16thC Arches Found In A Charity Shop

Well, sort of…a picture of them at least.
I can’t pass a charity shop without going in. Fact.
Walking to a meeting in north London this morning, I sped past a fair few of them – yippee! On my way back, I popped into them all. I usually head towards the ceramics and glass first, but always cast an eye over everything else. In the last shop, having had no luck so far, I spotted a charming unsigned watercolour on a shelf. You can see it below – the ghostly white cast is the meadow is my reflection, alas, when I took the photo.
I’m fond of architectural pictures, and the £10 price tag seemed more than reasonable, especially as it was very nicely mounted, framed, and glazed. The previous owner had obviously thought highly of it, as it had been framed by Sebastian D’Orsai Ltd, sometime in the 1970s or’80s judging by the style of the frame and the framer’s ’01’ London telephone number.
Even though I liked it at first sight, I had no idea where the arches were, or even if they existed, considering artistic license and all that. I tweeted about it on the bus home. Only for one of my more active followers, the marvellous @robjn, to tell me that they are the arches at Holdenby House in Northamptonshire. Highly impressive architectural knowledge, I say!
A light bit of research later, and these arches are even more interesting than I thought. They’re all that remains of what was once the largest private house in Elizabethan England, with a total size of over 78,000 sq. feet (7,300 sq. metres). Built by Elizabeth I’s Lord Chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton, it was completed in 1583. As well as being powerful and influential, it was rumoured that Hatton was the Queen’s lover, something that was further indicated by the fact that he wouldn’t sleep in the house until Elizabeth had. She did, but their relationship didn’t last. The cost of the house bankrupted Hatton, who died aged 51 in 1591.
The house was later bought by James I, and Charles I was imprisoned there in 1647 during the Civil War. A later owner demolished most of the house in the late 17thC, before it was acquired by the Duke of Marlborough’s family in 1709. Apart from a kitchen wing, which was incorporated into the current house built in the 1870s, the arches in my watercolour are all that remains of Hatton’s original great house. £10 for a fascinating slice of history – and it looks great on my wall too!

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