This year we’ve all had to shelve plans and, sometimes, projects.  In the case of country houses where the inhabitants rely on visitors to swell the coffers specifically kept for restoration and mending, the lack of that income has now faded to a tiny but sad sigh when walking past something half done.  Obviously we know that we have had the easier time with gardens and land to wander on – hence the politely tiny sad sigh. 

However, the signs are that visitors will be coming back this summer so it’s time to open the shutters, dust the furniture, polish the floors, buff the silver and brush up on history, portraits and anecdotes to entertain and enlighten the tours we take on Open Days, the first of which is on May 19th.  Bookings are hearteningly good and we’d like to thank those of you who have reserved; we announced 19 Open Days this year which is three times more than in previous years.  If the forecasts are right and many more people are staying in Britain this year, we are happy to entertain them at Raynham!  The luxury of our small tours is that there is time for visitors to ask questions about the family, the house and its contents. And Charles and I have been so warmed by the enthusiasm and appreciation of our day visitors. It makes all the weeks of winter work on the fabric of the house a faded memory.  Although I will confess that I quite like not having to think about what to wear as I don my paint splattered kit from the bottom drawer.

My tiny tiny sigh of regret is the sight of the beautiful but unfinished conservation work on the Stuart Princesses Elizabeth and Henrietta, the daughters of Charles I. Many of you came to the talk ”The Heartbreak of Princesses” when  Emma Boyce Gore of KSH Conservation Ltd illustrated how she tackles the sensitive task of bringing a painting back to life.  And these paintings have proved to be by none other than the legendary Cornelius Johnson; after 3 or 4 years of intermittent work on the painting of the fragile and beautiful portrait of Henrietta during which Emma has analysed paint technique, paint composition, layering etc etc she came to a rock solid conclusion that there was simply no other artist around at the time of these works who could paint in such a sensitive and skilled way.  Princess Henrietta continues to gaze at me with her sad and beautiful eyes with half her dress restored whilst Princess Elizabeth (Temperance was her family nickname) waits patiently for us to discover what an enchanting child she was under the yellowed varnish and brutal former ‘restoration’ carried out in the 50’s with synthetic resinous paint.  Oh for the funds!

Therefore, I am actively pursuing riches via my weekly lottery wager.  If nothing else it enables me to allocate silly amounts of money to favourite causes during walks or long train journeys.  I mean I know I am going to win at some point, so why not?!

The latest news on Ptolemy and Cleopatra is that I don’t think we are going to have a clutch of Egyptian goslings this year.  Perhaps I should have resisted those names.


Don’t miss our intriguingly named concert on October 9th

From London to Venice – via Paris


At the moment all bookings have to be distanced from each other by one seat front and back but we think that, by October 9th, venues will be able to fully book auditoriums. 

We are pretty confident there will, therefore, be seats made available later on but you might very well be unable to book seats together.  Just a warning.

As soon as I know what the trio of musicians are going to perform it will be on the website: they are concentrating on the rich and lush favourites in both London and Venice, the music that all society flocked to hear and see performed. The Marble Hall acoustics are perfectly suited to this kind of intimate music-making so I know it will be a gripping experience. And, as with all our recitals, just 60 minutes of glory with room for an encore.  The musicians will be around to talk to if you would like to meet them and their instruments: the theorbo is a thing to behold (not handy on the tube) and the harpsichord is no slouch either.

Champagne will on sale at the entrance, bottles can be reserved in advance. We don’t know if we can stage the post-recital suppers yet but will keep you posted.

The very best of wishes from us all at Raynham