A rather sad old house, comes back to life.
I made a flying visit to Worcestershire on Monday and not having huge amounts of time to spare, but wanting a few minutes calm and culture, I drove over to Hanbury Hall, which isn’t far from Droitwich.
The little leaflet/map you’re given with your ticket says on the front, ‘Hanbury Hall, Welcome,
Do money and beauty bring happiness?’
Which to be honest, surprised me a touch. You don’t generally get presented with a philosophical question like that, when you go to these places.
Now I presume it’s actually a reference to the various unhappy people who have lived at Hanbury over the last three hundred years. And it has certainly had a few, culminating I suppose, with George Vernon, the last of the Vernon family who originally built the house, who committed suicide in the Hall in 1940.
The Hall had used to be one of the Trust’s less appealing properties. Not many rooms open to the public, uninspiring grounds. It felt dusty and neglected. Not somewhere you’d rush to spend an afternoon with the family. So I suppose, when I first went there, back in the 1980s, it was a rather sad old place.
But over the last few years, something rather wonderful has been happening at Hanbury, and I’ll tell you what I think it is.
I think someone has fallen in love with the house.
Because now when you visit, there’s a lot more to see. Many more rooms are open and they have been dressed sympathetically, so you get a really good impression of life inside the Hall.
The room guide volunteers deserve medals for being the chattiest, gossipiest (I know that word doesn’t exist, but it should), friendliest, I’ve met.
There has obviously been a lot of effort spent in restoration around the Hall and information is always on hand to point out the odd and the eccentric highlights – so much more fun than just telling you about the artists and owners.
And the amazing things they’re doing to recreate George London’s formal garden, just have to be seen. (Both from the ground and from the Hercules bedroom windows).
The tea room is worthy of a visit all for itself, and if you can come away without buying a plant, gift or second-hand book, you’re made of stronger stuff than me.
What this house has now, is money, abundant care, and the love of many people. And it’s always been beautiful, it just hadn’t found the right partners before. I think you can tell, because the atmosphere inside Hanbury Hall is very relaxing. It feels as if the building itself has breathed a sigh of relief.
I think it’s happy.