Burghley House.


Here’s Burghley House, the home that William Cecil, 1st Earl of Burghley, built when he was looking after Elizabeth I’s government. He designed and built it himself, though seeing as he was hardly ever here, I’d say the real builder was more than likely his wife.


I liked this metal flag on top of the gatekeeper’s lodge. Jaunty.


Here’s the view of the place from the gift shop door. It was raining; imagine that! Everyone keeps saying that of course it’s raining because this is a Bank holiday, which basically means a long weekend. I kept thinking of Russell, the bus driver from the first tour I did around England, blandly saying every time we whinged about the weather, “This is why it’s such a green and pleasant land.”


Here’s the kitchen. It was a massive space and very well-scrubbed. The copper pots and pans were blinding in their sparkliness.


See how thick the walls are? And how high the roof is?


I’m a little dubious that this is how it would have looked back in the day, but it was certainly impressive as we walked in.


The skulls on the wall are turtle skulls, from when they made soup. I thought that was a nice little touch: gone, but not forgotten.


The bells, to summon the servants.

Burghley House is interesting from a few different standpoints. The first being that it’s one of the few (if not the only) grand houses to still have the original family living in it. That’s over 500 years, which is pretty impressive. Because of this, the family’s art collections and land haven’t been sold off over time to pay debts etc, so it has a massive display of art, furniture and ceramics that boggle the mind.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, death duties were at an incredible 80%. The family would have lost the lot, except that the 9th Earl (I think he was the ninth), who was also a successful Olympic athlete, set up a family trust where the place became a museum for the people, as long as a member of the family was allowed to reside there. The said member of the family HAD to have qualifications in art. In other words, it had to be someone who was switched on and knew the worth of the building and its contents. This is probably why the current person looking after the place is not the current holder of the family title. He lives in Canada. Miranda somebody-or-other is a direct descendant of William Cecil and works for Sotheby’s. Her husband is a director of Christies.


The original staircase, made of stone.


Imagine who has touched this state-of-the-art built-in handrail…


The chapel. Still being used, apparently.

Not just at the moment though.


This isn’t a terribly clear photo, but this is an organ. It’s an unusual shape and was made for (I think) the 5th Earl and 1st Marquis. He was a massive collector, who also raced around and obliterated many of the Elizabethan features of the house. When he couldn’t sleep at night he’d come down here and play the organ. Because it needs someone to work the bellows, his manservant used to have to get up and work them while he belted out his tunes.


This is a drawing room, but the bed was the one that Princess Victoria slept in when she and her mother stayed here when she was 16. Her Mum had the grand bedroom and she had this makeshift room next to hers. When she came back some years later, the room she stayed in was vastly different.


This is the window in the dining room. I LOVE this chair. It beautifully solves the whole problem of what to do about the jutting-out part of the room.


The dining room is painted all over in massive murals. Antony and Cleopatra in a sea battle, among other things, which wouldn’t seem to me to be all that conducive towards digestion, but maybe people were different back then. It was an incredibly impressive looking space and was used in the latest ‘Pride and Prejudice’ movie as Lady Catherine’s drawing room.


Chinese china. The amount of blue and white in this room was staggering. I like the idea of stacking it all up in the corner; looks effective, doesn’t it?


This is the bed in ‘Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom’, which is a bit of a take because Queen Elizabeth I never stayed here. Imagine this: you’ve spent a crazy amount of money building Burghley House to impress your Queen when she deigns to stay. Finally the date is set. The court sets off and you have everything in readiness.

Then, when the Queen and her court are literally a day away, your daughter comes down with a case of smallpox. The court veers away and stays somewhere else and she never comes near the place again.

Wouldn’t it rot your socks? But at least his daughter made a full recovery.


This is the bed that Queen Victoria and her husband slept in when they made a long stay here.


When they were here the bed was on a platform. These steps beside the bed show just how high they were….



This was an extraordinary piece of art. This bird is carved from a single piece of pearwood.


This includes the fly.


And the string.


Look at this magnificent cabinet. There was an inventory of the collection in the late 1600’s. In the late 1800’s they decided to see if they could locate everything in the original one. This was missing… until they found it in a dreadful condition downstairs just outside the gentlemen’s loo.


Henry VIII.


Elizabeth I, his daughter.


William Cecil himself, Lord Burghley.IMG_7053

Here’s another priceless object d’art that was found neglected during the second inventory. This Japanese sculpture was being used as a doorstop.


This is a drawing room with an enormous silver wine cooler in it.


The murals that cover the walls and ceilings are incredible.



As is this monster of a thing. They suspect that most of the Elizabethan silverware was melted down to create this in the 1700’s.


I think the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” award goes to the Hell Staircase, which is what visitors would have seen the moment they entered the house. It’s a truly impressive space, with tormented figures galore writhing and soaring in pain and anguish as they’re dragged down to hell.

Death as a skeleton with a modest loin cloth. I can’t imagine what visitors would have made of this if they were caught unawares.


Here’s the only largely Elizabethan space left in the house. This was originally the Great Hall, but over time it was used as a place to store the house fire engie, before ending up as a library.


Look up!


After viwing the house we went to the café in the Orangerie for lunch. I took a sneaky snap of this dapper gentleman… looks like stripes may be on their way back in.


It’s a sign!!! This was Dobby.


On the way home, we ducked into Stamford to look at an antiques place. It was pouring down, so a nice big antiques market under cover was the perfect thing to do.


My souvenir? A little milk jug for 3GBP.

Well, it was Skinflint Sunday, after all…

This entry was posted in holidays. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Burghley House.

  1. Lucinda Sans says:

    What a coincidence. I am just reading a new novel about Elizabeth I with Cecil featuring large.

    Love the jug.

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