Last Saturday morning I took the train from King's Cross to Hatfield in Hertfordshire. Stepping out of the station, I came face to face with the gates to Hatfield House, the very place I'd come to visit. Hatfield is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family; the Estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. Recently I had seen a few pictures of the house floating around online and knew I had to check the place out. (A particular picture I'd seen of a gilded ceiling set my heart aflutter.) This is the King James Drawing Room - Hatfield's principal reception room. Recently acquired tapestries have been installed as a background to the many splendid pictures; the whole effect is quite magnificent. I spent a good half an hour taking in the riot of colour and texture created by the layers and layers of fabrics, paintings, lighting and furniture.
The Armoury began as an open loggia in the Italian Renaissance style, until the 2nd Marquess filled in the windows in 1834 and laid the marble floor. The 3rd Marquess completed the alterations by putting up the panelling. Most of the armour on the walls was purchased by the 2nd Marquess from the Tower of London in the middle of the 19th century. I love the row of (possibly much newer!) toy cars.
The chimney piece in the Chinese Bedroom has been repainted to resemble red Chinese lacquer. How utterly fab. Until this point I hadn't realised that one day I would definitely love a lacquered fireplace.
A Long Gallery was an essential feature of every large Jacobean house. The one at Hatfield runs the entire length of the south front (170 feet). That incredible ceiling, originally white, was covered with gold leaf by the 2nd Marquess who had been impressed by a gold ceiling he had seen in Venice.
A very lovely gilded chair and matching stool in the Long Gallery.
The tranquil gardens...
I spent Saturday afternoon back at home, sketching. This is the Casino at Marino in Dublin, designed by the Scottish architect Sir William Chambers for the 1st Earl of Charlemont in the late 1750s. It's a small and perfect example of Neoclassical architecture. I hadn't realised that the name 'Casino' is the diminutive form of the 18th-century Italian word 'Casa', meaning 'House', thus 'Little House'. It really is the most charmingly handsome small building.
I travelled to Hampshire on Sunday to spend time with my family. We visited The Vyne, as we sometimes like to do when I visit. I worked here every Sunday as a teenager with a big group of friends from school, serving tea and sandwiches to visitors. It's always nice to pop back for a look around. It was actually rather warm and pleasant last Sunday - the ideal weather for a stroll in the grounds, which were looking particularly wonderful in the soft late September light.