I spent Friday at Althorp Literary Festival in the lovely setting of the Spencer family seat. Charles Spencer, who was there as both host and author, was a gracious, humorous speaker and historian with endless anecdotes about life at Althorp over the years. As children he and his sister Diana were relegated to miniscule rooms in the attic by their stepmother, Raine, making it a scary and ominous place. But the Earl described his journey from reluctance to inherit the estate to pride at his transformations–many of which were to undo the ghastly decorations of Raine.
The house has been in the Spencer family uninterrupted for 500 years and since it is neither English Heritage nor National Trust, has a more personal feel than many other stately homes open to the public. The collection of furniture, paintings, ceramics and photographs are considered one of the finest in Europe. It is open to the public this summer in July and August from 11am to 5pm.