Thursday, 26 December 2013

Worcester Lodge, Boxing Day

Boxing Day, the second most important date in the hunting calendar. All over England huge crowds turn out to support one of the country's finest traditions. And Worcester Lodge, that genius William Kent's masterpiece, where the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt meets for the third and final time each season is no exception.

In glorious winter sun Worcester Lodge looked magnificent. It is a building that exists to be beautiful. It also has several functions, Banqueting Hall, eye-catcher in the landscape, a gatehouse, with accommodation for the gatekeeper and his family and a place to watch the hunt.

The view from the south balcony offers a superb panorama of the designed landscape of the  park, down the 3 mile avenue to Badminton House.

The main staircase leading up to the Grand Room, the John o' Gaunt Staircase is cantilevered, has a scrolled iron balustrade and a mahogany handrail. The treads follow the measurements prescribed by Palladio for an effortless ascent. (In contrast the attic staircase to the gatekeeper's bedroom is so steep that it is more of a ladder than a staircase.) The Somerset family are descended from the Plantagenet kings of England through John of Gaunt and Edward III, leading some to say they are the grandest family in the land, bar none.

The Grand Room has the most magnificent plaster ceiling. In the centre is a circle (symbolizing the heavens) of flowers and fruit  The circle is squared by eight rays, bringing the heavens down to earth. The square is surrounded by the garlands of the gods of the four seasons. In the East, Flora Goddess off Spring, flowers and fertility, with a garland of roses, symbol of beauty and abundance.

South is Ceres, Goddess of Summer and the harvest with her garland of wheat which feeds us all.West is Bacchus, God of Autumn, drunkenness, debauchery and ecstasy with his garland of grapes, which become wine to sustain us.North is Pluto, God of Winter and wealth with his garland of ivy, evergreen and flowering in winter.They are surrounded by friezes of poppies and sunflowers, symbols of night and day. Beneath them is the Beaufort frieze with the two heraldic beasts, the panther and the wyvern and the ducal coronet. Linking them is the acanthus, Roman symbol of power, with sunflowers and poppies.

Beneath the eight rays on the ceiling there are eight chairs. This fabulous room, is a room for eight.

The Grand Room is surrounded by four balconies for watching the hunt. They were used  today