‘Dear Prime Minister, dear Minister,
‘Having prevailed against flood, pestilence, and war for more than thirteen centuries, Venice, the Queen of the Adriatic, and unparalleled UNESCO Word Heritage site, now, in a moment of relative tranquility, finds herself mortally threatened by the daily transit of gargantuan ocean liners, indifferent to the probable risk of catastrophe.
‘Since the flood of 1966, Italy and countless Italian and international supporters have contributed to the defense of the world’s most fragile city, eternally subject to destruction.
‘The absolute lack of respect presented by the outlandish spectacle of the ongoing obstruction and potentially destruction, of one of humanity’s pre-eminent monuments is not only dumbfounding but both morally and culturally unacceptable.
‘We urgently request an immediate and irrevocable halt to the traffic of the Big Ships in front of San Marco and along the Giudecca Canal putting an end to this senseless devastation.’
Thus read a petition signed by a group of celebrities including Cate Blanchett, Michael Caine and Michael Douglas that was submitted to the Italian government during the same summer that I shot the Serenade of the Seas preparing to negotiate the Giudecca channel.
Shortly afterwards a ban was announced.
Hatfield House has seen its fair share of celebrity over the years; Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and a couple of Batmen. It all began centuries ago however when a Tudor king decided to raise his children in the adjacent Old Palace. For one of them, the beautiful location became a prison where she was kept under house arrest. The event which saw the end of this confinement has been played out here more than once; originally when the news of her succession to the throne was first communicated to Elizabeth I, and the second when Cate Blanchett came to play Elizabeth on film.
The grounds and the Jacobean House at their centre have featured in numerous film and TV productions over the years, as well as in a video game, for after doubling for Croft Manor in the Tomb Raider films, the property was also used a template for Lara’s home in Tomb Raider: Underworld.
Home to the Marquess of Salisbury and his family, this is a stunning property when viewed from the south, though less so (particular whilst the central tower is scaffolded as it is now) from other directions. You can imagine how frustrated I was to find this vista out of reach, routes to the south being denied by barbed wire fencing.
Still there is much to enjoy in the grounds here. The gardens themselves have a number of beautiful features, but these are currently augmented by The Great British Sculpture Show 2014, with dozens of artworks scattered around the grounds. There’s probably something for everyone with subjects that include beautiful human and animal imagery, to more surreal, macabre and whimsical works. Take your credit card too if you’re planning to visit as the works are for sale; don’t expect much change from £250,000 if you fancy the large Egyptian style falcon though!