I have been living in Marston Moretaine for some ten months and overall am feeling reasonably settled, but to date have mainly concerned with familiarising myself with the important details of living in a new area – knowing where I can obtain competitively priced fuel and food, and learning what businesses might be interested in my services. I already knew two locations where I might take photographs that might form an introduction to this area; the windsurfing lake at Brogborough and the Marston Nature Reserve. Yesterday since the weather was very average and yet dry and windless, I decided I would simply drive in directions I had not previously explored in case something turned up. I spotted the signs to Houghton House which I had not visited for a couple of years and decided I might at least take a look as I had spotted Red Kite soaring close by on a previous visit.
The ‘House’ can more truthfully described as a ruin, though in its day in the seventeenth century, must have been quite inspiring as it commands an incredible vista of the Vale of Marston with now, the aforementioned Nature Reserve that sports a large Wind Turbine. Houghton House started life as a Hunting Lodge really only used in the Summer months by the original owner, the Dowager Countess of Pembroke, Mary Herbert. Only upon her death was it to become a home for the new owner Robert Bruce who added a grand staircase, that can now be found in ‘The Swan’ in Bedford after the house was abandoned and dismantled in the late eighteenth century. The owner of nearby Ampthill Park, the Earl of Upper Ossory took over the land and commissioned Inigo Jones to incorporate the ruin into his new landscaping of the former Hunting Park.
I took a few photographs of small details that had survived the dismantling and subsequent weathering and then the somewhat misleading ‘Restoration’ that had been undertaken by English Heritage; ‘Stabilisation’ would seem to be a more apposite description and I spotted that English Heritage do appear to consider it in this light as I spotted the telltale signs of targets for taking regular measurements of movements of the structure!
The construction of the chimneys and some of the interior windows is intriguing, and it is very apparent from the number of fireplaces that this must have been a very cold house, so it is unsurprising it was abandoned in favour of the far less exposed Ampthill House.
On my earlier visit here I had not noticed the large number of trees with the characteristic spherical clumps of Mistletoe, something I remember finding in even greater profusion on my visit to north western France with Nick Zoller, when he and I paid the area a visit whilst he was searching for a house there in March of 2008.
I was pleasantly surprised when processing the small gallery of images just what I was able to extract using some of the newest tools within Lightroom – I feel as if I was able to bring the sunshine out from the clouds!