Northern snobbery

From Redfellow Cott to the magnificent Beningborough Hall is half-a-dozen miles, three hundred years of history, and an infinite number of social classes.

BeningboroughAbout 1716, and a fine place to be on a Bank Holiday.

So having wandered the grounds (my Fitbit scored 2.53 miles), observed the munching Aberdeen Anguses (Mac spell-check tried to edit the “g”, thus nearly managing a wrong’un there), and educated the grandsons in the nature of a ha-ha, we were into the accommodation.

What it isn’t, strictly, is a “stately home”. In one of those we might expect the family’s second-best crockery laid out on banqueting tables to impress the yobs. Beningborough has been cleaned out repeatedly, and the furnishings — though adequate — are more about filling space than flaunting hereditary opulence.

The last of the Great Personages to inhabit this glorious monster was Enid Edith Scudamore-Stanhope:

Whose full-length portrait hangs properly over one of those grand fireplaces, which require half-a-tree or the labour of a small pit-village. Lo! Enid Wilson, just into her twenties, and about to be married to a nob/knob twice her age and become Countess of Chesterfield.

By then a widow, she moved into a farm cottage in 1941. The Hall became an Air Force billet for the bomber crews at nearby Linton-on-Ouse, from which it was redeemed by the National Trust. Since Countess Enid, the RAF’s and RCAF’s land-lady, a grand-niece of the Iron Duke, was still in the vicinity, keeping a shrewd eye on the doings, life must have been less-than-easy for the CO of 76 Squadron, deputed as liaison officer and peace-keeper, one Squadron Leader Leonard Cheshire.

Beningborough is now a regular out-house for the National Portrait Gallery. At one level, this means the walls are well-hung with decent oils of various worthies of the eighteenth, and into the nineteenth century. I even hit on a John Singer Sargent. Two items gave me particular pleasure:

At the top of the stairs, on the second floor, as introduction to the peripatetic NPG bit is Henry IX, the Cardinal King of Britain, the last of the Stuarts (and probably as near total sanity as that lot came):

No eight-year-old should be dressed that way; and he’s pointing to the White Cliffs of Dover, where he’ll never get (though George III paid him a pension when the Stuart monies ran out). The importance of the strange dog eludes me.

Then, in the galleries, a breath of modern fresh-air: Tom Wood’s beguiling portrait of a Yorkshire and National hero, Alan Bennett:

Now the viewer needs to explain the impedimenta: the mug, the paper bag, the plug-and-cable, even the glow in the background. Awareness of Bennett’s work solves the mysteries.

Definitely  a day not wasted.

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Filed under social class, travel, World War 2, Yorkshire

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