A lovely afternoon: 2011 in sunshine and beautiful surroundings.
Those of you who are regulars here will know that I love taking photos and I love the countryside, gardens, old villages and historic buildings.
Many of the places I visit are the inspiration for some of my stories and I often post photos of the locations just to give my readers an idea of what set off my imagination. The drive of Wellington College gave me the location for the drive to The Country Club in Ms Birdsong Investigates.
In 2011 I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful, sunny and warm afternoon wandering around the grounds of the world-famous Wellington College, which was holding a Garden Open Day in aid of The Berkshire Air Ambulance.
Armed with my camera I set off for what I knew was going to be a fabulous afternoon. The last time I had set foot in the grounds had been many years ago when the grounds and woodland belonging to the College formed part of my school’s Cross Country running course. At least I wouldn’t be going home with cut knees, mud covered clothing and a bright red face this visit.
The College was established in 1853 by Royal Charter as the Nation’s Memorial to The Duke of Wellington and the College builds on the legacy of ‘the greatest Englishman that ever lived,’ and ‘the Royal and religious Foundation of The Wellington College.’ It was opened in 1859 and was founded to educate the sons of fallen heroes and originally supported the children of deceased officers of the East India Company.
The College is now a co-educational school and there are 1,000 pupils (aged 13-18). The Master, Dr. Anthony Seldon (biographer of Prime Minister Tony Blair), has overseen the influence of the College outside Berkshire with the establishment and sponsorship of Wellington Academy in Wiltshire, and of WCIT, Tanglin, China in 2011.
The College is also closely affiliated to the near-by Eagle House School (Est. 1820) which is where my grandmother’s first husband was a Master.
Wellington College boasts several Victoria Cross recipients amongst the famous ‘old boys,’ who were educated there; Lt. Col. Francis David, Maj. Gen. Sir Charles John and Capt. John Franks to name three.
Speaking of famous people, those of us who are writers might be interested to learn that George Orwell was a past pupil as was Sebastian Faulks. Sir Christopher Lee (actor) and historian P J Marshall were old boys and so was the famous architect, Sir Nicolas Grimshaw. These are but a few – the list is considerable.
The grounds and gardens cover 400 acres. The College is famous for the avenues of Wellingtonia trees originally from California and introduced here in the 1890’s (Sequoidendron giganteum) also known as Giant Redwoods, which are evergreen and can grow to 90m in height with trunks which are 7m in diameter. They have huge cones which I love collecting.
The local railway station was originally called Wellington Station as it was built to serve the college. These days it has the name of the village and serves the whole community.
The long driveway running through the College grounds lined with Wellingtonia trees has an entrance in the local village with the exit near the railway station, for convenience of those at the College back when it was first built.
I had a lovely time walking through the grounds. There was a cricket match on and people were sat on blankets and chairs watching the teams play in the warm afternoon sun. It was a perfect ‘English,’ scene.
These gardens are almost secret as they are well hidden and unless someone had sign-posted the way, I wouldn’t have found them.
I tried hard to take photos without any visitors in them, but it was difficult, although not crowded most had the same aim in mind as I, and so just when I thought I had the place to myself, another person or persons would appear. So you might be able to spot the visitor in some of these photos if you look carefully.
The designer of the College Chapel was George Gilbert Scott who was well-known for St Pancras Station, The Albert Memorial and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (where I once worked), to name a few of his great works which also include Gothic cathedrals and hospitals.
I wanted to take more photos inside the chapel as it really is a fascinating place but there were people praying and I never feel comfortable clicking away at such times. I do have lots more photos of the chapel, grounds and college but hope the few I’ve picked to show you are enough to give you an idea of the splendid surroundings in which the pupils learn and live.
The walls and windows are lined with names of those who studied at the school and those who did well. There are also brass plaques with their names which shone brightly in the summer sunshine.
The ceiling in the chapel is also beautiful and I managed to take this shot before people came in.
There is a lovely lake in the grounds and I managed to spend a lot of time there taking photos of the ducks and swans.
I enjoyed my afternoon a lot and I hope you have enjoyed reading about a little of Wellington College’s history and looking at some of my photos.
As usual all my photos are copyright (c) Jane Risdon 2011.
Do let me know what you think of this beautiful place and the photos I have shown today.