Monday, 29 September 2014

Living Crafts for Christmas

Wrap up your festive shopping at Blenheim Palace

Enjoy Christmas shopping in style in the majestic setting of Blenheim Palace as over 150 British designer-makers take part in Living Crafts for Christmas from Thursday 20 – Sunday 23 November. This highlight of the festive season showcases a huge range of contemporary crafts from across the UK, giving you the opportunity to buy from the makers. 

The Great Court is transformed into a winter wonderland with twinkling
Christmas trees, roasting chestnuts, mulled wine and steaming hot chocolate as the sounds of festive street theatre and a duo singing Christmas favourites fill the air.

Blenheim Palace Christmas Shopping

With exquisite gold and silver designs in the Jewellery Quarter, studio glass, toys, millinery, fashions, ceramics, original art, wreaths and handcrafted decorations, this unique shopping experience has everything from individual gifts and special commissions to simple stocking fillers.

Festive aromas from the specialist food and drink in ‘Tastes of Christmas’ will tempt you with traditional treats and more unusual foodie gifts. Try handmade fudges and chocolates, waxed Cheddar truckles, connoisseur preserves and chutneys, while embracing the Christmas spirit with whiskies, fruit liqueurs, mulling syrups and wines for those special occasions. 

Blenheim Palace will be dressed for the season, celebrating in sparkle and splendour, with the theme of this year’s décor being ‘Glitter and Gold’ while the beautiful parkland and formal gardens are waiting to be explored in their full winter glory.

A feast of winter warming food is available in the Water Terrace Café and the Oxfordshire Pantry featuring local produce and don’t forget to drop into the Champagne Bar!

This is a perfect festive day out for all the family with a magical seasonal atmosphere at Britain’s Greatest Palace.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace

Ai Weiwei exhibition

Blenheim Art Foundation is delighted to announce the most extensive UK exhibition to date by celebrated Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei. Opening at Blenheim Palace on 1 October as the inaugural and launch exhibition of the Blenheim Art Foundation, the exhibition will showcase more than 50 artworks by Ai Weiwei produced over the last 30 years. Featuring early photography dating to Ai’s time spent in New York in the 1980s through to new site-specific works conceived in China especially for the Palace, the show will give visitors the opportunity to experience first-hand the breadth of the artist’s practice, taking place throughout Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its grounds.

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace is the first major contemporary art exhibition to be presented in a building that dates back to 1704 and was famously the birth place of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1874. Inviting a new experience of Blenheim Palace by integrating artworks throughout the richly furnished palace rooms, as well as in the park and Formal Gardens, the exhibition will showcase the work of an artist known for his decisive breaking of tradition and will invite visitors to consider the artist’s particular vision, which questions what it is that we call ‘contemporary’. 

A globally-recognised social activist, Ai Weiwei has not been able to leave China since 2011 when his passport was confiscated by Chinese authorities. The exhibition at Blenheim Palace is therefore realised through a close collaboration between the artist and the Blenheim Art Foundation team who have worked together with 3D plans and models of the site and grounds. New works realised for the Palace will include ‘Soft Ground (Great Hall)’, a site-specific carpet measuring 4510cm by 200cm displayed in the Great Hall; alongside hand-painted porcelain plates with ‘freedom flower’ details in the China Ante Room and ‘Sunflower Seed Stools’, also crafted in porcelain.
Seminal artworks on display will include ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold’ (2010), Ai Weiwei’s reinterpretation of the legendary bronze zodiac head statues that once surrounded the fountain-clock at Emperor Yuanming Yuan’s Beijing imperial retreat and ‘He Xie’ (2010), featuring 2300 small porcelain crabs presented in the Red Drawing Room. The show will feature 55 photographs by Ai Weiwei documenting his time spent in New York 1983-1993 alongside ‘Marble Surveillance Camera’ (2010), a poignant reminder of Ai’s current situation; ‘Slanted Table’ (1997), a reconfigured Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) table; and ‘Map of China’, (2009) formed from wood reclaimed from temples also dating to the Qing Dynasty.

As the inaugural exhibition of the Blenheim Art Foundation, Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace marks a new programme of contemporary art, which will see exhibitions presented at the palace by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists. It is founded by Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, whose family have resided at Blenheim Palace since it was built in the early 18th century, and whose father the 11th Duke of Marlborough is the current owner. A dedicated collector of contemporary art, Lord Edward has long held the ambition to launch a contemporary art programme at Blenheim Palace. He realises Blenheim Art Foundation with newly appointed Director, Michael Frahm.

Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, Founder, Blenheim Art Foundation, said:
“The launch of the Blenheim Art Foundation is a very exciting moment for Blenheim Palace. We are delighted to be able to host an artist of the calibre and eminence of Ai Weiwei at Blenheim and hope that our new programme of contemporary art, beginning with this exhibition, will challenge and inspire our visitors.”

Michael Frahm, Director, Blenheim Art Foundation, said:

“This exhibition presents an extensive view of the artist's diverse practice spanning more than three decades from the early 1980s in New York to modern day Beijing, where he is today confined to the borders of China. Ai Weiwei's way of approaching the world challenges the status quo and he continues to raise critical questions on social, cultural and political issues. It has been a true pleasure working with Ai Weiwei, turning our vision into reality, and it is a great privilege for us to launch Blenheim Art Foundation with one of the most important living artists.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

See Chatsworth in a Different Light - 4th to 7th October 2014

Illuminated inside and out with subdued lighting and hundreds of candles Chatsworth will open for four special evenings this October, inspired by a selection of Inigo Jones drawings not seen in public for more than 40 years.

Displayed in the Great Chamber, Jones drawings of costumes, actors and set designs were made as he worked alongside the playwright Ben Jonson on the ‘Masque of Oberon, the Fairy Prince’. Sixth in the series of extravagant shows that Jonson and Jones produced for the Stuart Court, ‘Oberon’ was performed on 1 January 1611 in the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall Palace. Henry, Prince of Wales, son and then-heir of James I, the Renaissance Prince took the title role entering in a chariot drawn by two white (polar) bears.

For Chatsworth Luminaire drawings, music and costume will bring the baroque house to life. In the garden an illuminated trail leads the way with Oberon’s Palace revealed on the East façade of Chatsworth House. The illuminated trail transforms many of the familiar landmarks in the 105-acre garden from the Emperor Fountain to the Ring Pond, Cascade and Rockery. Moments from the Masque are featured with lighting, projections and music, ending in the Stables Courtyard.

Luminaire will take place from 4 October to 7 October 2014 with the house opening at 6.30pm and the event closing at 10.30pm. House and Garden tickets will only be available in advance and provide timed entry into the house. For more information, opening times and ticket prices, visit

Spooky Half Term at the Treasure Houses of England

For a happy Halloween and Half Term holiday, schedule in a spooky trip to the ever-spectacular Treasure Houses of England.

There are ghosts and ghouls aplenty at Beaulieu’s half term hauntings (25 Oct – 2 Nov). It’s rumoured to be one of Britain’s most haunted places, with ghostly sightings in the 13th Century Abbey and at Palace House. They’ll be lots of strange going-ons for all the family to enjoy from Halloween quiz trails to spooky story-telling and lucky dip to face painting.
Halloween at Beaulieu
Experience Halloween tricks and treats at Blenheim Palace this half term. Ride the Ghost Train down to the Pleasure Gardens for a whole host of haunts. Lurk around the Labyrinth or take the 'Which Witch is Which?' trail to win some prizes. Get creepily crafty in the 'Pottering About' studio and try your hand at pumpkin carving in the Pleasure Gardens Deli.

Burghley’s sell-out Spooky Tours return (20 Oct – 1 Nov). Journey down into the creepy cellars, explore the forbidding outbuildings and centuries old cloisters of Burghley by flickering torchlight while unearthing Burghley's secret history. Plus from 18 Oct - 2nd Nov families can enjoy Burghley Pumpkin Trail around the Sculpture Garden. Tread through the crispy Autumn leaves and find the hidden pumpkins to receive a treat.

Follow CastleHoward’s ghosts and ghouls trail through the house during October half term, spotting the spooks hiding in each of the rooms. On 1 Nov will be an evening of family Halloween entertainment with storytelling, pumpkin carving, ghost rides and more. For the first time Castle Howard is taking part in Illuminating York. From 29 Oct –31 Oct the house will be lit with atmospheric light projections creating a unique visual spectacular, whilst the interiors will twinkle with candlelight and roaring log fires.

Chatsworth has ghoulish fun lurking around every corner. Discover the Halloween trail through the house with man traps, a 16th Century book of spells and more. In the garden find hidden pumpkins, travel the scary maze, dare to enter the abandoned tunnel, learn how to make a witch’s broomstick and listen to spooky storytelling. And with spooky crafts, shoot the spook and bat spotting in the farmyard and adventure playground there is plenty of Halloween fun to get involved with.

Perfect for families and lovers of the outdoors, October half term week at Harewood celebrates autumn in all its glory. Smell tasty aromas in the Old Kitchen and join seasonal cooking demonstrations Below Stairs. Try biscuit making in the Pastry Room or have a go at badge making. There are also scarecrow trails around the grounds and bags of room to run around.

A visit to the exciting Bloody Hollow adventure play area at Hatfield House is a must this half term. With its 2.5 metre high model of Hatfield House dominating the central area, Bloody Hollow has a great range of play items for all ages of children. On 1 Nov watch a fantastic fireworks display, the space themed evening will also have a funfair and plenty of family fun entertainment.

Ghoulish adventures, fun and frights will set your heart racing this half term at Holkham Hall. Discover the ‘Curiovan’ and see the natural world in a magical way with specimen jars, dancing skeletons, clockwork ladybirds and tiny skeletal fairies.  Let the yarnsmith enthral you with his spell-binding tales of devils, ghosts and witches. There’s pumpkins to carve, silhouette bingo to try or our ‘skull-duggery’ challenge. In the hall, collect spooky body parts and make your own ‘pencil ghost’ or in the Old Kitchen, join in the fun with ‘Kiddy Cook’ and decorate a delicious Halloween cookie - how gruesome will your creation be?

Children will be thrilled and surprised by the Haunted Halloween Hunt and Spooky Quest at Leeds Castle (25 Oct – 31 Oct). The Spooky Quest takes place around the woodland walk while the Halloween Hunt will involve clues from spooky characters all around the grounds, both with a chocolate prize at the end. Enter the fancy dress competition for the best blood curdling outfit and listen to Spooky Stories with Raggedy Jack.

Pay a visit to the Grotto at Woburn this October half term. The Grotto (built probably between the later 1620s and 1641) was designed as an undersea cavern which included piped water cascading into a basin.  The stone is carved to resemble seaweed and stalactites, with dolphins formed from mother-of-pearl and the ceiling inlaid with ormer shells. A perfect place to imagine spooky stories and gory goings-on.

The Fairy Prince Lights Up Chatsworth

Magical illuminations will reveal Chatsworth in a different light for this year's Luminaire, 4 - 7 October 2014 inspired by famous drawings of Oberon, the Fairy Prince. Illuminated garden trails, atmospheric lighting and hundreds of candles combine for this special four night event taking place in the house and garden.

This unique Luminaire event features lighting effects, projections and music inspired by a selection of drawings by renowned English architect, Inigo Jones, which have not been seen in public for more than 40 years. A selection of his drawings will be displayed in the Great Chamber along with music to bring to the Baroque house to life. Jones’ drawings of costumes, actors and set designs were made as he worked alongside the playwright Ben Johnson on the ‘Masque of Oberon, the Fairy Prince’ in the early 1600s.

Making their way down the illuminated pathways, visitors will see the familiar landmarks of the 105-acre garden, from the Emperor Fountain to the Stables Courtyard, recreated in true theatrical style featuring moments from the Masque.

Flora’s Temple tea shop in the garden will be serving hot drinks and snacks, whilst those looking for something a little more traditional will be able to have dinner in the Carriage House Restaurant in the Stables, open each evening until 9pm.

Luminaire will take place from 4 October to 7 October 2014 with the house opening at 6.30pm and the event closing at 10.30pm. House and Garden tickets will only be available in advance and provide timed entry into the house. Tickets are also available for the garden only. For more information, opening times and ticket prices, visit

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

What's On at the Treasure Houses of England this Autumn

Autumn has officially begun at The Treasure Houses of England. Dubbed the second spring September is the perfect time to immerse yourself in russet tones and see spectacular autumn colours in the floral displays as well as cultivated and wild parkland at our magnificent houses.

We have put together a round-up of reasons to visit this autumn.

Where else than Beaulieu – meaning ‘beautiful place’ to admire autumn? Find peace and tranquillity in the walled cloisters and herb garden. Take a tour of the Ornamental Kitchen Garden complete with 1870’s restored vine house. Walk hand-in-hand along the scenic Mill Pond walk and wander into the natural splendour of the Wilderness Garden.

As autumn sets in at Blenheim Palace, 2000 acres of parkland will be transformed with an array of warm colours, making this a beautiful time of year to come and take in the stunning landscape and views. There are a wealth of events and activities to enjoy throughout the winter months; highlights include the Literary Festival and Sunday Jazz.

Autumn in all its glory.

Don’t miss the Burghley Flower Festival (4 - 12 October) an autumnal celebration which will transform Burghley’s State Rooms with floral displays created by local flower societies. Be inspired by the botanical theme ‘Cities on the Grand Tour’ arranged with the 17th Century art situated under opulent painted ceilings.

Take a stroll through Ray Wood at Castle Howard and marvel in the season’s striking tones and resplendent autumn colour, from the many shrubs and trees, and huge array of ripened fruit and berries.  Then make your way to the ornamental kitchen garden - Castle Howard Potager – for the autumn vegetable garden harvest. 

Having evolved over more than 450 years, the 105 acre Chatsworth garden continues to change today. There is plenty to discover at every turn, including the ninth installation of Beyond Limits, Sotheby’s annual exhibition of contemporary sculpture in the garden at Chatsworth from 8 September- 26 October. The Kitchen Garden is still producing good crops of plums, pears and apples to harvest, and at the beginning of September the Display House will have blooms on the passionflowers and water-lillies.

There are over 100 acres of gardens at Harewood. They are full of variety, with plants from all over the world - all in the setting of a landscape created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Harewood’s renowned Bird Garden is home to exotic species including penguins, owls, flamingos and parrots and the Himalayan Garden is an extraordinary world in miniature, a plant-hunter’s paradise. There’s also scarecrow trails around the grounds.

Hatfield House forms the centre-piece of the largest private estate in Hertfordshire, with the woodlands covering an extensive spread across the county. Thus they offer a rich diversity of habitat and species. The woodland types range from the traditional coppice with standards, woodland and include commercial conifer broadleaved mixtures, continuous cover systems and minimum intervention woodlands.

Stock up on garden essentials and a great array of plants at Holkham Hall’s Plant Fair (28-29 September). Or for a chance to see the spectacular arboretum with its many unusual and rare specimen trees resplendent in their autumn foliage, book onto one of the Autumn Tours of the Private Gardens (19 October).

Set in 500 acres of picturesque parkland, Leeds Castle is the perfect setting for an autumn day out.  Take a stroll through the Wood Garden, which follows the curve of the River Len to the Pavilion Lawn. Festival of Flowers: (23-28 September) See the castle’s State rooms transformed into works of art using flowers, by local florists, flower societies and clubs. Leeds Castle will also host its first Fantastic British Food Festival, (12-14 September) smell and taste goods from local food and drink producers, retailers, chefs and cookery schools.

Woburn Abbey’s tranquil Abbey Gardens are open for everyone to enjoy the brilliance of Humphry Repton. Make your way through approximately 30 acres of serene formal and natural garden environments: from manicured lawns and colourful flower beds to peaceful woodland glades and ponds teeming with life.  Discover the bog garden, a recent addition with it carnivorous plants, the romance of the Doric Temple which was carefully restored last year and watch the recreation work in progress on the rockery and grotto.