Last summer I wrote about one of my trips to England and Scotland with Professor Henry Miller from Historic St. Mary’s City. I traced some of my family roots and visited Kiplin Hall, home of the Calvert family. This May, I had hoped to visit Sulgrave Manor in England to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its opening to the public with the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. Sulgrave Manor is George Washington’s ancestral home. Sadly, the trip has been postponed to 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018, Henry led a group of us, including Eleanor Dallam and Al Smith of Oxford, to Southeast England. This was exciting for me as I learned only days before going that my Mayflower ancestor, John Howland, had come from this part of England. Unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule the day we were near the family cemetery, so I did not visit with some of my ancestors. I love the trips with Henry as he is so knowledgeable and my traveling companions are also descendants of old Maryland families, or are interested in Maryland history.
Arriving in England, we went by bus to Hertingfordbury to visit the tomb of Anne Mynne Calvert, wife of Sir George Calvert, First Lord Baltimore; and mother of Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore and Leonard Calvert, First Proprietary Governor of Maryland.
Later that day, we toured the Cathedral of St. Alban, named for the first British saint, and built in the 13th century. Many of the gorgeous paintings were covered over during the Reformation, probably the reason so much survives today.
Audley End House in Essex first served as an abbey until 1538, then used for royal visits and being maintained at extraordinary costs and size. It was visited by Elizabeth I in about 1578, torn down and an imposing prodigy house (a palace in all but name) built in its place. Charles II bought Audley Inn in 1667. It has had many incarnations and remains very imposing, at one-third its original size, and is open to the public.
In Cambridge, we toured King’s College (started by Henry IV in 1441) and its chapel. There is beautiful woodwork and many stained-glass windows. It’s hard to believe they were produced hundreds of years ago. They were removed during World War II and then restored with a grant from Berkeley Corpus Christi, the oldest college. King’s College is one of 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge. We also visited Trinity College, another constituent college in Cambridge founded in 1546, and of course the magnificent Cathedral. It was fun to see people punting, or rowing, on the Cam River there in Cambridge.
Near Stamford, we visited Burghley House, which was built by William Cecil, Lord Treasurer of England, in the 16th century. His son, Robert Cecil, who lived here as a young man, gave George Calvert his start in politics. The gardens were designed by Capability Brown. Members of the Cecil family still reside on the property. We then moved on to Ely, visiting Ely Cathedral, which dates back to 1083. Ely was home to Oliver Cromwell. This area was once wetlands with unique vegetation, but later drained by the Dutch.
Years ago, I visited the Imperial War Museum in London, thinking I’d spend an hour or two, but late in the afternoon realized there was more to see and hated leaving. The Imperial War Museum in Duxford is not on the same scale, but once again I learned so much about the German and British airmen and history of planes, even some made of linen and wood. Touring the museum at the same time were a group of World War II veterans that made my visit even more poignant. As we were leaving, I did get a glimpse of the American Cemetery.
Departing for Kent through Essex we stopped at the oldest wooden church in the world, St. Andrew’s Greensted Church (circa 1053).
I don’t know how our driver got us there through a very narrow road, clipping a few branches along the way. We later learned most people walk to the church! The Ark and Dove began their journey to Maryland on the Thames River, which we had just crossed. A new Dove is presently being built at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. We then drove through the ancient city of Rochester on the Medway River with its cathedral and castle, and on to the Chatham Naval Yard where the Royal Navy was probably born during Queen Elizabeth I’s era.
We had a private tour of Canterbury Cathedral and attended one of the services with a choir present. I returned to the Cathedral grounds later in the day and was pleasantly surprised to find a plaque honoring Bishop Thomas John Claggett, first bishop of the American Episcopal Church, and also an ancestor of mine. Canterbury is also associated with Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Dover faces the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel. The Dover Castle was built by King Henry II and towers over the Cliffs of Dover.
In 1940, the Miracle of Dunkirk (Winston Churchill) evacuation occurred here when the British Expeditionary Force, while aiding French and Belgian armies, was forced to retreat because of the oncoming German Panzers (tanks). Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were evacuated across the Channel. Along this coast are other historic towns such as Rye, one of the Cinque Ports, once surrounded by the sea, and now on dry land due to silting up. Henry James lived here for a number of years at Lamb House. Nearby is Hastings where the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066. Battle Abbey has an altar built by William the Conquerer, where King Harold fell in the battle.
Our last hotel was in Midhurst where we stayed at the charming Spread Eagle Hotel. This was my second visit and I am never disappointed by the Shakespearean atmosphere. I feel like I am back in that time. On my first visit, I had a very nice room with an oversized tub. This time, I was relegated across the street to a tiny room with a sink in a closet and a minute shower. However, the delicious food makes me still want to go back.
The next day, we traveled to Fishbourne where a Roman palace was discovered in the 1960s when a new water line was going to be laid. The palace is the largest residential Roman building in the UK and was constructed in 75 to 80 AD. The mosaics are magnificent, and what is so fascinating is you can walk over them on plexiglass. Some of the gardens have also been restored. Nearby is the Weald and Downland Open-Air Museum in Singleton.
The final stop was the Royal Horticultural Garden at Wisley. George Fergusson Wilson, a grower of fruit and orchids, bought the site in 1878 and established his ‘Oakwood experimental garden’. After George Wilson’s death in 1902, Sir Thomas Hanbury, founder of La Mortola garden in Italy, purchased Oakwood and adjoining Glebe Farm and donated it to the Royal Horticultural Society for its perpetual use. These 240 acres are comprised of almost every type of garden known – topiary, every flower, and highlighting not just British plants but an assortment from all over the world.
Having English and Scottish blood I love my trips to the British Isles, and pray the pandemic will soon be over and we can travel again. So much for my trip to Antarctica and Japan this year, plus Sulgrave Manor. There is always next year, but I’ll be a year older. I need to keep going to the Y!
Katie Barney is the author of six cookbooks, including The Enchanting World of Food. Her website is www.conduitpress.net and phone 410-820-9915.
Steamed Orange Sponge with Marmalade Ice Cream and Hot Orange Sauce
4 ozs. unsalted butter
5 ozs sugar
2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
finely grated zest of 1 orange
7 ozs. self-rising flour
Juice of 3 oranges, boil and reduce by 2/3 (cool)
Sprigs of fresh mint
To make sponge – cream butter and sugar together. Mix eggs and yolk together and beat into the butter and sugar mixture. Add zest and fold in sifted flour. Add orange juice.
Line six – 5 fl. oz molds or 1/12 pint mold with butter and flour. Spoon in sponge mixture to fill ¾ of the way up the mold and cover with buttered paper. Steam individual puddings for 35-40 minutes and larger puddings for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours. Once the pudding is cooked, turn out and serve with a spoonful of marmalade ice cream and some hot orange sauce. Decorate with a sprig of mint.
1 pint fresh orange juice
2 ozs. sugar
1 teaspoon corn flour
1 tablespoon water
Boil orange juice until reduced by half, then add the sugar. Mix corn flour with water – whisk into the simmering juice. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Harry Simpson, chef to Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Washington, D.C.