Herstmonceax - 21/9/2018 - Tonbridge U3A-Travel

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Herstmonceax - 21/9/2018

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Herst, meaning woodland, and Monceux meaning Mr. Monceux from France who inherited the original house when he married Idolea de Herst in 1200.
We had an excellent guide who told us that the house has changed several times but the house we see today was completely rebuilt by the Fiennes family in the fifteenth century and is one of the earliest brick buildings in England.
At some stage the contents, fixtures and fittings were gutted from the house although some linen fold, Tudor doors, Grinling Gibbon’s carvings and brickwork still remain intact. However, the inside was quite a surprise because although the chapel and framework of part of the building is original, most of the inside is a functional as it is used as a unit of Queens University Ontario and was bequeathed to them, for the use of Canadian degree students, by a philanthropist who fled from eastern Europe, could not get into any university here so emigrated to Canada where he was educated, made a fortune and gratefully bought Herstmonceux Castle for the university in 1994.
The gardens are beautiful.  The largest is full of herbaceous borders and seats to stop and enjoy the view. That leads into a remarkable rose garden, still in bloom, and filled with many unusual roses.  From there we entered the Sonnet garden; about forty plants and trees based on Shakespeare sonnets.  “The marigold that goes to bed wi’ sun” Midsummer Night’s Dream.  “What’s in a name that which we call a rose” Romeo and Juliet. Etc. etc. I had no idea that Shakespeare was such a horticulturist. Each plant is labelled in white on black slate and it was so interesting that I had to hurry through the next two gardens; one a wild garden for butterflies and bees and filled with lavender, zinnias, verbena and so on and lastly there was the Sensory Garden crammed with healing plants; feverfew for headaches, dill for sore throats and so on. Quite beautiful.
No time to take the woodland walk, a quick whizz round the art show and then on to the Observatory. What a surprise and, again an excellent guide who told us that it was built at no expense by HM Admiralty after the war, it had 200 people working there but was made redundant  in 1970 and transferred to Palma in the Canary Islands.  The oldest telescope, still in use for event viewings, was made in 1860 and according to the late Patrick Moore considered to be the best telescope ever made.  
An excellent hands on museum and masses to see and enjoy.
What a good day.  Thank you U3A, not somewhere I would have chosen to visit but well worth a second trip.
Sheila Buttle
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