York – The Shambles

On our drive from London to Edinburgh, we stopped in the city of York. The city of York turned out to be a treasure trove from a historical perspective.

I’ll be covering our visit in several posts. Today, I’m starting with our walk through the Shambles. The day was cloudy and rainy but there were quite a number of tourists crowding into the narrow streets. The Shambles was where butchers would display meat for sale from hooks and shelves along the store fronts.

While in the area we ate at Ye Olde Starre Inne. Established in 1644, it’s York’s oldest inn. The inne would be easy to miss if not for the sign that spans the street to advertise its location. The sign was added by one of the previous landlords in 1792.

The atmosphere in the pub was cozy and I loved being inside a historic location warming up after being chilled by the rain. The food was delicious and we received excellent service. If we ever return to York, I would definitely love to visit this pub again.


Fortnum and Mason

One of the highlights of our visit to London was having Afternoon Tea in the The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Mason.

Fortnum and Mason was established in 1707 in Picadilly, London. William Fortnum, who worked as Queen Anne’s footman, began the shop with his landlord, Hugh Mason. Queen Anne required fresh candles every night and Fortnum took the used candles, selling them for a profit. Eventually, he had earned enough to leave service to Queen Anne and start the business.

Fortnum and Mason is lovely and has six levels of goods to explore. If you enjoy picnics, the store is known for its selection of hampers.

The atrium at Fortnum and Mason’s.

I loved the view from the circular atrium which spans several levels.

The Fragrance and Beauty department at Fortnum and Mason.

The second level contains the Fragrance and Beauty department. I had never seen glass perfume decanters before and I thought they were beautiful. The light reflecting off the liquids inside the containers added to the effect.

Tea canisters in Fortnum and Mason’s signature teal color.
Tiered tray filled with delicious treats.

The tea salon is located in the top level of the store. The selection of teas is extensive and each person gets to select their own tea pot filled with a tea of their choice. The tiered tray was filled with delicious sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, and treats.

Afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason was a memorable experience.

Research Note

During my research into the history for Fortnum and Mason, I found the link to British History Online which suggests that there is no evidence to support the story of the beginnings of Fortnum and Mason (refer to footnote 4 of the British History link). Whether the story of a partnership between William Fortnum and his landlord, Hugh Mason is true, Fortnum and Mason is a historic landmark and a joy to peruse.

If you’re ever in London, consider visiting Fortnum and Mason.



Research · Travel

John Nash, Regency Architect

Blue Plaque indicating the building is John Nash’s first work

I’ve neglected posting the last few months due to life getting in the way but plan to start posting monthly again.

I’m continuing with covering some highlights of my 2016 trip to the United Kingdom.

While walking along Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury, London, I happened to notice one of the blue plaques which indicates a location of historical significance. This particular plaque stated that the building was the first work of famed architect, John Nash. At the end of the building is another plaque that stated that not only did he design the building but had also lived in it.

Thrilled to have run across this historical treasure unexpectedly, I had to stop to take some pictures.

First building designed by John Nash

John Nash was a leading architect during the Regency and worked under the patronage of the Prince Regent. There are quite a few examples of his work still in existence today. He was involved in the development of Regent Street, Regent’s Park,  the expansion of Buckingham Palace and the Marble Arch among other structures.

One thing I find interesting is the simple lines of his first design when compared to some of his later works.

Buckingham Palace

Despite the personal and financial difficulties he faced in his life, John Nash left his mark in the United Kingdom.

Do you have any favorite architects whose work you admire?

Marble Arch









English Heritage Blue Plaque Information for John Nash

BBC Link about John Nash

Research · Travel

Cardiff Castle

In 2016, I made my first trip to the United Kingdom. During the trip we visited the city of Cardiff in Wales.

The keep at Cardiff Castle.
The Norman keep at Cardiff Castle.

Cardiff Castle dates to the Roman Invasion. As a result, the castle has a rich history. The current site contains a reconstructed Roman fort, a Norman Castle and a Victorian Gothic home.

The Roman Invasion occurred in 43 AD and a fort was built at the lowest crossing point of the River Taft. The fort is believed to have been abandoned after the Roman Empire fell.

When the Normans invaded, they reused the site, adding a wall to create an inner and outer ward. They also built a hill to defend a castle with a stone keep added later.

The mansion built in the 1420’s and 1430’s is defined by the lighter colored stone.

The castle was built during the 1420’s and 1430’s by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. For a time the property reverted to the crown. In 1551, it was granted to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. The 2nd earl expanded the castle in the 1570’s.

A marriage brought the property under the ownership of the Bute family in 1776. The Bute family made changes to the castle, adding Gothic wings. Capability Brown was hired to landscape the property and he destroyed many of the ancient walls and buildings.

The 3rd Marquess of Bute is responsible for the Victorian alterations. The work was done by the architect William Burges.

The Arab Room was used as the ladies’ drawing room.

Lord Bute was an animal lover and they are featured throughout the castle and grounds.

The Animal Wall
This carved monkey doubles as a bell pull.

There is so much to see at Cardiff Castle that it is impossible for me to cover it all in this blog post.

If you’re interested in Gothic Revival architecture, plan a visit to Cardiff Castle. I highly recommend the House Tour which will guide you through some of the rooms of the castle.


The essential Cardiff Castle by Matthew Williams