Blenheim Palace is one of the largest houses in England and is the seat of the Duke of Marlborough. It is built in the Oxfordshire countryside near the village of Woodstock approximately eight miles from Oxford and covers an area of over 2100 acres, seven of which are devoted entirely to the house. It is absolutely massive in comparison to other stately homes in the United Kingdom and there is quite a history behind the building and maintenance of the house. The palace has been listed on the world heritage site. It really is a national treasure and well worth a visit.
The house was funded by the public purse and by money given to the 1st Duke in recognition of a variety of battles he fought and won. He was at the time a national hero and such was the esteem in which he was held not only Parliament but the King and his wife were instrumental in donating large sums of money. However the Duchess was quite a formidable woman who made various demands on the design of the house and in fact hated the architect so much that she had him sacked. She also fell out with Queen Anne after which funding for the palace was withdrawn. The falling out of favour also meant that the Duke and Duchess fled abroad and lived in exile for two years until the Queens death after which they returned to the palace and finished the building of the palace out of their own funds.
Over the centuries it has been a monumental task in maintaining the grand and opulent Palace so much so that in the 1800’s it was on the verge of ruin as it was nearly impossible to maintain as the 7th Duke of Marlborough was practically bankrupt. An act of parliament had to be passed in order for the Duke to sell of parts of the estate and also he sold off many pieces of fine art and the Marlborough gems. In 1892 the 9th Duke married into “money” by marrying an American heiress from the Vanderbilt dynasty which saved the future of Blenheim. Once married and with a new influx of money the Marlborough gems were bought back to Marlborough and a massive shopping spree throughout the length and breadth of Europe ensued refilling the palace with antiques and fine art. From this marriage a rather famous person was born they were the parents of Sir Winston Churchill ironically who became another war hero.
The house is built in a mixture of Baroque architecture and Palladian style. It certainly looks more impressive from a distance than it does up close due to its vastness. There is a massive courtyard in front of the palace and the main entrance takes you into the grand hall. The grand hall is absolutely vast and you feel dwarfed by the size of it and the height of the ceilings. There is a painted ceiling and lots of windows at the top to let in sunlight. It is very grand and ostentatious. Towards the rear of the grand hall leading off in either direction are the state apartments. These rooms are also vast in size and grandeur each one leading further away from the grand hall and getting smaller in dimensions but nevertheless still very ostentatious. The further away from the grand hall you go the more cosy the rooms become although I suspect that the size of these rooms would be quite intimidating to visitors on official business. There is also a beautiful library which is quite long and practically runs the whole way down the west wing of the house. It was originally built to display pieces of fine art works and within the room there is a fine Willis organ.
The various state apartments are named in order as the first state apartment, the second state apartment and such as the Red drawing room, the Green Drawing room etc etc but the state dining room is stunning and the table is set with fine china and crystal set in a rich red decorated room which enhances the feeling of grandeur and opulence. Many of the ceilings have murals and frescos in them and the collection of fine art and tapestries are amazing.
There is a suite of rooms where Sir Winston Churchill was born which houses various displays and permanent exhibition depicting his life. There are letters he wrote to his father one in particular was requesting money as he had lost his watch given to him by his father. It was not to replace the watch but rather to pay for workmen to re route a river where he had lost his watch in order to retrieve it. The letters seem very formal in style but it gave an interesting insight into the type of relationship he had with his parents. Distant and quite formal and business like after all he was addressing a Duke who just happened to be his father! Quite bizarre.
There are far too many things to describe and I would not like to spoil your visit by describing too much. All I can say is that it is well worth a visit to Blenheim Palace but a warning the scale of the place is huge and you can be guaranteed to be quite exhausted visiting the beautiful palace and grounds as there is so much to see.
With over two thousand acres of landscaped grounds, parkland and gardens originally designed by Capability Brown, it gives you no idea how vast the estate is suffice it to say that there will be a lot of walking involved. To the rear of the house overlooked by the state apartments is a beautifully set out parterre which is adorned with ponds topiary and fountains. There are terraces, the rose garden which then leads down to the secret garden and cascades. There is a large lawned area and an area which is used to hold various displays and other activities throughout the year such as jousting and hawking tournaments.
There are a couple of routes you can take of various walks through the landscaped gardens one of which pass the perimeter of the manmade lake passing beautiful trees such as copper, cedar, beech trees and willow trees. The walks are lovely and are a treat for the eyes. There is also the Marlborough maze which is great for adults and kids alike.
Times of opening are generally from 10:30 AM to 18:00 hours but you should check for times of opening as sometimes the palace is closed to the public.
Students and OAP’s £14.50
Family ticket £48
IF you only wish to visit the grounds and gardens the tickets are as follows:
Adult £ 10.30
Students & OAP’s £7.70
Family ticket £26.
There are good parking and toilet facilities and plenty of places to eat at various venues. You can also bring your own picnic or arrange for a picnic from the palace. They hold various corporate events there too and other special events which are held throughout the year. You can have afternoon tea which for £15 a head is quite good value and is held in the Indian room overlooking the fountains and water terraces or how about Sunday lunch for £19.95 at the orangery where you can have a nice meal in beautiful surroundings.
The palace does welcome disabled visitors but you would need to be aware if you are wheelchair bound then you are likely not to get to visit some places.
Would I recommend a visit here?
Absolutely but I would reckon on spending at least about five to six hours as there is so much to see and do and does warrant a whole day to visit and explore. I don’t think you would be disappointed in any way as there is so much available to satisfy any age group. In fact I think you could devote a whole day here enjoying the Palace,grounds and exhibitions and I am sure you would enjoy it immensely.
You can check out details at the following web site which is full of useful information of how to get there, prices, times of opening and facilities and events etc.
Summary: A beautiful palace in the Oxfordshire countryside.