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Osborne House (Isle of Wight)

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East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JY. tel = 01983 200022. Open House: 1 April–31 Oct: 10am – 5pm daily.
Gardens: 1 April–31 Oct: 10am – 6pm daily (last admission to house 4pm).

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      22.07.2013 13:48
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      A beautiful private house on the Isle of Wight.

      Osborne House Isle of Wight. (English Heritage.)

      Osborne house was the private holiday home of Queen Victoria and her family. It is at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight with superb views over the Solent and is managed and maintained by English Heritage. It was here that Queen Victoria died away from the formality of court life in London. For her and her consort, Prince Albert it was a retreat where they could go with their children to relax in relative peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings.

      The house was built between 1845 and finally finished in 1851 being designed by Prince Albert and a London architect John Cubitt who also designed the front of Buckingham Palace,. The house was designed taking the form of an Italian Palace or villa. Originally on the site there was another three storied house which was demolished and the new house built for the couple and their family of 9 children. The old house was quickly razed to the ground and the new house as we see it today was built. A further wing was added in 1890-1891. In order to fund this Queen Victoria hated Brighton Pavilion which she sold off to Brighton council so some of the money she raised from the sale went towards buying the house and grounds at Osborne.

      When Queen Victoria died in 1901 she left instructions in her will that Osborne House be kept by the Royal family but no one wanted it due to its isolation and King Edward VII gave the house to the nation with the exception of the upper floors which were to be accessible only by Members of the Royal family as a museum piece. All the rooms were kept exactly as they were when Queen Victoria was alive. Today the upper rooms are open to the public and are still set out as they were over 100 years ago.

      Visiting Osborne house.

      The visit to Osborne house follows a set route which takes you through the lower ground floor drawing rooms and dining rooms. You are also treated to the privy room where Queen Victoria would meet her privy councillors. When you reach the centre of the house you follow the route upstairs to the upper floors. The stair case is quite a challenge if you had mobility problems however there is a lift to take people up to the private appartments and rooms. Reaching the top floor of the house you come into the nursery which is quite formal but looks really nice. Although some of the décor is modern imitation it is based on how the place was from photos of the day. In the centre of the nursery is a table with several chairs around a small table where some of Queen Victorias nine children were able to play and learn. The next room contains the sleeping nursery with several little cots all lined up next to one another. There is also a larger bed for one of the nurse maids who would have watched over the children overnight. There is also a room where the governess would sleep so she was always on hand to tend for the children. The children would be brought down two at a time so that the Queen and the Prince could play with them.

      After visiting the nursery you come down to the middle floor via a grand staircase which is right in the centre of the house to the living quarters of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. Passing through dressing rooms and bathrooms and the bedrooms finally arriving in Queen Victoria's bedroom where she died. The room is quite morbid and dark and not bright and cheerful as you would expect. There are numerous pieces of art around the walls and the main feature is her bed. Above the left hand pillow is a picture of Prince Albert. Beside the bed are two chairs on one sat Prince Edward and the other her grandson Emperor Wilhelm II who were present at the time of her death. The private sitting rooms of Queen Victoria were laid out with mementos and photos of her children and grandchildren. It was here that the Queen would sit with Prince Albert reading papers and signing state papers. They worked well together. With advancement of age and increasing mobility problems a small lift was installed so that Queen Victoria could go up to her apartment as she was unable to mount the stairs.

      Returning down the stairs to the ground floor you are directed to the table dresser quarters in the basement of the house. There are a couple of rooms in the basement where the table dressers would organise the dining table for the meals that day. There would be a list of diners in a book and then seating plans would be recorded, they would choose which dining set to use and which silver. Beside the table dressers room is a small antechamber holding the household silver including urns vases and sliver cutlery. Flower arrangements would be set down here then taken up to the dining room and placed on the tables.

      Most of the ground floor is taken up with grand formal state rooms where court and state occasions were held and although the ground floor state rooms were quite large and formal there is still a homely feel to the rooms. There are many unusual pieces of art dotted around the rooms some pieces of porcelain are really fine, delicate and intricately designed. For example there are two large vases on the mantel piece they have hundreds of very tiny flowers on all over them. It must have taken months to make these exquisite pieces. There are also displays of china and silver wear and curios from that time.

      Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1877 by her then Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. She took an interest in many things from India including having a man servant Abdul Karin of whom she was very fond. He was despised by her family and the Royal household they got rid of him soon after she died sending him back to India along with the other Indian servants. She learnt to speak Hindi being taught by him and learnt how to write in Urdu. A grand banqueting room was transformed and called the Durbar room which designed in the Indian style. The room is magnificent and there is much white plaster work typical of the décor of some Indian palace rooms.Many gifts for her Golden and Diamond jubilee from India furnish this room including large vases, urns, paintings and other grand gifts. These rooms are very grand and are magnificent as one would expect of a Royal residence including formal drawing rooms and the Queens dining room. Along the corridors leading to the Durbar room are paintings and portraits of different Indians including paintings of villagers going about their daily work routines.

      The upper floors were private and more homely accommodation where the family had their private quarters including a wing where the children lived, a nursery where the children stayed until they were six years old before moving into their own room. The Queen had her own bedroom and dressing rooms here and a private sitting room where she spent most of her life following her husband's death. She went into mourning following his death and was renowned for spending the rest of her life pining for her husband. Once her husband had died she mostly dressed in black lace with her small white bonnet and a mini coronet which was the fashion of the time as an outward expression of widowhood. Above the Durbar room the wing eventually became the private quarters of Princess Beatrice and her family, the Queens youngest daughter.

      The house is filled with paintings and drawings not only by appointed artists of the day but also by the Royal family themselves alongside gifts presented to the Queen. Queen Victoria loved to paint and would often be found sitting in the grounds painting with watercolours some of which are on display at Osborne. A special arbour was built for the Queen to nestle in to paint by water colour. She would ride down to the arbour in a carriage where she alighted and spent many hours in peace and quiet overlooking the Solent. There are several arbours dotted around the grounds of Osborne.


      The grounds.

      The grounds were also designed and planted by Prince Albert who took a great interest in planting trees and laying out the formal gardens. Directly in front of the house are formal terraces laid out in the French style of boxed hedges and symmetrical flower beds. There are fountains on the parterre and at the beginning of the long walk down to the seashore. Along one part of the garden walls are laurel which was planted and has been used in every royal wedding bouquet. The grounds are quite extensive and stretch right down to the shore and the Solent. The queen had a private beach here which has only recently been opened to the public in the last couple of years. It was here that the queen bathed for the first time. A special bathing machine was made for the Queen. Inside the cart like structure which was on wheels she was able to change into her bathing costume. Once she had done so the cart was wheeled into the sea pulled by servants. On the front of the bathing machine was a canopy where a cover would have been hung so that the Queen could walk down the steps into the water without being seen by anyone. Recently the bathing machine has been restored and is stationed at the beach area next to the café.

      It took us about half an hour to amble down from the house to the shoreline. Fortunately it was downhill and incredibly hot passing fields and forests. We caught a free lift back to the house in the little coach that drives down to the beach and back. Many of the trees were planted by Prince Albert. He would mark out the spot where he thought the tree should go then returned to the house where he would climb the stairs to one of the towers to check out the markers. Sometimes the children would accompany him to plant a tree but Queen Victoria quipped that they thought they were helping but were in fact hindering the planting of the trees!

      Swiss Chalet, museum and Fort.

      Within the grounds there is also a Swiss chalet which Prince Albert had built for the Royal Children. Beside the Chalet are 9 neatly laid out vegetable beds, one for each of the children who were encouraged to tend to and plant their own vegetables they were able to then sell their vegetables to their father at the going market rate giving them a valuable lesson in commerce and trade. There is also a free mini bus to take you to the Swiss chalet. It would take about 15 minutes to walk to the Swiss Chalet. Beside the little gardens is a store where there were nine little wheelbarrows with the names of the children printed on them the garden implements were also stored here.

      Behind the Swiss Chalet is another similar building although less grand housing curiosities collected from around the world. There were stuffed animals and many different types of precious and semi-precious stones. There were clothes from the two Rumanian orphan boys the Queen took under her wing and paid for them to be schooled and later joined the Royal Navy. Behind this little mini museum is a small fort that was built for the children to play war games with small canons placed around the fort.

      Overall I really enjoyed my visit to Osborne house and could have spent much longer there had we had the time but we had a busy schedule ahead of us. Although we were there for about four and a half hours to really do it justice I would have loved to have spent at least another two or three hours there. After visiting other Royal residences I think that this house is probably one of the best. It is really quite homely and the grounds are superb. The Queen and Prince Albert certainly left their mark on the house and it really is an exquisitely furnished residence and I am pleased that it is open to the public. I have waited a couple of years to get to visit the house as in the past I just have not had the time to visit so I am more than happy to have finally got there and no doubt I will return one day to visit. English Heritage are doing a splendid job of maintaining the building and grounds just as it were in the days when the Queen and her family lived here. I would definitely recommend a visit to Osborne house it is simply beautiful. It is possible to stay at Osborne house in the cricket pavilion which has been converted into a small cottage. Details are available from English Heritage. Rentals are available for 3,4 or 7 days. This allows you access to the grounds outside opening times.

      Opening hours.

      During the summer months
      10:00 to 18:00
      Winter months October to March
      10:00 to 17:00
      You should check with English heritage on the dates you wish to visit in case the house is closed.
      Adult £13.40
      Child £8:00
      English Heritage members admitted free.

      You are given a small leaflet that contains a map of the grounds and where the most interesting places are. You have free reign to walk around the beautiful grounds. There is also a guide book available for £4.99 which is full of photos and details about the house. It is well worth investing in one of these.

      Facilities:

      Toilets are available at various places throughout the grounds.
      There is a shop at the entrance to the grounds selling tickets, English Heritage membership, souvenirs, books, potted jams, chutneys, wines and flowers. There is also a small shop selling ice cream and tea down by the shore line on the beach. There is also a terrace restaurant just off the terrace although we did not eat here the menu looked quite enticing but it was far too hot that day plus we were time restricted.

      There is a large car park. I would advise getting there as early as possible before the coaches turn up. We practically had the place to ourselves until the coach loads turned up then it was just crazy with the amount of people visiting. Fortunately they are on whistle stop visits so are quite quick going in and out.
      My main disappointment was that you were not allowed to take photos inside the house. You can take as many as you like outside in the grounds however. I really enjoyed my visit to Osborne house and anyone with an interest in the big houses in the UK would enjoy this too.

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        16.06.2013 00:27
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        Beautiful house in a beautiful location.

        Osborne House is my all time favourite place to visit on the Isle of Wight and seeing as i lived there for 20 years I think that's saying a lot for this historical landmark.



        Location:
        Osborne House is situated in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, It's quite easy to get to by car and public transport. It's close to the ferry terminal as well for people that do not live on the Isle of Wight but want to visit for the day. The exact address is: York Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight PO32 6JX

        Price
        Member Free
        Adult- £13.40
        Child (5-15 years)- £8.00
        Concession - £12.10
        Family (2 adults, 3 children)- £34.80

        The House:
        Explore the beautiful house of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children. You can view the state rooms held for private functions and the family rooms. See where the Queen used to be dressed in her dressing room or the royal bathroom or maybe viewing Prince Alberts Study is more of something you'd prefer to see. The decoration in this house from the paint to the flooring has been kept as similar as it can be to what it was originally like, obviously it has been kept as nice as possible so exact colouring might be off which you can expect. You can't touch the items within the house for obvious reasons but the beautiful house and artefacts are amazing.

        The Beach
        View the beautiful beach where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spent many a days. You can also see the bathing machine that was used. In July and August there is entertainment held on the beaches such as punch and Judy and many Victorian games which gives the children an insight of the games that Victorian children would have played ( no x-box or tv for sure)

        The Swiss cottage
        The cottage was used as the children s own house, Beatrice especially spent a lot of time in this house. Many of Queen Victoria's children used this part of the garden to plant flowers and vegetables. This is my favourite part of the house, i love the cottage where the children grew up learning new skills. I'm not certain as to why this is my favourite part it's just very beautiful it's situated about three quarters of a mile away from the house.

        The Gardens
        Osborne house is proud and famous for their gardens they are stunning, If you have a passion for gardening or appreciate nature and wildlife you will really enjoy viewing this part of the house.

        Other
        You can also take horse and carriage rides from the house to the beach which is a lovely way to travel.
        You can hire a cottage at Osborne house to stay the night or 2 in.
        You can hire out rooms or the garden for weddings

        Osborne House gives you a real insight of what it must have been like to be Queen Victoria. Jealous of Queen Victoria's Holiday home it is beautiful.

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          02.04.2012 19:47
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          Nice place to visit

          We visited the Isle of Wight in October. I had been a couple of times before but not in about ten years so it was nice to get away for a weekend. Before we went we arranged what we were going to do because we also went with my sister and her partner and therefore needed to do things that everyone was happy with. As we are all English Heritage members and money is especially tight for me and my partner at the moment we thought Osborne House looked like a really good place to spend half a day.


          Where is Osborne House?
          -----------------------------

          Osborne House is located in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. If you arrive by ferry from Southampton it is literally a five minute drive down the road which we thought was great as we didn't particularly want to sit about travelling any more after being on the ferry for over an hour and a half.


          Why is Osborne House special?
          -----------------------------------

          Osborne House was the family home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert where they lived with their nine children. When Queen Victoria first visited the house she claimed "it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot".


          Arriving at Osborne House
          ------------------------------

          We arrived at around 10:30am. The car park was large with plenty of space and I imagine during the summer it can get extremely busy. However, on a cold October morning it wasn't overly crowded and we parked in a spot close to the entrance. Before you go in there are some toilets which were very clean and well looked after.

          You then enter the grounds through the shop, you are greeted by friendly staff who either sort out your admission fee's or check your membership card. There is also the opportunity to become a member of English Heritage if you wish.


          The House
          ------------

          We headed straight for the house as this was what I wanted to see the most. We were greeted by a very friendly gentleman who checked our tickets and also answered a few questions we had about the house.

          The first room you enter is a sort of information gallery about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. I have been known to urge people on at this point as I like to get in and see the actual house but I personally found this section absolutely fascinating. I don't know a great deal about the couple but felt as though the information boards really helped visitors to understand what they were like. There were numerous extracts from letters that the Queen had written which I found very interesting.

          You then leave that room and enter the house itself. Initially you walk down long corridors with lots of artwork and then you enter drawing rooms and living areas. There are a lot of staff around and these are all very polite and friendly, leaving you alone if you wish to look around quietly or answering any questions you have. All of them seem to have a vast knowledge of the house and they all sound very passionate when talking about it.

          One room has been set up just how a kitchen would have been in the Queen's era. I found this room really interesting and we all enjoyed having a look around. There was lots to see in the kitchen and it had mixing bowels and cutlery and even a member of staff on hand to tell visitors all about the food that was prepared and the type of people who would have worked in here.

          Going upstairs there are numerous bedrooms and also a gallery containing lots of information about the family and also the Battenberg family. There was lots to read in here and I did read most of it but in the end got a bit bored with people shoving in front of me!

          The bedrooms were beautiful and I felt quite taken aback when entering the Queen's bedroom. I just found it amazing that she had been there. I have visited numerous similar properties before so I don't know why I was so amazed by this room, maybe because she is an extremely well known monarch.

          Going back downstairs there is a large gallery in the hallway of artwork. There was a very kind member of staff here who had a vast knowledge of all of the paintings and obviously enjoyed sharing his knowledge with us.


          The Grounds and Other Attractions
          ---------------------------------------

          The house is set in 342 acres - surprisingly we didn't quite manage to see it all! The grounds are beautiful and there is a lovely garden situated at the rear of the house. The rest of the grounds are very pretty and we enjoyed having a half an hour wander around them. There was also a walled garden near the house which I enjoyed having a quick look around.

          The Swiss Cottage is around a ten minute walk from the house itself. This is very large and sadly part of it was shut when we visited because there was filming taking place however we did get to spend some time in the rest. There is a museum which has a number of artefacts in and next to this there is a charming vegetable garden. There is a small snack bar on the ground floor of the Swiss Cottage which sells things like cake and drinks. It is quite expensive in here (expect to spend £10 for 4 drinks) so if you are on a budget taking a bottle of water would be sensible. Upstairs, the Swiss Cottage showed us where the children spent their time. It was interesting to see where they were educated and learn more about them.

          You can take a 15 or 20 minute walk from the house down towards a small cottage, this is an easy and enjoyable walk on flat grass, however there is a free mini bus service every so often for those who would find this difficult or even those who just don't fancy walking back up!

          When we returned from this we saw there were horse and carriage rides being offered which would be a lovely way to see the grounds.


          Did we enjoy our day?
          -------------------------

          Absolutely. We spent a few hours here but we could have spent all day as there really is plenty to do. The house is beautiful as are the gardens and the grounds are vast allowing visitors to enjoy walks and picnics.

          All of the staff we came into contact with were extremely kind and helpful, giving any information we needed and asking how our day was etc.


          Additional Facilities
          ---------------------

          Free Parking
          3 places to eat and drink - waiter served gourmet food overlooking the gardens, the self serve café area near the entrance and the food stand at the Swiss Cottage
          Picnic Area - There are plenty of picnic benches around and there is also a special area conveniently situated next to the playpark
          Shop - Standard English Heritage gift shop selling souvenirs of Osborne House, local produce, wines, books and snacks
          Toilets - three toilet blocks located around the house, one area for baby change and two with access for disabled
          Audio Tours
          Holiday Cottages


          Admission prices, opening times and address
          --------------------------------------------------

          These are the current prices but from 27th July 2012 the prices are increasing so do check the website before visiting. Most prices are increasing by just over 10%.
          Adult - £11.50
          Child (5-15) - £6.90
          Concessions - £10.40
          Family (2+3) - £29.90

          Opening times - April through to September the house and grounds are open from 10am to 6pm (house closes at 5pm), there are a lot of varied opening times over the winter period and these seem to change quite a lot throughout the season so please look at the website before travelling.

          Address -
          Osborne House
          York Avenue
          East Cowes
          Isle of Wight
          PO32 6JX

          Telephone - 01983 200022


          Summary
          -----------

          A fabulous English Heritage property with plenty to see and do. Good for a miserable day aswell as a good couple of hours can be sent looking round the house. If we go to the Isle of Wight again we will definitely visit here, especially is we are still English Heritage members as entry is free. I do think the admission fee's are quite high but you could spend the whole day if you took a stroll around the grounds and had a leisurely picnic, I do think the family ticket represents good value for money though.

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            05.08.2007 10:51
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            Well worth a visit

            Osborne House and its 342 acre estate were purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1845 as a country residence. Situated in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, overlooking Portsmouth harbour it is easy to see the attraction. Architect Thomas Cubitt was given the task of rebuilding and adding to the house and complete with its towers it dominates the landscape. They enjoyed many happy times until Alberts death in 1861 aged just 42. Victoria died at the house in 1901.

            The interior is stunning and though you can pay to just explore the gardens I would reccomend the full tour including the interior of the house as well. Guided tours can be booked from November to March but If you look around yourself there are plenty of staff on hand to point you in the right direction and they are only to pleased to answer questions and give more information.

            When you begin to look around the house you get a real sense of grandeur as you are greeted by impressive statues and marble sculptures as well as large paintings some of whch are by Victoria, Albert and other family members. As well as the obvious sense of opulence there is also a strong sense that this was very much a family house.

            There are various treasures within the house from all corners of the British Empire. The most stunning room is the final room on the tour The Durbar room. Constructed in 1890-1891 it celebrates the Queens role as the Empress of India. It is lavishly decorated from top to bottom with symbols and gifts from India and has to be seen. Other highlights are the nursery and various private rooms which have mostly been restored to look exactly like they did in when Victoria lived here with many personal items on display. You can even see the bed in which Victoria died in 1901, this is now kept as a memorial to Victoria and Albert.

            It is also worth taking time to explore the grounds, As well as the impressive statues and terraces there is also the colourful walled garden with fruit, flowers and exotic plants. The entrance to the garden has been saved from from the original Osborne House.

            There is also the Swiss Cottage a chalet built for the children to teach them domestic skills and an attached museum. This is 15 - 20 mins walk or can be reached by minibus for 50 pence.

            The Terrace retaurant is quite expensive so we opted to eat at the cafe but there is limited choice here and many items have no price diplayed. This could be a lot better though the sandwich I had was good.

            You can also pay for a horse and carriage ride if you want to arrive in syle and most places seem to have access for the disabled. If you are going to The Isle of Wight for a holiday I would certainly recommed Osborne House and allow yourself around 4 hours to see everything.

            Adult:£9.80 Grounds only £5.90
            Children:£4.90 Grounds only £3.00
            Concession:£7.40 Grounds only £4.40
            English Heritage Members:Free -
            Family Ticket: £24.50/ Grounds only £14.80

            Access:1 mile SE of East CowesTrain Access:Ryde Esplanade 7 miles; Wootton (Isle of Wight Steam Railway) 3milesBus Access:Southern

            Vectis 4, Ryde – E Cowes; 5 Newport – E CowesFerry Access:East Cowes 11⁄2 mile (Red Funnel 0870 4448898); Fishbourne 4 miles; Ryde 7

            miles (Wightlink 0870 5827744; Hovercraft: Ryde 01983 811000)

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              02.08.2002 22:34
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              Osborne House is set in East Cowes and it is understandable why Queen Victoria and Prince Albert chose the area. Prince Albert planned and built Osborne House (so I’m told). It is very striking and it is set at the top of a steep hill overlooking the bay. One of the things I noticed while wandering along the large corridors, was how so many things represented a Roman Villa. I also notice how many unclothed statues there were. One of the statues shows Albert as Roman General. Everyone has a favourite era, and I believe his may have been the Roman age. Queen Victoria was fond of dogs; they had plenty of space to run around in anyway. One of her dogs was called Dash who always had a bath on Fridays, he was a piebald King Charles. There are hundreds of old books which many our out of print. Reading must have been a great Victorian pleasure, if you were lucky enough to be taught to read. There is a long drive, which goes all the way up to the house. No photography is allowed because of all the old pictures they have there, there are many paintings showing the family. In the middle of the gardens at the rear of the house, is a lovley fountain. The gardens were designed by Prince albert, and a gentleman called Gruner. There is a horse drawn carriage which takes you to the Swiss Cottage, which is just amazing. The princesses were tought domestics here, and they had thire own little lawn. There are some low doors, so head baging is a bit of a headache. A few more rooms have been opened up at Osborne House since they moved the retired soldiers out. There is one lovely room furnished in red. Red curtains, red carpets, the whole lot. Many of the rooms show a absorbing insight into a historic period of a like we’ll never see again. Queen Victoria had a shower and a bath, which she could step in and out. The nursary is right at the top of the house, its very intresting to see with the window
              s over looking the fountain. I think the nurse used to share the room with the children. There is a full scale modal of Osbourne House which when you press buttons, certain rooms light up. There is a display of many gifts given to Queen Victoria including many artefacts from India. The Queen Could speak many languages, and Bengali I think was one of them. The Queen was a good swimmer and here you can see her bathing machine, she swam in long skirts. The bathing machine looks like a box on wheels, it also looks a bit ricketty. Osbourne House is well worth a visit. There are Red Funnel ferries from Southhampton. The last boat runs at elleven, miss this and you swim! Update: To get to the I.O.W. you can phone red Funnal. You can get to east Cowes from Lymongton and Southampton. If you live in Wiltshire then the M27 is your best bet. Hope this helps :)

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                19.07.2001 14:27
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                More than any other building in Britain, Osborne House is steeped in and associated with the family history of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. As they disliked Brighton Pavilion and found it lacking in privacy, they bought the estate in 1845 in order to have an offshore retreat within reasonable distance from London and Windsor. It was completed and ready for habitation in 1851, though minor developments were added over the next few years. Shortly after the Queen's death in 1901 it was given to the nation, and parts were used as a royal naval college and a convalescent home. It is now administered by English Heritage. So if royal family history or the 19th century doesn't appeal to you (and having read a number of ops in Speakers Corner, I know a number of Dooyoo members don't), neither will a visit to Osborne. The rest of you, we're away. If you're crossing to the Isle of Wight from the mainland, allow 20-25 minutes for the sealink ferry from Southampton to West Cowes. From there take the floating bridge ferry to East Cowes (free to pedestrians), from where buses are available, or alternatively the entrance to Osborne House is just over a mile's walk. Or check the website [link above] for a combined sea crossing and admission ticket. The recommended tour starts with the Royal Apartments, comprising the grand Corridor, Council Room, Audience Room, Billiard Room, Drawing Room, Dining Room, and Dining Room. Despite the statuary and furniture, to say nothing of the casts of the children's limbs as babies (the family had a fascination for this type of memento), the most interesting items are the paintings, mostly royal portraits. One of the most striking, and well-known throughout reproductions in books, is a vast 1846 Winterhalter picture of the royal parents and their five elder children, the youngest still a baby in her cradle. A particular favourite of mine is another by the same artist from
                1862, a similarly lifesize painting of the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia with their two eldest children, one of them being the future Kaiser. (Note the way in which his deformed left arm, the legacy of a difficult birth, is more or less hidden from view). Upstairs is the Royal Nursery Suite, the Prince Consort's Bathroom, Dressing and Writing Room, the Queen's Sitting Room, Dressing Room, and Bedroom, where she died. A large plaque showing angels above a tomb is mounted on the wall recording the fact. Here also is a passenger lift, added in 1893 to give the Queen better access to the first floor. Never slim, she was also chronically lame in her later years. Much of the furniture in these rooms is original. In a few cases, notably the nursery suite, some reproduction pieces had to be used, but thanks to detailed contemporary photographs, everything has been restored as faithfully as possible. The Durbar Corridor and Durbar Room, built in an Indian style of architecture to reflect her love of all things Indian after she became Empress of India, were completed in 1891. The design was partly drawn up by Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard, who was director of Lahore School of Art at the time. You will find the contrast between these and the rest of the house quite fascinating. If the weather is fine, take time to enjoy the view out to sea from the terraces. Since my last visit, the Contemporary Heritage Gardens scheme has been restoring the Walled Garden, which produced fruit and flowers, back to its original glory. A visit to the Swiss Cottage and Garden, about half a mile away from the house, is a must. As an alternative to walking, you can travel there and/or back in true contemporary style - in a horse-drawn carriage. If you find the house itself a little too formal, you will love the Swiss Cottage. Built from timber in imitation of a traditional Swiss farmhouse, it was made as a den for the chil
                dren with a fully-equipped child-size kitchen and range, where the princesses could learn housekeeping and cookery, the princes carpentry and gardening. One room contains a doll's house grocery shop, which includes its own counter with scales and weights. Outside the Cottage there is a miniature earth fort, with the miniature brick-built 'Royal Albert Barracks' and drawbridge, which the young princes helped to build. Also don't miss the Swiss Cottage Museum, constructed in 1862 for the children's growing collections of geological specimens and fossils found locally, plus minerals, shells and sharks' teeth collected in other parts of the British Isles as well as Malta and Bermuda, oriental objets d'art and other antiquities brought back from the princes on their travels abroad as young men. There is a tale behind two Bulgarian children's costumes on display. They belonged to a couple of orphan boys rescued by a royal naval captain while fleeing from the Turks in 1854. Brought back to safety in England, they were taken care of and educated by Queen Victoria, and they subsequently joined the navy. Less poignant, but very much a sign of the times, is Queen Victoria's bathing machine. Best described as something halfway between a small caravan and a travelling marquee, it ran on stone rails and was lowered into the sea. Complete with its own changing room, it enabled her to enter the water without being seen by anyone except the woman who 'attended' her. After the Queen's death it was briefly used as a chicken shed. Whether the chickens enjoyed swimming as well, I leave to your imagination. The guide book is good value, containing as it does excellent illustrations throughout, as well as a comprehensive history of and guide to all the rooms and buildings - the kind of book worth keeping for reference. So if you are genuinely interested in the history of the age, and are f
                ascinated by the royal family of the time - and I admit unashamedly that I always have been - Osborne House really is one place you should not miss. I've visited it three times, and on each occasion there has been something new to see. It is best appreciated in fine weather, and is frequently very crowded during the peak tourist season. During busiest times there may be a wait to enter the house. Admission prices - house and garden 7.20/5.40/3.60; family ticket (2 adults, 3 children) 18.00; gardens only 3.80/2.90/1.90. Prices from the English Heritage website, which doesn't state which prices are concessions and which are children - so that's one star less for the website!

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                Former royal residence in East Cowes, Isle of Wight. The house was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Prince Albert designed the house himself. The builder was Thomas Cubitt, the London architect and builder whose company also built the main façade of Buckingham Palace. An earlier, smaller house on the site was demolished.Immediately following the death of Queen Victoria, the royal apartments on the upper floors of the pavilion wing were turned into a private museum for the sole use of the royal family. They remained completely as she had left them. Part of the ground floor was opened to the public early in the 20th century, and in 1954 Victoria's bedroom and private apartments could be seen by the public for the first time, followed by the nurseries in 1989. Today the house has been substantially restored to its former splendour as the summer palace of the Queen Empress.