Day Three: Stoneleigh Abbey
Sunday dawned sunny and warm. The start to the day was unusual, however, as a fire alarm went off and had us all trooping outside in various states of undress. A hot hairdryer mistakenly aimed at the smoke detector was evidently the cause, but we didn't let this minor inconvenience ruin our day.

Late morning found us arriving in at Stoneleigh Abbey. Our visit was timely for this year the Abbey was celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's visit to Stoneleigh in 1806. The older parts of the house date back to the 12th century. Much of the building is now broken up into flats, and is not accessible by the general public, but the main floor is open to visitors.

We were welcomed to Stoneleigh by the Administrator, Martyn James, who told us a little about the history of the different parts of the house, then we were set loose into the lovely grounds. The river Avon runs alongside the house, and we all enjoyed roaming along the paths, peeking into the kitchen garden (sadly locked), viewing the restored portions of the stables, examining the exterior of the house, and lounging on benches admiring the swans gliding by on cue. We enjoyed a grand buffet lunch in the old servants hall, then separated into two groups, the Mrs. Darcys and the Mrs. Knightleys, for our tour of the house. The public rooms had intricate plasterwork on the ceilings, and the library was quite amazing.
For the tour finale both groups gathered in the chapel, a very austere and beautiful room, said to be the inspiration for the Chapel at Sotherton. And yes, we can confirm we caught a glimpse of the crimson cushions. The Mrs Darcy group forgave the tour guide for saying the library at Stoneleigh boasted a copy of Thompson's Sermons, and that the village green smithy and chestnut tree( complete with conkers) which so influenced Jane Austen when she wrote Pride and Prejudice, was part of the old village of Stoneleigh.
Arriving back at Hothorpe, we had some free time before dinner, then the rest of the evening to enjoy as we wished. A large group of ladies gathered outside the Blue Room and roared with laughter at who knows what and some were entertained by Golda's dancing to the soundtrack of Bride and Prejudice which was watched by many in the Television Room.


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