BBC Does Longleat

The BBC has produced¬†a documentary series on Longleat House and its owners. This is All Change at Longleat and it focuses on the current Marquess of¬†Bath and his son, Ceawlin (aka Viscount¬†Weymouth). Lord Bath¬†is not a newcomer to publicity having achieved notoriety¬†in the sixties for his unusual artistic tastes and preference for “wifelets.” The first episode was broadcast earlier this week and shows how Lord Bath, still alive and well at 82, has allowed his son to take possession of part of the huge Elizabethan mansion before he fully accedes to the title and ownership.

This is of potential interest to Waugh enthusiasts because of Waugh’s associations with the present Marquess’s mother and father. This was Henry Bath and his wife Daphne (who later became better known after her divorce when she¬†struck out on her own as a writer under the name Daphne Fielding). Waugh knew them both from his Oxford days, and later Daphne was active among the Bright Young People. Waugh was a guest in the 1940s at their house Sturford Mead (before Henry inherited the big house) on the huge Longleat estate. Waugh¬†also visited¬†Olivia Plunket-Greene and her mother Gwen who settled in a cottage on a forested part of the estate in the 1940s. ¬†Waugh has written lively accounts of some of his visits in his Letters¬†and Diaries. After Henry and Daphne split up,¬†Waugh remained a friend and mentor of Daphne as she developed her writing skills. Indeed, he was indirectly responsible for her becoming a professional writer since her first assignment was to write a historic description of Longleat after Waugh had refused the project.

There have been several mentions of ¬†Lord Bath’s¬†parents in Episode 1¬†of the BBC documentary but no references yet to Waugh or his visits. The program can be streamed¬†on BBC iPlayer by anyone having an internet connection or proxy connection in the UK. Episode 2 will air next Monday on BBC 1 at 21:00 and the final episode presumably the week following.

NOTE: After this was written, the Guardian published a more detailed review of the program that also manages to be both amusing and accurate. And it even mentions Waugh, although not in specific reference to Longleat.

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