complete with coronet is a little round changing hut.

Photo from The Windsor Style by Suzy Menkes.

The garden at The Mill today

The tennis court today

The Pugs

Evidence of the Duke and Duchess’s love for their pet pugs can be seen everywhere at The Mill. In the pictures hanging in each property, in the books in each library, on the cushions and by the fact that little individual tombstones were made for each pug that passed away and was buried in the Mill grounds.

The stones have been moved and now lie or stand near one of the garden gates.

 Trooper – 1952-1965 RIP

Pug Headstones

Of course, as our own contribution to try to bring Le Moulin back to its former glory we brought our very own pug Alfie to stay. He found that he had a taste for the Royal life and did not want to get back in the car to come home!