The third and final outing of the 2017 Summer Season was to Boughton House which is a “country house” 3 miles north of Kettering and residing in an estate of 11,000 acres. Initially, the weather was not promising but it continued to improve and developed into a warm and pleasant day. On boarding the coach 33 members and friends were given an itinerary of the visit and historical notes on the estate and its owners. We departed Melton at 9.00 am and after a comfortable and short journey we arrived at the main entrance to the House at 10.15 am where we were welcomed by a member of the Boughton Team and escorted to the Stables Tea Rooms for pre-ordered coffee/tea and homemade biscuits.
At 11.00 am we were divided into 2 groups for a 2-hour guided tour of the House. It is one of the seats of the Duke of Buccleuch. The ducal family surname of the owners of Boughton House is Montagu-Douglas-Scott. The magnificence of the collections at Boughton reflects the union of three great families and their estates through marriage: Montagu, the Dukes of Montagu; Douglas, the Dukes of Queensberry; and Scott, the Dukes of Buccleuch. Boughton contains a comprehensive collection of furniture, tapestries, porcelain and carpets. The art collection includes paintings by artists, including The Adoration of the Shepherds by El Greco, Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Mary Montagu, grisailles and portraits by Van Dyck, and Breaking Cover by John Wootton. Once a servants’ hall, located next to the kitchen, the armoury is now home to what many experts regard as one of the finest privately held armouries in the country. It is an historic collection that owes much to John, 2nd Duke of Montagu (1670–1749).
After lunch we returned to our coach for a guided tour of the Estate and its villages: Grafton Underwood, Warkton, Weekley and Geddington. With the exception of Geddington, most of the cottages are Estate owned and predominantly built in local ironstone with thatched roofs or Colleyweston stone tiles. Our first stop was at Grafton Underwood where an airfield was built for the Royal Air Force in 1941. It was assigned to the United States Eighth Army Air Force in 1942. Its designation was USAAF Station 106. The 384th Bomber Group (Heavy), operating B-17 Flying Fortresses, moved to Grafton Underwood on 25 May 1943 and remained there until the cessation of hostilities in Europe. There are very few remains of the airfield but a memorial to the 384th is located where the main runway used to intersect the Geddington Road and a memorial stained glass window in the church of St James the Apostle. We then drove to the estate village of Warkton and stopped at St Edmund’s Church. The oldest elements of the church date from the 12th century, but the current church dates largely from the 15th century. The notable exception to this is the 18th century chancel, commissioned by Mary Churchill, Duchess of Montagu and wife of John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, and designed by the celebrated French artist Louis François Roubiliac. The chancel was purposefully designed to house grand funerary monuments to the Duke and his family, and includes a huge east window which floods the space with light. The chancel and the treasures within are key reasons for the Grade I listing of the church. Our next stop was at Weekley close to the parish church of St Mary the Virgin and the village green where a cricket match was in full flow – an idyllic and pastoral scene. Our last stop was at Geddington which is the largest village with houses and cottages with more architectural diversity and more private ownership. Geddington’s history reaches back to pre-history. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book and its status in medieval times is very visible in the church, St Mary Magdalene, the bridge and the remarkable Eleanor Cross; the busy crossing point at the ford, the use of the Royal Hunting Lodge by former kings and the proximity of Boughton House brought noble visitors from around the country. But it is a village that has grown, developed and adapted over the centuries. The village sign represents the aspects of social change that the village has faced. It is still a hub of activity.
Our guided tours were superb and the House and Estate villages unforgettable, thanks to our top rate guides. They were enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable and articulate, and blessed with fantastic memories honed from many years of service.
After the tour we were free to tour the gardens. Their development is on-going with the aim of restoring them to what they were in the 18th century and enhancing them on a grand and classical scale. Following refreshments in the Stables Tea Room we boarded our coach and departed promptly at 5.00 pm. After a comfortable journey, we arrived back at Melton shortly after 6.00 pm tired but satiated.
Many thanks must go to Peter Raikes for researching and organising this memorable trip which is the last of this year’s Summer Programme and all members can now look forward to the beginning of the “Winter Programme” starting at 7.30 pm on Friday 13th October 2017 at Sage Cross Methodist Church and Community Centre in Melton Mowbray. New members are always welcome.