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Local connection to Lord of the Rings

Returning from the annual summer break, members of Liphook U3A poured in to the Millennium Hall for the first Monthly meeting of the new season on Monday, 3rd September. There was plenty of chatter as people took their seats and caught up with all the latest gossip. The chairman called things to order at 2.00 p.m. and introduced the speaker for the day, an army colonel, Dr. Michael Thomas. He is also a volunteer of long standing with the National Trust at The Vyne, near Basingstoke and regularly gives talks and lectures about the history of this magnificent house. He informed us that today he was going to attempt reducing what would normally take three lectures down to just one.

So, starting at the beginning, why is it called the Vyne? This he told us was down to the Romans, who chose the area for the first grape vines to be planted in England. (So much for thinking that English wine had more recent origins!).

Originally, the main Tudor structure was one of the first to be built of brick, in fact bricks from the same kilns as those used for Hampton Court Palace. This was a great statement of wealth by original owner Lord Sandys, Lord Chamberlain to Henry VIII.

Later the property was to pass to the Chute family, who over the centuries made many alterations and built extensions, to produce the magnificent house that stands today. Many of these, like the Palladian staircase, designed to appear much bigger than it actually is, are truly magnificent. But other ideas, such as flooding the river to create a large lake, were not well thought out, as it was now impossible to drive up to the grand Portico entrance and a new entrance had to be created on the other side of the house. It was the final Chute owner, Sir Charles, who bequeathed it to the National Trust in 1958.

Jane Austen, spent time at the Vyne and used it as inspiration for some of her novels, but the most interesting fact we learned from Dr. Thomas was that of a gold ring found there. The engraving on the ring was in ancient Latin and had to be sent to Oxford to be interpreted by Professor Tolkien, inspiring him to write The Lord of the Rings.

Altogether this was a very interesting and informative hour which seemed to fly by and was livened by the odd injection of light humour from time to time. Dr Thomas is certainly a speaker I would enjoy listening to again.

Mike Andrews

Article posted on: 04 September 2012

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