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            Bishop’s Stortford

    Decorative & Fine Arts Society


 Registered Charity Number: 281725


      A Member Society of


     The Arts Society










A group of twenty three Members left Bishop’s Stortford early on the morning of 28th August on a coach bound for Bristol. Fortunately the traffic on the M25 was moving smoothly and we arrived at our first destination, Dyrham Park, near Chippenham, on time. Dyrham, built between 1692 and 1704, is a delightful house with beautiful gardens lying at the bottom of a long hill. Brave souls walked from the car park, others took the courtesy bus! The house had some fine textiles and paintings and Members were able to take some lunch in the café before we moved on.

On arriving in Bristol we visited the Georgian House Museum, an 18th Century six storey townhouse once owned by John Pinney a wealthy slave plantation owner. The contents provided an insight into the life the family and servants would have had at that time.

We stayed at the Marriott Royal Hotel for four, comfortable nights and it was an ideal base in the centre of the City.

On Day 2 we were met by our Blue Badge Guide, Val, who conducted us to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge and we walked across the bridge taking in the views of the cliffs and the river – good exercise after our drive down. We drove to the Downs – the lung of Bristol – which is designated to remain as open space, before dropping into the city again to visit St Mary’s Church at Redcliffe. The church dates back to the 12th Century and was thought by Queen Elizabeth Ist to be the fairest and most famous parish church in England! Spared by the bombing during the war, its tower stands proudly above the valley and the church has some fine stained glass and monuments.

After lunch we visited the Glenside Hospital Museum, housed in a chapel in the grounds of Bristol University, which was built as an asylum in 1857. During WW1 Stanley Spencer worked at the hospital which was re-named the Beaufort Military Hospital and where he looked after injured soldiers from the front.

We enjoyed visiting the smallest city in England – Wells - with its magnificent cathedral and picturesque Vicar’s Close, near a complete medieval street unchanged with time. Our afternoon continued in the Gothic theme with a visit to Tyntesfield, a National Trust house with its unrivalled collection of Victorian decorative arts. Although the house is undergoing work on the fire protection system, it was good to see how the conservators work when requiring to store artefacts and textiles. That is a work all on its own! The gardens were magnificent and the grounds vast – an excellent day’s venue.

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is a magnificent building and houses a vast collection of ceramics, glass, paintings and artefacts relating to natural history and Egyptology. We would have loved more time there and it bears another visit! By contrast, we visited another Brunel wonder after a pleasant lunch- The SS Great Britain – the first iron ocean-going liner rescued from the Falklands where it had lain since WW1. The ship has been restored and is a testimony to the hard life the crew endured at this period of time.

On our last day, after checking out of the hotel, we travelled to Bath and the Holburne Museum. Recently refurbished at a cost of millions, it houses a superb collection of English and continental silver, porcelain, glass and portraits among others. The proportions of the building are wonderful and it is set at the top of the widest street in Bath. Again, we all could have spent more time in this elegant museum but we had a date with Number 1 Royal Crescent!! The most beautiful crescent of houses overlooking Bath. The house is set out as it would have been in the early 18th century and the rooms furnished with elegant pieces. The servants must have been very fit to work there!

Our very last visit was to Laycock Abbey, the Fox Talbot Museum and Village. The Abbey, founded in 1232 and later restored as a house, was the home of Fox Talbot who gave us the negative image system for photography. The village is often used in period films and TV dramas with its picturesque stone houses. It was sadly, this image we left with, to return to our coach and the motorway home.

Jan Richardson