Christmas Outing to Sandham Memorial Chapel and Highclere Castle (“Downton Abbey”)

Pictures to follow soon...
Saturday 1st December 2012 – our Christmas event…

Looking forward eagerly to our day out, I joined our coach and fellow members on a very cold, clear, sunny morning.  The beautiful weather augured well.

First stop was the Sandham Memorial Chapel and I headed off to the little pub for a cup of coffee in front of a lovely warm open fire to wait for the tour.

For some reason I had failed to register, we were here to see the very famous mural paintings of Sir Stanley Spencer so imagine my surprise and amazement on entering the Chapel!  I was quite overwhelmed by the scope and detail of the work.  Its impact on me was profound and unforgettable, even though I’m generally speaking, not really a fan of Spencer’s work.  We spent over an hour in this “Holy Box” as Spencer called it, inspired by his visit to the famous arena Chapel in Padua and we were given a very thorough and informative talk on each remarkable tableau of the memorial depicting Spencer’s experiences during the First World War.  I left feeling very pleased to have seen it and most impressed indeed.

Next on our tour was Highclere Castle, familiar to most of us from the very popular TV series ‘Downton Abbey’ As we approached, the Castle appeared, standing proudly and squarely in its landscape of mature trees – a handsome building very reminiscent in its style of the Houses of Parliament, not surprising as it was created by the same architect, Sir Charles Barry.

Once inside the rooms did not disappoint.  The house exuded a warm, comfortable lived in feel – very inviting – unlike many other National Trust properties, which I have found can seem lifeless museum pieces!  The rooms were all beautifully appointed and decorated in warm plush deep pinks, greens and golds.  Upstairs and down, there were beautiful views from the large generous windows out over the surrounding acres of grounds, replete with lakes and various architectural follies.

Each room presented its own collection of lovely antique artefacts and paintings.

There was much to linger over and savour before going downstairs to the added bonus of the Egyptian exhibitions displaying the findings of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, including a replica of Tutankhamen’s tomb.

As we left for home the sun was setting in a soft pink sky and all in all we had had a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable outing.



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