Stars & Stripes over England
|Join us on an adventure in England where we trace the source of the bunting that eventually will be used to make the Star Spangled Banner that flew proudly over Fort McHenry. You will be staying at great hotels, enjoying fine meals and meet historians and curators for behind the scene tours.
Overnight from North America to London.
Our quest for the beginnings of our flag begins when we leave Dulles for an evening flight across the pond. We arrive in London not long after the sun has come up on the second day of our adventure.
Arrival and Drive to Sudbury, Suffolk. Our Tour Manager will meet us at the airport in the deluxe motorcoach that will be our wheels for 9 days. Our first stop is Sudbury, in Suffolk, the "Bunting Capital" of England. An ancient market town, Sudbury was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1088. The market is still held on Saturdays. Our home in Sudbury will be The Mill Hotel. The hotel stands on the banks of the River Stour, with magnificent countryside and river views. The millrace ruins directly under the hotel, quietly turning a 100-year old wheel. We will enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel or another historic Sudbury dining room.
Sudbury, The oldest continuously operating market in England takes place every Saturday in Sudbury. It will be a treat for those who choose to get up early in the morning and stroll to the Market Square. We will share breakfast on our second day in Sudbury with Mrs. Martha Brown and her daughters (Benefiting from 21st century hindsight, we know that Mrs. Brown earned ameagre living in the woollen industry in 18th Century Sudbury). In the company of a local historian, we will visit the weavers' houses that line Sudbury's back streets, and learn about the bunting industry while standing in three hundred-year-old textile warehouses. Though better known for his fine portraits and landscapes, Thomas Gainsborough was descended from Sudbury merchants who must have engaged in the textile trade. Gainsborough's House is a typical example of Suffolk vernacular architecture, constructed from a timber frame with wattle and daub in-fill. The building was originally two cottages that were joined together in about 1520. After a group lunch or afternoon tea, we will have the rest of the day to spend with a curator of the museum that now celebrates Gainsborough's work. The second evening in Sudbury you will be free to choose from one of the many traditional pubs and fine restaurants in the Suffolk area.
In and around Suffolk, including Cambridge We will board the motorcoach this morning to visit a place in East Anglia where the Stars and Stripes flew many later, in this case over the command of the US Army Air Force during World War II. The destination for the morning is the American Cemetery, near Cambridge. The site, thirty and a half acres in extent, was donated by the University of Cambridge. It lies on a North Slope with wide prospect. There are 3,812 American military dead buried there. We will also visit Long Melford, an ancient village with an impressive collection of Elizabethan homes and a Wa rof 1812 connection. In this charming town, Sir Richard Hyde-Parker will generously show us his fine Tudor home. In the afternoon we have a loom demonstration back in Lavenham, Suffolk's bunting center. We'll get together again that evening for our last dinner in Sudbury - at a restaurant chosen by our tour manager as one of the town's best.
Sudbury to Chatham. Our destination today is Chatham. On the way we will visit the magnificent, 1200-year old Leeds Castle, one of England's most glorious historic sites. For the next two nights we will enjoy the hospitality at the Royal Victoria & Bull, a 400-year old coaching inn visited by Queen Victoria in 1836. We will join in their fine dining room for our first meal in Chatham.
Chatham has a delicate mix of modern and ancient architecture. Alongside one of the finest shopping areas in the region is the Napoleonic era Fort Amherst, the Theatre Royal and our principal destination, the World Naval Base. For four centuries, all manner of Naval vessels have been built in Chatham, from the wooden walled square-riggers that fought the Spanish Armada right up to nuclear submarines. Lord Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, perhaps the most famous vessel in English naval history was the product of Chatham shipwrights. The Sail and Colour Loft has a fine collection of flags and ensigns, spanning two centuries. The loft is still a flag and banner factory, and our host will be the President of the Flag Institute, England's leading vexillogical association. Our Tour Manager will find just the right place for the group for lunch, and you will be on your own to choose from Chatham's restaurants and pubs for dinner.
Chatham to London. We will have the morning to explore Chatham's streets before we board our motorcoach for London, where we will spend the remaining four days in England. We will arrive in time for a special tour of London sites; in particular those connected to the War of 1812. Our home in central London will be the deluxe Royal Trafalgar Hotel, near the National Gallery, where we will enjoy dinner after our arrival.
London. After breakfast the following morning we will board one of several Thames River barges which make the trip from central London to nearby Greenwich, the home of the National Maritime Museum and their spectacular collection of battle flags and ensigns. Our host will be Mr. Timothy Wilson, author of Flags at Sea. By the late 1600's Greenwich was a center for naval activity in England and home to the Old Royal Navy College. In 1823 a "National Gallery of Naval Art" was established here. Lunch will be in Greenwich, and the barge will drop us off late in the afternoon back in London. There are dozens of restaurants from which you can choose for dinner within an easy walk of the hotel.
London. A free day in London. Our fashion specialist can take those interested guests on a behind-the scenes tour of London fashion houses and exclusive shops. There's always the National Theatre Museum, where we could schedule a special tour by a museum curator or a West End theatre professional. Want to see more flags? There are six War of 1812 American flags at the Royal Chelsea Hospital that we could see. Next door, at the National Army Museum, there are some other American standards from the War of 1812.We could visit a textile curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. We'll meet at Selfridges, or another of London's famous tea-rooms in the mid-afternoon. We could finishthe afternoon with a visit to the Chelsea Physick Garden, where for three hundred years medicinal herbs have been raised and studied, and a talk by the Old Country Tours horticulturist. We'll plan a daylong excursion to Portsmouth for those who may l like to visit Lord Nelson's flagship the HMS Victory. That evening you may choose from the dozens of great restaurants near the Royal Trafalgar and perhaps head to the West End theatres.
Transfer to London airport for return flight to North America.