This is what we saw when driving through the town and heading to the aim of our visit, Burghley – “England’s greatest Elizabethan house.” Stamford, however, is worth a visit itself. A picturesque town was a place where numerous period dramas were filmed, including Pride & Prejudice (2005) – used as the village of Meryton. What can be noticed all around the town is that every new house which is being built is kept within the height and size of all surrounding houses and built from the same material. We pass through the “finest stone town in England” and head towards the car park near the estate. It was the last destination that day, we were a bit tired and overwhelmed by the previous load of attractions, yet the grandeur of the House in front of us was not to be missed.
We enter the house through a surprisingly modern pavilion, made of glass and steel, then we proceed towards the House. The children are happy with a Beastly Boring Burghley guide, packed with puzzles and fun. First rooms that we see are the kitchen and the staircase here’s just where we feel it. We go back in time. On that day, we are the last visitors which meant the corridors were just empty, which enforced that immediate feeling. Forgive me this amateur word, but Burghley is one of these places when you simply think “gosh, how this is OLD”. I do realise that one can say this can be related to every second place we visit, but there is a kind of special “old” notion. Simply saying, the more centuries back is the estate, the house, the cathedral etc., the harder it is to preserve it in its unchanged/original state. The current owners of the House realise that too, as it is said in a guide “the kitchen is one of the few remaining rooms at Burghley, which remind us that the house was built during the Tudor period”. England is a country so rich in well-preserved estates, nevertheless, those coming from Tudor times (1485-1603) are highly valued. With all the later changes, introduced by subsequent owners, Burghley House is unbreakably bonded to one man, William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley and Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I.
I do realise that one can say this can be related to every second place we visit, but there is a kind of special “old” notion.
The builder of the House was a significant support to the future Queen during her years as Princess Elizabeth. At her succession she remembered his loyalty, making him of one of her closers councillors. The building period of the house extended for over 30 years (1555-1587). The stone used to build Burghley was oolitic limestone, which is so hard and durable that on the south front a quarter of the blocks still show the masons’ identifying marks.
We had the privilege to visit the enfilade of rooms all alone, accompanied only by the helpful staff, indulgent for our five-years-old running from room to room and two-years-old complaining that he wants to leave. Starting from the kitchen, we passed through the Chapel with Veronese painting, the elegant Billiard Room with exquisite Norwegian oak panelling, the Bow room, and set of drawing rooms and bedrooms. Then the State Rooms – “Burghley was built to impress – and the State Rooms on the first floor are awe-inspiring, as they were intended to be.” We leave through the Heaven Room and go down by/through the Hell Staircase. Installed in 1786, it was added a double stair rail in 1957, when the house was first open to the public, to prevent stress to the supporting rods of stair treads. The spacious ending to the tour – The Great Hall, was visited by Queen Victoria in 1844 and is used today for concerts and social events.
At the end of our visit, we could see the exhibition dedicated to the 6th Marquess of Exeter, known in his youth as Lord Burghley, who was an accomplished sportsman. He was portrayed in the famous and inspiring film ‘Chariots of fire”.
The gardens are the magnificent work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. He was responsible for a design of the Orangery, that now hosts the Restaurant with a variety of fresh local foods and delicious cakes.
The tickets are not that cheap, but there is a lot to see!
You can find more fascinating stories about the Cecils of Burghley, Lancelot “Capability” Brown and 6th Marquess of Exeter here.