Summer Outing 11 May 2016 to Arundells, Salisbury

Arundells is the house that Sir Edward Heath lived in between 1985 up to his death in 2005 and is situated in a beautiful part of The Close in Salisbury.

The house has its origins as a medieval canonry, and its first occupant was Henry of Blunston, Archdeacon of Dorset, who lived in the house from 1291 until his death in 1316.

Many other canons lived there after this but by 1609 the lease had been taken up by Sir Richard Mompesson, who carried out major restoration. John Wyndham, of the Wyndhams of Bourne Hill, acquired the lease in 1718 and much of the appearance of the current house is his rebuilding in the classic style of the day.

Wyndham’s daughter, Ann, married James Everard Arundel, the son of the 6th Lord Arundel, in 1752, and was given Arundells as a wedding present, hence its present name, although it unknown where the extra “l” came from. The loft was divided into small cells, which occasionally accommodated Jesuit priests, showing the tolerance towards a Roman Catholic family by the residents of The Close.

Arundells housed Godolphin School and then a boys’ boarding school from 1839 to 1844. The Red Cross used it during World War Two as part of their library service and a wool depot.

It was subsequently neglected, and came near to being demolished, but was renovated in 1964 and then again in 1985 when Sir Edward Heath bought the lease. He purchased the freehold in 1992. On his death in 2005 he left the house to the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation in order to “share the beauty of Arundells”

The tours of the house were led by knowledgeable guides (one of them was Russ Foster who was a speaker at LDHS last year). The history was important to put the visit in context. The life of Edward Heath was divided into music, sailing and politics and the house and its contents reflected these varied passions.

In the entrance hall there was his sailing memorabilia and paintings. There were the shipbuilders’ models of the five Morning Cloud yachts that he owned, of which he was an excellent helmsman.

In the drawing room were many unique and interesting paintings including a beautiful oil painting by William Wyllie of “Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes”, and a Lowry seascape. Sir Edward’s Steinway grand piano supported a collection of photographs of public figures, royalty and politicians.

The corridor was memorable for two paintings by Winston Churchill, twelve etchings by William Wyllie and two by John Singer Sargent.

From the corridor we were taken into the dining room, where place settings for an imaginary dinner included amongst others Bob Geldof and the Archbishop of Canterbury! There was a stunning collection of ceramics including a Tang Dynasty horse of 700, and various pieces of Worcester, Crown Derby and many others. On the table was a hand bell, which the housekeeper had said was the nearest she would allow Sir Edward to the kitchen (he was a notoriously bad cook!)

The library was said to be the favourite room of Sir Edward. There were works by Japanese artists including the “Inland Sea Series” by Hiroshi Yoshida. There was an extensive collection of art books and music and on the wall was the framed Charter and Garter presented by the Queen in 1992.

In contrast, the next section of the corridor showed his collection of original cartoons of which he was very proud.

The stairway was decorated with four hand-painted Chinese wallpaper depictions of the legend of the Monkey King, a gift of two former Private Secretaries who worked in Beijing.

Upstairs was the recently opened study, with the beautiful desk positioned so that Sir Edward could look up and enjoy the view of the garden down to the Rivers Avon and Nadder and beyond to the water meadows.

The house and the stories of Sir Edward Heath gave us all a better appreciation of a cultured and interesting man.

The garden was landscaped with lawns, trees and shrubberies and was peaceful and beautiful. Towards the far end of the garden was the preserved bow of Morning Cloud 3, which had tragically been lost at sea. Two men were drowned, Nigel Cummings and Christopher Chadd, Sir Edward’s godson.

The views of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral from the garden were spectacular, particularly as at this point the sky was dark and threatening.

The visit to Arundells was fascinating and there was also an interesting exhibition of World Leaders of the 1970s, a very turbulent time in World history.

The day had begun with torrential rain, but the coach journey to Salisbury was in dry weather and we all had a chance to enjoy other parts of Salisbury before the Arundells Tour. The Doom painting in St Thomas Becket Church impressed some visitors, Mompesson House was open and there were other museums in The Close.

In the grounds of the Cathedral there were some unusual sculptures by Sophie Ryder. She is well known for her sculptures of mythical creatures. It is fair to say that some visitors loved them and others were perhaps less impressed!

Finally we were back on the coach. The sun shone at last, and as we drove through Downton, we were thrilled to hear from George Hollobone about his visit to Loos on the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Loos, where he saw the grave of 2nd. Lt. Edward Bonvalot, a soldier killed at Loos, who came from Downton and whose parents had commissioned the memorial gardens.

So home at last, tired I’m sure, but having enjoyed our day out together.