blenheim palace is a massive country house that was built between 1705 and 1722. the site covers seven acres and as such it is unsurprising that it is one of the biggest houses in england. it is situated in oxfordshire, in the town of woodstock and today it is mostly known for being the birthplace of winston churchill.
i went there with my mom and our friend wiebke in july. on our way there we passed by churchill’s grave, which lies in a churchyard near the palace.
churchill is a really interesting character. i really respect him for his speeches and determination during the war. today, however, many people can’t seem to think about him without remembering that he was also a drunk. i don’t mind this vice of his too much – it wasn’t great, of course, but it makes him more human in my eyes, and thus more accessable.
there was also a lot more to him. he had a fantastic sense of humour and a rapier wit. he also loved art and painted a staggering 570 paintings! churchill once said “If it weren’t for painting, I couldn’t live; I couldn’t bear the strain of things.”, which just illustrates how much it meant it to him. i never knew that he painted and only discovered this when i went to blenheim, and learning this makes me like him more.
just before we reached the palace we passed by chaucer’s home. i was more excited about this than about the whole palace and literally got out in the middle of traffic to take a photo. don’t worry, i didn’t do a “die hard” dive-roll or anything, there was a queue leading up to the entrance anyway, so the car was stationary. sadly my photography skill still isn’t that great, so it isn’t the greatest of photos, but at least its something…
we were deceived. this isn’t chaucer’s cottage. i checked and found out this was simply the site upon which chaucer’s son (they suspect) had built his house…
now to blenheim palace.
the palace was initially a gift to john churchill, the first duke of marlborough after a series of military triumphs against the french, making england “safe” from louis xiv. the name blenheim is derived from one of the victorious battles at blindheim in germany. the money for the construction of the palace was later withdrawn after the duchess of marlborough and the queen had a falling out – the duchess apparantly grossly insulting the queen (no, i don’t know what the insult is – the bloke on the tour sadly couldn’t tell us!) – but the palace was nevertheless eventually completed.
we weren’t allowed cameras into the palace, so i will mostly be focusing on its exterior. inside it looks pretty grand and ornate, but not too different from other english stately homes. large parts of the house are as it used to be in churchill’s time, but a big section of it is dedicated to a museum-like tour with posters, photos, letters and paintings relating to the churchills, with particular focus on winston.
the current duke and duchess actually still live in the house, but we didn’t bump into them and weren’t allowed to check out where they sleep or anything.
general consensus has it that blenheim is best veiwed from a distance, and i can agree with this. because of its size and geometric design the palace looks quite beautiful from a distance. this shot isn’t from terribly far back, but it gives a sense of the scope and grandeur.
this sense is reinforced by “the column of victory” that lies directly in front of the palace entrance and is at a precise distance (probably a mile) from a particular part of the palace (this isn’t very informative, i know – i tried, but couldn’t find out the exact figure). you can see the column in the distance…
i can tell you that it is 134 feet high – approximately half a mile – or 41.17 metres. here’s a closer view:
viewed from up close the palace is a bit too daunting, as it appears overly elaborate and rather weighed down by all that stone. the feeling of weight is entirely intended as the intention was to give the impression of power and stability.
the palace looks wacky or grand depending on your taste. it is designed in the english baroque style and looks like a pastiche of grand architectural styles with arches, doric pillars, renaissance style statues, italian gardens and towers that seem eqyptian. if one isolates individual sections containing a single style, though, then it still looks quite cool. the rest of this post will be dedicated to the gardens. walking through these gardens was my favourite part of our visit to blenheim. i think an explanation is superfluous, so i’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
the last image i’m going to leave you with is one of my favourite views. this shot is taken from the path that leads you into the palace – as such it is one of the first and last views you see when you visit blenheim. i wish we could’ve had time to walk through that field and over that bridge, but it was amazing just to be able to see it.