Yorkshire tour 2016

Julian Arkell shares the story of the RS tour to Yorkshire in June 2016

On 1 June, on the way to York, we visited the modernistic Nottingham Contemporary Gallery with lace entrance panels. It featured a grand pianola, and glass bottles recycled into a display of different sized spheres representing giant bottles, and a magnesium narrow boat. Then Wollaton Hall, an imposing 1588 pile by Robert Smithson, its Mineral Gallery notable. Our convivial group had supper in the imposing York Italian Assembly Rooms.
Next morning an excellent guided tour of York Minster. In the afternoon the magnificent Castle Howard, the Howard family home, designed by Vanburgh and Hawksmoor, but usually attributed to Vanbrugh  alone. The 1,000 acre grounds included the Atlas Fountain and Temple of the Four Winds with lovely views across to the imposing Mausoleum.
Friday morning was in the fabulous valley of Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage Site, with its Cistercian ruins, and a little river running through 1700s lakes, so peaceful with the classical Temple of Piety. The Victorian ‘High Gothic’ Studley Church, designed by William Burges, was notable. Then to the neat ‘Georgian Baroque’ Beningbrough Hall, celebrating its 300th anniversary, with loaned paintings from the National Portrait Gallery.
Saturday included a visit to David Chipperfield’s Barbara Hepworth Museum, surrounded by the River Calder, in Wakefield. The ten shaped galleries included two with lively groups of her sculptures.  Lunch was in the stables at Nostell Priory, itself an 18th century mansion, with a lovely main staircase lantern. The afternoon was in the extensive Yorkshire Sculpture Park, featuring galleries in the Visitor Centre and 100+ sculptures outdoors, many by Henry Moore, and many others, including Joan Miro. Supper was in the Italianate Old School, where the talented, thunderous, pianist made conversation almost impossible, but finally spurred us to sing along!
Sunday included the 'New Brutalist' style Parkhill housing estate in Sheffield, where some of the late 1950s blocks have been upgraded. A young man kindly invited us into his one-bedroom flat. Then to Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, the magnificent symmetrical Elizabethan mansion, designed by Robert Smythson for the formidable Bess of Hardwick, which has an impressive upper floor decorated-hall lit by tall windows, and long gallery, reached by stone staircases.
David Robson led (the rainless!) tour with boundless enthusiasm and architectural knowledge, assisted by Richard Robinson and Kate Ormond, to whom we are so grateful. The Monkbar Hotel, near the Minster, was comfortable with good facilities and great breakfast menu, and the expert ‘Luxury Sleeper Coach’ driver was long suffering.

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From top: Group photo at Castle Howard, Hardwick Hall and a Mystery Play at York Minster

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