On a bright, sunny morning our coach of 31 with a good complement of
merry widows set off for Harewood House beyond the Pennine barrier in
Yorkshire. After a welcome break at the Hartshead services we arrived
at our destination in time for lunch and the members of the party went
their different ways to discover the delights of the House and
The House, built by Edwin Lascelles, Earl of Harewood and completed in
1771 to the design of John Carr, a local Yorkshire architect, with
interiors by Robert Adam, furnishings by Thomas Chippendale and
the parkland laid out by Capability Brown, welcomed us with open
Over the years the Lascelles family had acquired artefacts from China
and India through their investments in the East India Company.
The current exhibition of Chinese art from 18th century to the present
day includes 20 rolls of Chinese wallpaper which had been lost
for at least 150 years when discovered in a workshop in 1988. Following
restoration it was re-hung in the East bedroom.
Throughout the life of the House changes have taken place, rooms have
been used for various purposes as fashions changed but long term
conservation projects have restored many to their original condition.
In particular the State bedroom with the spectacular State bed has been
restored to its former glory with the help
of £200,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It has
only been slept in twice, once by Emperor Nicholas of Russia.
Below stairs, areas of interest include the old kitchen with an unusual
high vaulted ceiling and the servants hall. The kitchen,
modernised in the 1840s is full of highly polished copper utensils
(whose job is that?) and a large black range. The Servants Hall now
contains many artifacts that were used both in the House and outside on
the estate, some of which are awaiting identification. Record
books from the past are on show including a Day Book that shows the
day-to-day working of the House. There is also the record of
expenditure of the entire furnishings of the House by Thomas
Chippendale, open at the expenditure on the State Bedroom which
included £2.00 for down pillows. A video showing how one of
the marquetry restoration techniques are carried out can be viewed.
The terrace in front of the House overlooks the parterre garden
and the long border. This border extends beyond either end of the
house and is full of interest with a magnificent deep red clematis at
its centre flanked by roses, sweet peas, dahlias and anything else you
can imagine. The parterre is of box hedges in-filled with bedding
geraniums and blue salvias which are continuously weeded by volunteers.
The view from the terrace encompasses the lake beyond and I was
fortunate to see a red kite circling over the fields. The
presence of these birds is due to a programme of introduction into
Yorkshire by the RSPB and the estate.
The bird garden contains over 100 different species from all over the
world and an active conservation programme is underway in conjunction
with various national and international organisations. It was of
particular interest to see the crested crane and blue starling last
seen in East Africa.
Unfortunately the coach left with much left to see and another visit is certainly warranted.