Murray & Christine's record of their journey.
"A day in a car in an English county is a trip to a fairy museum where all the exhibits are live and real." Rudyard Kipling
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
In the Footsteps of Royalty – 14,15 January 2012
A TV snippet regarding The Regent Hotel in the Royal Lemmington Spa, lead to a very enjoyable weekend away. The Regent claimed to be the largest hotel in the world, when it was opened in 1819, and one of the early visitors was the Prince Regent, who graciously allowed them to use his title as the name of the hotel. All things have their day, and The Regent is now owned by Travelodge, so we took the opportunity of one of their amazing offers, to book a huge family room for £12.
A heavy white frost blanketed the countryside as we drove to Warwick. We have previously visited the castle there, but have never properly explored the town. There are two other 'must see' sights in town, the Lord Leycester Hospital, and St Mary's Church.
The Hospital is not actually a hospital, but was set up as a retirement home for 12 soldiers by Robert Dudley, favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. He converted a 150 year old building to do this, the oldest parts date from 1383. Today there are now eight retired soldiers who live there, and we were given an introduction to the building's history, by one of them. All the buildings are original, with few modern updates. The Chapel is still only lit by candlelight for example.
In the museum, we watched an interesting film regarding one of the soldiers involved in the El Alamen during WWII. The battle was desperate, but an interesting fact for us was the inspection of the battle-field by NZ VC holder General Freyburg, who added his weight to the decision made to pursue the Germans and win out. The NZ Army then allowed the 6th Hussars to incorporate the fern leaf symbol on the front of their tanks, where it still is today.
Behind the hospital, is a lovely small formal garden, where the box hedges mimic the Tudor framework in the building behind.
From here, we explored the town and climbed the tower of the cathedral. The climb is pretty torturous, but the view from the top is great. The cathedral itself is worth visiting for the elaborate side chapels and tombs. Robert Dudley and his brother Ambrose have magnificent marble tombs in the very handsome Beauchamp Chapel
Royal Lemington Spa appears to merge with Warwick, but was built in the 19th century, when the spa was made fashionable by the visits of the Prince Regent and Princess Victoria, The whole town has a Regency appearance, and the handsome white buildings are quite dazzling on a bright sunny day. There is no sign of the recession here, with a busy high street (The Parade) full of colour and busy shoppers.
Apart from being a Regency showplace, the original Pump Rooms are still open with a cafe and restored Hammam. This has been restored to how it was in its heyday in the 1840's.
Sunday was again fine and frosty, and we continued the circular driving tour, that had started in Warwick. The most appealing towns on the tour were Stretton-On-Dunsmore, with its tiny village green and equally tiny stream with miniature arched bridges. Even better was Stoneleigh, with its handsome brick homes around a somewhat larger green, which houses the Forge.
After lunch in Kenilworth, we set off for the heritage Motor Museum, only a short deviation on out route home. Murray found this very interesting, as it appeared to have a very strong MG bias, with many MG's on display, a recreation of Lord Nuffield's office and we watched a 45 minute film in the cinema on the history of MG sports-car manufacture in Abingdon. We have passed the turn off hundreds of times, so finally had time to visit, and found it very interesting.