Blenheim Palace is one of England’s most historic stately homes. With an illustrious history that dates back to 1705, it has been home to the aristocratic Marlborough dynasty for 11 generations. It is most famous as the birthplace of the great statesman Sir Winston Churchill. A World Heritage Site – Blenheim is glorious; its landscaped gardens, huge parkland and tranquil lakes are stunningly picturesque.
John Churchill was born in 1650 and became the first Duke of Marlborough in 1702. He was a strong military leader and married Sarah Jenning, a favourite of Queen Anne, together they started a remarkable and world-changing family dynasty.
Since then there have ten Dukes and one Duchess of Marlborough. Winston Churchill was the grandson of the 6thDuke and therefore although he was a knight, and was referred to as ‘Sir’, he was never a Duke.
Winston Churchill was born In 1874 and was Britain’s greatest wartime leader. Churchill was Prime minister twice and his powerful speeches were inspirational during the Second World War. A legendary orator and statesman, Churchill was also an author and artist – and remains the only Prime Minister to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He had many links to the United States, not least through his American mother, and was the first person to be made an honorary American citizen. A visit to Blenheim is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the life of this extraordinary man.
The palace was built in the early 1700s as a gift to the first Duke of Marlborough after his victory over the French at the battle of Blenheim in 1704. It was designed in the English baroque style by Sir John Vanbrugh. As a gift, the palace was initially funded by the English Parliament and Queen Anne. However, after spiralling costs, it had to be completed at the Duke’s expense.
Inside the vast palace, you can visit the State Rooms. These are full of treasures and beautifully crafted objects, including antique porcelain and tapestries. On the first floor, you’ll find ‘Blenheim Palace: The untold story’ a fascinating collection accumulated over the past 300 years.
Of Course, Blenheim was the birthplace of Churchill. You can also see the room where the great man was born, as well as portraits and artefacts from his life. He is buried nearby at St. Martins church in the village of Bladon.
Blenheim Palace’s vast grounds are mostly the creation of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. In total, they contain a staggering 2100 acres of gardens and parkland. One of the most famous aspects of the grounds remains the vast lake with a river cascading into it.
The magnificent formal gardens at Blenheim were redesigned in the 1920s by the French landscape architect Achille Duchêne. Highlights include the water terraces, Italian Garden and the tranquil Rose Garden. The Pleasure Garden has a maze, a butterfly house and a miniature train make it the perfect for young and old alike.
Another memorable sight is the enchanting summerhouse known as “The Temple of Diana” down by the lake. It was here that in 1908 Winston Churchill proposed to his future wife, Clementine.
There is a great choice of refreshment available at the palace. The beautiful Water Terrace Café has a delicious locally-sourced menu, including Oxford Blue cheese and Cotswold beef burgers. It is also the perfect place for a reviving cup of tea, a slice of cake or a quick snack.
For a touch of pure class visit the Champagne Bar. With an impressive drinks menu, you’ll be able to have a moment of luxurious reflection. Next to the main entrance, you’ll find the Oxfordshire Pantry which is great for grabbing a coffee or a snack. You can eat in or let the staff pack up a picnic for you to enjoy on the grounds.
There are also special events at the palace. If you are there on a Sunday you can enjoy a three-course lunch at the orangery and in the summer months, the Pleasure Gardens Deli does a mouth-watering BBQ. The house and grounds also play host to a number of musical events, guided walks and craft fairs.
Blenheim Palace is just eight miles from Oxford, in the small town of Woodstock, in the rolling Cotswolds. Woodstock is both ancient and beautiful, mentioned in the Doomsday Book and nestled in a steep valley. As well as the impressive palace there are also a number of lovely buildings in the town itself. The town hall was built in 1766 and visitors can also see Chaucer’s House – the one-time home of the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
Blenheim, known as ‘Britain’s greatest palace’ is truly an unforgettable sight. The building’s imposing grandeur, the vast landscaped grounds with sublime vistas make it a spectacular vision. And encased within is an opulent cavern of history, heritage and culture. To walk the same boards and gaze upon the same views as this history-making family is a memory to treasure forever.