2019 Day 107 – Hughenden

We leave the motorhome to its fate this morning, waiting on a verdict: can the window mechanism can be repaired on the spot, or if a new motor needs to be ordered.

While we wait, a walk in the forest

reveals cows resting peacefully and a steady stream of zippy squirrels, focussed on their autumnal harvest.

It’s a busy time if you’re a squirrel, laying down winter stores for learner times. The forest is rich with blackberries – dessert after the nuts perhaps?

We wander back at lunch time: a new motor it is. One is placed on order, for delivery in (hopefully) a week’s time. We’ll need to come back to have it fitted. Himself has a list of other small repairs that will be addressed at that time as well.

Meanwhile, freed of commitments, we resume travels, starting off with a visit to Hughenden, home of Benjamin Disraeli, England’s first and only Jewish Prime Minister.

By all accounts, Benjamin Disraeli was possessed of a silver tongue. A skilled debater, he was charming and witty, but known to be dreadful with money. Concerning, given that he was at one point, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Born to relative obscurity in 1804, converting to Christianity in childhood, Disraeli made his money the old fashioned way, he married it. Following the marriage, he purchased Hughenden and set about making it a private retreat.

Disraeli served as Prime Minister twice during his political life, under Queen Victoria’s reign. His relationship with the Queen features heavily in Hughenden.

Though originally not a fan, Victoria warmed to him following her beloved Bertie’s passing. It was Disraeli who threw his support behind the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, endearing himself to the Queen. He went on to become her trusted advisor and friend. Gifts from the Queen are proudly displayed throughout the manor, paintings denoted by a crown on the frame.

Touchingly, Victoria visited Disraeli on his deathbed, asking him to take a message to Bertie.

We tour the three levels of the house. As usual, the library is my favourite room.

Hughesdale recently gave up an official secret: it was the site of Operation Hillside, a secret map making base, on the top of Hitler’s hit list. The secret only emerged in 2004, when locals were asked to share their wartime memories. Over 100 people were based at Operation Hillside, drawing up maps of Germany and occupied Europe – there’s a display of their work.

Set in 189 acres, Hughenden has glorious gardens, forest walks, bee hives,

a walled garden

and even a chalk stream. The formal parterre gardens are a delight,

drawing even the squirrels for their afternoon tea of chestnuts.

We’re a bit pressed for time, without a firm plan of where we’re spending the night – I think we’ll need to come back for a more detailed exploration.

On the way out, we stop at 12th century St Michael’s and All Angels Church,

resting place of the Disraeli family. Whilst a Westminster memorial bears his name, it was Disraeli’s wish to be buried by his wife in the churchyard.

It seems it was a love match, afterall.