DiCamillo tour of English historic houses influenced by Palladio, 2019
Palladio and the English Country House
Biographies of the Tour Leaders
Curt is an American architectural historian and a recognized authority on the British country house. He has written and lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad on the subject and has taught classes on British culture and art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Providence Athenaeum, and Beacon Hill Seminars. Curt regularly leads scholarly tours that focus on the architectural and artistic heritage of Britain and its influence around the world. Since 1999 he has maintained an award-winning database on the web, The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses (TheDiCamillo.com). The database seeks to document every English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish country house ever built, standing or demolished, together with a history of the families who lived in the houses, the architects who designed them, and the history of the houses’ collections and gardens.
In recognition of his work, Curt has been presented to the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and The Prince of Wales. He is a member of The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain and is an alumnus of both the Royal Collection Studies program and The Attingham Summer School for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections. Curt is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a member of the Council of the American Museum in Britain.
Curt serves as Curator for Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, before which, for nine years, he was Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, based in Boston, where he was responsible for raising over $7 million for the Trust (he currently holds the position of Executive Director Emeritus). Previously he worked for 13 years for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A native of the Philadelphia area, Curt grew up in Central Florida with his sister, the award-winning children’s book author Kate DiCamillo.
A native of Derbyshire, Oliver Gerrish is a Cambridge-educated architectural historian, a trustee of the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust, and one of the youngest feature writers to appear in the pages of Country Life magazine. He was also the founder of The Young Georgians (the under-35 wing of the national architectural charity The Georgian Group), which he retired from in 2016 at the grand old age of 34, after nearly 15 years at the helm. While Chairman of The Young Georgians Oliver planned and led more than 100 tours and events on behalf of The Georgian Group. He is half of Historic Decoration (www.historicdecoration.com), a series of study days on the history of British interiors, which Oliver founded, together with Lady Caroline Percy. The study days take place at the Percy family’s London seat, Syon House. Oliver is also a professional countertenor. www.olivergerrish.com.
By kind permission of Amberley Castle Hotel
Amberley Green Room
Amberley Afternoon Tea
A Royal Crescent Bedroom
By kind permission of The Royal Crescent Hotel
A Royal Crescent Pool
By kind permission of The Royal Crescent Hotel
B = Breakfast | D = Dinner | L = Lunch | R = Reception | T = Tea
Sunday, June 16
T, R, D
Meet Curt DiCamillo, Oliver Gerrish, and fellow tour participants at 1:30 PM at the Rembrandt Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, after which we’ll leave by private coach for Chiswick House. At Chiswick we’ll have tea and biscuits before a private, guided tour of the house, after which there will be free time to explore the garden on your own. Chiswick House was one of the first Palladian villas in Britain, and is considered one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in the United Kingdom. The columns of the portico are copied from the ancient Temple of Jupiter Stator in Rome, while the stepped dome is based on the Roman Pantheon. The semi-circular Diocletian windows below the dome are copied from windows in the Baths of Diocletian in the Eternal City.
After Chiswick we head to Amberley Castle, our home for the next three nights, where we will be the only residents. After checking in, there will be time to settle into the luxurious country house bedrooms, followed by drinks and dinner at the castle.
Amberley Castle Hotel
Part of the AA Hotel Group of the Year 2017-18, Amberley Castle is a unique Relais & Chateaux luxury hotel located in the picturesque village of Amberley at the foot of the Sussex South Downs. Privately owned by Andrew and Christina Brownsword, this magnificent 900-year-old castle is enclosed by a 60-foot-high curtain wall and portcullis, behind which is an enchanting hotel with the highest standards of food and service. History encompasses every part of this wonderful building and the many acres of gardens it stands in. There are tennis courts, an 18-hole putting green, a croquet lawn, and many quiet corners to discover under the shade of a tree or by the fireside.
Amberley, near Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9LT
Monday, June 17
B, T, L, T, R, D
Our first full day together begins at Petworth House, one of the grandest houses in England, where we’ll have tea and biscuits, followed by a private tour of the house. Originally a 13th century house of the Percy family, Petworth, as it appears today, is primarily the work of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, who added the 21-bay classical west façade in 1688. Petworth contains the National Trust’s finest and largest collection of pictures (the house was given to the trust in 1947), with numerous works by Turner, Van Dyck, Reynolds, and Blake. In addition, the Grinling Gibbons Room contains what many believe to be the most technically perfect work ever produced by the artist. J.M.W. Turner spent years at Petworth, leaving behind a large collection of his paintings in the house. The North Gallery contains one of the largest and most important collections of ancient classical sculpture in Britain, as well as many 18th century Neoclassical pieces. After our tour ends, we’ll have lunch at a local restaurant, with time afterward on your own to visit the shops of the charming town of Petworth.
Next up is Firle Place, the home of the 8th Viscount Gage, whose family has been here for over 500 years. We’ll have coffee, tea, and biscuits in the great hall, followed by a private tour with Debo Gage. Though the house sports a classical 18th century Palladian-style façade, the interiors are Tudor and contain a fine collection of Old Master paintings (Gainsborough, Reynolds, Raphael, Van Dyck, and Zoffany), as well as Sèvres and important French and English furniture. At the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, General Thomas Gage was the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, a story that Ms. Gage will expand upon during the tour.
There will be time to relax and refresh at Amberley before drinks and dinner at the castle.
Tuesday, June 18
B, R, L, T, R, D
Tuesday commences with a visit to The Vyne, a fine 16th century house that was an important center of Tudor power politics. Lord Sandys entertained Queen Elizabeth I here in 1569, and again in 1601. Circa 1655 John Webb, a student of Inigo Jones, designed the classical portico on the north façade for Chaloner Chute, the first of its kind on an English country house. In the mid-18th century The Vyne belonged to Horace Walpole’s close friend, John Chaloner Chute, who designed the stunning (and unexpected in a Tudor house) Palladian staircase.
Then we’re off to Stansted Park. Called “one of the most beautiful homes in the South,” here we’ll have drinks, followed by lunch in State Dining Room, then a private tour of the house, ending with coffee and tea with our host, Count Aleramo Lanza, in his private apartments. This magnificent house of the earls of Bessborough (Count Aleramo is a descendant of the earls), was designed in the classical Dutch style in the late 18th century by James Wyatt, one of Britain’s greatest architects. The house burned to the ground in 1900 and, in an amazing act of architectural integrity, was rebuilt in 1903, exactly as it had been before the fire. Stansted, set in a divine Capability Brown park, also has ancient antecedents. Earl Godwin, father of King Harold, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England (killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066), had a house on the site.
Drinks and dinner will be at Amberley Castle tonight.
Thursday, May 16
B, L, R, D
We begin our Wednesday with a visit to one of England’s most glorious country houses, Wilton House, where we will have tea and coffee, before being given a private, curatorial-led tour.
Oliver Hill and John Cornforth, writing in English Country Houses: Caroline, 1625-1685, called Wilton “the most important house of the Caroline period, and perhaps the most beautiful of all English country houses.” Wilton House is so important that the county of Wiltshire (in which it’s located) was named after the house.
Wilton House stands on the site of the 12th century Abbey of Wilton; even before this, however, there was a priory on the site, established by King Egbert in the 8th century. In 1544, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Wilton Abbey was given by Henry VIII to Sir William Herbert, in whose family (today the earls of Pembroke) it has remained ever since. Using the abbey as its core, the house has been rebuilt and added to many times, most notably by the great Inigo Jones in the 17th century and James Wyatt in the 18th century.
Designed by Inigo Jones, the Double Cube Room (frequently referred to as the most beautiful room in England) is 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 feet high and has been visited by virtually every British monarch since Charles I. All the paintings on the walls are by Anthony van Dyck or his studio. Philip, 4th Earl of Pembroke and His Family, at 17 feet by 11 feet, is the largest canvas ever painted by Van Dyck. The sofas, settees, and armchairs were designed by William Kent and Thomas Chippendale and were made especially for Wilton between 1730 and 1770. The Double Cube Room became the top secret Operations Room for Southern Command during World War II. It was here that the logistical support for the D-Day Landings in 1944 were planned, when over 2.75 million troops passed through the Southern Command area on their way to France.
The art collection at Wilton, with few private rivals anywhere in Europe, contains over 230 paintings, with works by Claude, Del Sarto, Hals, Rembrandt, Holbein, Van Dyck, Rubens, Reynolds, and Brueghel.
The 2nd Earl of Pembroke was a sponsor of Shakespeare and it’s likely that the first performances of Twelfth Nightand As You Like It were performed at Wilton by Shakespeare and his company of players. Shakespeare’s first folio of plays, published in 1623, was dedicated to the 3rd and 4th Earls, both patrons of arts and letters.
After our time at Wilton ends, we’ll walk across the street for lunch at The Pembroke Arms. Up next is a visit to Lydiard House, where we’ll have a private tour. Set in a park of 260 acres, Lydiard is a medieval house that was remodeled in the 1740s in the Palladian style by the architect Roger Morris.
We leave Lydiard and head to the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, our home for the next three nights. After checking in, there will be time to relax before we have dinner at the hotel.
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa
Set in an acre of glorious gardens in the middle of Bath, The Royal Crescent Hotel (made up of two 18th century townhouses) is a five-star haven of elegance on one of Britain’s most beautiful streets.
Each of the 45 bedrooms in this masterpiece of British architecture is uniquely designed and features fresh flowers, Penhaligon products, and spectacular views over the World Heritage Site city of Bath.
Swathed in mink-colored silk, the Dower House Restaurant serves both elaborate three-course meals and afternoon teas. Overlooking the garden, the bamboo-and-slate-clad spa provides a relaxing haven with a full list of treatments and a heated pool.
16 Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LS
Thursday, June 20
Thursday begins with a guided tour of one of Britain’s most astonishing gardens—sublime and divine Stourhead! Designed in the 18th century around a man-made lake, the garden is meant to evoke Aeneas’s descent to the underworld, each turn in the path filled with a reference to classical mythology. After our tour of the garden, there will be time on your own to explore the luscious, Palladian-style Stourhead House.
We’ll have lunch at a nearby restaurant before we head to Badminton House, home of the 12th Duke of Beaufort and one of architect William Kent’s Palladian masterpieces. This never-open-to-the-public private home is one of England’s treasure houses, and, of course, where the game of badminton was invented. There is an important collection of art (the 4th Duke brought Canaletto to England) and the Badminton Cabinet, the most expensive piece of non-pictorial art ever sold at auction, was once housed here. In the 1993 Merchant Ivory movie The Remains of the Day Badminton stood in as Darlington Hall.
After Badminton we’ll head back to the Royal Crescent Hotel, where you’ll have the rest of the afternoon and evening on your own.
Friday, June 21
B, R, R, D
There is no more perfect city in the world to showcase the Palladian ideal than Bath. We begin our Friday with a guided walking tour of this United Nations World Heritage Site, followed by time on your own to have lunch, shop, and further explore the city..
After Bath we head to Iford Manor to experience one of the world’s finest examples of a Palladian garden. Iford was the home of the architect and garden designer Harold Peto, who created a garden of international importance. Here, flowers occupy a subsidiary position among the statues, architectural elements, pools, colonnades, terraces, and broad walks. Peto believed that, in order to reach the highest level of beauty, a garden must be a combination of plants and architecture. Still a private home today, a member of the family will give us a private, guided tour of this amazing garden, followed by drinks on the Great Terrace overlooking the Iford Valley.
Upon our return to the Royal Crescent, there will be time to relax and rejuvenate before we gather for drinks and a concert of English 18th century countertenor music performed by Oliver Gerrish, a rising star of the London classical music scene, accompanied by lutenist Sam Brown, whose performance has been described as “mystical and mesmeric.” After our concert, we’ll have a farewell dinner in the Dower House Restaurant at the hotel.
Saturday, June 22
Following check-out, we will depart Bath by coach to London, dropping off passengers at Heathrow Airport by 1:00 PM, for anyone with an afternoon flight. The coach will then continue from Heathrow into central London to drop-off at the Rembrandt Hotel those who are extending their stay.
For those participants leaving from London Heathrow today, please do not book flights departing before 3:00 PM.
To sign-up for the tour, please contact:
HeritageTours@nehgs.org, or call 617-226-1267
This tour is designed by DiCamillo Travel and operated by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.