Scarlett Stahl’s been off on one of her wonderful trips abroad again. This time she is generously sharing her experiences and photos from her trip to England! ~~Rick
My Merry Olde Trip to England
By Scarlett Stahl
As my heritage is almost 100% English, I had been planning on making a pilgrimage to England for some time. Now when I say almost, that is because one of my cousins traced our Carr family back to Scotland and even visited two family castles there. As Pocahontas is my tenth generation great grandmother, that adds a small percentage of Native American as well.
On the plane to Manchester, which is in the northern part of England, the man seated next to me asked why I was going to Manchester, which took me by surprise. As I looked quizzically at him, he explained that he could tell by my accent that I was American and Americans don’t go to Manchester as it is an industrial city, which is why he was going there on business. He also said that I looked like a tourist and there weren’t any tourist attractions there. Hesitantly I told him that I wasn’t going to Manchester but would be taking a coach (the English name for a bus) to Bradford in Yorkshire. Again he commented that Bradford was a smaller industrial city so again asked why I was going there. When he learned that I was going to visit Bolling Hall, which is now a museum, but belonged to my Bolling family in the 1300’s, 1400’s and 1500’s before my eighth generation great grandfather, Robert Bolling, immigrated to Jamestowne in the 1600’s and married Jane Rolfe, the granddaughter of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, he exclaimed that my trip was much more interesting than his.
After arrival, my friend Linda Swisher and I found the coach area at the airport and purchased our coach/bus tickets. After a traffic jam on the highway we arrived at the coach/train station in Bradford and learned that our Hilton Hotel was right around the corner, which was convenient.
In fact it was right across from City Hall, which was an older pretty building near a little shopping park area, which was also pretty at night all lit up. However most of Bradford was just an industrial city and it appeared that the youth hung out in the park area as there wasn’t much to do.
The next morning we took a coach to Bolling Hall. Linda asked how I felt going there and I told her that I was filled with excitement and anticipation. It was a beautiful well maintained building with a lovely front and back lawn, which did not disappoint.
However the nearby neighboring buildings looked like tenements with laundry hung on lines at the back of the buildings. Bolling Hall is the oldest public building in Bradford and has been a museum since 1915. There is a gift shop in the oldest part of the building and in the guide book, which I purchased, it explained “Although now surrounded by modern housing, Bolling Hall was originally a fourteenth century pele tower, built in heavily wooded countryside to protect the owners against attackers.” Through the generations the building was added onto. The ashlar wall from the fourteenth century is the remains of the Great Medieval Hall.
The helper in the gift shop knew much more about Bolling Hall than I did and explained that the Bolling family had been on the losing side in the English Civil War and had been taxed out of their home in the 1600’s. I shared with him that Robert Bolling had come to Virginia and made his family home there in the 1600’s. Then in the 1800’s his descendants fought on the side of the Confederacy during the US Civil War. As they were on the losing side, they were taxed out of their homes again! If you read the history of Edith Bolling, who was the wife of President Woodrow Wilson and a Bolling cousin, she refers to that fact.
In “the Ghost Room” I met a University teacher with her students and asked information re the Room. She explained that they were there studying ghosts and the Earl of Newcastle had stayed in that room on the eve of a siege of Bradford. He had said he would kill everyone in the town the next day. The story goes that he was visited that night by a ghost lady in white, who pled for him to “Pity the poor people of Bradford,” which caused him to change his mind. The teacher was surprised to see me there and after I explained the family connection, she introduced me to her students, who were very interested in meeting me.
Of course I purchased a few items from the gift shop but admit there wasn’t a lot there, other than pencils, pens, erasers and rulers. I was able to purchase a booklet on the history of Bolling Hall, which meant a lot to me.
Linda and I took a coach to Haworth, which was also in Yorkshire, to visit the Bronte Family Parsonage, which was now a Museum. Both of us had read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and knew of the novels of Anne Bronte. We both admitted that we liked Wuthering Heights best of all. Their home/parsonage was high on a hill, with a graveyard in their backyard and a resident cat visiting there amongst the tombstones. As both Linda and I love cats, we enjoyed his attention.
On the other side of the graveyard was the church, where their father had preached and where they are buried, while nearby was a school, where they had taught. Their father, Patrick, was from Ireland. Born on St. Patrick’s Day (17 March 1777) he was an Anglican curate, as well as a poet and writer. Their mother, Maria, was English and she passed away when she was only 38. The two oldest of six children died as children, while the others sadly also all died young. Their brother, Branwell was a painter and a writer, who became addicted to alcohol and laudanum. The oldest was Charlotte, who died at only 29, while expecting her first child!! The father outlived all his children.
There were many shops leading down the hill to the town and small houses available to rent for tourists. It was a charming place to visit and I am sorry that we hadn’t stayed there, rather than Bradford.
We took a train from Bradford to Leeds and transferred from there to Kings Cross Station in London. Then we took the underground to a suburb of London, called Hammersmith, which was a nice peaceful neighborhood. It was so easy to get around that we went everywhere by using the underground, trains and some coaches. We really didn’t use coaches too much as our time was limited and there were traffic jams often as we were told. Speaking English made everything much easier for us.
Unfortunately the English pound was much stronger than the US dollar…in fact it took almost $2 for one pound so we really didn’t buy much. Lodging, transportation, admittance to attractions and food were our main priorities. Yes, I would have liked to see the ballet and theatre but they were too pricey. In fact the first night we shared a pizza and each had a glass of wine at the hotel, which came to $52! As this was my birthday trip, I do admit to splurging on one gift for myself at the Tower of London, a sterling silver small crown charm to wear on my own sterling silver necklace, which cost 50 pounds!
We went to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, which we had both seen on previous trips and could never tire of seeing as they were so outrageously magnificent. We enjoyed tea and scones at the famous Harrods Department Store and looked at all the lovely souvenir items with Harrods name on them. Another day we went back into London to visit Westminster Abbey, which again we both had seen previously. We passed the impressive Big Ben clock on the way to the Abbey. There we were surprised to see and learn that King James, who took the throne after Elizabeth I died, had her buried in a small crypt with her sister, Mary (also known as Bloody Mary!). And from the small shape and size, it did appear that one was placed on top of the other. Also it did seem surprising as Elizabeth was Anglican and Mary was Catholic and they did not get along. However upon reflection I remembered that Elizabeth had had King James mother, Mary Queen of Scots, beheaded so that probably was a good enough reason. Mary, Queen of Scots, tomb was much more elaborate and impressive.
Instead of going in Buckingham Palace, which we had done before, we walked past it to the Royal Gift Shops, where we dug deep into our pockets to purchase Christmas gifts for friends and then back to Harrods for baked Alaska and wine as a treat. Yes, we had fish and chips one night. Another night at a pub we dined on steak pie, which I suspect was cooked in red wine as I am allergic to that. At that pub we overheard a gentleman speaking loudly to his lady companion that he no longer took heroin but had changed to cocaine. The proprietor had to ask him to leave after he started ranting about wanting to kill the IRA. That was an interesting but rather strange experience.
Another day we took the train to Gravesend, which was in Kent, as that is where Pocahontas, aka Lady Rebecca Rolfe, died and was buried in St. George’s Church graveyard.
There was a tourist office there with Pocahontas memorabilia for purchase and again I couldn’t resist the souvenirs. As there had been a fire and the church had been rebuilt after her death, it was not known just where she was buried. However there was a statue of her, which is a duplicate of the one at Jametowne, Va. on the lawn of the church, called the Princess Pocahontas Garden.
According to the guide book, which I purchased at the tourist office “the two nave windows were cut out in 1914 and filled with stained glass presented by the Society of Colonial Dames of America as a memorial to Princess Pocahontas. The south window represents the figure of Ruth and the north Rebecca, the name she took at her baptism. Both incorporate cartouches of Pocahontas; also depicted are her baptism in one and Ruth accompanying Naomi in the other. Within the borders one sees American plants – Virginia creeper. dogwood, saragas and redbud.”
There is a memorial tablet on one side of the church arch that commemorates Pocahontas who, in 1617, was buried in a vault of the original church beneath the present chancel. Pocahontas was only 22 years old when she died and no one really knows the cause of her death but she would have had no immunity to the illnesses of England, such as smallpox, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. In fact she had an entourage of at least ten Indians with her, who all died in England, except for three!!! This was a rather bitter sweet moment for me as I had come so far and yet there was no way of knowing her gravesite nor being able to see the inside of the church, as it was closed that day.
Anne Boleyn was the second of King Henry VIII’s wives and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Her childhood family home was located in Hever, Kent. However we were told not to take the train into Hever as there weren’t any cabs there and it would be a very very long walk. Instead we were advised to take the train to Edenbridge and get a cab from there, which is what we did.
It was a beautiful estate with a lovely little castle, full of history and an enchanting double-moat. The castle houses historic 16th century portraits, paintings, furniture, tapestries and treasures. There were 125 acres of spectacular gardens, which included Italian, Rose and Tudor gardens, topiary, yew maze and splashing water maze. You could take a stroll around the informal areas of Sunday Walk and Anne Boleyn’s Walk. There was even an area, where guests could stay…of course not in the main castle. Again this is a place we would have liked to stay but it is easier not to have to keep packing and unpacking. And of course there was a nice gift shop.
There are trains, coaches and boats to Hampton Court from London. I had been told the Royal Court would have gone to Hampton Court by boat and the scenery was beautiful. However as I had also been told the journey by boat from Westminster can take up to 4 hours, depending on the tides, we decided to take the train to maximize the time we could enjoy the Palace.
Hampton Court Palace began as a barn and evolved into a country house. Cardinal Wolsey developed it into a Tudor palace. By the time Henry VIII died, though he had more than 60 houses, none was more important to him or more lavish than Hampton Court Palace. William III and Mary II preferred a baroque palace. Wren and then Talman completely transformed the east and south facades of Hampton Court, replacing Tudor towers and chimneys with the grand and elegant baroque exteriors that dominate the Formal Gardens today.
Some of the things to see include the following: The Great Hall is England’s greatest medieval hall and one of Britain’s oldest theatres, the world famous Maze, the Tudor kitchens, the Chapel Royal (where the Choir boys were singing that day!), the Gardens, and much more. I had the pleasure of meeting King Henry VIII myself and he graciously allowed a picture to be taken. Or else he was really an actor, but one who looked so very much like King Henry VIII and sounded like him!!!!.
Linda is a BIG Peter Pan fan so of course we had to visit Kensington Gardens for her to see and touch the Peter Pan statue.
We would have liked to have taken the train to Oxford to have the Alice in Wonderland high tea at the University as I am a BIG Alice in Wonderland fan but we ran out of time!!!!! Linda had been so patient with my need to visit my family home, Bolling Hall Museum, and to go the gravesite of my ancestor, Pocahontas, that I couldn’t ask her to give up some of the other things to go to Oxford.
England is a wonderful place to visit. Everyone is helpful and it is so very easy to get around. And I do admit that I would have liked to be able to find more pubs with typical English fare, rather than Italian, Chinese, etc, which were more prevalent. I never did find Shepherd’s pie, which I particularly like.
Please note that pictures were not allowed in many of the places we visited, which is why I have only shown outdoor pictures for some of them.
We’d like to thank Scarlett for sharing her delightful adventure in jolly olde England. Have you recently visited a theme park or family destination that you’d like to share with MiceChat? We’d love to hear from you.