Being strong enough to say, “I can do this on my own” takes a lot of grit. There is no doubt that, before we can accomplish anything solo, we have to first believe in ourselves inextricably. We also have to be fearless enough to embark on a brave, new, limitless world. In the words of Thucydides, (don’t worry, I can’t say it either) “The secret to happiness is freedom…And the secret to freedom is courage.” Therefore, it would be fair to say that, in order to achieve actuality of this notion, we must allow ourselves to be free. That allowance, though, also takes courage. So, how do we inspire that? Well, in the pursuit of such unparalleled happiness, here are 5 stately homes with a history so quirky that you will soon find yourself finally verbalising those wonderful words.
That’s the aim, anyway!
So, let’s begin…
For a while now, it’s been on my list to show that independent females with big aspirations can break the mould, and here, from the grounds of Elizabethan masterpiece, Hardwick Hall, I proved it.
This beautiful Derbyshire country house was created by Elizabeth Cavendish (better known as Bess of Hardwick) a woman of modest background who slowly rose to become one of the wealthiest women of her time.
Sagacious Bess (who also became good friends with our Tudor Queen, Elizabeth I 👑) was a tireless and ambitious woman with a passion for building, and even though she was in her later years when she decided to begin a new project from scratch, nothing could put a stop to her irresistible urge to create this extraordinary hall.
So you see, despite what some say, the truth is that “You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream” – (C.S. Lewis) even if you do it alone.
Bess and Hardwick Hall are both evidence of that.
☆ Fun fact! ☆ Hollywood star, Margot Robbie, stood on the roof of Hardwick Hall whilst playing the famous Monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, in the 2019 film, “Mary Queen of Scots.”
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the moment you stop looking for love is exactly when you find it.”
FANS OF BRIDGET JONES! Did you notice my adapted quote there? No? Okay, BUT, maybe you’ve noticed the links to Jane Austen’s literary treasure, “Pride & Prejudice” whilst watching the movie instead?
For instance…🔹️1) How Mr Darcy appears in both tales as the stoic male lead 🎩
🔹️2) That Pemberley Press is where Bridget works and that Pemberley estate is Mr Darcy’s home in Pride & Prejudice, which, incidentally, was filmed at Chatsworth (hence the connection – honestly, this ramble does have a point!)
🔹️3) Lastly, how both stories feature an undeniable focus on how being single is looked at questionably once you reach a certain age❣
It’s rather curious how single people’s love lives have always been in scrutiny, isn’t it? As if the absence of a significant other is somehow socially unfitting. And while, yes, having a partner to share life with is a wonderful thing, it doesn’t mean that flying solo makes the ride any less enjoyable. In fact, some singletons have made pretty big names for themselves, thanks to having this freedom to spread their wings…
…such as Miss Jane Austen.
Within the walls of Chatsworth, Austen’s unrivalled literary success is most celebrated. From a showcase of her books and novel gifts to match to illustrative tours of her writings and even Pride & Prejudice-themed Regency balls, Jane’s single-handed efforts remain forever immortalised in this stately home.
Her work has inspired so much liberation, even beyond the house. There is no doubt that Jane Austen has and will continue to go down in history as a literary idol. Showing that, maybe, being single isn’t always such a bad thing.
The take-home message? Keep on following WHAT you love and, somewhere along the way, you’ll find WHO you love.
☆ Fun fact! ☆ Bess of Hardwick (later known as “Elizabeth Talbot”, Countess of Shrewsbury) didn’t just complete one hall. No, she even completed Chatsworth, too! By 1557, after Sir William’s passing, she had also finished building the magnificent 3-storied, 120-roomed home we all know and love to visit today.
Talking of Pride and Prejudice, did you know that the 1980 BBC series of Austen’s famous novel used footage shot at Renishaw Hall? Plus, word on the grapevine also suggests that English writer and poet, D.H. Laurence, was so inspired by the village of Eckington and of Renishaw Hall that he encompassed them within his novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover – a book that hints towards the notion of “individual regeneration”.
Although predominantly a romantic erotica on the surface, it has also been described by the feminist author, Jenny Turner, as “a book of great libertarian energy” which, philosophically speaking, advocates the idea that humans possess free will.
So, although Renishaw’s history may not directly reflect independence, its presence certainly made an impact on others that did (including myself, posing triumphantly from the Gardens of Renishaw in this article’s featured photo)
☆ Fun fact! ☆ For over 350 years, the Grade I listed building of Renishaw has belonged to the Sitwell family. However, it only became the vision you see today after it was left to the unusually named, “Sitwell Sitwell” during the latter 18th and early 19th-Century.
A new era began for Nostell Priory when 16-year-old, Rowland Winn (4th Baronet) inherited the house. After a 5-year Grand Tour of the globe, Rowland returned home at the age of 21 inspired by his travels, and it didn’t take long before he commissioned to bring his ambitious plans to life.
Fuelled with determination, Rowland and James Paine (his employee) made dreams a reality over the course of the 18th-Century and fashioned the picture-perfect Palladian architectural masterpiece you see standing proud today. They say that determination has no limitation, but if that statement was ever to be doubted, then this one movement is one to be recited.
Interestingly, this shift also recognises the importance of travel. None of what you see today could have been made possible without that worldly insight, and to quote St. Augustine of Hippo, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Perhaps Rowland was influenced by the Augustinian Priory’s religious roots when he made his choice to explore the globe? Spooky…
☆Fun Fact!☆ Nostell Priory was also one of the filming locations for BBC 2 documentary, “At Home With The Georgians”
It seems fairly ironic that the portrayal of one of England’s most independent monarchs was set at Brodsworth Hall (see ‘Fun Fact!’ below) Queen Victoria – Britain’s longest-reigning royal – had a “rather isolated” childhood and was often depicted as serious. However, contrary to opinion, Victoria’s personality was actually far more exciting…
From going to the opera, busting moves on the dancefloor and giving her husband nude paintings of women on special occasions (ooerr!) she could also speak several languages (including Hindustani) enjoyed writing her diaries (many of which can still be found today) and loved hosting fancy dress tea parties (because, what else?)
Usually, when we think of a “Victorian upbringing”, we do not relate these factors so tightly. Of course, the idea of afternoon tea is an undeniable quintessence of Victorian Britain, and even the commandeering parenting style could be somewhat understood. However, the influence she had on people, places and culture as a result of such isolation is ironically liberating. There aren’t many places in the UK (or across the Commonwealth) you can go to without a street or a sponge reminding you of her presence. Queen Victoria’s reign may have ended over 100 years ago, but her legacy will remain forever.
So, should you wish to visit Brodsworth Hall and immerse yourself in this transformative era at its most grandeur, whilst you’re there, think about how much Victoria invested in her own identity in order to then later give to others. She may not have known it at the time, but all of those passions she explored for herself made for an eternal impact on the hearts of people across the world as a consequence.
Ultimately proving just how powerful being independent can be.
☆Fun Fact!☆ Keep your eyes peeled when watching the TV series, “Victoria” as the interiors of Osborne House (Queen Victoria’s cherished residence on the Isle of Wight) were filmed at Brodsworth Hall.
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