Today we had the privilege of traveling with Lambert Tours, a full-service bespoke guide organization providing unique insights into British history and cultural life. Can’t recommend them highly enough, though very few will have the opportunity to command their services. (We have them fully booked for this weekend, so don’t even bother.)
On today’s agenda was a visit to the site of the Battle of Hastings, 1066, lest you have forgotten. What looks like a lovely field above was the scene of a very bloody battle between William, Duke of Normandy and King Harold II for the throne of England. William conquered, Harold got an arrow in his eye, and the rest is, as they say, history. (See Bayeux Tapestry for full details.)
The surrounding town is – in a typically understated English way – named Battle, and we had a lovely lunch there at Mrs. Burton’s. (Please note the long-lost fragment of the Bayeux Tapestry that graces its wall.)
We then felt sufficiently fortified to explore the ruins and remains of Battle Abbey. It was built shortly after the actual event to commemorate the importance of the event and the numbers who died. A lovely and evocative site, if you enjoy ruins as much as we do.
But the excitement did not end there. We then progressed to Smallhythe Place in Kent. This half-timbered house was built in the late 15th or early 16 century, and it was the home of Victorian super-star actress of her day, Ellen Terry. She lived there from 1899 till her death there in 1928. The house hasn’t seen a right angle for centuries, but no stage set could be more compelling. It seems as though Miss Terry might just be in the other room.
Memorabilia from a brilliant life in the theater spent with luminaries such as Henry Irving, Sarah Bernardt, Fanny Kemble, Arthur Sullivan, Oscar Wilde, along with personal effects and some costumes make this a very special house museum. (Tea in the barn completed its perfection as a tour site.)
All in all, a day rich in history, texture, English-ness, spring flowers and absolutely top-notch tour guides. More to come tomorrow!