Today we visited the lovely Stowe House (also known as Stowe School), located in Buckingham, England. After a long bus ride, which funnily enough was in the same general direction as our past two day trips to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon (I’m feeling a sense of déjà vu every time I get on a bus!), we arrived to the main building, which you see on the left. My immediate impression was that both the grounds and the school are absolutely majestic, like something out of a Jane Austen novel or a movie set. In fact, several movies have filmed at the House, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The World is Not Enough (a James Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan).
The estate itself was owned by the Temple-Grenville family since the 1500’s, and the house and gardens have undergone many changes and passed through several hands over the years. Based on what our tour guide told us, it really seems like the Temple-Grenville family was chock full of people who were highly inept at handling money. The estate was bought in 1921 by a man named Harry Shore, while the contents of the house were sold in a separate sale. And in May of 1923, 99 boys came to Stowe School, where they were taught about art and architecture. But by the 1960’s, the school could no longer afford to upkeep the gardens, and in 1989, the gardens were handed over to the National Trust. A few years later in 1997, the school could no longer maintain its buildings, and a trust was organized, allowing the buildings to be open to the public.
Today, the school is a co-ed boarding school which houses about 780 13-18 year olds. It costs a whopping 33,000 pounds per year, which is the equivalent of approximately $57,000! Notable alums of the school include Sir Richard Branson (billionaire businessman), Henry Cavill (actor), and Christopher Robin Milne (son of Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne).
The library, where our tour began, is a true treasure; as the librarian herself said, “I have one of the best offices in the world.” Located on the north side of the building, it overlooks the magnificent grounds, like these:
The library has undergone a very interesting evolution itself- it became the library in 1797 and remains the main library of the school today. In 1845, Queen Victoria herself visited the school, and the massive renovations/upgrades to the house bankrupted the Duke of Buckingham (remember when I said that the family was no good with money?). Because of this, all of the maps and manuscripts within the library had to be auctioned off, which is heartbreaking – very few original items from the house are in possession of the estate today due to these many sales and auctions. Fun Fact: The family archives are actually not even in the UK, but rather in the Huntington Library in California!
As you can see from the picture, the library is phenomenal & the ceiling really stands out. In fact, the ceiling actually has a 23 1/2 karat gold gilding!
After our tour of the main building, we were given free reign over the gardens, which are some of the best I have ever had the chance to see. The gardens are full of bridges, winding foot paths, pastures (with sheep!), ponds, monuments, statues, arches, and temples (lots of Greek/Roman influences can be seen everywhere). I think my favorite thing was a grotto that Jessica and I stumbled upon and explored.
I could have explored the house and gardens for hours, but unfortunately we had to head back to London. Stowe has probably been my favorite place we’ve visited (so far), and though I’ve never had a desire to be a school librarian, I would work at a place like Stowe in a heartbeat! Sign me up, England.
The girls and I decided to explore London when we returned in the evening, and we ended up in Chinatown, which is in the Soho area. It’s full of bright lights, colors, smells, and endless restaurants and shops! Led by Jessica, we decided to eat at a place called Cafe TPT, where we all shared a set meal (meaning we had about 6 different dishes with rice/chicken/beef/veggies to split). It was delicious! I had never visited Chinatown in London before, so it was a wonderful new experience. (Thanks, Jessica!)
Little did we know, we’d have one more adventure ahead! We had our first tube mishap – oops! The Bakerloo tube line runs through Waterloo Station, which is our home station. But instead of taking the southbound Bakerloo line, we hopped on the northbound line. So we decided to make the best of it and make a detour to 221 B Baker Street… which is of course, the address of the one and only Sherlock Holmes! As you can see, I tried to pay him a visit, but he clearly wasn’t home and was probably out solving a mystery with Doctor Watson. Maybe next time!
After our long day, I’m off to sleep! Tomorrow we visit the British Library, and I can’t wait to report back to you on everything we see…