BLENHEIM PARK, an extra-parochial district, in the liberty of Oxford, in the county of Oxford, 8 miles to the N.W. of Oxford. It is situated on the river Glyme, close to the town of Woodstock, and near the Handboro' Junction station on the West Midland railway. It is the seat of the Duke of Marlborough. Blenheim, like Strathfieldsaye, is a permanent monument raised by a grateful nation to one of its most illustrious heroes and defenders. On the 2nd of August, 1704, the great Duke of Marlborough obtained a decisive victory over the united forces of the French and Bavarians at Hochstadt, near the village of Blenheim, on the banks of the Danube. Immediately afterwards the royal approbation of his achievement was expressed in the grant to him, by Queen Anne, of the honour of Woodstock, to be held by the tenure of presenting annually to the reigning sovereign at Windsor Castle a standard of France by way of “acquittance for all manner of rents, suits, and services due to the crown.” The legislature subsequently confirmed the grant, and voted also a sum of £500,000 for the erection of the palace and laying out the grounds. The park, which is of great extent, consists of a beautiful tract of undulating ground, watered by the river Glyme, which expands into a lake-like sheet of water opposite to the principal front of the palace. The great natural advantages of the spot have been improved to the utmost by the hand of art. The laying out of the grounds was entrusted to the eminent landscape gardener, Brown, and the result of his plan is considered a masterpiece of refined taste and artistic skill. He is said to have remarked, in reference to his successful distribution of the water in the park, that “the Thames would never forgive him for what he had done at Blenheim.” The palace was erected from designs by Sir John Vanbrugh. It is of vast size, the principal front extending about 350 feet from wing to wing, and the entire structure covering about seven acres. Its architecture presents the usual characteristics of his style, especially heaviness, and is generally admitted to have little claim to admiration for beauty or elegance. It occupies an elevated situation in the park, and commands, from the south front, an extensive and beautiful prospect bounded by the distant hills of the Chiltern range. The entrance to the park, on the Woodstock side, is by a fine triumphal arch, or gateway, of the Corinthian order of architecture; and the approach to the grand front is by a noble avenue above 2 miles in length. The arrangement of the interior of the palace is remarkably good, and its decorations splendid and magnificent. Among its principal apartments are the lofty entrance hall, with a ceiling painted by Thornhill, and containing many statues and pictures; the bay-window room hung with beautiful tapestry; the state and other drawing-rooms; diningroom, containing several family portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds; the saloon, partly lined with marble, the ceiling and walls of which are painted by La Guerre; the state bed-chamber; the library, a noble apartment, nearly 200 feet in length, supported by marble columns, and containing about 20,000 volumes-it has a marble statue of Queen Anne, by Rysbrach; the chapel, in which is the monument, by the same artist, to the great duke and his duchess; the theatre; and till recently the Titian room. The last-named room was totally destroyed, with a large part of the north-east wing of the palace, by an accidental fire in February, 1861. Among the numerous paintings which adorn the palace are works by Raphael, Murillo, Rubens, Vandyck, Titian, Reynolds, &c. Not far from the triumphal arch is a small and elegant building, called the China Gallery, in which is preserved a valuable and interesting collection of porcelain, delft, and Japan manufactures. In front of the palace is a column, 130 feet in height, surmounted by a statue of the great duke, and bearing an inscription by Bolingbroke. The lake is crossed by an elegant bridge; and on a hill, sloping to the water, stands the High Lodge. In the reign of Charles II., this lodge was occasionally the residence of Rochester, then comptroller of the Park. On the slope of the hill is Rosamond's Well, near the site of her famed Bower. The ancient way called Akeman Street crosses the park, and remains of Roman buildings have been discovered near it.The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003
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