Thoughts, quirky insights and experiences in my meandering life.

Blenheim: How much stuff does one family need?

Blenheim Palace, the only non-royal palace, was a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill for successfully winning the Battle of Blenheim. The gift was in the form of money, initially 300,000 pounds, reduced to 240,000 pounds when John’s wife Sarah fell out with Queen Anne and she withheld the rest. Now that is a pretty generous gift for one battle. Sarah, later the first Duchess of Marlborough, had to build the place. It is said that she did not want something quite this fancy, and would liked to have built something a little less expensive. She was not above getting a cut rate price for a painting job that she thought was quoted too high by one “contractor”. It was started in the first decade of the 1700’s but took several decades to complete, if it can ever be said to be completed.

Capability Brown was hired by the 4th Duke in the 1760’s. From ProLandscaper magazine “The landscape setting he devised in the 1760’s provided such a sublime form of beauty and harmony that every generation of the Marlborough family has endeavoured to preserve it.” Lancelot “Capability” Brown created landscapes that would only come into its own a hundred years after they were planted. An amazing gift to future generations.

The great lake, dug by hand and lined with clay. Gave a lot of work to a lot of people I guess, at least for a time.

Sarah Churchill was a woman to be reckoned with. She was a great friend of Queen Anne before their great falling out, caused by an impoverished relative of Sarah’s that she introduced to the Queen, Abigail Masham. Sarah had had huge influence over the queen which probably accounts for the extraordinary gift to John Churchill. Anne, poor woman, had countless miscarriages and live births, close to twenty births, but none of them survived to adulthood and she died childless, hence the Hanoverian Georges who followed her, and the whole Georgian era. The had to go up the family tree and down another branch to find them.

This painting, on the ceiling of a portico over the front door is quite extraordinary. Don’t know its reason for being there, early CCTV?

Blenheim is a big tourist business these days, after all, they have to pay for its upkeep which can’t be cheap. They employ over 450 people to run the place and all the attractions they offer which include a downstairs tour, and upstairs tour, a Capability Brown tour, a butterfly house, and more.

And there were Zebra Finches in the same place

We took the narrow gauge railway to visit the butterflies, and they have a bottling plant for Blenheim water which is apparently shipped to Dubai and Hong Kong. In glass bottles. Even though the estate is green conscious.

All in all it was a lovely day with Martin and Daniel, friends from my street in Toronto. I was 72, they live at 102.

We started the Hastings Avenue Street Party, from Dundas to Queen, therefore the DQHASP, eight years ago. The meetings were huge fun, and the day wasn’t bad either.

Back to Blenheim. I love the gift stores in such places, but I hunted and hunted for something to buy, but alas, nothing caught my eye. So no mementos from that day’s outing.


A Coterie of Cousins, Siblings and Spouses


Three men and a Mann in a boat.

1 Comment

  1. Anne Pearson

    Hi Maggie,
    Lovely photos!
    Our flights are booked! We will see you in Florence Sunday 25th August. Can you please tell me which suburb/area of Florence? Kathryn has a friend making her first overseas trip who wants to be close then the girls can do trips together. Anne

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