On the 9th December I was given an early Christmas present; a day out at Blenheim Palace! My Dad had visited the Palace in the summer when he was on holiday up in Oxford and knew it was somewhere I would love to go. So when he found out they were doing a special Christmas decoration exhibition/festival, we had to go! The only slight problem is Blenheim Palace is a very long way from the South Coast so it meant a very early start and a very long day in order to make the most of it!
The weather leading up to the 9th had been terrible. Very windy, cold and wet. However on the Sunday we went to Blenheim Palace we were blessed with dry, winter sunshine weather. There was a short down pour of rain during the day, but immediately after the sun came out and gave us a beautiful rainbow over the Palace.
It was a fascinating place to visit. The history of the Spencer-Churchill families was really interesting and ranged across some very important periods of British history. It was also of course the birth place and childhood home of Winston Churchill. They currently have an exhibition about Churchill at the Palace which I have to confess I spent rather a long time looking at! It was so interesting and included lots of letters written by Winston from a young child, through to his life in the armed forces and even serving in the trenches during World War One (something I had not known!). There were also letters between him and his wife, as well as examples of the many books he wrote. It really was a brilliant exhibition and explained a lot about the man he became and the achievements he made.
The Christmas decorations were also quite impressive. To carry on the festive feel there were also a brass band playing Christmas songs in the library and they were joined in the late afternoon by a local school choir. Very festive.
Upstairs was a new audio visual tour, complete with moving dummies and time operated doors, that only opened when it was time for your part of the tour to go through. There were about 7 rooms to go through and they charted the history of the Palace from the first Duke being caught having an affair with the King's mistress Barbara Villiers, to the different eras at the Palace. The tour was led by the ghost of the first Duchesses lady's maid, who worked her way through the different time periods, using her own ignorance of the new technologies and changes to the Palace to ask the questions which allowed the other "characters" to tell their stories and explain how they fit into the history of the Palace. I don't usually like this sort of gimmicky history. It often feels like they are making an exhibition out of nothing and is more like a theme park that a heritage site. However I absolutely loved it! I thought it was really well done, and the idea of a ghost leading you through the history of the Palace was a very interesting concept which played well and captured the imagination. The dummies that moved were also very good, especially as a lot of them were looking into mirrors, you saw the back of the dummy moving, yet in the reflection you saw the human face of the actor playing that character. Very well done. Even tiny movements when the dummy wasn't talking which made it looked like it was breathing or shifting slightly where it stood were just brilliant touches. Really really really enjoyed this tour. Very informative and very enjoyable.
It was a very enjoyable day and I would love to visit Blenheim Palace again in the future. It was really interesting and the Palace itself is stunning. I would highly recommend a visit to everyone! Its your national heritage. So it should be law that everyone must visit Blenheim Palace at least once in their life!