What I saw at Audley End

AE rear

Views of the House : Rear [above] and Front [below]


Today I travelled from Norfolk to Huntingdon via Audley End House and Gardens. It’s easy to spend a day there.

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Corbridge Roman Town : Supply Base to the Roman Frontier


At the weekend staying with friends near Gateshead it was suggested that we visit Corbridge on the Saturday. I’d heard of Corbridge’s Roman connections but wasn’t quite sure what was there nor how extensive the and well-preserved they would be. I was to find out. We parked in the free car park on the opposite side of the river from the village and Roman site; spent some time in some of the multitude of small shops – including gifts and cards, kitchenwares and books; ate lunch in an excellent deli then walked to the former Roman Town about half a mile away. It was a beautiful day crisp and sunny but very very cold.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress and A Winter’s Tale – Some Literary Remains in Bedfordshire

The clues to the literary connections in the local area can always be found in the Landmark Library of any property.

Keeper's book case

John Bunyan was a Bedfordshire man. He was born in the village of Elstow in 1628 and he spent 12 years as a prisoner of conscience in Bedford Jail where he had the idea to write his most famous work. The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in two parts in 1678 and 1684. Bunyan died in Holborn in London in 1688 and I have seen his grave and memorial in Bunhill Fields Cemetery in London.

Bunyan in Bunhill Fields

I discovered the existence of Houghton House not too far from Old Warden from another little series of books which I consult before making trips; the Heritage Unlocked series published by English Heritage.

EH Heritage Unlocked

I’m not a member of EH and to visit the remains of Houghton House, just outside the busy little town of Ampthill, it’s no advantage to be because it’s free to visit during daylight hours.

Houghton House

From the EH website :

Houghton House today is the shell of a 17th century mansion commanding magnificent views, reputedly the inspiration for the ‘House [or Palace] Beautiful in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

It was built around 1615 for Mary, Dowager Countess of Pembroke, in a mixture of Jacobean and Classical styles: the ground floors of two Italianate loggias survive, possibly the work of Inigo Jones.

EH Information board

Information panels describe the house, its owners and the surrounding hunting estate.”

Approaching HH

The ruin of Houghton House is approached along a tree-lined track.

Tree with mistletoe

There are also many trees laden with mistletoe – giving quite a seasonal feel. Also, it was approaching dusk which increased the dramatic effect of the ruin but maybe my photos turned out a little on the dark side.

HH south

Houghton House “commands spectacular views over the Bedfordshire countryside and would have been a grand setting indeed for the countess’ social events.”

And in the History Album at Keeper’s Cottage we are informed of a Shakespearean connection to Old Warden :

Warden Pear. A small pear used for cooking, the Warden Pear was the key ingredient in Warden Pies, which crop up here and there in Elizabethan and Stuart literature, most notably in Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale , where the Clown almost gives the recipe : “I must have saffron to colour the warden pies; mace; dates? …nutmegs, seven; a race or two of ginger, byut that I may beg, four pounds of prunes and as many raisins o’ the sun” [Act IV, sc. Iii] Hot Warden Pies were still sold in Bedford in the nineteenth century.”

The Winter's Tale