25 August 2022: At Littlecote House
My wife and I spent this morning looking round Littlecote House, where we are staying for a few days.
Littlecote House has an interesting history and has been extended and modified several times since it was originally built during the reigns of the Tudors. The then owners supported Parliament during the Civil War and what was the original Great Hall was converted into a chapel, now one of the best-preserved Cromwellian chapels in England.
We started our tour in the new Great Hall, which has a magnificent fireplace and Parliamentary breastplates and helmets on the wall, alongside weapons of the period. It originally housed a very long wooden table, built for gaming but later used as a dining table. Sadly this has been removed since our last visit.
A door from the Great Hall leads to the Chinese Lounge, named after the four large panels of hand-painted Chinese wallpaper the room contains. From there some steps lead up to the Orangery but this is not currently open to visitors. (There is work being done on the roof this week.)
Instead we made our way from the Chinese Lounge to the Library, full of books which could have been bought as a job lot and are stored according to no order that I’ve ever been able to work out. Nevertheless, it is possible to find some very interesting books among them and we have spent many happy hours here.
A door from the Library takes one to stairs leading upstairs. The first floor houses the Long Gallery, the Haunted Bedroom and a small museum commemorating the British and US army units based here during WWII.
The Long Gallery gives magnificent views over the gardens. Looking out of the windows here we saw a whole host of house martins, flying up to the eaves and away again as though they were trying to memorise the details for their return. We speculated that they were gathering together for the flight to warmer climes; they had disappeared by this afternoon.
Nowadays the Long Gallery is used for indoor games, such as indoor bowls, darts, table tennis and snooker.
The Haunted Bedroom is where one of the early owners of the house performed a most dastardly deed. It is said he managed to get his own sister pregnant. When she gave birth to a boy in this room, he took the baby from the midwife and threw it in the fire. Supposedly if you are in the room at night you can hear the mother crying for her baby and the baby’s wails. American officers billeted in this room in WWII reported that they weren’t aware of anything ghostly. The midwife apparently put a curse on the owners of the house, decreeing that no first-born male heir should inherit it. Legend has it that no first-born male has ever lived long enough.
The WWII museum is well worth a visit. The US 502nd Airborne Division was based at Littlecote during WWII. The museum tells the story and contains memorabilia. The film “Band of Brothers” was based on their exploits.
After touring the house we had lunch at the Kennet Bar before taking a stroll in the gardens in the afternoon.
After dinner this evening we went to the Late Lounge for a show based on West End musicals and put on by the resident entertainment team. The Warners’ entertainment teams always put on a good show.