The following itinerary lists a range of libraries, museums, galleries, churches etc which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission, which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, and lunches and dinners as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=evening meal.
London - 5 nights
Day 1: Monday 1 October, Arrive London
- Check-in St Martins Lane Hotel
- Welcome Drinks
On arrival in London tour participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach to the hotel. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at St Martins Lane Hotel. The official check-in time is 3.00pm. This evening we meet to a share a welcome drink at the hotel. (Overnight London)
Day 2: Tuesday 2 October, London
- The British Library, including a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Conservation Studios
- Sir John Soane’s Museum, including Soane’s private apartments and Research Library
- Welcome Dinner at the Savile Club
We begin our tour at the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom and the world’s largest library, with over 170 million catalogued items including books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, and drawings. The library receives a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland in addition to purchasing books from around the world, so adds over 3 million items to its collections every year, requiring 10 kilometres of new bookshelves. We will limit ourselves in this vast collection to an introduction to the historical King’s Library of King George III, given to the nation by George IV. Since the 1970s, this collection has been housed in the King’s Tower, designed by the new British Libraries architect, Colin St John Wilson. We also take a private tour of the Centre for Conservation, where the iconic treasures of the Library are treated.
Sir John Soane (1753-1837), architect of such famous buildings as the Bank of England, was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy from 1806. Throughout his working life, especially on his Grand Tour, he collected paintings, drawings, books, plaster casts, architectural models, ancient artefacts, furniture and decorative arts, which he kept in his own house, now his museum, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. When he became professor he gave his students easy access to study the wealth of objects and gain inspiration from them. We shall explore some of the thousands of items like Hogarth’s painting series of The Rake’s Progress in Soane’s townhouse in rooms carefully preserved as closely as possible to the way they were when he bequeathed his collection to the nation. Our tour of the private apartments will include Soane’s famed Model Room, where forty of the finest architectural models in the world are on display – depicting ancient monuments and Soane’s own buildings – and we also enjoy a special tour of the Research Library to view items from Soane’s impressive collection of some 7000 books.
Our day will close with a fine dinner in the relaxed splendour of the Savile Club. The friendliest of the London Men’s Clubs, the Savile was founded in 1868 and moved to its current premises in Brook Street, Mayfair in 1927. Comprising two conjoined townhouses, the Club boasts fine formal rooms, including an extraordinary Ballroom. This is elegantly fitted with beautiful French interiors installed by a previous owner, Walter Burns, brother-in-law to the great Financier, J. P. Morgan. The Savile’s illustrious membership has included writers, playwrights, poets and performers such as Charles Darwin, J. M. Barrie, Max Beerbohm, and Stephen Fry. (Overnight London) BD
Day 3: Wednesday 3 October, London – Richmond – London
- Ham House and Garden, including private library
- Lunch at the Orangery Restaurant
- Kew Library, Art & Archives
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Marianne North Gallery with Richard Barley, Director of Kew Garden’s Horticulture
Ham House, designed by William Samwell (1628-1676), is considered one of Europe’s greatest and most authentic 17th-century mansions. Its almost untouched interior houses a historic collection of textiles, furniture and paintings. Here we visit the earliest dedicated library room to survive in a private house. It dates from 1675 and was installed for the Duke of Lauderdale.
We drive to Kew, where lunch will be served at the grand Orangery Restaurant, housed in a magnificent 18th-century Grade 1 listed building with stunning views over the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Next, we enjoy a visit to the 160-year-old Kew Library which forms one of the world’s largest collections relating to botany. The Library, Art & Archives contains more than half a million items, including books, botanical illustrations, photographs, letters and manuscripts, periodicals, biographies and maps.
Today’s program concludes with a unique opportunity to explore the Royal Botanic Gardens with Australian Richard Barley, Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture since April 2013. With his great knowledge of their day-to-day management, Richard will share deep insights into these world-renowned gardens. The original gardens were created for Augusta, Princess of Wales (1717-1792) around her home, Kew Palace. The estate was acquired by the nation in 1841 and enlarged to become a place for the scientific study of horticulture. It now contains the largest collection of plants in the world with tropical and sub-tropical plants being kept in appropriate conditions in magnificent Victorian glasshouses. The variety of plants is overwhelming but Kew has a magic far above the ordinary run of Victorian plant collections, perhaps because of its size and the underlying but unobtrusive formality of its structure. The Queen’s Garden is a faithful copy of a 17th-century garden with parterres, sunken garden and pleached alleys. A new treetop walk by Marks Barfield Architects (who designed the London Eye) opened in May 2008. We also visit the recently refurbished gallery devoted to Charles Darwin’s friend, featuring Marianne North’s 833 paintings depicting more than 900 species of plants and landscapes including from Australia and New Zealand, which she visited on Darwin’s suggestion. (Overnight London) BL
Day 4: Thursday 4 October, London
- Westminster Abbey: Library and Chapter House
- Guildhall Library: Guided tour incl. Old Library & the medieval Great Hall
- Guildhall Library: Welcome Reception & Display of some treasures from the Historic Collection
Our morning visit is to Gothic 13th- to 16th-century Westminster Abbey, Britain’s coronation church since 1066. In the 10th century the Abbey was founded as a home to a community of Benedictine monks. Since the reign of Elizabeth I, Westminster has been a Royal Peculiar, that is, under the direct control of the Sovereign, and a Collegiate Church with a community of canons lead by the dean. It is also a grand national memorial; many of Britain’s greatest authors and poets are buried here and/or remembered in sculpted monuments.
The Abbey also has a significant library and archive. We will be given an introduction to the riches of this collection by a senior curator, followed by a viewing of some of the many valuable books and manuscripts it contains. Our tour includes the Chapter House, which has remnant wall paintings illustrating the Book of the Apocalypse copied from a medieval manuscript that is now part of the collection of Trinity College, Cambridge, which we will see later in our tour.
In the afternoon we visit the Guildhall Library. Founded in the early 15th century under the terms of the will of the legendary Mayor of London, Dick Whittington, the Library is now housed in modern buildings but boasts a collection that begins with a manuscript of 1067, the year after the Norman Conquest.
Following a tour of the complex and the opportunity to view important items from the collection, our day will end with a reception here at the Guildhall Library, in the very heart of the City of London. (Overnight London) B
Day 5: Friday 5 October, London
- Lambeth Palace Library
- Lambeth Palace: incl. State rooms, Chapel, Atrium & Crypt
- Afternoon at leisure: optional visits to the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum and Maggs Bros. Ltd – dealers of rare books and manuscripts since 1853
We begin today at Lambeth Palace, London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury since c.1200. The Palace architecture incorporates many styles, from the Early English chapel to the Tudor Gatehouse and 17th-century Great Hall. We shall enjoy a guided tour of the buildings, including the State Rooms, Chapel, Atrium and Crypt.
We also visit Lambeth Palace’s famous library, now housed in the Great Hall, rebuilt in 1663 by Archbishop Juxon after its destruction by Oliver Cromwell. Juxon used medieval hammer and beam construction for the roof, recalling the earlier building. The library houses the major archive of the Anglican Church and many famous books. We will be shown some of the remarkable treasures of the Library including a Great Bible (i.e. large in size); a medieval manuscript possibly commissioned by King Stephen (c.1096-1154); and a rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible.
The afternoon will be at leisure with an optional visit to the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum, a new gallery showing the priceless gift of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild and named after his rich estate that we visit later on tour. There will also be an opportunity to visit Maggs Brothers, one of the world’s oldest antiquarian booksellers, at their new premises in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. (Overnight London) B
Cambridge - 5 nights
Day 6: Saturday 6 October, London – Cambridge
- Houses of Parliament, including the Lord’s Chamber
- Pepys Library, Magdalene College
This morning we take a tour of the Houses of Parliament, including the Lord’s Chamber. Properly called the Palace of Westminster, it has occupied the site since the Norman Conquest. The current structure was largely built in the mid-19th century following a devastating fire in 1834; it was designed by Sir Charles Barry with interiors by England’s greatest neo-Gothic architect, Augustus Welby Pugin. The chosen style was Perpendicular Gothic, not classical, because Gothic was deemed ‘English’ and conservatives felt that the classical style of the White House symbolised (unwanted) American democracy. Our tours first follow the route taken by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament; from the Queen’s Robing Room, through the Royal Gallery and Prince’s Chamber, into the majestic Lords Chamber. We then move on through the Central Lobby, Members’ Lobby and one of the voting lobbies before entering the Commons Chamber, scene of many lively debates. Passing through St Stephen’s Hall, the tours end in 900-year-old Westminster Hall, a place where many historic trials have taken place and where Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama have addressed Parliament in recent years.
We then depart London for the university city of Cambridge to explore its College Libraries, including the Pepys Library at Magdalene, gifted by the great diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703). His eyewitness account of life in the London of Charles II includes a famous account of the Great Fire of 1666. Pepys believed the Library of an educated man need hold no more than 3000 books and once he had arrived at that number any addition meant a book had to be discarded! One book to survive his occasional culls is a manuscript translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses used by William Caxton (1422-1491). Our tour includes an introduction to Samuel Pepys as a collector, information on the very fine classical library building (1670-1703) and its furniture, and a chance to see and hear about a range of items from the collection. We spend the next five nights in Cambridge, a centre of learning since the 12th century. (Overnight Cambridge) B
Day 7: Sunday 7 October, Cambridge – Wicken Fen – Ely – Cambridge
- Wicken Fen
- Ely Cathedral
- Afternoon at leisure: optional visit to Kings College Chapel Evensong
This morning we begin to explore the country of Hereward the Wake (c.1035-c. 1072), the Saxon champion who successfully resisted the Norman armies in the marshland terrain around Ely. The Fens isolated this region until they were drained and tamed by Dutch engineers in the 17th century. Wicken Fen is the last remnant of the Fens of East Anglia, which at their greatest extent covered 2500 square miles. This reserve, which comprises 600 acres, is an artificially preserved wetland, managed by the National Trust since 1899. Our guided tour of Wicken Fen will reveal much of the natural and cultural history of this rich area and the technologies that have sustained it.
We next visit the Isle of Ely where St. Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria, founded an abbey in 673 AD. Abbot Simon, who owed his appointment to William the Conqueror, began construction of the great Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity here in 1081. Romanesque Ely Cathedral rose like a giant ship in the middle of the dense marshes of the Fenlands and attracted many pilgrims to Etheldreda’s tomb. Our tour of the cathedral will take in the west front with its impressive Galilee porch, the great Romanesque nave and the octagonal crossing with its distinctive lantern, the work of Alan of Walsingham and William Hurley (1340) and restored in the 19th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott. We shall also visit the Lady Chapel and enjoy the architectural delights of Cathedral Close and the surrounding town, where Oliver Cromwell was born in 1599.
We return to Cambridge in the early afternoon and the rest of the day is at leisure. You may wish to attend the Sunday afternoon evensong service at the wonderful King’s College Chapel to hear its famous choir and enjoy its soaring English Perpendicular Gothic architecture and beautiful stained glass, spared from destruction during the Reformation. (Overnight Cambridge) B
Day 8: Monday 8 October, Cambridge – Wimpole House – Anglesey Abbey – Cambridge
- Wimpole House, Library & Book Room
- Anglesey Abbey and Lord Fairhaven’s Library
This morning we visit grand, classical Wimpole Hall (begun 1630) where Edward Harley, second Earl of Oxford, amassed the largest and most important collection of books and manuscripts ever assembled by a private individual in England; the manuscripts would later form the nucleus of the British Library collection. By 1720, Harley’s guests were able to view his books in five beautiful, specially designed spaces, known as the Book Room, and later in the Library, an extension built by James Gibbs (1682-1754). Our tour will include a visit to the fine Library rooms and a display of the collections.
Following time at leisure for lunch at the Old Rectory Restaurant, we transfer to Anglesey Abbey, a beautiful Jacobean house built in 1600 on the site of a 13th-century priory. Here we shall explore the interior of the house in which Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966), son of an American Railway magnate, used great ingenuity in displaying his collections. His eclectic taste in art ranged from paintings by Antonio Canova and Claude Lorraine to those of John Constable. Lord Fairhaven also had a remarkable library and we will be given privileged access to this room and a guided tour of its collections. (Overnight Cambridge) B
Day 9: Tuesday 9 October, Cambridge
- Old Library & Rare Books Reading Room, St John’s College
- Wren Library, Trinity College
- Old Library, Trinity Hall
- The Fitzwilliam Museum and Founder’s Library
This morning we walk to St John’s College to visit its Old Library, which houses the College’s special collections. The College was founded in 1511 by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of the first Tudor monarch Henry VII; the Old Library dates from 1624 and was a gift from John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. Built in the Gothic style, its oak shelves each have a little door that, when opened, reveals the list of books that they contained. The collection is rich in manuscripts and early printed books and we will be able to view some of these during our visit.
We next visit the Wren Library, Trinity College (1676-1695), designed by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723). This superb building contains a statue of Byron (who broke every college rule when he was a student there) and some of the earliest manuscripts in the world including the Epistles of St Paul, produced in the 8th century. It also contains Newton’s own copy of the first edition of Principia with his annotations for the second edition, and manuscripts by Milton, Tennyson and Thackeray, as well as A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.
The Old Library at Trinity Hall is one of the hidden gems of Cambridge and one of a handful of chained libraries remaining in Britain. Unusually, the interior and furniture are much as they were at the time of construction (1590): each lectern has the original locking mechanism intact and the Library still contains examples of chained books. The College’s special collections of rare books and manuscripts are housed here and we shall enjoy a special tour with Fellow Librarian Dr William O’Reilly.
Our day concludes with a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum to explore its collections of art and antiquities of Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Near East and Far East, all bequeathed by Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816). The museum, one of the oldest in the world, was established in 1816. Along with antiquities, including a highlight, the bas-reliefs from Persepolis, it has a fine collection of paintings, including masterpieces by Simone Martini, Domenico Veneziano, Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck, Frans Hals, Canaletto, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso and a fine collection of 20th-century art; miniatures, drawings, watercolours and prints. The Museum also houses a fine collection of books, including some of Britain’s most famous illuminated manuscripts. We will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Founder’s Library to view some of its treasures. (Overnight Cambridge) B
Day 10: Wednesday 10 October, Cambridge & Norfolk
- Blickling Hall: incl. Library in the Long Gallery
- Holkham Hall: Libraries – manuscript, classical and long library
Today there will be an excursion to Blickling Hall (1616), one of England’s great Jacobean houses. The superb Long Gallery was converted into a library around 1745 (with the addition, in 1850, of a Pre-Raphaelite frieze painted above the bookcases). Blickling still contains one of the most historically significant collections of manuscripts and books in England. Our tour will include a talk by the Librarian John Gandy and a display of many of the fine books in his care.
After lunch at Blickling we continue to Holkham Hall, residence of the Earls of Leicester for 250 years. This fine 18th-century Palladian mansion, designed by William Kent (1685-1748) is known for its stately Entrance Hall and great collection of Old Master paintings. We will have an exclusive visit to the Libraries before returning to Cambridge. (Overnight Cambridge) BL
Oxford - 4 nights
Day 11: Thursday 11 October, Cambridge – High Wycombe – Oxford
- Parker Library, Corpus Christi College
- Wormsley Library, near High Wycombe
This morning we visit the Parker Library, the rare books and manuscripts library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The Parker Library, whose collection was initiated in 1376 was named after its greatest benefactor, Matthew Parker (1504-1575), Archbishop of Canterbury to Queen Elizabeth I. Parker built a rich collection known throughout the world for its medieval books. This includes the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, principal source book for early English history, and the best manuscript of Chaucer’s Troilus. No less important are the Middle English, French and Latin texts on subjects ranging from alchemy and astrology to music and medicine. Dr Christopher de Hamel, Fellow and former Librarian at Corpus Christi College, and arguably the most knowledgeable and experienced specialist in the manuscript field today, will meet us and introduce the remarkable collections of the Parker Library at Corpus Christi.
We then leave Cambridge for the Chiltern Hills near High Wycombe for a private visit to 18th-century Wormsley Park by special arrangement. Sir Paul Getty, son of the great collector and philanthropist, J. Paul Getty Snr, created its library, which has one of the finest private collections in the country. Wormsley Library includes a range of illuminated and calligraphic manuscripts from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, as well as monuments of typography ranging from a fragment of the Gutenberg Bible, the Ulm Ptolemy on vellum and the only first edition of Caxton’s Chaucer in private hands (there is also a Shakespeare First Folio). There are also the greatest British private press books, many of which are printed on vellum, such as the Kelmscott Chaucer and Ashendene Dante. Most spectacular is the collection of fine British and European decorative book bindings again ranging from the Renaissance to the 20th century. There is also an important collection of colour-plate travel books.
We continue to Oxford, where we shall stay for three nights. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Day 12: Friday 12 October, Oxford – Highgrove – Oxford
- Highgrove Gardens (to be confirmed in 2018*)
- Time at leisure in Oxford
This morning we hope to visit Highgrove House, near Tetbury, country home of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The Prince purchased Highgrove in 1980, and has spent 30 years transforming its grounds into what have been acknowledged as some of the most brilliant and inventive gardens in the United Kingdom. “A series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose, weave magically around the garden, with the house always visible in the distance. For the last 25 years the gardens and surrounding land have been managed to the organic and sustainable principles that His Royal Highness has for so long championed.” In the afternoon we return to Oxford, where the remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore the city at leisure. (Overnight Oxford) BL
* We are unable to confirm our visit to Highgrove, the private gardens of Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall until February 2018. If it is not possible to include this visit we will substitute this with an alternative site visit.
Day 13: Saturday 13 October, Oxford
- Walking tour of Oxford city and the University with Peter Berry, Blackwell’s Official Walking Tour Guide
- Tour of the Bodleian Library, including the 15th-century Divinity School, Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and Duke Humfrey’s medieval library
- Merton College: Library, Chapel & Beerbohm Room
Oxford University (founded c.1167) is a vast corpus of stunning architecture such as Sir Christopher Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre (1664-68). Over the centuries many famous writers, poets, novelists, critics and children’s authors have studied or lived in Oxford; writers include Jonathan Swift, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, T.R. Lawrence, Thomas More, Aldous Huxley and Graham Greene. This morning we explore its rich intellectual and architectural heritage with a guided walking tour, after which there will be some time at leisure.
In the early afternoon, we shall take a tour of the Bodleian Library, one of the world’s greatest libraries, established in the 15th century. It contains 6.5 million books, manuscripts and maps. The beautiful historic buildings of the Bodleian are complemented by a recent full redevelopment of what was known as the New Bodley into the Weston Library, which includes a major new exhibition space and public café and shop.
We then make our way to Merton College, founded in 1264, to visit the Old Library (1371-78), the Chapel (with Sir Thomas Bodley’s memorial) and the Beerbohm room. The Merton Library is the oldest continuously functioning library for scholars in the world. Its fine collection includes medieval manuscripts, early printed books, and the papers of distinguished members of the College including T.S. Eliot. Our tour will include a display of some of these great treasures.
The evening is at leisure and you may wish to visit the Christ Church Cathedral for choral evensong. (Overnight Oxford) B
Day 14: Sunday 14 October, Oxford – Waddesdon – Oxford
- Waddesdon Manor, including a private tour of the library
Today we visit Waddesdon Manor, one of the most extraordinary houses in England. Over 125 years ago, Baron Ferdinand Rothschild transformed a barren hill in the countryside outside London into the setting for this breathtaking estate, where he entertained family and friends, politicians and artists, royalty and writers. Over the years, he assembled an outstanding collection of French decorative art, and an extraordinary library rich in fine French imprints, to which his heir (his younger sister Alice) and in turn her heirs (their French cousin James and his English wife Dorothy) added many complementary furnishings, paintings and drawings. Today, Waddesdon Manor is admired not only for its architecture and luxurious and colourful French interior decor but also for its collections of superb English portraits and Dutch Old Masters, as well as its books, manuscripts and exquisite textiles. The extensive gardens are renowned for their seasonal flower displays, and the Parterre, in particular, has been restored using traditional techniques. Our visit includes a private tour of the library, which contains the collection of 17th- and 18th-century volumes created by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Windsor - 1 night
Day 15: Monday 15 October, Oxford – Windsor
- Windsor Castle
- Eton College’s rare book and manuscript library – by special appointment
- Farewell Dinner
This morning we explore the very seat of the Royal Family, Windsor Castle. Begun by William the Conqueror, the Castle has been home to successive monarchs and, in the case of Charles I, his prison. Our visit will include the State Apartments with their collection of paintings and artefacts.
Following time at leisure for lunch in Windsor, we will end our tour with a special visit to the Eton College Library, a rare book and manuscript library of international importance. Eton College was founded by King Henry VI in 1440 for the education of seventy King’s Scholars. In addition to the King’s Scholars housed in ‘College’, there are now over 1200 ‘Oppidan’ boys at the school in 24 other boarding houses, making Eton the largest boarding school for boys in the United Kingdom. On display in the 18th-century College Library, will be a selection of treasures from the archives. These include a rare copy on paper of the Gutenberg Bible, notable for having retained a very early binding, made in the German university city of Erfurt.
This evening we gather at the hotel for a farewell dinner. (Overnight Windsor) BD
Day 16: Tuesday 16 October, Windsor – London Heathrow. Tour Ends.
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends in Windsor. Participants returning to Australia on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to London Heathrow Airport. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in London. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B