This sheep is grazing on the grounds of the beautiful Blenheim Palace, home to the Dukes of Marlborough, perhaps the grandest private house in England. The royal manor of Woodstock was gifted to John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, in recognition of his important victories over Louis XIV of France. The name of the place was changed to Blenheim in honour of his greatest battle (fought in 1704), and a grateful Parliament voted to build a house fit for him, however the sum was not all paid.
The Palace was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh assisted by Nicholas Hawksmoor. Vanbrugh conceived Blenheim as a Baroque palace to match those of Europe, and as an intensely patriotic monument rather than a home. Work began in June 1705. It was not finished when the Duke died in 1722, but was speedily brought to completion under his Duchess, Sarah.
Vanbrugh also designed a park fit for his Palace, with grand avenues and a parterre. The park was drastically remodelled by Capability Brown in 1764-74, who created a huge lake by damming the River Glyme. The Grand Bridge was built by Vanbrugh to carry the Grand Avenue across the rather small River Glyme.
Everything about the bridge is extraordinary and much of it puzzling. Although it had thirty-three rooms,there is no evidence that it was ever lived in, though some of the rooms do have fireplaces and chimneys, and one large windowless chamber has been plastered and fitted with an elliptical arch as though for a theatre. The lake was created 50 years later by Capability Brown, flooding a number of rooms built into the lower stories of the bridge.
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