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 7 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 8 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
- Private Welcome Dinner in the library of the Garrick 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 hosted in the library of the glamorous Garrick Club, situated in the heart of London’s West End and Theatre-land, just a short walk from our hotel. Named after the great eighteenth century actor David Garrick, the club was founded in 1831 by a group of literary gentlemen under the patronage of the King’s brother, the egalitarian Duke of Sussex. They announced that the Club would be a place where ‘actors and men of refinement and education might meet on equal terms’. The Garrick’s illustrious membership has included writers, playwrights, composers and performers such as Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope, JM Barrie, Sullivan and Gilbert, Sir Henry Irving, AA Milne, Richard Attenborough and Stephen Fry. The Garrick Club holds a remarkable collection of art works representing the history of the theatre, much of which is displayed throughout the building. The Club also possesses an important theatrical library where we shall enjoy our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight London) BD
Day 3: Wednesday 9 October, London – Richmond – London
- Ham House and Garden, including private library
- Lunch at the Orangery Restaurant
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Marianne North Gallery with Richard Barley, Director of Kew Garden’s Horticulture
- Kew Library, Art & Archives
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 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.
Today’s program concludes with 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. (Overnight London) BL
Day 4: Thursday 10 October, London
- Westminster Abbey: Library, Chapter House and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries
- 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.
Opened in June 2018, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries are set more than 16 metres (52 feet) above the Abbey’s floor in the beautiful 13th century triforium, an area that has remained hidden for over 700 years. Displaying 300 treasures from the Abbey’s collection, many for the first time, the Galleries reflects the Abbey’s thousand-year history. Highlights include the Westminster Retable (1259 – 69), the oldest surviving altarpiece in England from Henry III’s Abbey; the Litlyngton Missal, a magnificent illuminated 14th-century service book made for the Abbey’s high altar; and the 14th century Liber Regalis, a guide to staging coronations and royal funerals at the Abbey which still forms the basis of royal ceremonies today.
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 11 October, London
- Lambeth Palace Library
- Lambeth Palace: incl. State rooms, Chapel, Atrium & Crypt
- The Linnean Society of London incl. the Linnean Collections and Library
- Optional visit to 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 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, and we will be shown some of its remarkable treasures. We also take a guided tour of the buildings, including the State Rooms, Chapel, Atrium and Crypt.
Following time at leisure for lunch, we enjoy a private tour of The Linnean Society of London in Burlington House, Piccadilly. Founded in 1788 by Sir James Edward Smith (1759–1828), it is the world’s oldest active biological society and takes its name from the Swedish naturalist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) whose botanical, zoological and library collections have been in its keeping since 1829. It was at a meeting of the Society in 1858 that papers from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace outlining the theory of evolution by natural selection were first presented. Our tour will include visits to the Meeting Room, the fascinating Linnaean Collections and the grand Reading Room of the Library to view some of its treasures.
The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure with the opportunity to visit Maggs Brothers, one of the world’s oldest antiquarian booksellers, at their main premises in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. (Overnight London) B
Cambridge - 5 nights
Day 6: Saturday 12 October, London – Cambridge
- The Waddesdon Bequest at The British Museum
- Pepys Library, Magdalene College
This morning we transfer to the British Museum to view the Waddesdon Bequest, 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 further explore the British Museum’s remarkable collection.
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 13 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 14 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, which we will explore. (Overnight Cambridge) B
Day 9: Tuesday 15 October, Cambridge
- Old Library & Rare Books Reading Room, St John’s College
- Wren Library, Trinity College
- 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.
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 16 October, Cambridge – Holkham Hall – Cambridge
- Holkham Hall: exclusive house tour including the Libraries – Manuscript, Classical and Long Library
Today there will be an excursion to Holkham Hall, residence of the Earls of Leicester for 250 years. With a stunning location on the north Norfolk coast, this fine 18th-century Palladian mansion, designed by William Kent (1685-1748) is known for its stately Marble Hall and great collection of Old Master paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Claude, Gaspar Poussin and Gainsborough. We shall take a private tour of the state rooms and, following lunch, enjoy an exclusive specialist look at the Manuscript, Classical and Long Library.
Time and weather allowing, we will also take a walk along Holkham’s stunning panoramic beach, part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve which comprises a number of rare and precious habitats including salt marsh, sand dunes, pine woodland, beach and grazing marsh. (Overnight Cambridge) BL
Oxford - 4 nights
Day 11: Thursday 17 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.
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 18 October, Oxford
- Walking tour of Oxford city and the University
- 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.
We shall also 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.
Following some time at leisure, we 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 13: Saturday 19 October, Oxford – Hereford – The Cotswolds – Oxford
- Hereford Cathedral incl. Medieval Garden, Mappa Mundi & Chained Library
- Lunch at the Castle House Restaurant, Hereford
- Scenic drive through the Cotswolds incl. Stow-in-the-Wold
Today we visit the cathedral city of Hereford. The seat of Putta, Bishop of Hereford, some time between AD 676 and 688, by the beginning of the 8th century Hereford had become the Saxon capital of West Mercia. In the following centuries the town was involved repeatedly in struggles between the Saxons, the Welsh and the Vikings. Its strategic location on the Welsh Marches led to the construction of a huge castle by the Earls of Hereford (dismantled in the 18th century). Hereford Cathedral dates from the 12th century and the adjacent Bishop’s Palace was constructed in 1204. The cathedral has a grand Romanesque nave and a fine Gothic ceiling and tracery windows in the aisles. It has a lustrously decorated Lady Chapel. Hereford Cathedral School is also one of the oldest schools in England.
We shall explore the cathedral and the library museum, whose greatest treasure is the magnificent Mappa Mundi (1300), the largest medieval map in existence. Although parts of Europe and Africa are identifiable in this map, which has as its centre Jerusalem, its real importance lies not in its accurate representation but in its portrayal of the medieval spiritual worldview, which includes paradise. In the cathedral’s magnificent library books, such valuable items in the Middle Ages, were chained for security; the use of chains, of which Hereford has the most complete example, endured until the 18th century. Its oldest manuscript, one of 229 in the collection, is the extraordinary 8th-century Hereford Gospels.
We shall enjoy a late lunch at the nearby Castle House Restaurant overlooking the old Hereford castle’s moat. In the early afternoon, we return to Oxford via the picturesque Cotswolds, making a short stop at the village of Stow-on-the-Wold, an important medieval market town and now a centre for English antiques. As well as the large market square, the town has some very early coaching inns, including the Royalist Hotel that has timbers that have been carbon-dated to 987; it is believed to be the oldest inn in England. (Overnight Oxford) BL
Day 14: Sunday 20 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 21 October, Oxford – Windsor
- Windsor Castle
- Eton College’s rare book and manuscript library – by special appointment (to be confirmed in 2019)
- 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 22 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