Blenheim Palace - Part 1- “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us,” Winston Churchill.

JUN 15,2016 - JUN 15,2016 (1 DAYS)

History

Blenheim Place, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, 8 miles north west of Oxford:

Part 1: Blenheim Parkland, Lakes and the Palace Staterooms.

Main Attractions: East Gate, Clock Tower, Queen Pool, Great Lake, Grand Bridge, Column of Victory, Ancient Trees, Parks' Marshes, the road around Queen Pool, Palace's Inner Court, the Great Court, the Great Hall, Churchill Exhibition, the saloon, First, Second and Third State Rooms, the Long Library, The chapel.

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Location: Blenheim Palace is situated in Woodstock, a picturesque town that boasts boutique hotels, shops and restaurants in a historic setting.

Transportation: Catch Bus S3 from Oxford (remember to catch the right bus on the left side of the road...). The S3 bus service to Woodstock runs every 30 minutes from Oxford Train Station and Gloucester
Green bus station and stops at the Palace gates. Bear in mind that the formal timetable of S3 is quite unreliable. You may face serious delays in your back ride. During the weekdays - there should be a bus every 20 minutes (opposite the external gate of the palace on the Woodstock-Oxford road. Practically,  you may wait far longer times. I had waited for 50 minutes with other 8-10 foreign visitors. The S3 bus stop near the palace has a shelter against the rain. Keep in mind you have to walk 500 meters from the Palace's ticket booth to the palace and the parks. From the Palace gates to the Palace itself - it is at least a 10-15 minutes' walk with no shelter whatsoever. Bring your umbrella.

Prices: The entrance fee to the palace and its gardens and park - is quite hefty. Better, buy your combined ticked from the S3 bus driver. It cost me (as a senior) £6.80 (bus ride to/from Blenheim Palace) + £12.80 (the palace admission). Keep your combined bus ticket - it saves a lot of money. Formal price list: Adult - £24.90, Concession Ticket (Over-60s and students. Excludes weekends and Bank Holidays) - £19.90, Child (Age 5-16. FREE for under 5s) - £13.90, Family (2 Adults 2 Children) £59.90. There is an option of £11.95 for access to the park and gardens only. The other is the mighty £24.95 which includes entry into the palace and a tour of part of the palace. There are additional fees for tours of other parts of the palace. For a tourist - this outing is very expensive compared with other UK attractions.

Your bus ticket is presented in the external entrance booth and you get a formal ticket with a small map and brochure. Keep this ticket for converting it to annual pass (in the palace premises or, later, back at your home through an online conversion procedure in the palace's official web site https://online1.venpos.net/site/freeannualpass/FAPConvert.aspx?LID=27&_ga=1.14366517.321532720.1428935395). Most of the visitors are locals with Annual Pass (giving you entry to the Palace, Park and Gardens throughout the year for the price of a Palace, Park and Gardens ticket). You will see a special booth for converting your daily ticket into an annual pass - with NO additional fee). Note: there are 3 daily excursions in the palace interiors - separately charged, that would have been an additional £16 per person. Try to look out for vouchers that offer discounts or 2 for 1 offers.

Opening hours: The Palace - open daily from 10.30 - 17.30 (last admission 16.45), The Park - open daily from 09.00 - 18.00 or dusk if earlier (last admission at 16.45). All areas to be vacated by 18.30, The Formal Gardens/The Pleasure Gardens - open daily from 10.00 - 17.30, Visitor Centre - open daily from 09.30 - 18.00.

Weather: Blenheim Palace and Park is a good choice for rainy weather. BUT, the gardens are wonderful under the sun. On a sunny day - DO NOT miss a walk around the Grand Lake ("The best view in England" - see later). Pick a nice day for seeing and exploring the grounds.

Lunch: Bring your picnic lunch well packed. I found The Orangery Restaurant as the only viable option and it is quite reasonable in price and quality of food (£10-12 for mains). Opening Times: weekdays - 12.00 - 17.30, weekends - 10.30-17.00. Remember that after 14.30-15.00 the restaurant selection is quite limited. Their portions run out quite quickly. Note: the Orangery restaurant, sometimes, add a 12.50% Service Charge (NOT obligatory).

Photography: you are allowed to take photographs inside the palace as long as the flash is not activated.

Seven short facts and impressions:

There is so much to see.  One day will hardly suffice to see it all. The palace and the parks are so vast. You will see only PART of them. Come as early as possible. They start at 10.00. Come before the crowds pour in. More than one visit is needed, hence the conversion to the annual pass. A lot of walking is concerned. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Avoid going when there is an event on as it can get very crowded (unless it is something specific that you want to attend).

Pronounced /ˈblɛnɪm/ BLEN-im or BLEN-em.

Very elegant building and admirable parks and gardens around. Quite probable that you won't be able to take part in all the inside (palace interiors, the staterooms) excursions offered (part of them with special fee).

In the second floor of the palace - there is virtual tour, which is very creative but a bit tedious. The door to each next room opens automatically and a video starts with virtual characters having a conversation in a historical or periodic scenario. If you are not really interested in the scenario you just wait for it to finish and the next door to open, but you can't get out until the tour in this specific room is over...

Outside, the walks and gardens are really beautiful and relaxing, on a sunny day, If you are tired or have a mobility problem - you can pay (it is a donation of 50p for maintenance of this small train) and ride on the miniature railway to get around the various attractions of the extensive site. Take the little shuttle for an hour tour of the gardens, which is well worth it. It will save you a lot of time for inquiring the palace interiors. This is a good advice for a drizzling day. The train goes every 15 min.

This is a World Heritage site and the birthplace of Winston Churchill who was the grandson of the 7th Duke/Duchess of Marlborough. The exhibition on the Churchill dynasty is especially well-presented. Today, it is home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. 

If you just want to see the grounds and gardens, there is a pedestrian walk in that you do not have to pay for. Come from the Woodstock gate or  drop off from the Stagecoach bus at the next stop after the palce main entrance. Getting off at the second drop also gives you a beautiful bird's-eye view of the town of Woodstock. The gardens, grounds and lake were designed by Capability Brown and the waterfall at the end of the lake is very picturesque. There are lots of scenic walks and hidden gardens to explore at Blenheim.

Short history: The palace was built between 1705 and 1722. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace was a reward to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough - for the duke's military triumphs against the French and the Bavarians during the War of the Spanish Succession in year 1704. The most famous battle of these triumphs is the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, was both a military commander and a politician. Churchill owed his good fortune to his wife Sarah, who was the queen's confident and best friend. Anne made Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough, and had Blenheim Palace built for him on the former royal manor of Woodstock. The monarch had Parliament grant £240,000 for the construction of Blenheim, a huge sum in those days. So influential was Marlborough, mainly through the considerable political machinations of his wife, that it was said he was effectively the ruler of the country. The name of the dukedom refers to Marlborough in Wiltshire. Churchill was commander-in-chief of the English forces that fought in the War of Spanish Succession. While his military fame is secure, his political role is less well known – but along with Robert Harley and Sidney Godolphin, he was part of the Triumvirate who served Queen Anne. But, soon after the palace start of construction, due to political intrigues - the 1st Duke of Marlborough had been exiled and lost his hold on the Queen Anne. The Duke and Duchess were exiled, only to return the day after Queen Anne died in 1714. John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough was no doubt one of the greatest military commanders of his time. Blenheim and Ramillies being his greatest victories. Marlborough was an incredibly ambitious man who indeed sought position and wealth and was an opportunist (alongside others of his time) during the upheavals of 1688-1689. Nonetheless, his legacy still lives on at the magnificent Blenheim Palace, where his descendant and biographer, Winston Churchill would also lead Britain through a war which earned him a place alongside his great ancestor. Following the palace's completion, it became the home of the Churchill, later Spencer-Churchill, family for the next 300 years.

At the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained from the 9th Duke of Marlborough's marriage to Consuelo Balsan (1877 –  1964) - a member of the prominent American Vanderbilt family. The marriage of Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough and Consuelo became a famous, loveless marriage. They had two sons, John Albert William Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (who became 10th Duke of Marlborough) and Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill. The Marlboroughs separated in 1906 and divorced in 1921. The palace is also notable as the birthplace (30 November 1874) and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill - grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a notable politician and his mother was an American socialite. It was also in the gardens of Blenheim at the Temple of Diana that Winston Churchill proposed to Miss Clementine Hozier during the summer of 1908...  Sir Winston Churchill’s love of Blenheim remained to his dying day. When he passed away in 1965, he chose to be buried beside his parents Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill, in the nearby churchyard at Bladon. And when Lady Clementine Churchill died in 1977, her remains were laid to rest beside those of her husband.

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Dukes of Marlborough from (1702 - 1704:

  • John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722), soldier and statesman
  • John Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (1686–1703), elder son of the 1st Duke, died unmarried
  • Henrietta Godolphin, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough (1681–1733), eldest daughter of the 1st Duke, succeeded her father by Act of Parliament (1706)
  • William Godolphin, Marquess of Blandford (1700–1731), elder son of the 2nd Duchess, predeceased his mother without issue
  • Anne Spencer, Countess of Sunderland (née Lady Anne Churchill; 1683–1716), second daughter of the 1st Duke, married Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland
  • Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706–1758), 5th Earl of Sunderland, second son of Lady Sunderland
  • George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739–1817), elder son of the 3rd Duke
  • George Spencer-Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough (1766–1840), elder son of the 4th Duke
  • George Spencer-Churchill, 6th Duke of Marlborough (1793–1857), eldest son of the 5th Duke
  • John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough (1822–1883), eldest son of the 6th Duke and paternal grandfather of Winston Churchill
  • George Charles Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough (1844–1892), eldest son of the 7th Duke
  • Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough (1871–1934), only son of the 8th Duke
  • John Albert William Spencer-Churchill, 10th Duke of Marlborough (1897–1972), elder son of the 9th Duke
  • John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough (1926–2014), elder son of the 10th Duke
  • Charles James Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough (b. 1955), eldest surviving son of the 11th Duke
  • The heir apparent to the Dukedom is George John Godolphin Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (b. 1992), eldest son of the 12th Duke.

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After paying for your admission (through a temporary booth "planted" near the Woodstock-Oxford road) - you walk 10-12 minutes

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until you arrive to the East Gate of the palace. A monumental triumphal arch, more Egyptian in design than Roman. This gate is also the palace's water tower. it was to carry the great cistern upon which the more important half of the palace, containing the private apartments and kitchen, would depend for water-supply. In this way Vanbrugh is giving even greater, almost God-like, importance to the areas of the palace occupied by the great Duke himself. Vanbrugh looked upon it, as he admitted, 'much more as an intended Monument of the Queen's glory than a private Habitation for the Duke of Marlborough', though it was of course celebrating military glory. Blenheim, then, had to be castle, citadel, monument and - less important - private house. Its main entries must speak of strength triumphant; and undoubtedly this East Gate, as Vanbrugh left it, spoke bluntly of that:

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Through the arch of the gate one views across the courtyard a second equally massive gate, that beneath the Clock Tower:

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Through the second gate, rather like the sanctuary of a temple, one glimpses the Great Court:

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Blenheim Palace stands in a romantic park created by the famous landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. The original landscape was, actually, set out by John Vanbrugh, who regulated the course of the River Glyme. It was, later, modified by Lancelot “Capability” Brown who created two lakes, seen as one of the greatest examples of naturalistic landscape design. The overall structure of the landscaped park layout remains largely as set out by Vanbrugh and Brown.

Starting at the main Palace gates, walk down (right) over Vanbrugh's Grand Bridge. An asphalted road is leading from the inner palace gates to the Grand Bridge:

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On your right is the majestic Queen Pool. In the middle of the lake is the Elizabeth Island:

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On the left side of the bridge is the Great Lake. The 4th Duke, who employed Brown, began an English landscape garden scheme to naturalize and enhance the landscape, with tree planting, and man-made undulations. However, the feature with which 'Capability' Brown is forever associated is the lake, a huge stretch of water created by damming the River Glyme and ornamented by a series of cascades where the river flows in and out. The lake was narrowed at the point of Vanbrugh's grand bridge, but the three small canal-like streams trickling underneath it, were completely absorbed by one river-like stretch. Brown's great achievement at this point was to actually flood and submerge beneath the water level the lower stories and rooms of the bridge itself, thus reducing its incongruous height and achieving what is regarded by many as the epitome of an English landscape.The Great Lake is home to breeding birds, fish and small mammals, all of which can be seen from the many walking routes.

The lake is dammed at it's southern end near the Cascades. At the Grand Bridge, in one of Brown’s most significant alterations, the lower sections of the bridge were flooded when the water flowed into the hollow that took ten years to construct. The bridge across the Queen Pool was built containing rooms, but they have never been used. Vanbrugh saw the extensive marsh, in front of the palace, as ornamental water crossed by the finest bridge in Europe. Marlborough, more cautious, consulted Wren, who prescribed a far less pretentious and less costly bridge and, for the steep palace approach, a sweeping circular drive. His plan was not adopted. Vanbrugh's persuasiveness, which was considerable, won the day. Everything about the bridge is extraordinary and much of it is puzzling. Sarah 1st Duchess of Marlborough vetoed the arcade. The immensity of the Grand Bridge and its cost was one of the main subjects of their dispute. Old guidebooks describe the bridge as a cool retreat in summer, and no doubt many a picnic was enjoyed in the sunnier rooms. Unfortunately it is no longer safe to enter now. Soon after Marlborough's death, in 1722, his widow called in Colonel John Armstrong, who had been his chief engineer, to re-plan the water-works in the park. The River Glyme, flowing under the Grand Bridge, was channeled into canals that beneath the middle arch leaped a cascade before broadening into a formal pool on the western side. The northernmost arch of the bridge was used to house Aldersea's engine, a huge paddle-wheel affair, which pumped spring water from Rosamond's Well (left side of the bridge, actually in the Great Lake) to the East Gate cistern. This stood on the leads, where the flag now flies, and provided the eastern half of the palace with water. As a water-supply it worked well but, as scenery, the canals looked inadequate: To judge from old engravings, the canal and pool Sarah favored looked very bleak - the pool it self was designed with a compass and was like a huge version of the Versailles fountain-basins. But formality was the fashion, and for those who admired it the results at Blenheim brought praise. Sarah herself was delighted. When Sarah died in 1744, Blenheim waited twenty years before reflecting the change of fashion from formality to naturalism in its own magnificent lake. Then, with one master-stroke, 'Capability' Brown was able to change the landscape. After building a dam and cascade near Bladon, he sliced through the causeways once leading from Woodstock Manor across the marsh towards Woodstock and Oxford, leaving a small strip now known as Queen Elizabeth's Island (in the middle of the Queen Pool). Thus he let the Glyme run through the bridge, engulfing the ground floor, and spread out into lakes on either side of it. Another mile downstream Brown made minor cascades of great beauty at the point where the Glyme falls into the Evenlode. The cascade Sarah had been so proud of is now under water; but Brown's Grand Cascade still tumbles into the lake at its western end (see below). At the Grand Bridge the northern arch had been cleared of its engine before the ground-floor rooms were flooded. This last event caused much anxiety. Could the bridge withstand it? It could and did. But the visible height of the bridge is now a great deal less than Vanbrugh intended. Its base is submerged, and the arcaded superstructure with which Vanbrugh planned to crown it has never been built:

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View from the Grand Bridge to the Palace Inner Court and North Front:

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To arrive to the Column of Victory - you continue northward from the Grand Bridge on an asphalted path. You take the RIGHT (EAST) leg of the path and continue towards the column. Although there cables which avoid stepping onto the marshes - it is permitted to walk on them without interrupting the sheep. In the northern part of the park stands an 134 ft tall Column of Victory. It is crowned by a lead statue of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, and shows him dressed as a Roman general. The splendid Grand Bridge crosses the lake to the Column of Victory (some 40m high), erected by Sarah Jennings and topped by a statue of her husband posing heroically in a toga:

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Blenheim Parkland excels also in its trees. The greatest collection of ancient oak trees anywhere in Europe has been discovered in Britain by a new survey (2016) - in Winston Churchill's backyard: the High Park. The estate was designed by Capability Brown in the early 18th century, but he left a 50-hectare woodland known as the High Park untouched. Around 90% of the woodland is made up of oak trees. At least 60 Middle Age oaks have been mapped in a survey of the grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, with four of them measuring nine metres in diameter. The centuries-old area of the Estate, called High Park was originally created by King Henry I as part of a royal deer park in the 12th century. The remarkable collection of 900 year old trees have been preserved through a fortunate combination of the Royal love of hunting, the generosity of a grateful nation and landscape designer Capability Brown's respect for ancient woodland. All these factors have helped protect the forest from destruction and created one of the most biodiverse habitats in the UK:

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Do not miss, as well, the mighty Lebanon cedar trees - planted in various spots of the parks around:

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The Parkland Marshes are stunning - best viewed around the Queen Pool:

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Now we continue along an asphalted path surrounding the Queen Pool. You may start at the Grand Bridge or at the Column of Victory. From the column - pass the marshes with your face southward or eastward and connect with the road/path on the western side of the Queen Pool. Walking along this road - the Queen Pool will be, always, on your RIGHT. You'll face this building:

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The views along this circular road are breathtaking. This part of the trail offers some wonderful, crowd-free views of The Queen Pool, the palace (far in the south) and the woodland on your left. Have your camera at the ready !

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The view across the Queen Pool has been described as ‘the finest view in England’. If you got our hint and entered through the Woodstock Gate - you should to be hit by this spectacular view immediately:

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View from the northern banks of the Queen Pool. "Standing next to the tall cedar tree, on the same route as the original 'Capability' Brown carriage path - you are offered superb views of the palace emphasizing the immense size and architecture of the palace building...":

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You'll pass, on your right, the Seven Arches Bridge. A modest flow of water which is the river Glyme - the main inflow of the palace lakes. The willows (back of the photo), actually, hide, nowadays, the Blenheim palace. On your left are the palace walls and Woodstock road. From this spring - the asphalted road lights westward:

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View of the Grand Bridge and the two lakes from the path around the Queen Pool:

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Some of the resident geese posing for a family photo in front of the Finest View in England...:

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With your face to the "best view in England", "stands the Triumphal Arch, the Woodstock entrance to the park - designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1723:

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The path around the Queen Pool continues, now, more to the south - but the lake is wonderful, even more, under the rare sun rays:

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Walking around the Queen Pool, the more we approach the palace - the more visible and astounding is the Grand Bridge:
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After walking 4-5 km. along the Blenheim parkland paths - it is time to have a lunch. Better, have a picnic along this memorable path around the Queen Pool just explored above. Your best bet is the Orangery Cafe and Restaurant, near the palace main entrance. Your second option is having a meal in the cafe overlooking the terrace fountains (see below):

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You'll face, again the Inner Court (where carriages and horse carts would have made their way to the grand entrance of the palace. And on rare occasion, they still do !) and the Clock Tower. From here, there are several entrances to the staterooms and the various museum of the palace:

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From the Inner Court we enter another (westward), far bigger court - the Great Court. The west court links together the chapel the stables and indoor riding school. The three blocks together form the "Great Court" designed to overpower the visitor arriving at the palace. Pilasters and pillars abound, while from the roofs, themselves resembling those of a small town, great statues in the Renaissance manner of St Peter's in Rome gaze down on the visitor below:

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Our walk in the palace gardens and exterior attraction is far from its end. We shall turn, now, and visit the staterooms - just to complete the FIRST PART our our Blenheim Palace visit. We shall continue with further exterior and interior attractions - in our second part. Let us start with the grandiose staterooms:

Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire, was designed by John Vanbrugh. The palace architecture is majestic and so beautiful. Inside is fantastic, rich with history and examples of furniture, tapestries, chandeliers, clocks, an impressive library and ceilings. The paintings and wall murals in the state rooms are magnificent, as are the furnishings. It represents a unique architectural achievement celebrating the triumph of the English armies over the French, and the Palace and its associated Park have exerted great influence on the English Romantic movement which was characterized by the eclecticism of its inspiration, its return to natural sources and its love of nature. The architect's intention was to create not only a home but also a national monument to reflect the power and civilization of the nation. To create this monumental effect, Vanbrugh chose to design in a severe form of Baroque, using great masses of stone to imitate strength and create shadow as decoration.

The entrance to the Palace Staterooms is magnificent. Do not miss looking at the ceiling as well:

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The North Portico of the Palace:

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The plan of the Palace's principal block is a rectangle (see plan) pierced by the two courtyards. Contained behind the southern facade are the principal state apartments; on the east side are the suites of private apartments of the Duke and Duchess, and on the west along the entire length is given a long gallery originally conceived as a picture gallery, but is now the Long Library.

The entry hallway (or: Great Hall) and one of the magnificent chandeliers that light the entry way:

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Chinese porcelain in the Great Hall:

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Sir James Thornhill’s painted ceiling in the Great Hall depicts the 1st Duke kneeling to Britannia, proffering a plan of the Battle of Blenheim:

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The approach continues through the great portico into the hall, its ceiling painted by James Thornhill with the Duke's apotheosis, then on under a great triumphal arch, through the huge marble door-case with the Duke's marble effigy:

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The Great Halll is 20 m. high, and remarkable chiefly for its size and for its stone carvings by Gibbons, yet in spite of its immense size it is merely a vast anteroom to the saloon (see below):

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The following photos are from the  state rooms and the living quarters where Winston Churchill grew up. This suite of rooms is dedicated to Churchill, who was the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and was born in the palace. The year 2015 marks many important anniversaries in relation to Sir Winston Churchill. These include the 50th anniversary of his death, the 75th anniversary of his first becoming Prime Minister, and the 75th anniversary of his ‘Finest Hour’ at the Battle of Britain. To mark the this commemorative - Blenheim Palace opened (in 2015) a newly curated Churchill Exhibition. The exhibition includes displays and features aimed at providing a fascinating insight in to the life of the ‘Greatest Briton’ and of one of the most admirable figures in the modern history. Each of the five rooms situated in the Palace includes a selection of images, artifacts and audio as well as a replica uniform from his military days. You can listen to his most iconic speeches as well as learn more about his childhood at Blenheim Palace. The exhibition also focuses on the great man’s state funeral, which brought the nation to a halt as they paid their final respects. The exhibition includes historical and rare photos from the funeral at Bladon Church. New artifacts include an original Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars uniform, worn by Churchill’s colleague Ferdinand St. John, as well as his childhood pony saddle along with tales of his early equestrian career, featured in his juvenile letters from boarding school to his Grandmother, the 7th Duchess of Marlborough. The interactive exhibition uses multimedia to enhance the visitor experience including video content which is screened within the rooms. There are transcripts from private communications and a section is dedicated to Churchill’s past love interests too... More personal items are on display including original hand-written samples of Sir Winston Churchill’s speeches, the bed that Churchill was born on, and odd displays of items including these bedroom slippers and “siren suit” that was kept handy if he had to dress suddenly when an air raid siren went off. It is a very moving exhibition. The exhibition rooms are quite busy and packed all through the year:

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Winston Churchill’s government Despatch Box - covered in red leather with a brass carrying handle, the Despatch Box carries the monogram of the king, George V, and is inscribed ‘Secretary of State for War’, the post Churchill held between 1919 and 1920:

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The Siren Suit:

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This superb and ‘moving’ portrait group sculpture by Oscar Nemon (1906–85) shows Sir Winston and Lady Churchill seated together, he half reclining, she sitting with her left hand resting near him:

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West of the Great Hall lies the birth room of Sir Winston Churchill, grandson of the 8th Duke. You will enjoy the variety of interesting exhibits in this room, from Churchill's lively letters to curls cut from his head when he was five years old:

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The Green Drawing Room and the two rooms beyond it all have their original ceilings, which were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh's collaborator. Many fine family portraits painted by Keller, Romney, Reynolds, Sargent and Van-Dyck line the sumptuous damask covered walls:

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Chinese Porcelain, powder blue at the Green Drawing Room:

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In the Green Writing Room a delicate tapestry hangs from the wall, depicting the battle of Blenheim and Marlborough accepting French surrender:

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The Great Red Drawing Room:

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The saloon was also to have been painted by Thornhill, but the Duchess suspected him of overcharging, so the commission was given to Louis Laguerre. This room is an example of three-dimensional painting, or trompe l'œil, "trick-the-eye", a fashionable painting technique at the time. The Peace Treaty of Utrecht was about to be signed, so all the elements in the painting represent the coming of peace. The domed ceiling is an allegorical representation of Peace: John Churchill is in the chariot, he holds a zigzag thunderbolt of war, and the woman who holds back his arm represents Peace. The walls depict all the nations of the world who have come together peacefully. Laguerre also included a self-portrait placing himself next to Dean Jones, chaplain to the 1st Duke, another enemy of the Duchess, although she tolerated him in the household because he could play a good hand at cards. To the right of the doorway leading into the first stateroom, Laguerre included the French spies, said to have big ears and eyes because they may still be spying. Of the four marble door-cases in the room displaying the Duke's crest as a prince of the Holy Roman Empire, only one is by Gibbons, the other three were copied indistinguishably by the Duchess's cheaper craftsmen. The Marlborough family still use the dining room in the heart of the palace for their Christmas dinners! (so we were told):

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Various nations of the world are reflected in the Saloon wall paintings, while the ceiling shows the 1st Duke in victorious progress:

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intercommunicating between the Saloon and the Long Library, on the south front, are known as the First, Second and Third State Rooms. The walls of all three rooms are hung with tapestries of Marlborough's campaigns. Marlborough himself in fact commissioned them of the designer de Hondt, and the Brussels weaver, Judocus de Vos.

The tapestry on the right-hand wall of the First State Room, next to the Saloon, shows Marlborough approaching the Schellenberg, a fiercely defended hilltop fortress taken by the allies on their way to Blenheim. In the foreground, dragoons are loading their horses with fascines, or faggots, to help the infantry cross the enemy's trenches; while in the background the walled city of Donauworth prepares its defences. The other tapestries in this room are of the siege of Lille, the lines of Brabant and the Battle of Malplaquet (1709):

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2nd State Room - Siege of Bouchain, 13 September 1711 Tapestries. The Victory Tapestries of John Churchill, commissioned by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough to commemorate his famous victories at Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet, were designed by Lambert de Hondt and woven by Jucocus de Vos in Brussels:

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A Savonnerie carpet grace the Third State Room, and above the fireplace is a portrait of the 1st Duke of Marlborough with Colonel Armstrong, by Enoch Seeman. The third is sometimes called the Boule Room, after the furniture it contains:

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The final room is the Long Library which, surprisingly, also hosts a magnificent floor-to-ceiling organ. The Long Library was designed by Christopher Wren, 55 m. long, and was intended as a picture gallery. Here in the library, rewriting history in her own indomitable style, the Duchess Sara set up a larger than life statue of Queen Anne, its base recording their friendship. Nicholas Hawksmoor also completed the interior design of the library (and the ceilings of many of the state rooms and other details in numerous other minor rooms, and various outbuildings).

Queen Anne statue in the Long Library:

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The Library houses the largest pipe organ in private ownership in Europe, built by England's great organ builder Henry Willis & Sons:

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When you are inside the palace, make sure you look out of the window in the library to get an amazing view of the palace gardens:

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Make sure you look out of the window in the library to get an amazing view of the Great Court as well:

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From the northern end of the library - access is obtained to the raised colonnade which leads to the chapel. The chapel is on the eastern side of the palace by the vaulted kitchen. The palace chapel was built as a consequence of the 1st Duke's death - obtaining even greater importance:

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The most dominating feature is the Duke's gargantuan tomb and sarcophagus. It was designed by William Kent, and statues of the Duke and Duchess depicted as Caesar and Caesarina adorn the great sarcophagus. In 1744, year of the Duchess Sara -  the Duke's coffin was returned to Blenheim from its temporary resting place, Westminster Abbey, and husband and wife were interred together and the tomb erected and completed. Now Blenheim Estate had indeed become a pantheon and mausoleum. Successive Dukes and their wives are also interred in the vault beneath the chapel. Other members of family are interred in St. Martin's parish churchyard at Bladon, a short distance from the palace:

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The organ in the chapel was built circa 1853 by Robert Postill of York. it is notable as a rare unaltered example of this fine builder's work, tuning boldly and clearly into a generous acoustic.

After lunch we were ready to explore the other half of the palace (see "Blenheim Palace - Part 2").

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