Entry to the Palace is through two magnificent wooden doors into the Great Hall, one of Blenheim’s architectural glories. It is particularly outstanding for Sir James Thornhill's painted ceilings and the stone carvings by Grinling Gibbons.
The Palace was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, and building began in 1705. Vanbrugh was not a trained architect and worked alongside the qualified and practical Nicholas Hawksmoor to build the awe-inspiring Palace that stands here today.
Blenheim Palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. From the imposing vastness of the Great Hall, to the intricate detailing of the State Rooms, the Palace interiors beautifully balance the delicate with the awe-inspiring. Collections of portraits, tapestries and an exquisite collection of Boulle furniture grace the individual rooms, whilst the magnificent Nicholas Hawksmoor ceilings and the stone work of Grinling Gibbons throughout the Palace should not be missed.
In the China Ante Room are displays of Meissen and Sevres porcelain. The Green Drawing Room, Red Drawing room and the Green Writing Room ceilings are the work of Nicholas Hawksmoor and feature beautiful portraits of members of the family. Taking pride of place in the Green Writing Room is the famous Blenheim Tapestry, showing Marlborough in his hour of triumph as he accepts Marshall Tallard’s surrender after the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. The tapestry is a superb example of the weaver’s art and is the first in a series of 10 Victory tapestries which grace the walls of the other State Rooms.
The Saloon is also known as the state dining room and is now used by the family once a year on Christmas Day. The magnificent ceiling was painted by Louis Laguerre. Various nations are represented in wall paintings, whilst the ceiling shows the 1st Duke in victorious progress but stayed by the hand of peace.
The three apartments connecting the Saloon and the Long Library on the south front are known as the First, Second and Third State Rooms. A copy of Marlborough’s famous dispatch from the battlefield at Blenheim to his Duchess Sarah, is on display in the First State Room. Also on display is the Quit Rent Standard, which, on Royal Order, a new standard is presented to the sovereign on every anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim.
The West Wing of the Palace, running 55 meters in length, is the ‘Long Library’. It is considered to be Nicholas Hawksmoor’s finest room. Originally designed as a picture gallery, the room displays fine stucco decoration in the false domes by Isaac Mansfield. On view are full length portraits of Queen Anne, King William III and the 1st Duke of Marlborough. But perhaps the most impressive feature of this room is the magnificent Willis organ.
You are invited to join a guided tour of the State Rooms or walk at your own pace through the house, absorbing the atmosphere of its beautiful rooms and the inspirational history formed over the last 300 years. Guided tours do not take place on Sundays, bank holidays or exceptionally busy days, however Guides will be on hand in each room to give full details of the collections.
‘Blenheim Palace: the Untold Story’ - 300 years of enticing tales
A fascinating visitor experience, ‘Blenheim Palace: The Untold Story’ is open upstairs within Vanbrugh’s awe-inspiring Palace. The experience utilises innovative projection technology, moving figures and touch screen technology to bring the last 300 years alive through the eyes of the servants. The experience is self guided and takes about 35 minutes. It adds a new dimension to the magnificent State Room tour downstairs and introduces visitors to some of the more colourful characters from the past.
Private Apartments - Tours available daily until 14th April
Tours of the private apartments where the family still live are available during the summer months. Situated in the East Wing, the tours take approximately 30 minutes and are open at the discretion of the family. Please ask at Flagstaff Kiosk for availability. A small extra charge applies.
The British Model Soldier Collection
At Blenheim Palace we have a small collection dealing with old toy soldiers dating from 1893 through to 2003, and cover a wider range of subjects from the wars of the 17th Century through the Napoleonic and Marlborough periods to the Second World War. They also cover various continents; India, United States and the American Indian Wars.
The small selection at Blenheim Palace is a tiny section that the society has to display, currently on display in the walkway near the Water Terraces Café.
The British Model Soldier Society is one of the oldest societies of its kind in the world. The National Collection was set up in 1973 to try and preserve works and collections. The collection is now too big to be displayed in any one place and has had to be divided into sections which are themed to show them at their best.