Peggy Garcia had been to England before, but never has a trip across the pond been so special. As the winner of the Egypt in England Sweepstakes through the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Garcia was awarded an exclusive three-day vacation in the United Kingdom last September and a personalized tour of Chiddingstone Castle, a partner with HMNS.
Chiddingstone is a venue and museum with a fascinating history dating back to the early 1500s. It was the home of the antiquarian Denys Bower, who lived there until 1977 and built a collection of fascinating artifacts from ancient Egypt, Japan and several Buddhist cultures. As a member of the Royal Stuart Society, Bower also collected portraits, prints, original documents and relics from the era of the Jacobites and the royal family of King James II.
In the decades that followed, the castle came under the control of the Streatfeild family, who occupied the home for several years, but it is now run by a board of directors. As a partner with HMNS, a portion of our collection in the Hall of Ancient Egypt is on loan from the Chiddingstone collection. Guests near the exhibit exit can find the pieces in the section with the faux fireplace.
A self-proclaimed friend of HMNS, Garcia saw an advertisement for the contest and remembered the words of her mother, she said. “Mom always thought if you never enter something, you won’t win. Then in April, I won!”
Garcia took her daughter as her plus one. The adventure connected the two women with Mark Streatfeild, a member of the family who owned Chiddingstone for generations. Streatfeild took the pair on a tour of the collection and the grounds the first day. She was impressed to learn that museums connect across the world to share information and artifacts, like HMNS and Chiddingstone.
“What I loved around Chiddingstone was the garden,” Garcia said. “I’m a nut for photographing flowers and stuff like that.”
On day two, Streatfeild drove the two women to Ashdown Forest, a 6,500-acre park of heathland called the “home” of Winnie-the-Pooh. Garcia called the scenery “incredible,” including the lush greenery and narrow roads. Streatfeild dropped off the pair at Hever Castle and Gardens, the home of Anne Bolyn, where they wandered through topiaries and across a drawbridge and moat.
Day three brought them to Chartwell and the home of Sir Winston Churchill. After that visit, they stopped by the Chiding Stone, the namesake of Chiddingstone Castle. The stone is a weathered sandstone megalith purported to have been a place where overbearing wives were remonstrated, or chided, by nearby villagers.
For Garcia, the trip ended too soon. She looks back on her photos of the adventure regularly and sighs, she said.
“Those are the memories I want,” Garcia said. “Meeting people, seeing beautiful things, learning something. I’m always into that.”
You can book your own Chiddingstone Castle tour or event through their Contact and Find Us page. The castle is closed for the winter, but will re-open for its regular season Good Friday, March 25, 2016. Enjoy afternoon tea, book a wedding, or just visit as a part of your next vacation to England!